Books

The School Window Cleaner who bore an uncanny resemblance to Manchester United’s 1980s Dutch centre forward Arnold Muhren

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Here’s another extract from my forthcoming book “On Square Routes”.  “OSR” will be a collection of more memoirs in the tradition of “In Complete Circles”, but will also feature travel writing, short stories and poetry.

Below is a semi-fictionalised account of an incident from my primary school days back in the dark ’80s:

The School Window Cleaner who bore an uncanny resemblance to Manchester United’s 1980s Dutch centre forward Arnold Muhren

It was a dull spring day in 1983.  Our primary six teacher Mr Arthurs had set us an exercise in fractions, something my nine year old self had found particularly difficult.  He let us get on with the work, while he sat at his desk reading the paper.  Maths had never been one of my strengths at school.  Naturally I got distracted.  I looked out the window and began to daydream.

On the other side of the window a man was cleaning the pane and giving it considerable elbow grease.

Joe Gorman sitting at the desk behind mine pointed out that the window cleaner looked like Manchester United’s Dutch centre forward Arnold Muhren.  On closer inspection there was certainly a passing resemblance.  Though why a well-paid sports star with one of Europe’s top clubs would be cleaning windows at a primary school in Omagh was something of a mystery.  So I began to concoct a story in my head.

Maybe he’d had a row with his boss Ron Atkinson, left Old Trafford in disgrace, and was unable to move to another club for contractual reasons, then having fallen on hard times due to gambling and addiction brought on by the inevitable bout of depression he must have gone through, and unable to return and face the shame in his native Netherlands he’d ended up cleaning the windows of a primary school in Omagh.

To this day I wonder if this was really a normal pattern of thought for a nine year old.

In the next row of desks Mark Mullan caught my attention:

“Hey Wardy!” he called out in a loud whisper.

I looked up to see him giving the rude two-fingered sign to the window-cleaning Arnold Muhren lookalike.  This was a little ironic as young Mullan was actually a Manchester United supporter.  But I suspected his aim on this occasion was simply to try and make me laugh.  He certainly succeeded.

In fact I involuntarily laughed out loud and had to put my hand over my mouth to prevent a further uncontrollable fit of giggling.  This prompted a stern rebuke from Mr Arthurs.

A few days later the real Mr Muhren was in action against Brighton in the FA Cup final.  But somewhat fittingly we never saw that window cleaner again.

Round in Circles

An article on my book “In Complete Circles” has appeared in the local magazine Omagh Today. Thanks to Claire Martin for the publicity.

“…In Complete Circles – an irreverent, laugh-out-loud, nostalgia-laden memoir/travelogue that takes a hilarious journey down memory lane…”

Please note: This is a quote from the article and not my own words!

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In Complete Circles
is available from Amazon at a very reasonable price.

The Irish Post on “In Complete Circles”

IRISH POST SEPT 2013 ii 001The Irish Post newspaper has published an interview with me about my book “In Complete Circles” which it describes as “an entertaining and esoteric memoir“. I found the following two quotes particularly gratifying:

In Complete Circles does display a stream of consciousness which at times could be Joycean, combining the mundane with the exotic”

and

“With In Complete Circles Ciaran Ward has devised an excellent vehicle to carry his insight, not just into life in Tyrone, but in fact into the whole human condition.”

Thanks to Mal Rogers for the kind words.

In Complete Circles is available from Amazon at the very reasonable price of £5.47 (paperback) of £4.62 (Kindle).

Backward Toad reviews “In Complete Circles”

Toad

I received an anonymous e-mail from someone calling himself (or herself – but I assume he’s male) “The Backward Toad” who’s written a review of my book and asked me to put it on the blog. He said that if I didn’t publish it on the blog he would unleash a deadly virus that would wipe out all of humanity. So in the interest s of saving the human race from certain extinction here goes…

Nostalgia, Nostalgia, Nostalgia!
Once I started, it wasn’t too long before I was finished, but it is the sort of memoir that I could easily pick up and read again when the mood takes me. The author’s schooldays appear to have been quite similar to my own. If you like a bit of nostalgia, then you’re in for a real treat with “In Complete Circles.”

I think that Ward’s greatest achievement with the memoirs, is to make the familiar and commonplace seem slightly off-beam and new. All of us who attended an all boys’ school surely have memories of the “fight after school” to which two blazered gladiators had challenged each other to, and which we spent most of the day waiting on with anticipation? More than nine times out of ten these turned out to be spectacularly anti-climatic affairs, with the “fight” either being pre-empted by a teacher or other adult (much to our consternation!), or else the two warriors proved to be much less warlike when they faced the deed, and ended up either walking away or even making friends again! This proves the point that it is much more difficult to fight/hate people that you actually know! Not that this prevented some budding authors with brilliant imaginations spreading tales of a bloodbath the next day at school – again he brilliantly encapsulates these common memories in a very droll way. Similarly, we all recall teachers from school who were real characters (the teaching profession sometimes appears to attract them), and Ward again has captured our memories of one such character, and turned him into a live and animated figure.

Sometimes memoirs can carry a melancholy strain or an edge of bitterness about certain incidents and issues: there is none of this spleen here, and neither does he seek to settle any old scores with anyone. These would simply seem out of place in the scheme of this book. Overall, you get the impression from reading the work that this is a individual with a dry, wry sense of humour, with a magnificent memory for detail, who strives to be happy and see the funny side of life.

Whatever the result of the book’s publication in terms of sales, I strongly suspect that we have not heard the last of CW as an author, and “In Complete Circles” will prove to be merely the first gold coins in a large and rich treasure trove which has yet to be unearthed. Keep watching, folks!!

The Backward Toad

Tyrone Herald: “On The Spot”

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A bit more media coverage for the book via the Tyrone Herald’s “On The Spot” feature.

The picture was taken in the Cabo de Gatos National Park in Almeria, Southern Spain, where many “spaghetti westerns”, notably those directed by Sergio Leone were made in the 1960s. How appropriate – it’s certainly bad and ugly, but I can’t see much good there.

In Complete Circles – The first reviews

Here’s the latest reader feedback on the book:

“I really enjoyed it. It was great to be reminded of the retreats and trips. Hard to disentangle the real from the fiction in a few places, as the author probably planned. I saw on one of my old teachers in Belfast today. Greyed but not bowed. As I drew near him I registered a flicker of recognition in his eyes. He probably realised then that I might be an ex-pupil, and stared straight ahead ignoring me. I shouted after him “Alright sir!” A true eccentric.”

 

“Very funny and it brought back some great memories, particularly the formal and the car park battle.”

 

“A very amusing  book, and one which brings back many similar memories from my own schooldays!”

 

 

“So funny… nice contrast at the end . ..surreal.  Keep the memoirs coming!”
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“Anyone at school in the 1980s or early 90s should give this a read lol …”