Click here for details.
I’m relieved to finally announce at long last that my book In Complete Circles: The Memoirs & Travels of an Ageing Schoolboy has finally been published after almost two years of graft. Copies can be ordered from Amazon – which also lets you have a look inside. More extracts can be found on this blog.
“A comic and at times irreverent memoir of school life and adolescence in a Northern Irish town during the 1980s and early 1990s with accompanying rants on the absurdities of modern life, nostalgic reminiscences on the news events and popular culture of the era and the subsequent fulfillment of youthful ambitions through travelling, sometimes verging on the surreal. This book is part memoir, part travelogue. The chapters alternate between episodes from the author’s school days and subsequent travel writings (incorporating the Baltic states, Australia, New Zealand, Romania, Spain and Morocco) from several years later – but always with a connecting theme linking the two eras. Examples include a schoolboy fascination with horror films linking a visit to Transylvania, daily reports of the Balkan war during the author’s schooldays in the early ’90s linking a tour of the region 15 years later –and a childhood addiction to tangerines with dreams of trekking through the Sahara on camelback leading to a trip to Morocco.”
Thanks to all who provided me with the valuable support and encouragement during the writing of the book!
As some of you may know I’m currently writing a memoir concentrating mainly on my school days. Just over a year ago I published some early extracts on the blog. I’ve been working hard on it ever since and now hope to have the finished product out in time for Christmas. And before any smart remarks come in – yes I do mean Christmas 2012.
At the behest of our English teacher, a walrus-moustached Belfast man called Lawrence Muldoon, known among the pupils as Larry, a small group of us attempted (“attempted” being the operative word) to set up a film club. The idea was to hire a film projector and show selected films of the more artistic type like Casablanca or Citizen Kane and profound subtitled European films from the likes of Bergman, Fellini and Truffaut rather than the standard current Hollywood blockbuster to an audience of appreciative younger pupils.
We managed to procure some used film posters from the local cinema and stuck them up at various locations around the school to publicise the imminent formation (ahem!) of the club. Inevitably they were defaced. On the Steel Magnolias poster two drawing pins had been strategically stuck through each of Julia Roberts’ breasts, and another one further south.
Due to a combination of apathy and logistical problems the film club never saw the light of day, even though about 20 pupils (mostly gullible first and second years) had already paid the £1 a head membership fee. Where that money ended up remains a mystery to this day.
Larry like many of that particular generation of teachers born roughly between 1940 and 1955 was a bit of a character. He had nicknames for virtually all of his pupils based on agonisingly bad puns.
If we ever had him for a free period (or study periods as the principal preferred to call them – even though during these interludes we did anything but study) he would go around the class asking boys their names. A typical exchange would go like this.
Larry: What’s your name, boy?
Pupil A: Sir, Aidan Duddy.
Larry: Sir Aidan Duddy? Have you been knighted?
What’s your name? (Pointing to Pupil C)
Pupil D: Otis McAleer.
Larry: So what do they call you then? McAlnose?
Pupil D: No, they call me Curly because I’ve got curly hair.
Larry: Where are you from?
Pupil D: Ballygawley.
Larry: Is that Ballygawley, Tyrone or Ballygawley, Zambia?
Pupil D: Zambia.
Larry: What’s your name, son? (Turning his attention to Pupil B)
Pupil B: Sam Teague.
Larry: I just asked your name, not your religion. (To Pupil C) What’s your name?
Pupil C: Martin McTosser, sir.
Larry: Are you from Ballykilbollocks?
Pupil C: No, Killybastard.
Larry: I didn’t know there were any McTossers in Killybastard. Sure McTosser’s not a Killybastard name.
Pupil C: My da’s from Ballykilbollocks.
Larry: Is your da called Pat?
Pupil C: No, sir.
Pupil C: No.
Larry: What the hell is his buckin’ name then?
Pupil C: Frank.
Larry: Frank, the butcher?
Pupil C: No, he’s an electrician.
Larry: You mean electricity has actually reached Ballykilbollocks?
Pupil C (Unamused): I wouldn’t know, I’m from Killybastard.
Larry: You didn’t have a brother at the school a few years ago?
Pupil C: No, I don’t have any brothers.
Larry: And what’s your name?
Pupil X: Sergio McBastard
Larry: You’re not one of the Drumgallykilderrymore McBastards are you?
Pupil X: No, I’m one of the Castlegorfinmorebrack McBastards
Larry: You McBastards don’t half get around…
And so on…
There would be situations when certain troublesome pupils were making a nuisance of themselves in class. Larry would pretend to get angry and bang loudly on his desk, then say: “Get yourself down to Brother O’Loscan’s office now!” The miscreant in question would go out the door down the corridor and on his way to receive a bollocking or perhaps much worse from the Great Satan only for Larry to shake his head with a sigh and reveal his bluff, ordering a designated pupil to:
“Run after thon buckin’eejit and bring him back here!”
He would also indulge in the occasional spoonerism – If someone had left the door open he would bark at them – “Fose that cluckin’ door!!
Watch this space…
Anyone who’s come to this blog expecting me to be endorsing the views of the Sinn Féin leader (as if!), I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.
No, the heading actually refers to the late Douglas Adams, author of the best-selling book, TV series, radio series and posthumously released film The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well as a number of other less well-known works, including a brief stint as a script writer on Doctor Who in the late 1970s – when thanks to an ingenious piece of casting (take a bow Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks) the Doctor was a tall thin wide-eye, toothy-grinned maverick with a crazy mop of curly hair and a long scarf – not the floppy haired 16-year old indie boy twat that he is today.
In the light of the current financial crisis affecting Ireland (or more specifically the 26 counties of it lying south and west of the border) and a number of other small eurozone countries the following extract form THHGTTG carries a great deal of currency (pun intended), especially the section I’ve italicised.
“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this, at a distance of roughly ninety million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet, whose ape descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
[Remember this was the late ‘70s when digital watches were at the cutting edge of technology and modern style in much the same way as the i-pad is today].
This planet has, or had, a problem, which was this. Most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small, green pieces of paper, which is odd, because on the whole, it wasn’t the small, green pieces of paper which were unhappy. And so the problem remained, and lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches. Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake coming down from the trees in the first place, and some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no-one should ever have left the oceans. And then one day, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl, sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realised what it was that had been going wrong all this time and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no-one would have to get nailed to anything. Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone, the Earth was unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass and so the idea was lost forever.”
This week the Times is publishing serial extracts from a newly published work of fiction – the ghost-written memoirs of George W. Bush, Decision Points. This little gem caught my eye:
“When Saddam didn’t use WMD on troops, I was relieved. When we didn’t discover the stockpile soon after the fall of Baghdad, I was surprised. When the whole summer passed without finding any, I was alarmed.” [Yeah right – even thought the UN weapons inspections report by Hans Blix hadn’t found any evidence for WMDs prior to the invasion]
“The left trotted out a new mantra: “Bush Lied, People Died”. The charge was illogical. If I wanted to mislead the country into war, why would I pick an allegation that was certain to be disproven?”
It wouldn’t be anything to do with the fact that gaining a plentiful supply of cheap oil was more important than the truth by any chance? Or that Dick Cheney told him to?
“While the world was undoubtedly safer with Saddam gone, [try telling that to the hundreds of thousands who were killed after Saddam had been removed] I had sent American troops into combat based in large part on intelligence that proved false. ” [Somehow the word “intelligence” and George W. Bush don’t make good bedfellows].
“No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.”
Oil be the judge of that – pull the other one, Georgie.
Of the many revelations which have emerged from Tony Bliar Blair’s newly memoirs the one which I found most interesting in my professional day job capacity was his apparent opposition to the Freedom of Information Act which his government passed in 2000.
It seems as if the Act was an inconvenience to Blair and many other poiticians regardless of party in the wake of the illegal invasion of Iraq and the MPs’ expensesd scandal. Blair apparently described the FOI Act as not practical for good government. Conveniently for himself it looks like the cabinet papers on the decision to go into Iraq (whose disclosure was actually approved under FOI by the Information Commissioner, but later blocked at ministerial level) won’t be made public any time soon.
And guess whose speech this extract is taken from?
Our commitment to a Freedom of Information Act is clear, and I reaffirm it here tonight. We want to end the obsessive and unnecessary secrecy which surrounds government activity and make government information available to the public unless there are good reasons not to do so. So the presumption is that information should be, rather than should not be, released. In fact, we want to open up the quango state and the appointed bodies, which will of course exist under any government, but which should operate in a manner which exposes their actions to proper public scrutiny.
Freedom of information legislation exists in many other countries, including the United States and Canada and Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and France. The countries have sensible exemptions which the public here would understand and support. Information relating to national security, to law enforcement, to commercial confidentiality, to personal privacy, should of course be subject to exemption, as should the policy advice given by civil servants to ministers. But even with these kinds of exemption, there would still be vast swathes of government activity which would be exposed to public examination and to public debate.
And the Act would also be of practical use to individuals. In recent years we have finally been allowed to have access to our medical records, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Campaign for Freedom of Information. Why should we stop there? Why should what is held on other personal files not also be available for us to see? At present we have a mish-mash of rules which allows us to see some files and not others, partly dependent on whether they are held on computer or held manually. But I believe there is a strong case for taking a consistent approach to giving people access to what is held on file about them subject of course to those obvious exemptions.
Yes, it’s Bliar’s speech at the Campaign for Freedom of Information’s annual awards ceremony in 1996 just over a year before he came to power .