Literature

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.

A Poem That Has No Real Meaning, Yet Literary Critics And Academics Would No Doubt Find Some Hidden Connotations About Life And Death And Draw Some Significance In The Fact That The Title Is Longer Than The Actual Poem

From my forthcoming collection of short stories and poetry:


“A Poem That Has No Real Meaning, Yet Literary Critics And Academics Would No Doubt Find Some Hidden Connotations About Life And Death And Draw Some Significance In The Fact That The Title Is Longer Than The Actual Poem”

A fish opens its mouth

In a pond

Closes it

Opens it again

Over and over

Eats weed

Swims away

And gets eaten by a passing heron.

 

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).

Another shameless plug…

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In Complete Circles: The Memoirs & Travels of an Ageing Schoolboy…

Available now from Amazon for £4.95 or $10.50 or €8.24 (in Italy), €8.12 (in France), €8.56 in Germany, €7.90 (in Spain).

Previews available.

“In Complete Circles” book published

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.

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“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!

Memoirs of An Ageing Schoolboy # 7: The Life of Larry

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.

In advance of a certain long-awaited reunion due to take place in just under a fortnight’s time, here are some further extracts to whet the appetite.Image

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.

Larry: Mick?

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…

Memoirs – Episode 3: The School Magazine and the Great Belgian Crisps Caper…

In our final year at the school, a small group of us, the usual suspects fulfilled our long-held ambition which we’d aspired to since 1st year by joining the committee of the annual school magazine. We thought we were the dog’s bollocks, but the truth is we were a bunch of cocky wee bastards who probably deserved a good hiding . In my early years at the school I’d looked up to the older boys who ran the magazine and wanted to be like them with their clever, witty articles, sophisticated sense of humour and sarcastic quips. Several years later when school was but a dim and distant memory one of my proudest moments occurred. I was in a pub in Omagh with a bunch of old schoolmates. I got talking to a younger lad who had been a few years below me at school. To my shame I don’t even remember his name, but he said he remembered my contemporaries and me from the school magazine and the articles we’d written and told me – “I used to look up to you boys – I wanted to be like you”.

In any given year the magazine would have articles on the previous year’s school trips, the excruciatingly bad 4th form adolescent angst-ridden poetry of the “I’m so depressed and misunderstood” variety, cartoons plagiarised from Gary Larrson’s “Far Side” collections and similar such odds and sods. The quality of material wasn’t always top rate, but if nothing else it was a great ego trip to see your own handiwork in print.

We put up a publicity poster featuring a warrior from a sword-and-sorcery “Lord of the Rings”-type graphic novel, glistening sword in one hand with his other arm around a comely young wench, the wind in their hair with the legend “Many are the pleasures of writing for your school magazine”. But inevitably some “comedian” had to deface the poster and change the word “writing” to “riding”.

Hilarious.

We also tried to slip a few risqué pieces in, some of which successfully made it. The editor Pete McGrane, a tall thin red-haired chap had been on a short trip to Belgium after having won a schools essay–writing competition on the European Union. To his (and our) great delight and amusement he discovered that the leading Belgian brand of crisps, (their equivalent of Walkers or Tayto) was called Croky. He wrote a witty account of his Belgian experience for that year’s magazine. At the end of his piece he included a cheeky afterthought. I don’t recall the exact words, but it went something along the lines of:

“…and finally no trip to the low countries would be complete without a mention of Belgium’s favourite junk food – Croky crisps!”

Accompanying this paragraph was a photo of a packet of the fat-saturated potato-based snacks bearing the distinctive “CROKY” logo in large letters. It’s probably a safe bet that the crisp manufacturer’s namesake was well aware of young McGrane’s intentions here, but sensibly he chose to turn a blind eye.

Adams was right

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.”

Classic stuff.

21st Century Sherlock

 I’ll probably never forgive chief Doctor Who scriptwriter Stephen Moffatt for turning the show’s eponymous time lord hero into an irritating floppy-haired indie boy twat by casting Matt Smith in the role. I’ve got nothing against the boy Smith – he’s not a bad actor and would probably make an excellent Harry Potter or Peter Pan, but as far as I’m concerned he’s just not Dr Who material.  A trendy young actor fresh out of drama school who’s down with the kids and looks like a 16-year old can never adequately replace the likes of David Tennant, Chris Ecclestone, Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee among others (Note I’ve deliberately omitted Sylvester McCoy from the list and I wouldn’t include in the “others” category either).  And think of all the good actors out there who could have made an excellent Doctor – Paterson Joseph*, Paddy Considine, David Morrissey – or if the BBC could ever afford him – Robert Downey Jr –  to name but a few.  But then maybe that’s just a reflection of my age.

 When I heard that the very same Moffatt was involved in a new modern-day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes for the BBC I feared the worst.  The fact that up-and-coming young actor Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes bears a passing resemblance to the boy Smith did little to quell my apprehension.

 Many devoted Sherlockians would consider this attempt to modernise Holmes as nothing short of blasphemy.  But remember the Basil Rathbone films of the 1940s when Holmes and Watson were outwitting the Nazis.  And consider James Bond, essentially a cold war figure of the 1950s and ‘60s, yet the nmakers of the franchise have constantly been able to reinvent him to suit the zeitgeist – albeit not always with positive results.

 In this new 21st century Holmes Martin “Tim from The Office” Freeman has already committed a sacrilege by being the first Dr Watson not to have a moustache.  But maybe a cleanshaven Watson is simply a sign of the times.  Back in the Victorian and Edwardian eras moustaches were considered respectable and adorned the upper lips of statesmen, generals, writers, academics, explorers, accomplished sportsmen and other distinguished gentlemen.  Since then however they have come to be associated with dictators, 1970s porn film actors, lower division footballers, unscrupulous salesmen and RUC men.

A Brief Pictorial History of The Decline and Fall of the Moustache in Respectable Society:

The essential characteristics of the Doyle books remain intact however.  The Baker Street address is the same, Watson is a military doctor returned from the latest campaign in Afghanistan.  And there’s even a tenuous link to Doctor Who.  Mrs Hudson, Holmes and Watson’s landlady is played by Una Stubbs, who played Aunt Sally, the love interest of Worzel Gummidge in the TV series of the early 1980s.  Gummidge was played by Jon Pertwee who also played the third version of Dr Who.  Pertwee was succeeded by Tom Baker as Who who went on to play Sherlock Holmes in a BBC version of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Full circle indeed.

 Holmes now lives in a world where horse-drawn carriages and telegrams have been replaced by black cabs, mobile phones, e-mail and websites.  Cocaine replaced by nicotine patches.  His  importance as one of the most famous fictional detectives cannot be underestimated.  Sir Arthur’s creation, although merely one of many similar characters of the era, many of whom have since been long forgotten set the template for Marple, Poirot, Columbo, Morse and other icons of detective fiction and TV. 

But is it really necessary to resurrect as a present day consulting detective of the early 21st century? 

Should Holmes be left alone and kept within his own era for the benefit of the literary purists? 

Or is he a flexibly timeless character who could happily exist any time in world history? 

I’m not quite sure where I stand on this, but might have a better idea of my position in a few weeks time.  Having seen the first episode I thought it wasn’t bad, but I’ll reserve full and proper judgement until I’ve seen at least another instalment. 

The new series has nevertheless left me intrigued.  I’m thinking of submitting a Freedom of Information request to the Metropolitan Police for access to the case files of Sherlock Holmes.

* Incidentally had Paterson Joseph landed the role of Doctor Who, he wouldn’t (contrary to popular belief) have been the first black Doctor, as this little gem below made c. 1985, but set in 2010 proves: