Welcome to a blog which will probably appear on an irregular basis. Its contents will also vary but I hope that, from time to time at least, you will find something to enjoy.

Dreams and Wishes

March 19, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

When do dreams become wishes?

Is it at those moments

When dreams become unfulfilled?

And what makes a dream unfulfilled?

Is it merely the passage of time?

For how long can I dream

Before I have to say  ‘I wish’?

The Sudden Death of Joe Kennedy

March 15, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Joe Kennedy was the fifth, or maybe sixth, generation who had worked the family farm in south Tyrone between Aughnacloy and Caledon. He and his wife Mary were in their early seventies and preparing to hand over the farm to their only son Peter who, in his mid forties, had finally found himself a wife.

Joe and Mary were also planning to move out of the bungalow they had built some forty years previously and, having done some substantial renovations, were eventually planning to go back to live in the old farmhouse on top of the hill overlooking Mullan Village in County Monaghan.

Both were in good health and were enjoying working together on the renovations to the old house. Peter and his new wife, Joanne, were doing most of the work around the farm, so Joe and Mary were spending a fair amount of time up at the old farmhouse. On a summer evening they would often sit on the porch at the front of the house, admiring the view and reminiscing about old times.

‘Do you mind the time, Mary, yon bunch a eejits came by with the yarn about there being gold in the ground round here?’

‘I do certainly, Joe, but did you not read in the Tyrone Courier last week there’s another couple of companies started up in Omagh with the same stupid notion.’

‘Aye, they’ll probably looking for more eejits to part with their money again.’

‘Well, at least we were canny enough not to give them even a brass farthing the last time.’

‘Mary, on another matter entirely – when is that nephew of yours coming to re-do the plumbing here?

‘What’s the rush, Joe? There’s plenty of time before we’ll be moving back up here permanently.’

‘Aye, there may well be, but with my bit of a problem I don’t want to be caught short up here.’

‘Joe, I have the answer’ Mary joked. ‘Didn’t those gold mining boys drill a big deep hole in the ground over by the apple trees? Move the aul’ shed over the top of it and use it when you’re up here and you’re caught short.’

‘Great idea, Mary. I’ll start that this very minute. You go inside and put the kettle on and I’ll sort out the new loo’.

While Mary was making tea on the kitchen range, Joe cut a hole in the door of an old kitchen cupboard, piled a selection of broken concrete blocks on each side of the roughly three foot diameter hole in the ground, put the former kitchen cupboard on top of the blocks and stood back to admire his handiwork.

‘There you go, Mary. Grand job, isn’t it? I’ll move the aul shed over the top of it all in the mornin’.’

The following morning Joe indeed set off up to the old house to finish off his ‘state of the art’ sanitary ware.

‘I’ll see you before lunch time, Mary’, he said as he left the bungalow.

When Joe hadn’t returned by mid afternoon, Mary went looking for him. As she neared the apple trees, she spotted the shed, which Joe had obviously moved across the field.

‘Joe, what are you up to? Are you not coming down for a bite of lunch?’

There was no answer and Mary went across to the shed. She pushed the door open and there was Joe, sitting there with his trousers down and his head slumped forward on his chest. He was dead.

There was an inquest and the verdict was death by natural causes; in other words, the death was caused by the normal development of a natural illness which was not significantly contributed to by human intervention.

Local folk came to pay their respects and one evening, when Mary was on her own, Tony Hagan, an old school friend of Joe’s and the retired local police sergeant, called to see her.

‘This is the strangest thing, Mary,’ he said, ‘your Joe was one of the fittest men I’ve ever known, he had no heart problems, he didn’t have a stroke or anything like that. But he’s gone and we’ll just never know what took him.’

‘Oh, I know what took him, Tony’. said Mary, ‘You can be sure of that.’

‘Mary, you can’t be serious. Are you telling me you know, for sure, how your Joe died.’

‘I am, Tony.’

‘But you never said a word at the inquest. Mary, you’re an old friend and for that, I’ll not say anything about this but you do know that it’s a very serious offence to withhold evidence from a inquest. Why, on earth, did you not say anything?’

‘For dear sake, Tony, how could I stand up in front of all those people and tell them how Joe died? I just couldn’t do it.”

‘Well, will you tell me, Mary?’

Mary sat with her head in her hands for maybe a minute and then finally said ‘OK, Tony, I’ll tell you, on one condition. It never goes any further. You never breathe a word of this – to anyone.’

‘You have my word on that, Mary. What happened?

‘Well, Tony, it’s a bit of a long story. Just before Joe and I got engaged, old Mrs Kennedy, Joe’s mother, came round to see me. She said to me, ‘Mary, by the looks of things, you and our Joe are going to be getting married shortly and if that’s the case there’s something I feel I should tell you. There’s a wee strangeness about him. Those are the very words she used – he has a wee strangeness about him. And it was that ‘wee strangeness’ that killed him.’

‘What are talking about, Mary? What wee strangeness? And how could it have killed him?

‘Tony, I’ll just tell you what she told me. She said to me ‘Mary, ever since our Joe was a youngster, every time he goes to the toilet, he always holds his breath ‘til he hears the splash. And Tony, that hole the gold prospectors dug was nearly five hundred feet deep.’








Still Learning

March 02, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Retirement has been a real education.

I have learned some astonishing things

Such as the significance of dials on white goods.

But, above everything was my total ignorance

Of the right way and the wrong ways

To stack a dishwasher.

Date with Death - Julia Chapman

February 26, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

When this book was chosen as the Waterstones Lisburn Reading Group ‘book of the month’ for February 2018, it was not a book I expected to enjoy and certainly not to the extent I did.

It is what  is referred to as a cozy crime novel comparable to M. C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin stories or Rebecca Tope’s stories set in the Cotswolds; all with plots which would grace any  Midsummer Murders story.

The two major characters in the story are Samson and Delilah. Samson is a former London policeman returning home to the Yorkshire Dales under a cloud of some kind. Delilah is a fairly recent divorcee who has set up a dating agency which is beginning to, but not quite yet, pay its way. The Dales Dating Agency needs some major financial input which unexpectedly comes from the Dales Detective Agency who rents office space from Delilah.

The plot centres on the fact that clients who have been coming to the dating agency ‘speed-dating’ evenings are being murdered. Despite an initial antipathy between them - the result of appalling behaviour by Sansom in the past - the two eventually solve the murders.

These major characters are well drawn, as are the others in the story. As this is the first book in a series set in Bruncliffe in the Yorkshire Dales, quite an amount of space is given over both to minor characters and a description of the village and its surroundings. Julia Chapman does a great job of uncovering the Yorkshire landscape for the reader.

It was also a wonderful change to read a crime novel without a horrific rape scene in the first chapter. 

I do have to say that I just cannot get my head around middle aged sheep farmers speed dating and I’d rather the main protagonists had other names - maybe Adam and Eve?

However, all in all, a combination of well portrayed characters in a delightful setting with an excellent story line makes it highly like I’ll read Julia Chapman’s next offering.

Where have all the grown-ups gone?

February 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

It would seem that many are watching cartoons, wearing weird T shirts and generally attempting to imitate Peter Pan. They hesitate to make commitments or assume responsibilities. Traditional values of loyalty and forbearance are not their scene. The important things are self and instant gratification within a self indulgent culture, one defined by the things it buys, and an unwillingness to take any culpability for its actions.

It is estimated that around one third of those watching Sponge Bob Square Pants are aged between eighteen and forty nine. Similarly, more people of the same age range watch the Cartoon Network than watch CNN. Oxbridge Double Firsts with subsequent doctorates take one or both parents with them to job interviews - almost certainly parents who have been overprotective from birth.

‘Helicopter parents’ are so-called, because of their ‘hovering’ and their willingness, or even insistence, on doing tasks their off-spring could and should do for themselves. It first becomes evident in a childhood which is closely directed, to the extent of not only providing disproportionate assistance in homework and school projects, but also in the choice of their children’s friends and activities. The ‘hovering’ then continues into their teenage years, throughout secondary and even tertiary education.  It has been described as ‘being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting.’

It is almost certainly true that parents such as these believe that they are doing what they consider best for their children. They don’t want them to be hurt. They want to do their utmost to soften every blow and cushion every fall. But how, in such circumstances, can these children ever learn to deal with life’s inevitable failures and disappointments?

How are they going to learn how to resolve difficulties and conflicts with their peers - whether at school or work or play? Problems are solved by trial and error, making mistakes, learning and trying again. Everyone, but especially those starting out in life, need this process to develop confidence, competence and self worth. Without it, they become unable to think or act for themselves.

There are other consequences of such a guided - or misguided - upbringing. A major one of these is a sense of entitlement, as children and young people whose lives have been adjusted by their parents to best fit their needs often become accustomed to always having their own way. In any job interview, for example, a prospective employer will be put off by any overly entitled attitude. Associated with this is an extremely low frustration tolerance - an inability to deal with obstacles and stressful feelings.

As a result of these strictures placed on many, mainly millennials but some Xers as well, they have been unable to fit into much of the day-to-day rigours of life, and have retreated into a seemingly perpetual adolescence where, currently, 35 is the new 15.