How I learnt to stop blaming the A-Team and find my writing community!

I loved the A-Team.

When I was growing up, unlikely my fancy cousins in Dublin with their BBC and their UTV (luxury!), we had only the two Irish tv stations. So I never missed the A-Team’s weekly visit to our house.

I loved the A-Team whole heartedly. I never questioned their funding structures (no one seemed to pay them) nor the fact that the baddies gave up easily (and would probably return and wreak vengeance once the heroes left town). I never noticed the tired gender politics (too busy having my first crushes on the various attractive assistants). Humble as ever, I always thought of myself as the Murdoch type.

A team with me in itBut only a few years ago I discovered the extent to which the A-Team had skewed and warped my beliefs about writing…

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Look a little closer: the secret world of Lego & our children’s imaginations

Lego is all over our house. Under our feet. Down the back of the couch.  I spend much of my time as a parent shouting at my 10 year old son and 6 year old daughter to pick it up or to put it down and eat their breakfast or to tidy it in the sitting room if they want to get to watch TV.

IMG_20171001_175520726I complained about Lego so much that I told my children this blogpost would be about Lego, but couldn’t get my head around what to do. My son suggested the blogpost should be about how Lego allows him to express his imagination. He used those actual words, probably because I talk a lot about imagination a lot. It was a lot better than my ideas so on Wednesday we sat down in the kitchen with a couple of boxes of Lego and got going. And what came out it surprised me.IMG_20170928_143829719 Continue reading

An open letter to the neighbour who cut down our children’s swings

Hi neighbour,

At first I wanted to write you a scrawled, angry message in black marker and put it anonymously up on the trees where the swings used to hang. Just so you’d see it and read it and know how I and my family feel. But my wife talked me out of it. She reminded me that I don’t know what’s going on with you. She’s right. I don’t know what you know about the swings; what you felt about them; or why you did what you did.

So I’m writing my letter to you here in this blog. Not because I think you’ll ever read it, but because I just have to write it. I have to get it out of my system.

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Breakdown: 10 days to unravel a life

August 2017 / Non-fiction & mental health / 7 mins (1800 words)

Imagine you’re in your car by yourself on a busy motorway. Just one of the tens of thousands of cars on that motorway.

You can guess what you’re up to better than me. Maybe you’re driving carefully or maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re flicking between radio stations or songs on your phone. Maybe you’re imagining what you really wanted to say in that argument or you’re thinking about something that happened last week or will happen next week. Maybe you’re cursing the weather or the traffic. Maybe you’re crying. Maybe you’re singing. Whatever you’re doing, it’s what you do when you’re on your journey alone in your car.

car-1576894_1920As you drive, a car cuts past you on the fast lane. For a moment you see the driver’s tense face, his white knuckles gripping the wheel and then – whoosh – he’s gone.

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Huh? What does being a landlord have to do with mental health?

July 2017 / mental health / 4 minutes (850 words)

I’ve drifted into blogging about mental health, but this month’s might seem the most obscure of all. But stick with it… it might relate to you.

Last month’s blog was on the three things that help me get positive and previous blog posts were about dreams and burnout and even spilt milk.  This month is about how I inherited a house from my parents when I was born. More people inherit them than you’d think. A lot more.

The house I inherited is broken down into flats with mostly long-term tenants. Obviously my parents managed it for me when I was young, but as I got older it became my responsibility. It’s been mine so long now that I can’t blame my parents when there’s a problem with it. It’s my building now

I shouldn’t complain really about it, but over the years I’ve hated this building and its tenants. I’ve hated being a landlord.  I know you’re thinking I should sell it, but that’s not possible. You’ll soon realise why.

Last week I went down there with my wife to get a few photos of the house and its weird group of tenants for this blog. I wanted to tell the story of how I gave up fighting and accepted I’m a landlord, but it didn’t go exactly as I planned.

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3 things that might just change your mood & your parenting forever

June 2017 / Self-help, parenting & even writing / 4 minutes (850 words & many numbers)

three-2136428_1280

years ago I emerged stressed out and worn out and not really all that well from a tough few years of my life (discussed in a previous blogpost). Luckily  I had the opportunity to leave my job and become the full time parent for my

Number 2

children while chasing my dream and writing children’s fiction while they’re in school. I thought it would all be easy, but I was still burnt out. And parenting is not without its challenges. I  soon found myself overwhelmed at times by the day to day challenges such as a… Continue reading

Can One Day change your life?

May 2017 / A blog birthday & key life events / reading time: 5 minutes (1300 words)

One year

Today is my blog birthday.  One year of blogging on the first Monday of every month (or a Tuesday if Monday’s a bank holiday ).

As the birthday blog post, of course, I had great plans for this 12th blog post.  It was going to find the connection between my hour of writing in the spare room and the Syrian Civil War, the baby gestating in a friend’s wife’s womb and the birth of the universe. And it would have done all of that, I’m sure of it, but my wife put the radio on in our room and even from the spare room I heard

an 80s keyboard throb

A cello slip in and hover over it

and then an echoey surge as the vocals kick in

And I’m transported back to One Day that changed my life…

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8 things I learnt about life from spilt milk

April 2017 / Self help & parenting / reading time: 3 minutes (730 words)

Everyone says there’s no sense in crying over spilt milk. If you can’t change something that’s gone wrong then you should forget it and move on, right?

Well that’s a lot easier said than done. And it’s harder for some of us than others.  I don’t know about you, but I can find it a challenge to be positive and not focus on the ‘bad’ experiences in life, regret choices I made and wish things had gone differently. Even the small day to day experiences that go ‘wrong’ can wreck my head.

I’m a writer and a stay at home parent for two school age kids. For a while they seemed to love spilling milk. They did it all the time. I’d turn my back – splash! – the floor or table or counter would be a mess. I’d get furious every time it happened. Every time. I’d demand they tidy it up. There would be ultimatums and tears. Sometimes almost mine, especially if it was the 3rd spill of the day.

IMG_20151217_081602302But, do you know what? Me getting angry, the tears, the fights, none of it made any difference. My kids just kept spilling the milk as kids will do. It was wrecking my head so I had to do something different.

I decided to photograph the milk spills each time they happened. Nothing fancy. Just on my phone. Nothing too arty. I’ve never been much of a photographer.

But it changed everything.

And here’s the eight things I learnt about coping with life from spilt milk:

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Prisoner 54127-399 has escaped

March 2017 / Crime / reading time: 12 minutes (3000 words)

Original artwork by Philip Barrett

It’s hard to find something to write about these days. Sometimes everything I write, both in this blog and in my fiction, seems banal when I see what’s on the news. Much I took for granted in this world appears at risk. I wrote about myself, my dreams and burnout last month but want to look beyond myself in this month’s blog post. I want to share some hope for this world.

I want to tell you the story of a prison break. Continue reading

4 Dreams and a Burnout: Learning to dream smart

January 2017 / Painful life lessons & writing / reading time: 8 minutes (2000 words)

I blame La La Land.

Okay I love it. It is joyous and moving and wonderful and I’d recommend it to anyone. But I came out of it wanting to chase my dreams and never give up on them and…I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

You see I chased my dreams and it’s not always gone the way I hoped. It’s not always worked out the La La Land way (and, no, that’s not a spoiler – go see it yourself ya bum!)

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I’ve been the fool who dreams but over the course of these four dreams and a burnout I was forced to learn how to dream smart.

The first dream was when I was 22 years old…

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