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.
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.
As 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.
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.
June 2017 / Self-help, parenting & even writing / 4 minutes (850 words & many numbers)
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
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
May 2017 / A blog birthday & key life events / reading time: 5 minutes (1300 words)
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…
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.
But, 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:
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
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!)
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…
January 2017 / Bookshop review & much more / reading time: 3 minutes (600 words)
After the terrible 2016 that we’ve had, I arrived at Christmas worn out and frazzled. I then spent Christmas eating too much, not exercising, watching too much tv and this year, like so many others, nursing a cold. By the time it was over, I certainly didn’t want to write a longform blogpost. In fact, I just wanted to get away from everything. Wonderfully I managed that just a few days ago when I visited the most remarkable and perhaps least known bookshop in Dublin, Escape into Books.
My godmother, Barbara Byrne, gave me a Christmas present of the book token that was in my coat pocket. My buddy, the artist Philip Barrett, gave me directions, but I still got lost twice before I finally found the bookshop. It didn’t look like much from the outside. The front door creaked loudly as I ventured in.
December 2016/ Bad writing & memoir / reading time: 8 minutes (2100 words)
For this month’s blogpost I brought the box of bad writing down from the attic. That took courage. It’s been years since I looked into it. I didn’t know what I’d find inside. I discovered an unofficial account of my life, mostly from 1990 to 1998 i.e. from 16 to 24 years old. I am in my early forties now, but much of what I found hasn’t lost its power to embarrass me.
Here’s the top 10 fails of my life in bad writing.