The Library

The stack of books wobbled precariously in my hands as I attempted unsuccessfully to navigate the library door. “Need a hand?” I turned my head as best I could and nodded a grateful assent to Dave the Librarian, who deftly turned the handle and swung open the door. I staggered inside, the books in my grasp weighing heavily and hampering my movement. “Here let me help you” offered Dave, who took the books before I could reply. My thanks were drowned out by his buoyant reassurance that it was no trouble, and what else was he here for, if not to help encumbered readers such as myself. I smiled in reply and made my way through the towering shelves and artificial alleyways of words to my favourite spot. Though I had worked my way through a substantial amount of books here there were still many I had yet to enjoy. Time slipped away from me as I perused the titles names that sounded reassuring, places that I conjured up strange images. I lost myself in another world.

I was startled from my reverie by a slight movement. Dave was standing behind me, his outline stylised against the dwindling light from the window. “We’re closing soon,” he said, his voice soft albeit alien in the dome of silence that had enveloped around me. I nodded and began to gather the books I would be taking. “I’ll take those” he whispered, his cold fingers closing around my wrist.

The silence swelling once more. The darkness, resolute and indecipherable.

Angie Mullins

A Dream from the Past

My name is Minnie Mooney, I’m almost 94 (and I know what your thinking, she doesn’t look it)
I’ve always wanted, to take part, in the parish Scor
So I dressed in my Sunday best and headed to hall
Would I sing or would I dance what would I do at all?

I looked in awe at the crowds, the like’s id never seen
We all then stood to attention (stand up straight) for “Amhrán na bhFiann” (sing last line)
Suddenly the curtains opened wide and the ban an ti came out to say
Failte romhat ag Buiríos Ó Luigheach and let’s get on our way

First came on the figure dancing, then the solo song
Ballad groups and instrumentals, oh I wished I did belong
But then (pause) it was announced, there would be no set (IMAGINE THAT)
As one of the dancers hadn’t arrived yet

The sighs were heard throughout the crowd as disappointment loomed
No set dancing at a scor, we were to be doomed.
So I saw me chance there and then and I jumped right off the seat
I’ll tell them I had danced before and was quick on the feet

The dancing teacher scratched his head looking me up and down
The other 7 dancers all began to frown
So I zipped up the dancing dress which was a little tight (OPEN COAT)
But I didn’t really care; this was going to be MY night

Then on came the music and there I was at last
Dancing in the Scor (LA LA LA) ….a dream from the past

I held my partner’s hand as my heart began to beat (pat your heart with your hand)
And off I took around the stage with my pirouetting feet (dance again)
But then (pause) something happened…..the whole thing is a daze
I tripped (pretend to trip) over me partner’s foot and flew (kick leg out) right off the stage

I stood up like a shot but unknowns to me
The zip on the dress had opened wide for everyone to see
I’ll never forget the embarrassment with the underwear in view (and this is what they saw)
And I left the hall in haste that day sure what else could I do

But that was a year ago and I’m almost 95 (and I know what your thinking she still doesn’t look it)
I’m glad to be on stage again, I’m glad to be alive
The dancing didn’t go too well but I’m not one to give up
So I’m in the recitation (and just like the Tipp hurlers) I’m hoping to win that cup

Guest

Change

Change for the sake of change is not always for the better, indeed I’ve heard it said that the more things change the more they stay the same, In my opinion, it seems that way. Talk is cheap action is harder to see in motion, there can be no doubt that in the last forty years there have been some considerable advancements in certain fields especially in areas of communication, such as personal computers, mobile tablets, and of course mobile phones.

Now you might say “isn’t that great” we can send emails, Skype, or speak to anyone anywhere in the world, just press the buttons or touch screens and hey presto we’re in business, that would fine if we left it at that but now it seems that we can’t go anywhere without our Smart Phones-tablet, you can see people with them in restaurants, Doctors surgeries, Churches, planes, trains and just about anywhere, it’s almost as if they’ve become an extension of the human anatomy. I’m not complaining or pontificating, I have a mobile phone and a PC myself. The modern social media phenomena have engulfed the whole planet. It has become an essential way of life, and now before we leave our homes we invariably take the following, mobile phone, keys, purse or wallet. However, I remember a time when you needed or wanted to make a telephone call you had to queue outside a telephone box with a pocketful of shilling coins waiting for whoever it was, was finished with their call. In fact, there was a time when there was a telephone box in every village and town because there weren’t many people who had their own phones. It was only when Michael Smurfit came along and improved the postal system that ordinary folk could apply for one. The change I see is that rather than reconnecting people, mobile modern communications has disconnected people in a way that makes them insular and slaves to a device which is only as good the battery that powers it.

Of course, there have been other changes that have impacted on our lives, motorways have improved the movement of transport, we have an annual NCT, morning and evening gridlocks, still burn petrol and diesel, and still have too many deaths on the roads. Our highly educated young people are leaving in droves, our politicians sing different tunes to the ones back in the seventies although the merry-go-round remains the same, same names, the same family, same old promises of CHANGE for the better?

On another note, the shopping experience has changed beyond all recognition. Back in the day men would usually drive their wives to the supermarkets and leave them to it while they ‘The Men’ waited or indulged themselves in other shops, men were seldom seen with their other half. In this enlightened age, men have embraced their feminine side, changing nappies, pushing prams, staying at home more and that’s a good thing, a positive change. No strange thing to see husbands, partners, and boyfriends out and about in the supermarkets shopping and helping and even packing the messages into bags mostly with smiles on their faces, why because we’re happy, supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl’s have come to town spreading joy and cheer with their weekly surprises and delights. However, you see a man before you who is both confused and perplexed “Why” he is happy with the quality and the price of trousers on offer at these establishments but is totally confused; the reason is when you see a size thirty-eight waistline and an inside leg of thirty-six inches surely that’s not possible, there should be a retraction, not a lengthening. If somebody could explain this weird anomaly I would most grateful indeed. I’m shrinking not growing…

Ned

The Rite of Spring

Quiescent sleepers, benign creepers
Down in the belly of the valley below
Gathered and waiting for the song of the siren
Late, is the melody of nature’s repose?
Like a jealous lover, obsessed with ownership
Winter binds Spring tightly against its breast
A deathly silence dwells within this dark soul
Desirous with envy reins an obsessive grip
Within, the seed complete, expression yearns
With time’s accordance, spring delivers with poise
Time keeps on slipping; slipping into the future
There is something wrong, something in the air
She is confused not knowing whether to go or stay
The sun, her true lover, iridescent, will away
Winter’s guardians sly and subtle, icy talons
Resistance, release, resistance, release
Abnormal is normal in this ‘now’ perennial battle
Spring’s tenure with destiny continually shifting
Leaf, fern and stream will come, floral patterns too
Oh very young, short is the time in future days past
But yours is no disgrace, an Angel in chains still offers hope
That, hope, is the heart of the spirits quest
Down in the belly of the valley below

Michael Mullins © 2016 sourcewritersgroup

Incantation

May neither wealth nor sadness overwhelm you

may sunshine follow in your tread

May obnoxious winds not chide you

nor poverty’s chill find grip

May dreams not leave you empty,

nor shadow you with regret.

May music echo your weary step

down every crooked path

May joy and light embrace you

like a blue scarf wrapped around

and may you find redemption

In the everyday, wherever it may lead

Kevin Dowling 2016

The Grand Inquisitor

The Grand Inquisitor

 

“I’ll just be a minute, the painting is in the back” Old Crosby announced and disappeared into the storage room at the rear of the shop, leaving me to rummage alone through the array of stock he had scattered throughout his antique store. A wildly eclectic mix of items presented themselves before my eyes, items that had not so much been placed as had found their way to where they now lay. Watching as so many eyes in the ethereal stillness of this space where the dust seemed to hang expectantly in the air and the shadows of so much past cast themselves heavy upon on this dusky domain. I found myself drawn to a set of ornate Russian dolls hidden between a serving platter and a gramophone and proceeded to dismantle them absent-mindedly as I awaited the old man’s return.
 
Presently he announced himself, bounding up the corridor with the aforementioned object in his hands. “This is the piece I mentioned to you – it’s something I encountered in my ramblings, let’s say”. Wrapped in a velvet cloth, I could see the outlines of a frame. He carefully proceeded to remove the outer protective layer to reveal the painting beneath and placed it on a small table in front of him. “This is the work of Johannes van der Lember, painted in his late, shall we say, darker period”, Crosby stood away from the painting with an unabashed show of pride on his face and turned to me expectantly.
 
The painting itself was a characteristic piece of that 17th century Dutch masters, an exposition in shadow and light and with an attention to detail and realism that suggested surgical precision. The subject of the painting was a red-robed and white-bearded figure, standing in a torch lit room. Alongside – or more accurately, cowering beneath him was a man, bound and seated in an elaborate wooden chair, his face a mask of abject terror as the other figure loomed over him. In the shadows, lurking was a series of implements and tools hinting at the portents of a darker outcome in store.
 
“The First Time before the Grand Inquisitor” stated Crosby “one of a series of works van der Lember undertook towards the end of his life and without a doubt, his finest masterpiece. And…” he paused for effect “a much-coveted item”. “It had been given up as lost until… well… certain information came to light”. He stroked his chin and started to pace the floor slowly, back and forth. “Look, let me get to the point. What I’m about to tell you will put you, as well as myself, into a difficult position but I believe I have no one else that I can trust.” He then began to recount his tale….
 

  • John Wid, February 2016

The First Time

THE FIRST TIME..

 

He’s gone. Ding dong the bully’s gone.  She picks up the receiver.

“Yes Dear, I’m certain, I won’t change my mind. Send Jimmy over in the next hour, he knows what has to be done”.

Putting the receiver down, she lifts her head.  Looking in the mirror, she notices a slight change to the eyes.  Still tired and weary, but now with a hint of defiance. Ding dong the bully’s gone, a smile starts to gather in one corner of her mouth.  Ding dong the bully’s gone, the smile reaches the other corner.   Where did that noise come from?  My goodness, that’s coming from me, it’s been so long since I heard that laugh.

Jimmy starts to work.  She starts to plan. Can’t remember where I put the decorations.  Yes, I’ll make a list.  As she writes, her hand shakes.  Last year, it wasn’t just her hand shaking but her whole body.  Fear had made her shake last Christmas.  This was different.  It was excitement that was making her shake.

The noise of the drill was like music to her ears.  She didn’t want it to stop.  If freedom had a sound, it was the sound of that drill. She breathed the sound in and exhaled it with a sigh of thanks.

“All done Mary, will I put the kettle on”.

Jimmy looked so concerned that her heart warmed with tender love for the man who made her daughter so happy.

“I’m grand Jimmy. Is 3 O’clock ok? everything will be ready by then.

“We’ll all be there”, Jimmy replies, as he plants a soft kiss on my cheek.

“Well done Mary, you’ve made the right decision”.

“I know Jimmy”

So busy, she didn’t have time to think, but now looking at the clock she had five minutes to spare, five minutes before her life would start again. Five minutes was all he was going to get, five minutes to resurrect the past.  The hurt, the pain, the fear, all wrapped up as presents from him to us at Christmas.  Each year I vowed that I would never let another Christmas be as the last one, but I was weak.  Not anymore.

The door-bell rang.  His five minutes was up.

“Nana, Nana, look at my lovely new dress, isn’t it beautiful Nana” my granddaughter screeched in delight as she twirled around the room.

“Just beautiful pet, it’s nearly as beautiful as you are” My heart was bursting with happiness. My family together again on Christmas day. Two arms wrapped themselves around me “Happy Christmas mam” my daughter whispered, “ It’s the first of many more to come”

“Nana, Nana, did you not hear the ding dong, someone’s at the door”

Looking out the window I saw him put the key in the lock.  When the penny finally dropped that the locks had been changed he fired the bunch of keys as far as he could, which wasn’t far considering his drunken state.

If only he realised he had thrown away all our lives along time ago.

“It’s ok dear; the silly man just came to the wrong house. It’s getting dark; I think I’ll pull the curtains”.

Ding dong the bully’s gone.  This time she started to giggle.

 

Annette Tobin

 

Sojourn in the Devil’s Lair

 

Sojourn in the Devil’s Lair  By Angie Mullins

 

A shuffling creep with a twisted leg:

My first encounter with the living dead.

He gestured me into his home

I felt as though I should atone

For all my sins- I was made felt

That I was going straight to hell.

Alas, the joke it was on me-

I had just entered hell, you see.

 

Then his wife, a terrible demon

Conceived of some abysmal semen

Did grace us with her presence thus.

My insides turned to instant mush:

What hatred dwelt behind her eyes!

I near fell to my knees and cried.

Such cruelty in the hearts of men

Are found within the coven’s den.

 

Her sister then I chanced to meet,

Her cloven hooves concealed by feet.

The grey pant-suit and 80’s hair

Could not quite hide her fork-tongued tail.

Her puckered scowl which didn’t bend:

The image of a cat’s rear end.

I dared not move, I couldn’t rest

Embedded in that vipers’ nest.

 

For two long weeks I battled bravely

Against these fiends- my chances gravely

Faltered yet I strongly fought

Until the day in which I caught

A lucky break, and so I fled.

Another week and I’d be dead.

I wept with tears of joy abundant;

Relief as such makes fear redundant.

 

And so I’ve tried repress this tale:

It marks a most unpleasant fail.

An ink blot in the copy book

Which rather smarts-I seldom look.

But yet today I did receive

From skulking Pant-Suit (scowl of glee)

A bill to pay, a handsome fare

For my sojourn in the Devil’s lair.

 

 

On Your Way Son

On Your Way Son

It’s a time of wonderful transition in anyone’s life. High school exams a recent memory, a feeling of euphoric relief washing over a never before felt trepidation as we stand on the edge of the daunting void, the unknown entity that is the future.

For me, the time came in 1997. Facing my future alone for the first time in my life. No school friend sense of solidarity, nobody to tell me what to do. Just me and a headful of well-meaning advice.

“It’s what we call independence,” my Father would say. He should know. He left school at 14, started work the day after. Followed his own burning ambition to the UK and climbed his own personal career path right to the top, plaudits and media glare never far behind. A tough act to follow? You can sing it.

His standards were high, but he was supportive in every way. University wasn’t for me. My education was important to me, but the avenue would have to change. And anyway I was 17, it was 1997, my self-perceptions were built upon the foundations of the trendy, north of England Britpop swagger, the outward confidence inspired by an Oasis-led working class revolution, and I wanted cash in my pocket.

My confidence was purely outward. This was a colossal transition – far too big for self-assurance. I was inwardly uncertain bordering on nervous as I applied for what I described as my dream position. An apprenticeship in graphic design. My teenage brain said “yeah. This is cool, arty.  I could do this!”

Dressing formally for an interview at 17 years of age only adds to the nerves. That feeling of buttoning the shirt all the way to the top, before stifling yourself with a tie. My heart was pounding as my father ran his mock interview questions by me in the car. In reality he wasn’t helping, only adding to the overwhelming sense of foreboding as our destination limbered into view. We stopped outside the entrance and my Dad left the engine running. I guess I was somehow expecting him to lead me in and do the talking for me. For the first time that day my Father looked me in the eye. “Well, are you ready?” His smile was reassuring, he was good at that. “Just be yourself, be natural. I’ll be waiting for you when you come out, we’ll get lunch, my treat.” I smiled and nodded. “Go on then” he said, “on your way son.” That was his line when he trusted me.

I paused before I entered, facing nothing more than a mere prospect. I was genuinely scared as I pulled the glass door open, my CV providing an unlikely comfort screen as I took my seat in reception. For the first time in my life I could actually see my heart beat – my shirt pulsing as I sat waiting. I glanced up at the wall mounted clock. I comforted myself with the fact that when the big hand got all the way around I’d be outta there. Childish but reassuring at a moment when I needed something.

“Five minutes!” The gruff female voice punctured the calm air and startled me from my semi-daydream. “Sorry?” I replied. “Gerry will be with you in five minutes love!”

I had heard of Gerry Davitt. He was one of those entrepreneurial brain boxes with a hand in everything. He was a businessman – a name.

I glanced at the array of awards and plaques decorating the walls with no idea what they represented. It was a rather unassuming place, dusty blinds allowed shards of September sun to emanate from the window over which they hung. There was a radio playing somewhere behind the receptionist’s desk, a tin-like muffled sound which provided more irritation than entertainment. The volume was low enough to allow the dull ticking of the clock to filter through. It carried a soothing charm and unlikely source of temporary escape.

“Now then, you must be Craig.” I looked up alarmed. How did I not hear him approaching? Not a sound. No door opening, no footsteps – nothing! I stood and offered my hand. “Thanks for coming, I’m Gerry” he smiled. “Sorry for keeping you waiting.” The Yorkshire accent when spoken with the correct tone is wonderfully warm and welcoming, as was his handshake. Continue reading “On Your Way Son” »

New Year’s Resolution

 MY NEW YEARS RESOLUTION

It’s that time of year again and the New Year’s resolutions come out thick and fast. It’s part of Christmas and its part of tradition. The Inevitable subject raises its ugly head after our traditional overindulgence in food, drink, material obsession, and excessive behaviour. I suppose that is one of the reasons why we humour ourselves in making new resolutions for the forthcoming year. I don’t claim that this is the behaviour of everyone but quite a lot of us are more than willing participants in this annual cause.

Commence and engage; the herd mentality comes to mind and I am no different from the rest, and like the man in front of the running bulls of Pamplona who cries “Stop” I am forcefully carried in the wave that ensues, only to succumb to the frenzy and the rush to the starting line which seems to getting longer and longer each year and ends on the 25th of December. Some of us will endeavour to battle on well into the month of January before stumbling into the light…”Crying”…Enough! Enough! Only the faithful old Roy Wood wishes it was Christmas every day, and by the way things are heading he’ll have his wish one day.

Feeling somewhat remorseful for having capitulating on the previous year’s resolutions, I am determined to make amends for the coming one.

How do I overcome my weak resolve? Where did I go wrong last time? And how can I make it work this time? These are just some the questions that are overloading my already overactive and fragile brain. With the New Year fast approaching I have to make up my mind fast. This year I have decided to be quick and decisive and tell no one of my master plan, my mistake in making my resolutions for the previous year were; too many resolutions, and telling too many people about them. The pain of remembrance is acutely working overtime as two of the people I shared my resolutions with, come to mind. Paddy Moore the local but likeable neighbour who makes sure that personal news becomes public news.

“I thought you were going jogging today Mick? Or is that gone by the wayside? He casually asked with three or four neighbours in earshot.

“No Paddy, I sprained my ankle” Nosy Bastard

My dear beloved wife is the other person; she takes great delight in casting up. She is a formidable lady and when armed with ammunition, she is lethal, and by God is she lethal, her barbs are like spits coming off the frying pan.

“I thought you were giving that up” she says in an underhanded off the cuff remark

“Well there’s a genuine reason…” I start to say before being cut off…

She nods in that condescending way “I thought as much” How can she be so cruel…I cringed as I slinked away from the wounding words. “Another waste of money” she calls after me as I make my exit. When I think of the humiliation and embarrassment whenever the subject of Christmas comes up, and it does, I bite my lip and give a clenched smile.

Never mind I’ll show the lot of you yet. Needless to say the aforementioned will not be privy to these coming New Year’s resolutions.

But you have to tell someone…Don’t you?  What’s the point in making them if nobody knows the personal sacrifices one makes, and who would know if you actually carried out your noble resolutions if you didn’t tell anyone; you see there’s my argument and my dilemma. So you have to tell someone and that’s where I had a brain storm.

I decided to write down my noble and aspiring resolutions on a sheet of paper, five in all. I won’t bore you with the details, only that they are worthy and worthwhile. When I had finished this work of art I put my signed declaration of good intent into a white envelope and sealed it with date and proof. I then addressed it to Mrs Kennedy a dear and lovable neighbour. My plan of action was to ask Mrs Kennedy to hold on to letter for me until next Christmas, with which I could proudly boast of my supreme efforts or secretly destroy the evidence should I falter along the way, either way. My reputation would be enhanced or would be none the worst for ware.

It’s the day before New Year’s and it’s time to deliver my letter to Mrs Kennedy when all of a sudden I am gripped by a surge of anxiety. The dear old lady is eighty nine years of age, God forbid, but what if she were to die during the year. How would I retrieve the letter? Worst still, what would her next of kin think of the letter? Would they think that I was trying to inveigle my way into her good graces? And lastly how would I explain a returned letter in the event of Mrs Kennedy’s death to my wife. This last thought of an opened letter being returned to my wife, and especially if I were not there to get it before “she” brought me to my senses, and so with deep regret I have decided that the best thing to do is to make only one resolution and that is to make none.

 

Michael Mullins © 2015

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