Wednesday 19 September 2007

Sleepless in Hamburg

It was my own fault really for going along with it. I went up to Hamburg last weekend to see my son Bernard who is now living there. He couldn't put us up, so Claudia decided we'd do something crazy and book into 'Die Kogge Rock n Roll Hotel'. It's a fine funky place, and very reasonably priced, but I knew it was not going to be a quiet place for getting a night's sleep and boy was I right. What can you expect of a hotel where you can check in any time up to 6AM?
Our room was pleasant: each room has its own theme and we had the romantic room with floral decorations and lots of pink kitch. The odd thing, though, was that the double bed was built like two crates nailed together - there was a wooden beam dividing the two sides.
Having arrived late on Friday night, we met up with Bernard for something to eat and then Claudia decided to go back to the hotel as she was tired. Bernard and I then headed off down along the 'Reeperbahn' - a true den of iniquity: drunks and prostitutes line the street with its rows of sex shops. On the side streets, crowds spill out from loud pubs along the way. Bernard, determined to in some way darken my lily white soul, even took me down a barricaded street that women are not allowed to walk down; it was a street full of prostitutes in shop windows. As we were walking down, one woman had opened her window and, in an argument with some guy on the street who had offended her, threw the contents of a glass she was holding at him. 'What happened?' Bernard asked me. 'She threw her glass of white wine at him,' I said. Bernard urged us to walk quicker. 'I hear they keep their pee in glasses to throw at people who annoy them,' he said. Charming.
I got back from the pub crawl with Bern at 3.30am and reckoned I was tired enough to sleep regardless of noise. Die Kogge was absolutely heaving and the volume of the music was such that I couldn't figure how it could even be legal with neighbours presumably coping with this week in and week out. I barely slept a couple of hours. The music blared until 5am, and then people came up laughing and joking in the corridor as they went to bed.
Hamburg is a wonderful and thriving place, and there is plenty to see and enjoy. Claudia and I went for a long walk along the harbour, and also through the elegant Elbetunnel. But somehow Hamburg feels like a place where you pace yourself for nightfall.
Saturday night, a group of us met for a meal and this eventually became just Bernard and I having a few quiet drinks in an Irish pub. I was back at the hotel at 1.30am and again the place was in full swing. I was awake reading a book at 3.30 because I was woken by the music which had been pumped up louder. Never again. Bernard bravely phoned at 8.30 Sunday morning for us to meet at the famous Hamburg fish market, a place thronging with people down by the harbour. It starts at 6am in the morning and ends by 9.30. Many people drink through the night and then have their breakfast there, and I certainly saw lots of people drinking. In fact, I saw more public drinking and drunkenness there than I have ever seen anywhere. And I'm not talking about some old guys staggering around - we had breakfast at a wharf café and two elderly couples sat at the next table. They ordered three beers. It was 11am.
I look forward to going back to Hamburg again. I'll be there to direct a radio play of mine being produced by a friend - but that's another story, and another blog. And I won't be staying at Die Kogge.

Monday 3 September 2007


This is a rant against my printer and the forces of evil that are at work in the very ink that flows through its black-hearted electronic tentacles.

There's a lot to be said for the Lexmark X5470. It can be used as a fax. It can scan. It prints extremely efficiently. Its colour printing is excellent. There are many adjustments you can make - in terms of print quality - that are also good cost savers.

But what I've only just learned is that all along, my printer has been watching me.

Alright, I could kind of accept the fact that it would start showing alarms that the ink had almost run out when in fact it still had a quarter of its life yet to go. It would pop up an option on my screen to order from Lexmark before going ahead with the printing, and annoy me even more by giving me the option of not going ahead with the printing before ordering a new ink cartridge. But the black ink cartridges are expensive - €25.50 - so after a few times shelling out that much money I went to a local shop that refills cartridges; cost €10. The guy warned me, however, that the computer chip in the Lexmark cartridge might prevent the refill from being useable. I've found out what he meant.

As soon as I put in the refilled cartridge a warning sign came up saying this was not genuine Lexmark ink. The icon supposedly displaying how much ink remains in the cartridges shows the black ink cartridge as empty. There is an 'alignment' action that the printer should carry out when it has a new cartridge installed and it did so under major protest, scrolling the warnings; 'out of original Lexmark ink, warranty does not cover blah blah blah...'.

It gets worse!!!

Now every time I want to print a document, I switch on the printer and it warns 'black ink low'.

Then when I click on a document to print, up comes a sign on my screen saying there is no Lexmark ink in the printer and I should order some. I of course click to shut that option. Then up comes a sign saying I should not go ahead with printing the document because I don't have black ink. I click to ignore that. Then it prints while showing me the sulky sign that there is no ink in the black cartridge. EVERY TIME I USE THE PRINTER I MUST GO THROUGH THIS!!!

Are all modern printers like this?

I am going back to an old HP printer here for all my black ink document printing. It works fine and isn't monitoring me. I'll only use the Lexmark for documents that need extra bells and whistles.

But it bothers me. To what extent are the inanimate things around us bullying us into making more profit for their manufacturers? It's too late to bring the printer back to where we bought it. And for all I know every modern printer is battling to have its manufacturer reap maximum profits. But I have enough difficulty dealing with people who try telling me what to do, let alone a smartass lump of plastic and wires.

Thursday 30 August 2007

Boldly go where almost no one has gone before

As a sci-fi writer - and as someone who believed as a kid that I was from another planet - I am of course fascinated by the sky at night. Probably the only downside I can think of to living in Berlin is the fact that the ambient city light means you can never get a good rich view of the night sky.

A small compensation for this is a number of websites I've found.

Recently, Google have just set up STELLARIUM which I downloaded as soon as I read about it. It's a wonderful site.

This site has views of the Earth and the Moon.

While this one is a NASA site dedicated to Mars exploration. And then there's the ESA Mars site to explore.

A fantastic site is this one for the HUBBLE space telescope. I have often download screen images from their 'wallpaper' section.

For news on astronomy, this magazine is very extensive.

But of course if you want to know what life IS REALLY LIKE OUT THERE, then this is the site to go to.

Friday 17 August 2007

My Brother the Bag Man

Here's the new online shop set up for my brother Kevin's THE BAG SHOP ONLINE. It is a new 'branch' of what is already a nationwide chain of stores in Ireland.

Kevin and I go back a long way. I've known him almost 55 years now (this is not a recent photo of him and me and our sister Ethel - Kevin was taller then). I have to say I like the guy. I also wish him every success with this new venture and I hope you'll pay the site a visit. He tells me it is already a fine success; only a week up and running yet people are finding it and - most important of all as far as Kevin is concerned! - buying bags.

Kevin is a strange guy. I have strolled with him some Sunday afternoons as he went visiting various Bag Shops in the city, and he simply sees the world through a different lens; he recognises when people are using a bag bought at one of his shops, and he is particularly delighted every time he sees a 'Bag Shop' carrier bag.

He designed the store logo himself, by the way. Not as handsome as me - but a smart guy is my bro.

Thursday 16 August 2007

The best Guitar Site

Okay. Let me not overstate this; here is the best website for guitarists anywhere in this galaxy. The site has everything. You learn chords. You find the name of chords you have discovered by moving the 'dots' to the frets and pressing 'search'. You can hear how chords sound by pressing 'strum' on the guitar body. You have links to fellow guitarists. You can have accompaniment as you play. You can tune your guitar. It has a link to free lessons on how to play songs. This site could be your friend for life!!!

I mean really - how good can a website be?

I enjoy playing guitar, and have gone to lessons over the years. I write songs and here's one you can download. Details of it are in my previous blog. I regularly go hunting for guitar chords, and my favourites are Dylan, Cohen, Cash and Taylor. My wife's son Noam asked me to learn this song - 'lean on me' - which he is very fond of.

Sunday 12 August 2007

A Song from Me

I seem to have figured this out; this should lead to the download of a song of mine. The song is called HUMAN, and is a reflection on the fact that we all do the best we can in our reaching out for love - even if the best we can do is not what the other person needs. And vice versa.
It's just singing and playing guitar - recorded at a friend's small studio here in Berlin.
I was able to do this upload/download thanks to this great website.
for some reason, trying it again recently it failed and yet I could get the song by going directly to where it should be;

Any feedback?

Saturday 11 August 2007

Virtual Dublin

I've been living in Berlin for over five years, and I don't miss Dublin. But there are many ways for me to stay in touch with life in Dublin - aside from picking up the phone to call a brother or sister or friend.

My favourite online connection with Dublin is this chat forum where I am a member under - guess what! - my own name. I had set up a Barney and Molly page - spreading the word about my book - this link is also to the slide show of photos from the book. Yes, this is a plug for my book!

There are other links and blogs for Dublin and Dublin life which I dip into from time to time.

But this site, of Virtual Dublin, was set up by a friend of a friend of mine and is a fascinating enterprise - if you're into that kind of thing.

I sometimes check in with the RTE website or even with the Irish Times newspaper site to find out what my countrymen are up to.

If you're interested in Dublin nostalgia, I wrote and edited THE DUBLINERS' DUBLIN, a one hour film made in 1988 that gives a potted history of Dublin (for the year of Dublin's Millennium) along with a string of classic Dublin songs. I had the pleasure of working with Ronnie Drew in writing the script - and even have a brief cameo!

I have to confess that there's little about Dublin that I miss aside, of course, from friends and family there. I miss a little my favourite pub, the Long Hall, or more so going for walks in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains. I find Dublin nowadays has a reduced quality of life; all the frenzy of a boomtown.

But from this distance and with contact to some Dubliners, I can remain feeling fond about the place.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Sunday in Berlin

It was a fairly simple suggestion, but as usual Berlin had some surprises up its sleeve. The weather here has finally turned lovely and on Sunday I suggested to Claudia that we get on our bikes and go to Tiergarten for a bit of exploring and maybe to find somewhere quiet to sit and read.

Tiergarten might be compared with Manhattan's Central Park, though in fact the amount of greenery in Berlin is seven times the size of Manhattan! Berlin is over 40% forest, park and lakes.

What I've always enjoyed about Tiergarten is that you come upon the unexpected there. Admittedly, cycling along by the Spree we were seeing all the usual things; tour boats and tourists.

I halted at this splendid looking place, which is where Chancellor Merkel hangs her fitted jackets.

But as Claudia and I sat for a drink by the river we heard the noise of bells and we went exploring.

At a memorial belfry beside Haus der Kulturen der Welt, a free performance was about to begin which was a combination of prerecorded computer music and live bell ringing. Claudia and I lay back on the grass with the other sixty or so people and enjoyed the performance of the three pieces. If I knew how to upload a file other than an image file I could put up a sample few minutes of the music - but I don't know how!

On the way home, we stopped off at a famous ice cream café in the gay Motzstrasse area of Berlin.

It was a lovely afternoon in this most enjoyable of cities. Man am I lucky to be living here. If you ever feel like exploring Berlin by bike, check out this website.

Sunday 5 August 2007


I wrote my third children's novel, PEG LEG GUS, for my daughter Ellen. In a nutshell, the book is a magical story of a friendship that grows between a young girl and a lame old horse who had once believed he could fly. Ellen loves the book, and I am happy to have written it for her.

But I would also like it to be bought and read by others!

The aim seems reasonable, but achieving the aim has evaded me. This is a good book. Its one review on Amazon is very positive and those who have read it always come to the end with a tear in their eye but having enjoyed the story. The book has not (yet) found its way onto bookshelves. So I'm trying to market it online from my desk. So far.... the book is not selling.

I tried various websites dedicated to books about horses, which seemed like a good idea. I sent them a kind of 'sales pitch'. I never got an answer from any of the sites.

I tried websites recommending books and asking if I could send review copies of the book. Again never a reply.

I then discovered this site and realised just what I was up against. Are there more children's writers than there are children? It almost seems that way. Certainly, they all have mighty impressive website. My pal Don Conroy, who did the cover for PEG LEG GUS, has a brilliant website.

I have two other children's books in the pipeline, WELCOME TO EARTH and THE DREAMIST. My novel MOTHERSHIP will be coming back into print as it is now being developed as a feature film that I will co-write and direct. Maybe when I have a body of work I'll sell more books or be a more attractive proposition to a publisher?

My very successful brother Bill once asked me 'what's the one thing you do?' and I couldn't answer him. I do lots of things. 'I tell stories,' might be an answer to his questions, or 'I am creative'. But I'm not solely a writer for children and so perhaps that weakens my chances of drawing attention to my new children's novel. If anyone out there has an idea for how I could promote sales of the book - please let me know. And if anyone out there is looking for a warm, moving story for girls in the 8-10 age group: please buy PEG LEG GUS!

Friday 3 August 2007

Is there anybody out there?

My son Bernard (this, I admit, is not a recent photo of him), who set up my website and taught me how to set up this blog, has now created a link between my website and this blog. This is good for me - I have no idea how the website works but can post regular blogs here. So hopefully people will find their way to regular news from me here - I plan on writing one or two new posts a week. It would be nice to know if anyone is reading them!

I am also hoping to use this blog as a way of drawing attention to my books and films and whatever else I may be up to. The next blog I'm going to write will be about PEG LEG GUS, the children's novel I wrote for my daughter, and I'll be writing the blog in the hope of selling some books!!! I'll write more often about life in Berlin - in the hope of drawing advance interest in my now completed book A DUBLINER'S BERLIN which I now have out and about seeking a publisher. I'll also be writing about family research and related subjects as a way of drawing interest to the book I wrote about my parents: BARNEY AND MOLLY: A TRUE DUBLIN LOVE STORY. I'll also be spreading the word in a few months' time when my film THE BOY FROM MERCURY is released on DVD.

But mostly I'm hoping that a blog will be a good way of connecting to people and of connecting people - as for instance Bernard attempted when he set up this myspace site for the book about my parents.

So there you go - this is kind of a mission statement! From here on in I take an active regular interest in this blog in the hope of getting connected to whoever is out there!

Sunday 29 July 2007

The Quest for the Jug

I love living in Berlin, and one of my favourite things to do here is to go mooching around fleamarkets on Sunday morning. There is one near us, at John F Kennedy Platz in front of Rathaus Schöneberg. This is, incidentally, the place where Kennedy gave his 'ich bin ein Berliner' speech. I buy books there mostly, and have come across many a great read for a euro or fifty cents.

But today, Claudia and I were on a mission. Staying at a friend's house recently with two kids and two dogs, Claudia discovered that a large water jug had been broken by some two- or four-legged culprit. So we went hunting for a replacement.

We went first to the fleamarket at Fehrbellinerplatz. This is a very pleasant and popular market, adjoining a lovely café, and many of the sellers there are people who actually are trying to sell off stuff that's cluttering their home.

As we were on our way back from a walk with the dog around one of the lakes, Claudia and I were a bit peckish so we gave in to the temptation of bratwurst for me and leberkäse for Claudia.

There, we saw a few potential jugs. At one stall, Claudia spoke with a man about a jug he was selling for five euros. It was smaller than what we were looking for, and Claudia asked if he would be there next week as we might decide on buying it. The man said he might be but the jug would not - he would smash it at the end of the day as it wasn't worth the bother of repacking.

We soldiered on. Our next stop was a very large indoor and outdoor fleamarket over in the East at Trepower Park. The people there were obviously selling for a living - if a living could be made from such trade. We saw one potential replacement there for Claudia to think about, but for me I mostly enjoyed the atmosphere of the crowded place.

And this guy's wonderful stall!

From there we went on - in traffic with Berliners, who I believe are the unfriendliest drivers in the world - to a small funky fleamarket in Boxhagenerplatz at Friedrichshain.

This area of town has a lot of young people and the difference is very noticeable. We found nothing vaguely like what we sought. But the atmosphere was very pleasant.

We journeyed on through a grey and wet Berlin, finally getting to the Ostbahnhof and the fleamarket behind it.

This was also a pleasant area with a lot of interesting stalls - though again these would have mostly been people operating at some professional level. At this stage, we were seeing markets only in terms of water jugs and there was only one possible candidate.

Heading home, we decided to have a look around our local Rathaus Schöneberg fleamarket. It was already past 3pm, and so - particularly as it was a wet day - many people were wrapping up their wares and preparing to leave. The guy I buy my 50 cent books from was not there and probably hadn't bothered to show up as the day was so wet. There was no potential replacement there - though I was very taken by an old ornate milk can that Claudia didn't like.

Claudia's recce done (she will make her choice next week) we could have headed home. Instead we went back to Fehrbellinerplatz. There was a man there she wanted to ask about bringing a larger jug to his stall next week. And before we left, we had to do one more thing. We went to the guy with the five euro jug. It was still there and it was close to the time when the market would close and it would get smashed. We bought it and brought it home. How else could such a story end!

Here's our newly adopted jug sitting on our balcony. If you ever meet him, don't tell him he cost only five euro and was saved from being smashed because no one wanted to buy him.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Meet John Burgan

My wife and I travelled 700km in our car with two boys and two dogs to meet John and his wife Hassina for the weekend, and seeing them again was worth the trip. That must say something about them.

I met John through mutual friend Trish McAdam when I made my move to Berlin back in 2002 and we became pals. They had both been part of the Nipkow project. John is a documentary maker and his wife Hassina is an artist. John is now teaching documentary filmmaking at the European Film College in Ebeltoft in Denmark. Aside from hanging out with them (and witnessing John's skill as a grillmeister) we also had the chance to look around the school and were mightily impressed. It is a wonderful early breeding ground for film talent and getting the opportunity to be a student there is surely an enviable experience. Two cinemas! Their own sound-proof studio! Editing and sound facilities! Conference and study rooms! Wireless internet access in their café! All a filmmaker's heart could desire and then some!

We also visited the old town of Ebeltoft itself and Claudia and her son Noam and his friend Louis enjoyed ice cream on a rainy Sunday night.

In his work, John's themes are often about belonging and identity. As someone who loves the world of film, he is also one of the regular hosts of D-Word, a forum for documentary filmmakers. He is tireless and always approachable, and a major asset to the college.

The main thing for Claudia and I, however, was to catch up with two people who were becoming friends of ours before they were moving away from Berlin - here they are at a small get-together in our garden before they left.

We want to to keep the friendship going - which hopefully means getting back to them and Ebeltoft every now and then as well as having them back in Berlin when they can spare the time.

Wednesday 18 July 2007

Laptop Dancing

I'm addicted to my laptop. I own a Fujitsu Siemens Amilo widescreen, and I think it is my favourite possession. The marriage between it and the internet brings me so many hours of pleasure it annoys my wife. I'm sitting here listening to a downloaded Bob Dylan Theme Time Hour while I will get an alert if an email comes in and I can also check for links as I write this. Indeed, access to the web has altered how I write because now, once a question pops into my head I can instantly research it.

A favourite treat for me in summer is to sit out on our balcony listening to a downloaded BBC radio programme while I surf the web. Who needs television when you can have your own window on the world.

I store my music and my photos on my laptop. I have recently begun to store interviews on it. I watch dvds on it. If there were some way I could also eat from it I might never engage with the rest of the family.

Here it sits before me at my desk. I regularly change the desktop image at this website, though lately I have a favourite image that shakes off all other competition. I don't have a name for my laptop, which maybe shows that I am still somewhere this side of sanity. I don't pretend it has a personality and I don't speak to it. I also don't get angry with it - but then again it rarely lets me down.

unlike this guy's computer!

I don't travel with it as I used to - my trips away are too short and bringing a USB stick is the simple thing to do. But when I come home, first I kiss my wife and second I switch on my laptop to check my emails and what's new in the world...

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Planet Water

The surface of our planet is 75% water. So what's with Planet 'Earth'?

Some time ago I read a great book about the intriguing molecule H2O by Philip Ball - who has a completely enviable blog. A great way to get a small appetizer for the subject is to listen to the BBC 3-part radio science series about water.

Water is full of contradictions; such as it should in fact be a gas, it should get heavier instead of lighter when it freezes, and it has a disproportionately high boiling point. It is utterly essential to life: to the extent the space exploration is always seeking water as a likely sign of life. Yet arguably it is an alien substance to this planet.

There has been a huge amount of rain lately in Berlin - some spectacular storms and downpours. Yet less than one percent of the water on Earth's surface is available to us as drinking water.

Water is life. And as an Irishman knows, 'whiskey' comes from the Irish 'uisce beatha' which means 'water of life'.

At home, we have a peculiar wooden plate on which we keep a jug of drinking water. Inside this plate is a magnetised spiral containing spring water. The theory behind this item is that the spiral and water within somehow teaches the water in the jug to be like spring water. When my wife bought this plate, I thought she was crazy. Yet time and again in blind tests among ourselves and with visitors, water from the jug always comes out as tasting better than water either from the tap or a bottle. What's going on?

Masaru Emoto's book 'The Hidden messages in Water', which I learned about through the documentary 'what the bleep do we know' proposes that water has a personality and will react to good and evil thoughts as it will react to good and bad circumstances. This he linked, naturally, to the fact that we are two thirds water - so we are also open to such good or bad influences. His methods have been criticised, but the idea appeals to the dreamer in me.

The sky has just darkened and I think another downpour is on its way. The skies may also be darkening for the world in terms of water; a precious resource that may yet lead to war....

Saturday 23 June 2007

The Aquatic Ape

A few decades ago I came across and greatly enjoyed the book 'Scars of Evolution' by Elaine Morgan.

Its premise was that we did not evolve from apes who climbed down from the trees to walk out into the savannah, but rather from apes that had lived in and near water. There are many bases on which the theory is presented, and perhaps the most enjoyable introduction to the subject would be through the two-part BBC radio item from Sir David Attenborough.

Today, on a whim, I decided to do a blog entry on the subject and introduce you to a few websites I had come across. Deciding to look for a few extra links, however, showed me just what a wonderland is the World Wide Web.

An introduction to the subject is a website set up by Elaine Morgan's grandson.

A no-nonsense analysis of the subject is presented in this website.

Then I found oddities;

This one is part of a website that is dedicated to the belief that we're headed for a global catastrophe in 2012.

This one is dedicated to what it calls 'primitivism'.

Then there's a New Age one proposing the use of dolphin mid-wives.

There's a creationist site completely ridiculing the theory (claiming, for instance, that AAT proposes that billions of years ago apes lived underwater and gave birth to human babies).

As the X-Files said; the truth is out there. A problem with the web, however, is that you can never be sure of what information you are receiving. Though the Creationist site was the most... what can I say... untruthful.

The subject is fascinating and I definitely believe that we are the Aquatic Ape.

Thursday 21 June 2007

Melvin Burgess

As I seem to have stumbled into writing a series of entries about gifted friends, I might as well draw a line on that subject (for now) with a word about Melvin Burgess. A few years ago (2003, I think) I was invited back to Dundee Contemporary Arts where I was part of some panel discussions about young people and film. Mairi Thomas picked me and Melvin up at the airport and on the drive to Dundee he and I had our first chance to get to know each other. Over the following days we managed somehow to like and dislike each other at the same time; Melvin, like his writing, can be abrasive and provocative, I, like my writing, would be a bit more in the old style. This didn't stop us from remaining in touch after the Dundee encounter and when Melvin was over in Berlin as a guest of the Literary Festival he contacted me and we met up a few times.

I even took him for a little tourist stroll. We remain in contact, and I keep threatening to drop in on him for a visit in Manchester on my way to visit my brother Luke in Chester.

Melvin has a fantastic website and a very active myspace. He has also written a great body of successful, challenging books. If you don't know about Melvin or haven't read any of his books, there is something missing in your life!

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Samuel Menashe

In 1997, while doing some writing at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, I met the New York poet Samuel Menashe. The following year, in Manhattan to direct my second film 'The Bumblebee flies Anyway', I contacted Sam and we became friends. More than friends - he became a kind of father figure for me and also made sure that I was okay. I would get messages on my answering machine from him if I hadn't been in contact for a week or so - wanting to make sure that this Irishman in a strange city was doing alright - and we would meet to take a stroll in Central Park. I also met Sam's friend John Thornton. John and Sam met when they signed up the same day to join the US Army and fight in World War Two. They have remained friends ever since and hardly a day goes by that they don't meet in Central Park - though both men are now in their eighties.

Samuel's work is distinctive in its precision - some of his poems may be only a few lines. I have attended a few readings he has given, however, and in many ways the beauty of his poetry is tied to his voice and his 'performance'. There is a cd of Sam reading his poetry - please buy it!

In the summer of 2000 Sam was again spending time in Ireland during his 75th year. I collected him from friends in Kildare where he was staying and we went on a holiday together travelling north to Donegal. While we were on that trip, we took a walk one evening along a strand. Sam halted with a piece of wood and wrote a poem of his in the sand;

Pity us

By the sea

On the sands

So briefly

As he was doing this, I took a photograph.

When I sent him photographs of his holiday with me, he singled out this photograph as the one that 'defined' him in his 75th year. The photograph was used on the cd cover.

In 2004 Poetry magazine of Chicago gave Sam their first 'neglected masters' award and a collection of his work was published in 2005 by the Library of America to mark his eightieth birthday.

I last saw Sam last year when I was in New York on my way to my son Steve's diploma cermony as he completed his medical college studies to become Doctor Steven Duffy MD. Sam was in poor health, but I took the subway with him up from his apartment in downtown Manhattan to meet John Thornton and take a stroll with them in Central Park.

Thanks, Sam - and John - for your friendship.

Bob Quinn

My son Bernard, who set up my website, also set up the new website for Bob Quinn.

I have known Bob for over twenty years. I met him first through editing his film Budawanny and we became friends. Over the years I have edited again for him from time to time and he is also my daughter Ellen's godfather and was my best man at my wedding. Bob is a filmmaker, photographer and writer - his new novel 'The Accompanist' is available through Ogma Press and the other usual outlets. He is also the founder of the Atlantean theory of how the west coast of Ireland was inhabited by seafarers from the north of Africa. He has made four documentaries about this and has written a book on the subject

Bob is a lover of Berlin and comes over at some point most years to stay with us and take in some music. He and I have also been known to take a drink or two together on occasion.

Visit Bob's site and tell him I was asking for him.

Tuesday 19 June 2007

great Scott!

My first full-time job was as an apprentice projectionist in what was then called the Kenilworth Cinema in Harold's Cross, Dublin. I recently wrote an article about my time there, and in that article I sang the praises of projectionist Harry Colgan. Harry became the step-father of the writer Michael Scott after Michael's father - Harry's best friend - died.

I first met Michael Scott in the early 1990s at a sci-fi convention in Dublin - he and I being two of the few sci-fi writers in Ireland. While I went on to make a few films but write only two sci-fi novels so far, Michael is a writer of gigantic talent with an astonishingly formidable output - over a hundred books to date. He and I remained in contact from time to time down the years, but just today I stumbled on the fact that Michael - already a highly successful writer - has hit the jackpot. His novel The Alchemyst, the first of six parts, has become an instant bestseller and has been optioned for film rights of all six parts!

Another friend of mine, Don Conroy, has written many novels for young people while also writing about wildlife and about painting. He has a great new website, and I must ask him to create a link there to my own young people's novel PEG LEG GUS for which he made the cover painting.

Michael and Don live their dreams. They are rightly rewarded for that. And they are two great people.

I think the secret of their success is persistence: okay, plus huge talent. I wonder will I get away with just persistence....


I've just been helped by 'Editor Bob' to sort out the mess I had initially made in becoming a member of Toytown Germany, a website and forum for English speaking people living in Germany. I've been doing a lot of exploring of forums and chat rooms in the past months - not least to try and let more people know about my family book. I very much enjoy visits to and to What I found with both of those was that older people are finding a way to use the internet to connect and I think that's wonderful.

Indeed, having WLAN at home has connected me to another part of times gone by: radio. I check in regularly for old comedy programmes on part of the BBC website. A favourite delight of mine is to sit out on our balcony on a warm summer night with headphones plugged in so I can listen to classic programmes like 'I'm sorry I haven't a clue'. Another wonderful link to the past is the fact that sites provide out-of-copyright books to download. I found Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray, and Nikola Tesla's autobiography - and even a charming book about bees that I referred to a friend.

I know there are plenty of racy and funky chat rooms out there. I know there are downloads of software and who knows what. There's even Second Life - to which my reaction after trying it out for a while was the quote from the teeshirt 'get a first life'.

But the web is for us oldies too.....

Monday 18 June 2007


On this day in 1990 my Mam died. She was 83 years old and had lived an extraordinary life of hardship and triumph. A year before her death I had sat down with Mam and recorded a conversation with her. After her death, that tape became the basis of what would finally be a book I completed last year; BARNEY AND MOLLY: A TRUE DUBLIN LOVE STORY. It has been a family effort: I interviewed my brothers and sisters and other relatives and built up the book over the years, then my eldest son Bernard set up a publishing company, Ogma Press, with the book as its second title.

A very clever thing my son did was make a slide show of photos from the book, and this slide show can be seen on my website and also at various websites including is part of what I think is a cultural phenomenon in our newly expanding information age. I have written a book about my parents that has been produced (by my brilliant son Bernard!) as a limited edition hardback only for distribution within the family as well as the paperback edition available through amazon and other outlets (hint hint). But what I've done is part of a need for roots in an age when all is constant change. My children - and one day their children - can read about the birth of my father's father to an illiterate woman in a remote part of Monaghan a mere generation after the end of the Great Famine. I had a phone conversation some months ago with the son of a nephew of mine in the USA who had read BARNEY AND MOLLY with great enthusiasm and was doing a school project about my Dad - his great grandfather - who took part in the Irish War of Independence as a messenger when only twelve years old. Worlds apart yet of the same clan, my nephew's son is spreading this family story and so it lives on.

My Mam, born in Dublin 100 years ago, is preserved in the hearts of her children and grandchildren who knew her. Through the book, her memory remains vivid in our clan. I'm proud of that. Every family should have its historian to maintain our bond with the past as we grow into the future.

Saturday 16 June 2007

start blogging

This is me seeing how to set up a regular blog that I will link to my website. I will use it to let visitors know what I'm up to and also hopefully to make contact with other bloggers.....