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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Reading at the Dora Keogh



On the night of August 10, 1977, Daniel Bartholomew Boyle made the biggest mistake of his young life, one that was to have far-reaching consequences for him and those around him. He might have argued that the course of his life had already been determined by happenings that occurred before he was born, but, poor Catholic that he was, riddled with guilt and shame, he believed that he, and he alone, was responsible. He had been dodging the inevitable since Scully got lifted but he knew it was only a matter of time before it caught up with him. Perhaps that was why he paused in front of the old cinema in Terenure after weeks of skulking in the shadows. Perhaps that was why he waited in the drizzle as the passing car turned back and pulled up beside him.

“Get in the car, Boyle.”

Danny wanted to make an excuse—to say that he was waiting for someone—but he knew better. It wouldn’t do to keep them waiting. They weren’t the patient sort, twitchy and nervous, and single-minded without a shred of compassion. He looked around but the streets were empty. There was no one to help him now, standing like a target in front of the art deco facade of the Classic.

The cinema had been closed for over a year, its lights and projectors darkened, and now lingered in hope of new purpose. He had spent hours in there with Deirdre, exploring each other in the dark while watching the midnight film, stoned out of their minds, back when they first started doing the stuff. He used to do a lot of his dealing there, too, around the back where no one ever looked.

“Come on, Boyle. We haven’t got all feckin’ night.”

Danny’s bowels fluttered as he stooped to look inside the wet black car. Anthony Flanagan was sitting in the passenger’s seat, alongside a driver Danny had seen around. He was called “the Driller” and they said he was from Derry and was lying low in Dublin. They said he was an expert at kneecapping and had learned his trade from the best. Danny had no choice; things would only get worse if he didn’t go along with them.

“How are ya?” He tested the mood as he settled into the back seat beside a cowering and battered Scully. He had known Scully since he used to hang around the Dandelion Market. He was still at school then and spent his Saturday afternoons there, down the narrow covered lane that ran from Stephen’s Green into the Wonderland where the hip of Dublin could come together to imitate what was going on in the rest of the world—but in a particularly Dublin way.

Dave, the busker, always took the time to nod to him as he passed. Dave was black and played Dylan in a Hendrix way. He always wore an afghan coat and his guitar was covered with peace symbols. Danny would drop a few coins as he passed and moved on between the stalls as Dylan gave way to Horslips, Rory Gallagher, and Thin Lizzy.

The stalls were stacked with albums and tapes, josh sticks and tie-dyed t-shirts with messages like “Peace” and “Love,” pictures of green plants and yellow happy faces along with posters of Che, whose father’s people had come from Galway.

The stalls were run by Hippies from such far-out places as Blackrock and Sandyford, students from Belfield and Trinity, and a select few from Churchtown. They were all so aloof as they tried to mask their involvement in commercialism under a veneer of cool. Danny knew most of them by sight, and some by name. On occasion he’d watch over their stalls when they had to get lunch or relieve themselves. He was becoming a part of the scene.

As they drove off, Scully didn’t answer and just looked down at his hands. His fingers were bloody and distorted like they had been torn away from whatever he had been clinging onto.

Anto turned around and smiled as the street lights caught in the diamond beads on the windshield behind him. “We’re just feckin’ fine, Boyle. We’re taking Scully out for a little spin in the mountains.”

His cigarette dangled from his thin lips and the smoke wisped away ambiguously. He reached back and grabbed a handful of Scully’s hair, lifting his bruised and bloodied face. “Scully hasn’t been feeling too good lately and we thought that a bit of fresh air might sort him out, ya know?”

“Cool,” Danny agreed, trying to stay calm, trying not to let his fear show —Anto fed off it. He briefly considered asking them to drop him off when they got to Rathfarnham but there was no point. He knew what was about to go down. Scully had been busted a few weeks before, and, after a few days in custody, had been released.

It was how the cops set them up. They lifted them and held them until they broke and spilled all that they knew. Then they let them back out while they waited for their court date. If they survived until then —well and good. And if they didn’t, it saved everybody a lot of time and bother.

Danny sat back and watched Rathfarnham Road glide by in the night. They crossed the Dodder and headed up the hill towards the quiet, tree-lined streets that he had grown up in. As they passed near his house he thought about it: if the car slowed enough he could risk it —just like they did in the pictures. He could jump out and roll away. He could be up and running before they got the car turned around and by then he would be cutting through the back gardens and could easily lose them.

“You live around here, don’t ya, Boyle?” Anto spoke to the windshield but Danny got the message. “And your girlfriend —she lives down that way?”

Danny thought about correcting him. He hadn’t seen Deirdre since the incident in the church but there was no point. They’d use anybody and anything to get to him. He was better off just going along with them for now.
He briefly thought about asking God to save him but there was no point in that, either. They had given up on each other a long time ago. He turned his head away as they approached the church where he had been confirmed into the Faith, so long ago and far away now.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Celtic Lady’s review:



Danny Boyle seems to be doomed from birth, what with his mother, Jacinta, being in a hospital for mental issues and a father, Jerry, that is not around. His grandmother, Nora, thinks the sun rises and sets in Danny though, so he has a chance but when she becomes ill, he gets into the wrong crowd and becomes involved in a murder. He just seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting deeper and deeper in trouble. He meets Deirdre but gets into trouble again when they are found in a church in a compromising situation. Things escalate from there with the priests getting involved with both Danny and Deirdre's families, hoping to ease the situation. There are a few side stories but they all come together nicely to give the reader a better understanding into Danny and what he has to deal with.

This is a novel that is character driven during a time in 1970's Dublin that is full of strife, where the Catholic Church plays a major role in family life. I like how Mr. Murphy had the characters speak, each chapter giving the reader more of a clue into the family life of each one and the changes that occur over a period of time. Full of Irish witticism, history and a bit of the supernatural, this series is one to definitely read. I look forward to the continuation of Danny's life love the cover of the book, almost like Danny is looking to be redeemed for his sins via Nora or Jesus. Do you like Irish novels, with love of family, romance, humor and a feel for Dublin and Ireland as a whole?? Then this book is a must read!! You did it again Peter Murphy!!!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

I just had an epiphany


I was just sitting here, minding my own business, enjoying a coffee and looking out at the world through the selected windows our national broadcaster has chosen to show me, when it hit me. I’ve been looking at things the wrong way.

I used to be suspicious of business activity because of its long history of exploitation, usury, slave trading, destruction of the natural world and the buying and selling of supposedly freely-elected governments.

I blame the years I spent at the bar in Grogan’s among the mumbling socialists and other malcontents—those who were cast into redundancy during one of Ireland’s annual recessions. Over scrounged pints, we smoked our Woodbines and talked about how much better things would be after the Revolution. All things would be held in common, all labour would be properly rewarded and the leeches of Capitalism would be banished to the deepest bowels of Hell. Governments would answer to all of the people and not just the vested interests of those who had paid for their election. Religion would be tolerated providing it curtailed itself to tending to spiritual needs and assisting those who were impoverished by the inequitable distribution of the wealth of the world that God had given for all kind, human and animal. Utopia beckoned. All we had to do was rouse the people from inertia, drown out the indoctrination of Church and State, and march forward under the banners of equality, fairness and the common good.

But I was wrong and can only offer that I was young and foolish then as an alibi.

Yes, we may be hurtling towards an Environmental Armageddon, drowning in debt, snapping and snarling at everyone along the way, but we must bear in mind that it was “Good for Business.” All that we have sacrificed was done in the most noble of causes—making the rich richer. We must remember this when we grovel on the floor hoping that a few more crumbs might fall from the table of our new aristocracy. And while we are there was can marvel at their splendour and grandeur and know that it was our efforts that helped to put them there. Rejoice in the knowledge that they are modern day saints who spent their lives in the pursuit of jobs and prosperity for all and only sit at the loftiest table to set a good example for the rest of us that we might rise up and become like them.  And when we are gone, poisoned by all that we have done to the world in the surety that it was “Good for Business,” know that the Grand Pyramids of Capitalism will be our eternal gravestones.

So hush your mumbling and grumbling now because, like the fella in 1984, there is nothing more to do than to sit patiently until someone from the government drops by and puts the forgiving bullet in your brain.

 

Monday, 17 March 2014

It’s that time of the year, again


 

I have begun to loath Saint Patrick’s Day.

I haven’t always. Back when I was a young lad growing up in Dublin, I loved it. You see, back then we were not encouraged to stand on street corners ogling the passing young girls. We even had a derogatory term for it; corner-boys, and no one from the respectable neighborhood I grew up in could openly aspire to becoming one of those. But it was allowed on St Patrick’s Day—in fact it was a mandatory cultural observation, of a sort.

You see, on Saint Patrick’s Day, Dublin was visited by marching bands from every corner of the United States of America—our undeclared colony—and I, along with all the other scuts, would go down to Grafton Street and watch all the beautiful young blonde majorettes showing off their long legs without a bit of shame.

Later, when I moved to Toronto, I threw myself into the celebrations that were more about declaring our presence in a city that had not welcomed us as it might. We drank our green beer and sang along with songs of sedition against old mother England who was still held dearly by most of Ontario.

In no time at all, I had joined a band and was up on stage inciting beery crowds to put aside all that winter had dumped on them and embrace a bit of craic. They were the best of times for folk musicians who, by the end of the night, could be rolling in the only green that matters, providing their bar tab didn’t devour it all.

For a number of years I even brought my kids to the parade, despite the cold and the lack of majorettes. But since then, I have grown very tired of it. It began when I still played with the band and got tired of drunken audiences who only wanted to hear; The Black Velvet Band, Whiskey In The Jar, and the worst of them all, The Unicorn. That and everyone who was not Irish getting drunk and talking like they do in Irish Spring commercials. How would you feel if, on your national day, the entire world dressed up and acted out every caricature of your lot—see what I mean?

Not that I am against people having a bit of fun. Nor do I resent bar owners having a good day though I am a little reticent about Diageo as cultural ambassadors. What bothers me is that being Irish is so much more.

I suppose that in these days of corporate intrusion into every corner of our lives it is too much to expect that the Irish would be celebrated for their real contributions to life. A millennium of resisting Imperialism made us keenly aware of social injustices—to ourselves and others. For centuries we exported revolutionaries to every corner of the world. We also sent out our compassionate to bring some solace to the downtrodden, and, our greatest exports; poets and dreamers but there is not much opportunity for profit in that.

It’s enough to drive ya to drink.

Monday, 10 March 2014



BORN & BRED is the first novel in the Life & Times Trilogy, a cycle of three books that will chart the course of one star-crossed life. It is a work of vibrant imagination from a poetic novelist of the first order.

Danny Boyle was a born angel.

At least that’s what his granny used to say, and she should know – she raised him after his parents proved incapable. When she becomes ill, Danny is reunited with his parents but they do not get to live happily ever after, as the ghosts of the past haunt their days. And when the old woman dies, all of her secrets come to light and shatter everything Danny believes in.

In the turmoil of 1970’s Ireland, an alienated Danny gets into drugs and is involved in a gangland killing. Duped by the killers into leaving his prints on the gun, Danny needs all the help his friends and family can muster. Calling in favors from bishops and priests, police and paramilitaries, God and the devil, the living and the dead, they do all that they can. But even that might not be enough.


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

There’s always someone watching.





The whole business with Edward Snowden and surveillance did not come as a surprise to me. I have always assumed that someone, somewhere was watching.

No, I’m not paranoid. You see I was raised Irish and Catholic and, when I was a kid, my mother had eyes in the back of her head and could see across all four, if not five, dimensions. And she had the ability to read my thoughts—even before I thought them. “Don’t even think about it?” she’d warn and I’d stand there, stunned and struggling to blank my mind before I did anything to add to my guilt. 

As well as being my mother, she was also a teacher. In other words, she was the complete and perfect dictator, benign when it suited and draconian when the situation called for it. 

The outside world was no better, the women of the neighborhood were everywhere, watching, filing and disseminating all that went on back up the grapevine. Passing comments, too, to let you know that they were there and you were never beyond their range.

School was even worse, run by nuns who were trained and skilled in the dark arts of espionage. They could turn any lesson into a data gathering exercise. They could find out what we had for breakfast in several languages. The ‘How I spent my vacation,’ essays were nothing less than written statements full of incriminations about ourselves and our families. And, if any of us resisted or showed any reticence, there was always Confession.

Dark and confined, we would kneel and give up all that the data-gatherers had missed, fearful that the dark shape on the other side of the grill would reach out like the Spanish Inquisition and thumb-screw all sin from us. And afterwards, as an example to others, we had to kneel outside where the whole parish could see and say our penance while keeping an eye on everybody around you. Nobody wanted to be the last one—the one who got more than all the rest. It was like when the Pope used to make errant kings sit on the steps of St. Peter’s in sack cloth and ashes. 

And then there was God, the ultimate eye-in-the-sky. Nothing that you had done, did, or might do escaped him. He knew before you did and had probably already consigned you to Purgatory or Hell.

Not surprising that I became a rebel and moved my life into the underground but even there safety was not assured. Informers and spies were everywhere. Kids that you shared a cigarette with would give you up to save their own skin. Girls that you had tried to steal a kiss from would turn on you when you moved on to their friends, ratting you out to the nuns, who’d pass it on to the priest, who was sure to tell your mother while God looked on in dismay that was sure to become vengeful fury. It was no wonder that when I was old enough, I sought refuge in the only place where men could be themselves.  

Pubs. They were the last places where subversives could huddle and scoff at all the sheep who bleated that they were indeed free. We were the only truly free, even if only for as long as our money lasted. 

Poets, politicos, paramilitaries and folk-singers, we gathered in clusters and whispered about the revolution that was just around the corner. And it was in a pub that I met Joe who always smiled like a Yogi because he said it would drive the ever-present watchers mad wondering what he was up to.
So now, many years removed from all that was, I write what I think and feel so that there can be no mistake: I am, always was, and always will be me, like it or lump it.

And my advice to you: fear nought and dance like somebody is always watching. Twerk if you must and frolic like a pagan. You can blame it all on Social Media. Break wind loudly and often to startle eavesdroppers. You can always blame it on the dog because he knows: freedom is just a state of mind.

Reproduced from Part of the Story - the free quarterly for the The Story Plant

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