Killing Time

I was delighted to be recently invited to do a reading at the launch of Orla Grant-Donoghue’s new collection of haiku and micropoetry. The book launch took place at The Irish Writers Centre.

Exploring the themes of love and loss, The Frayed Heart is published by Fiery Arrow Press. You can find out more about this wonderful book at Orla’s website.

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A large crowd turned up on the night to wish Orla well. And, after the readings by gathered poets and creatives, Orla signed copies of her book. The author’s signature add such a lovely personal touch to a book!


Photo: Vivienne Kearns

Eileen Casey from Fiery Arrow Press introduced the evening. And Robert Power and Electra Grant set the tone with a beautiful, haunting song. Brian Kirk, David Grant, Susan Condon, Doreen Duffy, Eamon Mag Uidhir, Michael Whelan, Gavan Duffy and I performed short pieces of prose and poetry, tying in with the themes of love, loss and hope.

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Photo: Rose Comiskey

For the launch, I decided to write a short piece about the passage of time. Always needing a deadline to focus my procrastinating mind, I managed to finish the piece the day before the launch!

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Photo: Rose Comiskey


Killing Time

Tick tock, tick tock,
The ticking of the bloody clock!

Reminding me that I’m late again. That my schedule is a farce. That the deadline passed me by with its nose in the air. Everything moving forward relentlessly with bold optimism. Everything except me. I am welded to the bed again. And the cats are reporting me to social services. Time to get up, I suppose. In a few more minutes. No hurry. No bother.

Tock tick, tock tick,
That bloody clock is making me sick.

Maybe I’ll take an axe to it. Kill time! Let’s see how well you can tick tock then, you smug sanctimonious two-faced bastard of a clock! But as the seconds march on, I hear my mother’s voice in my head.

Ding dong, ding dong,
The chime of a forgotten song.

“Time waits for no one,” she roared, as she bundled us out the door and out of her way. Glancing at the clock, she sighed, thinking of all the taken-for-granted things she had to do before we came home later that day. A housewife’s work is never done. And never appreciated. Housewives never get promoted. I knew the clock was her enemy too.

Dong ding, dong ding,
Listen to the cuckoo sing!

It was the early 1980s. My parents were shopping on a grey rainy afternoon. Everything was grey in the 1980s in my little village, even the sun. “That’s a lovely clock,” she said, pointing at the mahogany marvel on the wall. “We can’t afford that,” my father immediately snapped back. “I’m just saying it’s nice. There’s no harm in dreaming.” “Well, dreams cost money too, you know,” he grumbled. Grey silence in the car all the way home. Grumpy love, always looking for a fight.

Tick tock, tick tock,
Another day, another shock.

“He’s late today,” she said, getting the dinner ready. “Does he think we’ve got nothing better to do than wait for him?” A car rumbled into the grey street. In he came, mucky shoes destroying her just-washed floor. Before she could crucify him, he put the box on the table. “Don’t say I never get you anything,” he muttered. She opened the box and gasped. She was speechless as she lifted out the clock. He was silent too, of course, devouring the roast beef. Grumpy love, never has much to say for itself.

Tock tick, tock tick,
Day by day, brick by brick.

Every minute of the day, the clock reminded her that time indeed waits for no one. “We’ve a busy day,” she’d declare. “Our time is not our own today, so stop your dilly-dallying.” No wonder she sighed every time she looked at that bloody clock. Or was she sighing for another reason?

Cuckoo, cuckoo,
The deadline is calling you!

My parents’ time has passed now, of course. And the tick tocks echo loudly in the empty house. I put down the axe and wind the bloody clock.

Listen to the lovely chime.
It looks like I am out of time…

For more details about The Frayed Heart, please visit Orla’s website. Limited copies are also available in Alan Hanna’s bookshop in Rathmines.

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Until next time…



Gone Home



Mary and Patsy Hanratty

A Sunday dinner, then tea and cake,
Ties that bind and cannot break.
A story told, a laugh or smile,
Or gentle silence for a while.
A special gift, now and then.
Now she has gone home again.

Someone to talk to any day,
Someone to help in any way.
A warm fire on a winter night,
An ice-cold drink in summer bright.
A sturdy coat for the pouring rain.
Now she has gone home again.

An emptiness is left behind,
Lost things you will never find.
But a memory of what she’d say
Helps you through another day.
Away from us, down the lane,
On her way back home again.

Not Gone




In loving memory of my father Patsy Hanratty, late of Bellurgan Point, Dundalk, who died 13 March 2005.

The slippers lying empty under the bed;
The shovel lying idle in the shed;
The numbers scribbled beside the telephone.
A new reminder every day
Brings you close from far away.
You’re not here now… but you’re not gone.

A piece of news you’d like to hear;
A friend recalling with a tear
Some simple lovely thing that you’d done.
You were always there to say
“Can I help in any way?”
You’re not here now… but you’re not gone.

We weren’t ready for the day
You shuffled off your coat and slipped away
And left us down here suddenly alone.
But, in our hearts, every day
Your smiling face seems to say
“I’m not there now… but I’m not gone.”

Always remembered by your son Pádraig.

Back Home

In memory of my mother


A Sunday dinner, then tea and cake,
Ties that bind and cannot break.
A story told, a laugh or smile,
Or gentle silence for a while.
A special gift, now and then.
Now she has gone home again.

Someone to talk to any day,
Someone to help in any way.
A warm fire on a winter night,
An ice-cold drink in summer bright.
A sturdy coat for the pouring rain.
Now she has gone home again.

An emptiness is left behind,
Lost things you will never find.
But a memory of what she’d say
Helps you through another day.
Away from us, down the lane,
On her way back home again.

Talkin’ Author Blues: My Speech at the IWC

On 6 April, the Dublin launch of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues took place at the Irish Writers Centre.


The IWC provides an amazing venue for book launches and other literary events. And tonight the spotlight was on my surreal comedy novel.


I felt like I had finally grown up as a writer. Indeed, I almost felt like a walking antique.


Before the main event kicked off, we had light refreshments in the reception area. An anxious author patiently awaited for the droves to descend.


As friends, colleagues and well-wishers arrived, I finally began to relax and enjoy the evening.


I also tried to remain unfazed by the fact that I still hadn’t finished my speech…


I knew a stiff glass of still water would calm any pre-stage jitters.


And then it was showtime! After a wonderful introductory talk by Chris Stevens, I took to the stage.


And here is the speech I gave:

“Welcome everybody.

I’d like to start by thanking Kate and the wonderful staff at the Irish Writers Centre for providing this lovely venue this evening, here in the city of Beckett and Behan, Bono and Mrs. Brown.  As you may know, the centre’s mission is to support and promote writers at all stages of their development–whether they are experts, beginners, established writers, disruptive poets, thought provokers, legends, gurus, or of course complete chancers, like me. Seriously though, they do an excellent job and offer a rich and vibrant variety of courses and workshops to help writers hone their craft. They have become an invaluable resource centre for Irish literature.

And of course my humble contribution to Irish literature is the reason why we’re all here tonight. So welcome to the Dublin launch of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues, a surreal comedy novel about love, life and blues music!

Now, how did this novel begin? Well, James Joyce once said that mistakes are the portals of discovery. And Freud argued that mistakes can reveal repressed aspects of our subconscious. (You say one thing but mean your mother…) Sometimes mistakes can even be sources of inspiration.

A few years ago, I made a mistake. I saw a squirrel walking into work. When I shared this breaking news with a friend, I felt compelled to clarify that it was I, and not the squirrel, who was walking into work. However, the image of a squirrel walking into work took my fancy, and so Floyd the talkin’ squirrel was born. I pictured an executive squirrel scurrying to work, flash suit neatly wrapped around him, leather briefcase jauntily swinging by his side. And from that image would evolve Talkin’ Squirrel Blues.

I set the tale aside for a while, but I found it hard to forget that squirrel. Perhaps his furry tail could extend all the way to a full-length novel.

I had been interested in creative writing for many years, since my school days in fact. Over the years, my parents patiently waited for me to become a best-selling millionaire author, a goal I’m still working on, word by word, letter by letter. But this was the first time I’d embarked on a novel. Having explored the traditional publishing route for a while, a few years ago I started to investigate the growing world of ebooks and self-publishing.

Because of recent technology advances, self-publishing had become a viable option for many authors. It’s not an easy route, of course. Technology rarely does what it’s supposed to do. Interfaces can be vindictive. Computer files can hold a grudge. Electricity is not always your friend. And a careless click of the wrong button can cause an aged computer to flounce into a smokin’ meltdown. To be honest, there are days when not even the bitterest blind bluesman could express the aching despair that you feel about the whole wretched project. Other days are somewhat better, though.

In 2013, I self-published A Blanket of Blues, a collection of short stories based on blues lyrics that I had written. In the character of Fingers Flaherty, a dead blues singer, I’d found a hook that I could hang other creative projects on too. So, in 2014, I followed up the short story collection with Dimestore Avenue Blues, a novella. And then I felt that the time was right to return to that walkin’, talkin’ squirrel I’d met in Dublin’s suburbs.

So I began to populate the story with a cast of eccentric characters: Moses, the lovelorn marketing executive whose career path was strewn with missed deadlines and abandoned goals; Jesse, the grumpy neighbour with little patience for Moses’s martyr complex; and Fingers Flaherty, a dead blues singer whose voice continues to bawl from the dusty speakers. Which one will be able to guide Moses to happiness? Should he listen to a talkin’ squirrel or a dead blues singer?

It has been an exciting journey. Of course, all writers make mistakes along the way. But just maybe one of those mistakes will provide the seed for the next story. Or inspire a blues song…

As the book neared the target date for self-publishing, I was sitting in the cinema in Dundalk watching the Monty Python reunion show from London. Then something completely different happened. I got a phone call from Australia. My friend Colm wanted to know if I’d like to be god-father to his son Michael. Of course, I was delighted to be god-father. You could say it was an offer that I couldn’t refuse. I had dedicated my novella to my god-daughter Faye, down in Co Wexford. And so this novel is dedicated to that very special little boy, Michael McGee, in Melbourne, who one day is going to grow up and read this book and realise that this father has some very strange friends in Ireland…

Given that I spent five years studying English literature in college, it would be nice if I was able to say that this book was inspired by reading Tolstoy, Joyce, Shakespeare and Hemingway. In fact, I was probably more inspired by reading comic strips and listening to blues music. I like to think that the novel’s key ingredients are a dash of Flann O’Brien with a dash of Muddy Waters. We all grab our ideas wherever we find them.

Although writing is usually solitary endeavour, it is not a solitary journey. Many people help you along the way. When I started this journey, the invaluable support and feedback from Eleanor McNicholas and Pat Carroll helped ensure that I didn’t get too lost in the wordy woods. Other colleagues have provided input and encouragement for my writing over the years too; Helen McVeigh; Paul Nash; Joyce Hickey; Eamon MagUidhir; Deirdre Clancy; Meaghan Dowling; Christine Doran; Sandra Hopper; Orla Donoghue; and Kevin Stevens. Thanks also to Ken Drakeford for the wonderful cover.  I’d like to particularly thank Emma Dunne, my editor, whose expertise and insightful suggestions helped me get the final manuscripts ready for publication. Thanks also to Erick Tran, for spearheading the multi-million euro global marketing campaign. And of course, a word of thanks to Chris for his introductory words.

Family and friends too numerous to mention individually have supported me in countless ways in this project. And of course my late parents–who ironically were never late for anything in their lives, a trait I have rarely managed to live up to. They never stopped believing in me and my weird writing. They set me on this road and I’m proud to continue walking along it.

I’m conscious of the time so I’ll wrap up now. I’ve always subscribed to Douglas Adams’s attitude to deadlines: I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. Indeed, I was still editing the speech up to a few minutes ago. However, we do need to give the hall back to the parish, so I’ll finish by reading a short extract from the novel. The extract is only about 90,000 words long, so–assuming my false teeth don’t fall out–we should be able to wrap up around midnight.

If you enjoy the book, be sure to leave a nice review up on the Amazon website. If you hate the book, please scream your feedback into a pillow. In a dark room. In an isolated cottage. On the Aran Islands.

A few weeks ago, I read a synopsis of the first section of the novel at the Sunflower Sessions in Capel St. I thought it worked rather well, so I’d like to read that now.

Just a little background. The main character in the book is a twenty-something marketing assistant. He doesn’t really understand his job, and he doesn’t really understand his life. Therefore he endures a constant vague sense of confusion and frustration as he bumbles his way through the day. For him, the low point in any day is when he trudges into work and sits down to have breakfast with his colleagues. And so now we meet him on his weary way to work…”


And with that, one of the most amazing experiences in my young (yes, young!) life drew to a close. After taking a moment to soak up the applause, I said another silent word of gratitude to everyone who’d helped me make it through the writing. When a moment is special, you need to pause and appreciate that moment, and appreciate those who helped make it possible. You know who you are!

When a moment is special, you need to pause and appreciate that moment, and appreciate those who helped make it possible.

Then it was time to start signing books with my indecipherable scrawl.


All good things must come to an end. So that new good things can come to a beginning.


Thanks again to everyone who came along on the night or who sent messages of support. A special word of thanks to Chris Campbell for helping out with the photography. And to Paul Nash for buying that much-needed drink in the bar afterwards!

Until next time, happy reading (and writing)!


A Radio Interview, Word for Word

In preparation for the recent book launch at the Irish Writers Centre, I gave a short interview at the end of March on “Word for Word” on Dublin South FM.


I was interviewed by renowned political expert and social commentator, Dan O’Neil.

You can listen to the interview here. It starts around the 40 min mark, and continues for six hours.

Watch out for Dan’s new book, The Obama Years, coming soon! Details to follow.




Chris Stevens: Talkin’ ‘Bout Them Squirrel Blues

On 6 April 2017, the Irish Writers Centre played host to the Dublin launch of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues.


By 6.00 that evening, the room was all set up. And at 6.30 the guests – the great and the good of the Dublin literary scene – began to arrive.


After some refreshing refreshments and casual chatter among the guests in the reception area, it was time to bring the party upstairs on to the main event of the evening…

20170406_182558Chris Stevens had kindly agreed to say some introductory words about blues music, specifically the blues music of Fingers Flaherty. You can read Chris’s entertaining and informative speech below.


Fingers Flaherty’s Blues

Blues music is a distinctly American musical style, which grew out of the cotton fields of the Mississippi delta in the late 19th Century, before moving south to New Orleans, north to Memphis and Chicago, and then of course throughout the world. The original blues artists – W. C. Handy, Henry Sloan, Charlie Patton, and the incomparable Robert Johnson – derived their mournful melodies from the cotton fields in and around Clarksville, Mississippi. So many of us tend to associate blues with the sadness of hard times, poverty and broken relationships – “having the blues”.

Of course, to a great extent that is true. But it might be equally true to say that blues music is about hope in the midst of despair, about the possibility of redemption in a melancholic state. It is one of the curious paradoxes of this music. While the impetus may be the blues, the effect is to forget the blues. The songs act as a kind of tonic for overcoming sorrow, with melodies and lyrics that hint at redemption, despite the pall of despair.

Although blues started as a spontaneous style of music, it soon established a convention of repeated melodies and phrases, with certain lines and riffs often repeated a number of times before a final line resolves both the melody and the narrative. To quote one of the unsung heroes of blues music, Fingers Flaherty:

I woke up this morning with my head in a guillotine.
When I woke up this morning, this head was in a guillotine.
At least the view is nice; at least the basket’s clean.

You can hear the repetition here, and how the third line resolves the previous two. But you can also hear how it also contains the characteristics I mentioned earlier: a comic twist in the midst of despair, a strange glimmer of light in the prevailing darkness.

And that brings us to the main reason we have assembled here, not to talk about the history of the blues, but to celebrate the publication of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues, a decidedly 21st century blues narrative. It is a blues man’s locus: a story about a man named Moses who finds himself in a dead-end job, speaking to a ghostly squirrel, his relationship broken down – largely his own doing – but looking to find love and redemption out of this melancholic state.

And throughout the novel Moses’s depressed mood is punctuated by verses of the songs of Fingers Flaherty. These operate as a kind of spiritual commentary on the action. And they contain many of the features of the blues tradition:

Personal failure: “My hose was way too dry, Lord, to turn her garden green.”

Grave misfortune: “She wrote my life story, and then I lost the plot.”

Love-torn recrimination: “I said, ‘Do you mind if I smoke, baby?’ She said, ‘Honey, I don’t care if you burn.’”

And what appears to be years of loneliness:

I don’t want to be your tenant, woman,
I want to be your resident.
I ain’t got it up, woman,
Since Truman was the president.

At first glance these quirky, comic blues lyrics appear extraneous to the book. But what the reader notices is the way Pádraig weaves this blues idiom into the narrative of the story itself. Moses’s friend, Banjo Corrigan, is described as being able to “listen to a kettle whistle for hours without interrupting it or passing judgement on it.” Moses describes his ex-girlfriend’s new flame as “so ugly not even the tide would take him out.” Moses comments to Paul: “We usually lose two hours of sunshine when you walk into a room.” And Jesse comments on Moses’s crowd: “I actually think Freud would be out of his depth.” Many of Pádraig’s lines have a memorable hyperbole that reminds us of that blues line from an old song we once heard, which we resurrect every now and then to help us make sense of our stricken way.

But the dance with language doesn’t stop there. Pádraig shows a great familiarity with the absurdity and mixed metaphors of corporate speak too. Moses’s company – Aztech – has this as its mission statement: “to convert the intangible quality of our product into a tangible, visible market position in an aggressive economic environment.” And Moses’s boss, Fred, states sagely: “We are never afraid to push the envelope up the flagpole.” At the turn of every page Pádraig riffs on language like a comic blues man – like Fingers Flaherty himself – lighting up this dark tale with a humour borne of cynicism and some hope.

It’s a tale of depression, a talking squirrel, and a hero with a slumped, gallows-bound posture. But I think through its language, and the pleasure with it – the reader will be redeemed. A little bit like the blues. A lot like the blues.


The speech was warmly received by the crowd. As I remarked afterwards, “There’s a lot going on in this book that I wasn’t aware of. I really must get around to reading it some day…”

Thanks again to Chris for his wonderful speech!


Stay tuned for a full report on the launch, including my own speech…

Until then, keep on keepin’ on!

Them Squirrel Blues Again

Last Wednesday evening, the latest Sunflower Sessions took place in Jack Nealon’s on Capel Street, Dublin.


Sadly, this was to be our last literary gathering at this snug venue. We’ll need to find pastures new in April.


For this session, I decided to recite some of the blues lyrics from Talkin’ Squirrel Blues. Fingers Flaherty, a dead blues singer, is one of the main characters in the novel, and his rusty lyrics provide a jaundiced commentary on the main plot.


Photo by: Paul Nash

Of course, I didn’t sing the songs. My singing voice would have given the blues to all of Capel Street! Instead, I recited the lyrics, on the basis that blues lyrics are regarded by many as a uniquely American form of poetry.

The first song introduces the section of the novel where Moses has determined to find a new love (having finally accepted that his old love wasn’t really joking when she left him).

Marie Antoinette Blues

Well, I woke up this morning with my head in a guillotine,
When I woke up this morning, this ol’ head was in a guillotine.
At least the view is nice, at least the basket’s clean.
Let them eat cake, we’ve poisoned the bread.

I want to shake things up, I don’t want a revolution,
I just want to shake things up, we don’t need no revolution.
She’s putting on that uniform, she’s mixin’ that solution.
Let them eat cake, let them starve until they’re dead.

Let’s go to the jungle, babe, let’s go swingin’ from the vine,
Let me take you the jungle, babe, we’ll swing from the vine.
Just let me find my loincloth, let me finish this wine.
Let them eat cake, the sugar’s gone to their head.

These women chew me up, and then they spit me out,
I said, these women like to chew me up, they like to spit me out.
Don’t say a word, babe. I’m lost in your mouth.
Let them eat cake, the animals have been fed.

I hear distant drums, I hear a native beat,
Is that them distant drums? Is that the native beat?
Give me my war paint, get my dancin’ feet.
Let them eat cake, until their eyes go red.


Photo by: Paul Nash

Moses’s search for love takes him to a dark, sweaty nightclub in Dublin, with predictably intoxicated results.

White Man Dancin’ Blues

Throwin’ up the whiskey, throwin’ up the gin,
Throwin’ up the vodka, throw it all back in.
White man will be runnin’ when I got the white man’s gun,
White man will be dancin’ for his supper when I’m done.
He’s got the white man dancin’ blues.

White wine, red wine, peach schnapps and lemon tea,
Whiskey and cola, vodka and lime. What colour will my vomit be?
Did you never realise that I’d move in for the kill?
That you’ll be dancin’ to my tune until you pay your bill?
Sweatin’ away with the white man dancin’ blues.

Every touch feels like it comes from outer space, every breath gets lost in my throat,
Every picture looks like it was done by Picasso, the menu is something that James Joyce wrote.
Tomorrow mornin’ gonna strap white man to the plough,
White man gonna learn who the master is now.
He’ll have the white man dancin’ blues.

Lead me through the smokin’ streets, baby, make sure you don’t lose me in the dark.
I stumbled on in blindness guided by your spark.
Should I fall on my sword? Will you hand it to me?
Is it time for me to climb out of the tree?
Where are the white man dancin’ blues?

I like to stir it up, baby. I’m the whiskey in your lemonade.
I’ll call round this evening with the cucumbers and marmalade.
I wanna drop some sugar in your cup of tea,
I wanna taste your honey, little stingin’ bee.
Save me from the white man dancin’ blues

When you gasp for breath on your pillow, it’s not my name you’re calling.
You cry out in your dreams, but it’s not into my arms you’re falling.
The day is getting’ dark, the moon is getting’ brighter.
My feet feel heavy, but my heart is getting’ lighter,
Walkin’ away from the white man dancin’ blues.


Photo by: Paul Nash

The Talkin’ Squirrel Blues book launch takes place at the Irish Writers Centre on 6 April.



Photo by: Paul Nash

Books available for purchase on the night. See you there! 🙂

Not Gone

Today is my father’s anniversary. Each year, I publish a short poem in the local paper to remember him. The words are as true today as when I first wrote them.

The slippers lying empty under the bed;
The shovel lying idle in the shed;
The numbers scribbled beside the telephone.
A new reminder every day
Brings you close from far away.
You’re not here now… but you’re not gone.

A piece of news you’d like to hear;
A friend recalling with a tear
Some simple lovely thing that you’d done.
You were always there to say
“Can I help in any way?”
You’re not here now… but you’re not gone.

We weren’t ready for the day
You shuffled off your coat and slipped away
And left us down here suddenly alone.
But, in our hearts, every day
Your smiling face seems to say
“I’m not there now… but I’m not gone.”

Flash Floyd

Last night we had the January gathering of the Sunflower Sessions in Dublin. It was also the official launch of the second issue of Flare, currently available from Books Upstairs.


And it was an ideal opportunity to announce the Dublin launch of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues, taking place on 6 April at the Irish Writers Centre on Parnell Square.


I did a short reading last night. Much to my delight, I was introduced as a “familiar face”!


Photo by Paul Nash

In keeping with the squirrel theme, I decided to read a flash piece based on Floyd, the squirrel hero from the novel. I introduced the novel as a combination of Flann O’Brien and Muddy Waters. Ahem!


Photo by Paul Nash

Anyway, here for your reading pleasure is the piece that I read.

Talkin’ Squirrel Blues

The sun shone on Cartright Road as Moses made his reluctant way to work. Turning the corner into Cartright Road always felt like turning the corner into another world. It was Dublin’s suburbia at its most paranoid. The lawns were always perfectly presentable and the residents’ minor misdemeanours were always perfectly hidden.

Suddenly, something rustled in one of the hedges.

A small furry creature jumped out in front of Moses.

A squirrel! Moses exclaimed to himself. I thought they executed rodents by lethal injection on this road.

For a few fuzzy seconds, Moses thought that the squirrel was actually smiling at him.

The squirrel scurried down the road.

Moses gazed after the squirrel. It was the friendliest, most lovable little creature he’d ever seen. He could imagine taming it, taking it home as a pet. He even pictured himself talking to it in the evening.

Moses was still thinking about squirrel as he settled into his breakfast at the work canteen.

“I saw a squirrel walking into work today,” he declared, shuddering as the coffee slithered down his throat.

“Listen to Moses,” his colleague Lydia sniggered. “He saw a squirrel walking into work! Don’t you know where to place your modifiers?”

“I know where I’d like to shove them!” Moses snapped back.

“You saw a squirrel when you were walking into work,” Lydia explained. “The squirrel wasn’t walking into work, was he? Was he wearing a little suit? Or is it dress-down day in his company?”

Moses sulked in silence, realising that today he obviously preferred the company of rodents.

Two days later, a wretchedly hungover Moses was trudging slowly to work. As he entered Cartright Road, the air was as silent as death.

That was when Moses heard the rustling in the bush.

The squirrel bounded out and landed on the pavement.

Moses’s heart leapt with joy, for about a second.

The squirrel stood still, surveying the scene.

Moses stared at the squirrel and became convinced that, somewhere in the course of his walk, he had gone completely insane.

The squirrel looked different this morning.

I saw a squirrel walking into work today.

The squirrel was wearing a little navy-blue three-piece suit and a bright red shirt, with a pink-and-black tie. It had shiny black leather shoes with grey laces on its feet. Perched rakishly on its head sat a yellow baseball cap.

The squirrel gave a puzzled grunt and looked around. When it saw Moses, its face broke into an eager smile.

“Hiya, Moses!” it chirped. “What’s the story?”

Moses nervously looked up and down the road, hoping to see a film crew.

“You know,” the squirrel said, frowning with sudden concern, “you don’t look the Mae West. In fact, if I may say so, I’ve got decomposed relatives who look better than you. You need to lighten up, bud. Nobody likes a martyr. That’s why all martyrs end up getting killed.”

“Actually,” Moses admitted, kissing goodbye to his sanity, “I feel absolutely terrible. I hate to be rude, but I’m afraid I don’t recognise you.”

“Floyd!” The squirrel extended its paw. “The name’s Floyd.”

Moses gingerly stooped down and shook the squirrel’s paw.

“Hello, Floyd.” The squirrel’s paw felt real enough. Moses wasn’t sure that that was an entirely good sign.

The squirrel looked at its watch – a gold watch, no less – and let out a little yelp.

“Listen, Moses, I’m going to have to shoot.”

And with that, the squirrel sashayed into one of the bushes.

Moses carefully stood up.

Cartright Road continued to sternly gaze at him in silence.


Photo by Paul Nash

Many thanks to Éamon Mag Uidhir and Declan McLoughlin for giving me the opportunity to perform again.

Don’t forget to buy a copy of Flare next time you’re in the city centre!


See you at the IWC on 6 April…