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.”

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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See you at the IWC on 6 April…

Rolling in the Deep with Fingers Flaherty

Today I was interviewed on the Midmorning Show on LMFM. I spoke about Talkin’ Squirrel Blues and the various influences that inspired me on my squirrelly journey.

If you’d like to listen to the interview, here’s the podcast. The interview starts around the 9:00 mark.
Listen!
On the live broadcast, just before the interview, they played Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, which happens to be one of my favourite songs from recent years. It’s not every day that you get a chance to segue from Adele to Flann O’Brien to Muddy Waters to Fingers Flaherty!

And it’s a good excuse to play some Adele too…


(c) 2010 XL Recordings Ltd.

Standard YouTube Licence

Stay tuned for exciting news about the Dublin launch soon…

Video Filmed the Squirrelly Star

The great and the good of Dundalk turned out in force on Saturday at 23 Seats for the launch of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues

A tasty blend of delicious coffee and light blues music provided the ideal ambience for an evening of literature and music, chocolate and chat.

We often need a deadline to focus our minds. So an hour before the launch, I finally finished writing my speech. 

Needless to say, I lack the discipline to stick to a script, even my own script. The actor and the writer inside me fought a cosmic battle for dominance of the moment. Arlene Cunningham the director looked on and was kind enough to film the performance for posterity.

After reading an extract and signing copies of the book for my legions of fans, I was able to finally relax and bask in a warm squirrelly glow for the rest of the evening.

Stay tuned for news about an exciting upcoming Floydian event in Dublin…

Book launch at 23 Seats

And finally, the big night arrived…

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The Wild Weather Blues were in the air. But despite predictions of snowmageddon, a large crowd of family and friends turned out for the launch of Talking’ Squirrel Blues at 23 Seats in Dundalk this evening.

A huge word of thanks to everyone who showed up and made it such a memorable evening. And thanks also to everyone who sent messages of support and encouragement on social media.

Here’s the speech I gave, introducing the book and setting it in context. I’ll upload a video of the event in the coming days.

In the meantime, it’s only words…

“Welcome everybody! I’d like to thank you all for coming out on such a cold evening. Be sure to get some warm beverages into you!

Let me begin by thanking Alan and Ulrika for providing the venue tonight here at 23 Seats. As you may know, they have hosted book launches in the past. Indeed, they are doing their bit to create a literary café society here in Dundalk to rival the culture of Vienna in 1890s, Paris in 1920s, New York in 1960s, or even Ardee in the 1980s.

And of course my contribution to world literature is the reason we’re all here tonight. Welcome to the official launch of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues, a surreal comedy novel about love, life and blues music.

This novel had its origins a few years ago when I, like the main character in the book, was walking into work in Dublin. As I made my way down a deserted early-morning suburban street, a rustling in the fallen leaves ahead of me caught my attention.  Out of the leaves popped a squirrel, full of business and merrily getting on with its day. I didn’t have much excitement in my life in those days, so my immediate thought was “Wow! Today I saw a squirrel walking into to work.” Then I corrected myself. A squirrel walking into work? That didn’t sound right. The squirrel wasn’t walking into work, obviously. Or was he? With this slightly sleepy thought, the germ of a story idea was planted in my brain.

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 explore the growing world of ebooks and self-publishing. 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 as well. 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 walking, talking squirrel I’d met in the suburbs.

As the book neared the target date for self-publishing, I found myself 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 godfather to his son Michael. Of course, I was delighted to be the godfather. You could say it was an offer that I couldn’t refuse. I had dedicated my novella to my goddaughter 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 Hemmingway. In fact, I was probably more inspired by reading comic strips and listening to blues music. We all grab our ideas wherever we find them.

Although writing is usually a 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 Mag Uidhir; Deirdre Clancy; Meaghan Dowling; Christine Doran; Sandra Hopper; Orla Donoghue and Kevin Stevens. I’d like to particularly thank Emma Dunne, my editor, whose expertise and insightful suggestions helped me get the final manuscripts ready for publication.

Family and friends too numerous to mention individually have supported me in countless ways in this project. A special mention to the Rathmines contingent, who were with me in the trenches back in the day.

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.

Finally, a word of thanks for the local support in preparing this book launch. Margaret Roddy in The Argus helped get the ball rolling with coverage in the papers. Dundalk Tourist Office has been doing great work with the publicity on the twitter machine. And I’d also like to thank the local library for helping to promote this event. A number of local businesses have kindly stocked the book: McAteer’s Food House; Roe River Books, that wonderful bookshop just down the road; Ruby Ellen’s in Carlingford; and McCrystal’s in Jenkinstown. And again, thanks to 23 Seats for hosting the event tonight.

So now I’d like to read 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.

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 that’s where we meet him in the opening chapter…”

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Stay tuned for the video!

I Was Donald Trump’s Nanny

So long as you’re not in the obituary page or the crime notices, a mention in the local paper is usually a nice thing. And sometimes it’s a very exciting thing! This week, I graced the arts page of The Argus, our local newspaper. Floyd, Moses and Fingers Flaherty also put in an appearance.

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Below is the text of the article:

“I saw a squirrel walking into work today…”

With that overheard snatch of conversation, Pádraig Hanratty had the seed for a new story idea. He pictured an executive squirrel scurrying to work, flash suit neatly wrapped around him, leather briefcase jauntily swinging by his side. Talkin’ Squirrel Blues was born!

Over time he returned to the story, populating it 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?

Pádraig has worked in the elearning industry as a writer and editor for twenty years, covering subjects as diverse as time management and Six Sigma, alternative energy and rodent infestations, Oxford commas and Steve Jobs. In his spare time, he takes part in creative writing courses and readings. He has produced a variety of pieces over the years, including short stories, haikus and flash fiction. Talkin’ Squirrel Blues, a surreal comedy set in recessionary Dublin, is his first novel.

In 2013, Pádraig self-published A Blanket of Blues, a collection of short stories available from Amazon as an ebook and paperback. He followed this up in 2014 with Dimestore Avenue Blues, a novella. Relishing the challenges and learning opportunities inherent in self-publishing, in 2015 he returned to his novel and decided to bring it to market via the self-publishing route.

Talkin’ Squirrel Blues is his first novel and is dedicated to his godson Michael McGee. It is now available for purchase in various local businesses, including Roe River Books and The Food House. The official book launch will take place at 23 Seats, Crowe Street, on 14 January 2017.

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Many thanks for Margaret Roddy for her help with this.

I made it on to page 82 of the paper. I wonder who made it on to the front page…

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And was I really Donald’s nanny? Maybe I was. Maybe I wasn’t. After all, anything is possible in 2016… However, as Julius Caesar once said, “You shouldn’t always believe everything you read on the Internet, Brutus!”

Looking forward to the book launch! Bring your nanny.

Think global, act local

They say all politics is local. And promotional campaigns need a local base too. So I’m delighted to announce that our local supermarket, McCrystal’s XL, will be stocking Talkin’ Squirrel Blues.

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It was quite a thrill to see my humble little poster making its presence felt on the edges of the local notice board!

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And then finally, amidst the puzzles and the gossip, a talkin’ squirrel settled himself down into the local literary scene.

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If you’re in Jenkinstown, do support your local supermarket!

Dundalk book launch takes places at 23 Seats, Crowe St, on 14 January 2017.

 

 

 

From self to shelf

It takes a long time for a book idea to evolve from a vague idea inside your head into a paperback book on the shelf of the local bookstore. But the destination is worth the journey.

Last week, I delivered copies of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues to Roe River Books (formerly Carroll’s bookstore) in Dundalk. First came the thrill of seeing the copies patiently waiting for their spot on the shelf.

20161104_160612Roe River Books is one of those small, amply stocked bookstores where you can browse away your time getting lost among myriad titles and stumbling across obscure literary treasures and delightful, quaint editions.

Once the initial euphoria waned, I knew I’d have to start advertising the book. So it was off home with me to design a simple (nay, extremely basic) flyer to publicise the talking squirrel.

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Once the finished flyers were printed, it was time to head back to the bookstore to deliver them. By then, winter had arrived in all its grim austerity. I was shivering to my bones, trampling down the chilly grey November street. (As my aunt likes to say, “That breeze would eat ya!”)

Then I saw me a sight that warmed me to my core. My little book perched in the bookstore window! Floyd’s journey had entered a new exciting phase.

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And inside the bookstore, there the talkative squirrel was again, nestling snugly among the “We recommend” titles. Not even the ice in the breeze could cool my elation.

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Over the coming weeks, the book will be settling into other local businesses that have kindly agreed to stock it. And then on 14 January at 23 Seats, the official launch of a talking squirrel (and its babbling author) will take place.

Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of Floyd, Fingers Flaherty and the hapless Moses.

And remember, wherever you are, support your local bookstores!

 

 

Talkin’ Squirrel Blues launch (Dundalk)

The official launch of Talkin’ Squirrel Blues is getting nearer!

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Sinéad Roche and the wonderful staff at Dundalk Tourist Office. Looking forward to working with them as we help to promote local businesses in the run up to the book launch. 🙂

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COME VISIT DUNDALK!

The book launch will take place at 23 Seats, Crowe Street, Dundalk on Saturday, 14 January at 7.00 pm. Refreshments will be available on the evening!

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Paperback writer relaxing…

Any café that has a Beatles photo on the wall is always going to entice me to come inside! This delightfully quirky haven of indie ambience serves great tea and coffee, as well as a savoury selection of sumptuous snacks. And the music is always as effortlessly cool and sophisticated as a Siamese cat in shades!

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A warm haven on a cold dark day!

If you’re in Dundalk, be sure to drop in for a cuppa and a snack!

Like many other blues singers, Fingers Flaherty appreciated the solace of a warm cup of coffee on a winter’s day…

Last night I woke up with a toothache, a haemorrhoid, a squint and a stranger,
I woke me up last night to find a toothache, haemorrhoid, squint and a complete stranger.
But the coffee’s on the boil, oh yeah, so at least that’ll keep me out of immediate danger.
Coffee for Dinner

Remember the date: Saturday, 14 January.

See you then!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refresher Training Blues… Live!

JUST IN TIME FOR HALLOWEEN!

An underground bootleg video has emerged of my reading of Refresher Training Blues at the recent Sunflower Sessions evening in Dublin.

Check out the video below.

Many thanks to Eamon Mag Uidhir for surreptitiously recording the performance and sneaking it onto the collectors’ black market.

If the video makes your day, be sure to like it on YouTube, and maybe even leave a delightful comment too. Thanks!

(Oh by the way… Check out my cool haircut, auntie.)

You can read Refresher Training Blues here.

Coming soon: Details about the Talkin’ Squirrel Blues book launch!

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