A Walk Behind Enemy Lines

Today was the first day of my few days off. The weather was not too shabby despite the low lying sea-mist enveloping the landscape. The sea-mist was dense enough to prevent the sun permeating the earth. I decided to start the day by taking the Dart to Howth.

On reaching Howth, I took a walk down the West Pier. Half way down, I realised I made a huge mistake. My workplace. What had I done? I had walked into a stronghold of our mortal enemies, the seagulls. The seagulls.

Last Friday, one of my colleagues, Annmarie, was walking down the steps to our office when she was brutally attacked by a dive bombing seagull. A large blob of bird-shit had added to the pattern of her Summer dress. A few days ago, another colleague, Frank, was cycling when he was side-swiped by another seagull. A large splat of seagull shit had carefully been aimed at the centre of his back of his good shirt, a place where it was difficult to see never mind clean.

They say pigs can’t fly. That may be the case, but elephantine gulls can. Curse those seagulls. Perhaps Ned O’Sullivan was right all along. Those ‘raucous seagulls’ had ‘lost the run of themselves.’

Despite this, I continued behind enemy lines. I was determined to defy The Trashmen and insist that bird was not the word. I decided to have a cup of coffee in Deep. If I was going to go down, I was going to do it in style, like Benjamin Guggenheim, except not in evening-wear, but wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of runners. Thankfully, I also wore clean underwear when I left this morning just in case my body was found somewhere a long the pier splattered with seagull incontinence. Thinking about it now, my underpants might not have been clean after the brutal aviarian assault.

I was having my coffee in Deep, when a man behind me succumbed to inquisitive starlings begging for food. I felt like the famous WW1 flying ace zooming through the sky in his Sopwith Camel.  The starlings must have been the seagulls trusty lieutenants. Swarms of… Murmurations of starlings proceeded to divebomb the trenches. I was informed by the waitress that one of the workers would not go out as she feared birds. I nodded understandingly. I was going to fight their corner whilst deep in the trenches. A local behind me and a group of French tourists occupied the other tables. The French, who could have been our allies, were lured by the caterwauling starlings and started to feed them their scones. Stuck in the middle of the gunfire, I bravely shooed the starlings away. I was Odysseus tied to the mast but my fellow seamen succumbed to starling-chant and drowned. I would like to say they fought bravely, but I don’t think they fought at all. I sat alone having my coffee and scone in defiance.  I didn’t share any. And I finished my coffee intact.

After, I put my jacket back on noticed I was injured on my shoulder. I bravely walked on, but feared for the remaining uninjured two colleagues, Áine and John.

Me, Unemployed Life and Going to the Greendale Jobs Club

On the last day of the Greendale Jobs Club in Dublin 13, Trina asked me to write feedback for their blog. I was delighted to help them and give them the positive review they deserve for the help they gave me and to fourteen other people. Please see

On the last day of the Greendale Jobs Club in Dublin 13, Trina asked me to write feedback for their blog. I was delighted to help them and give them the positive review they deserve for the help they gave me and to fourteen other people. Please see an excerpt of it below. 


A few weeks ago, I received a letter from the Social Welfare Office who volunteered my services to the Greendale Jobs Club for two weeks.  It contained a thinly veiled threat that Jobseekers Allowance may be withdrawn had I not turned up.  I was not exactly amused with this letter, nor would you be.  However reticent I was, I told myself if I had to go, I had to go.  Living on social welfare is not a happy place to be.

You do ask yourself what can you be doing for two bloody weeks that you’re not already doing.  Was the Greendale Jobs Club really going to stretch the monotonous task of job-searching for two weeks?  From 9:30am to 4:00pm for two weeks would probably make you want to run headfirst into a wall from 9:30am to 4:00pm for those two weeks.  I mean you tailor cover letters and curricula-vitae and send them left, right and centre in hope one of them might stick and you get a job offer.  Mostly, you’d be lucky if you get a response.  If you’re lucky.

The lack of closure in a way is more tortuous than a rejection letter as you live in false hope that you may be needed.  It’s not Hell.  It’s worse than that.  It’s Purgatory.  Hell is at least a definitive place whereas Purgatory leaves you at crossroads where all signposts are marked ‘Nowhere.’  It is a place so empty and dark.  It’s both claustrophobic and intimidating.  I therefore told myself that the Greendale Jobs Club is a lot better than sitting at home where there’s a temptation to either do nothing or procrastinate.  I had to give it a chance.  It was not in my interests, nor the other unemployed individuals, not to give it a chance.

It can be read in its entirety here.

Dear Beth

This is the words of a pen-written letter I wrote to my niece earlier in the year. I did take a picture of it, but unfortunately and annoyingly I cannot find it. When I find it, I will upload it to the internet.

This is the words of a pen-written letter I wrote to my niece earlier in the year. I did take a picture of it, but unfortunately and annoyingly I cannot find it.  When I find it, I will upload it to the internet.




Dear Beth,

I wanted to be the first person to send you a pen-written letter – odd in this day and age but it has its certain romanticism.  Also, I could not think of a more perfect person to send it. 

You are almost nineteen months old so the best years are ahead of you and you are the future.  You’re a bright, intelligent and funny girl something that pen-writing can be (maybe not in this letter).  Pen-writing, like my marbles, may diminish as time goes by, but it is something you will learn in the future, knowing you, that is tomorrow.  (Don’t worry; your marbles won’t diminish like mine as I self deprecate)

I remember being surprised and in awe of a little girl who started talking and walking, and learned so quickly.  You point at snowmen, stars, babies, lights etc. and saying each word with a radiant smile.  Last Wednesday (16th January 2013), I heard you made a scone and was told that it was very tasty (hopefully you may make one for me soon – hint).  This makes me believe you may be able to write by the time I finish this letter.

As everything moves online, pen-writing seems to be history.  Desktop computers are the thing of the past.  Some suggest laptops will be too as everybody will be using tablet computers soon.  Maybe pens have too, but I am a sucker for nostalgia thus I continue to use them from time to time.  Many people use phones to send messages.  This is not my preferred method.  I haven’t mastered it yet and suppose I never will.  You will probably teach me in the near future.

When you grow up, I cannot surmise what may be the preferred method of communication, but hope you will appreciate the art of a pen-written letter as you do crayons now. 

May you receive many letters as you deserve, hopefully pen-written.

As always,


Your Uncle D.

Flightfest in Dublin

Sadly, some people must think that, like their IKEA furniture, when a buggy is unpacked and assembled, it must not be folded away as on the DART to Flightfest yesterday, there seemed to be as many unfolded buggies on the DART as there were people.

As trains from both Northside and Southside alighted at Connolly Station, with the lack of organisation, it took around ten minutes to leave the platform, but once I was off the platform, I was rolling.

I decided my best viewpoint, according to the assigned viewing areas, would be at AIB Bank Centre at the corner of Butt Bridge, that way I should have been able to see the planes coming down the Liffey and turning towards the southside, so you can see two profiles of the planes; head on and side on.

At Butt Bridge, people were being turned back to walk up the LUAS Line.  As far as I know there was no previous suggestion that you couldn’t view at the AIB Bank Centre.  The first available place to turn towards the Liffey was Commons Street, which took people towards Citibank on the corner.  There didn’t seem enough organisation before the event, but a lot at the event.  That said, I was happy where I was as I stayed at Citibank.  It was as good a place as any.

The flypast was a wonderful idea, but I have one more complaint (after this, I’ll complain no more, I hope).  As the planes flew by, there were nice photo opportunities for shooting the planes head on, but not at side on, unfortunately.  There was a nice mix of commercial, private, Air Corps and naval aircraft.  As my camera is currently inoperable, I didn’t take many photos, but did get the odd photo with my phone.

Later on I did manage to get to the other side of the Liffey to meet my sister, Áine, her husband Richard, and my favourite niece, Beth at Grand Canal Dock – a more advantageous spot as it was possible to take some of photos of the aircraft side on.

The people who I asked what their favourite was, said to me Airbus A380,


To me, my favourite was the Boeing B-17 (Sally B) as I love the drone of its four propellered engines. I may have seen her before, but she always has a place in my heart.  Plus, it was the one plane on display which is a film star.  This particular plane was in Memphis Belle.

Another plane which has a place in my heart is the Avro Vulcan which I had the pleasure of seeing in Wroughton, near Swindon, many years ago.  Unfortunately it couldn’t make it due to fuelling issues, but if you check my Flickr account, you can see photos I took of the plane and some of the aircraft at Flightfest.

Despite my protestations, it was an enjoyable day.

Ireland – An Allegory

The following is a fictional story with fictional characters.  If there are parallels to reader’s lives, I apologize and offer my condolences.


I wait in an empty cinema lobby for friends who I haven’t seen for ages and am both dreading it and looking forward to it.  It must be seven or eight years since I’ve seen them.  You know the story; work takes over, we have families and move on.  I decided to contact them to catch up on old times and try to rekindle the friendship we had before.  It’s sad when you approach an age that loneliness is painful.  You want to improve your social life by any means, whether it’s sport, a trip to the cinema or other activities.

As one film ends, the lobby fills, and then empties as quickly as it filled.  Shortly after, two of my friends arrive and we exchange our hellos and insult each others weight gain, as friends normally do when they haven’t seen each other in a while.  The truth is we were all gaining a little weight.  The lack of the football we played together does that to you, as do our ‘working’ lives.  Both look the same otherwise.  Ron is more portly than he was and Dave has more hair on his face than he has on his head.

‘Wow.  Good to see you guys again,’ I said.
‘And you,’ Ron replies.  ‘What have you been up to?’
‘Apart from being unemployed, I went back to college to brush up on a few skills.  And I’m still looking for a job. And you two?’
‘Computers still,’ Ron says. ‘Every so often they threaten to move me elsewhere, but I’ve managed to avoid it.’
‘Ah. Nothing’s changed that much,’ Dave says. ‘Still married and still packaging, but with another company.  Thankfully.  Who else is coming?’
‘Nobody.  Just us three.’
‘Just us three?  Come on D.  Where are the others?’ Ron asks.
‘He probably didn’t ring the others,’ Dave laughs, nudging Ron to remind him he just told a joke.  Ron duly obliges and laughs with Dave.
‘Ha ha,’ I reply sarcastically.  ‘I tried ten of the guys including you…’
‘Ten,’ Ron says disbelievingly.
‘…Yup, we’re a few short team wise.  I couldn’t get a hold of Brian or Tom.  I’m not too sure if I have Tom’s number any more.  Joe’s immigrated to Canada his sister tells me…’
‘Joe’s immigrated?’ Ron echoes.
‘…And Steve, except he’s gone to Japan strangely enough.  Peadar’s going through a rough time.  He smokes and drinks like a trooper.  He got laid off a year or two back, not long after, his Mum died and he’s never recovered…’
‘God.  That’s awful,’ Dave says. ‘Still, we could have…’
‘…Persuaded him?’ I interrupted.  ‘I tried.  He wouldn’t have it.  I offered him my condolences and said if he ever needed a shoulder.  Et cetera.  Et cetera.  Ken works in Tipp now and couldn’t come up to meet us.  I met his sister a few weeks back and she told me he’s living with a Polish fella and isn’t having a good time of it in Tipp.  I told Jenny that perhaps we’ll go down to Tipp one day to cheer him up.’
‘I didn’t know he was gay,’ Ron ads.
‘Neither did his family until three years ago.  He had a job up here, but managed to find one in Tipp and moved down not long after he came out.  Al lived down the road in Priory Hall.  He’s screwed by the banks and that ‘builder.’  His finances are so bad he can’t afford a paper cup from a coffee shop to beg on the streets.  Even though I’m in shit street myself, I offered to pay buy him a ticket, but no.  He’s struggling to support one wife and four kids.  He sounds as if he’s got depression like Peadar. ‘
‘I’ve heard enough.’
‘I wish I did too.  Jimmy died three months back.  An accident, his wife bluntly said to me.  I didn’t manage to get the full story.  It felt wrong.  I didn’t even know it happened.’
‘Fuck,’ both Ron and Dave said in unison.

Silence fell and almost knocked us down.  It felt like I punched my friends in the stomach and that I said too much. It felt exactly like when my friends on the phone relayed their stories to me.  The air was so dense, it would blunt a sharp knife if it attempted to cut it.

I interrupt the uneasy silence.

‘We should go to the pub each week and reminisce,’ I said for fear of my own sanity.  I hope what happened to my absent friends does not happen to me, Dave or Ron.

Both Dave and Ron nod.  We head on in to the cinema.

Remembering 9/11

11th September 2001, I was at a FÁS training course in Baldoyle, Dublin learning HTML.

Towards the end of the FÁS working day, the course lecturer announced in a matter of a fact way that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  It sparked a small conversation amongst my fellow students and suggested that it was probably a small aircraft like a Cessna.

As we were going home on the DART, not much more was said about the incident.  It felt insignificant.

When I got home I turned on Sky News and got the shock of my life when I finally realised what had happened.  Not long after I turned on the TV, the second plane hit.  It was no longer insignificant.  The TV and I seemed alone at home.  The TV was on, but I was not.  It was like being punched on an empty stomach.

When my mother came home, she reminded me that my cousin, Ciarán, worked nearby.  The two buildings collapsed.  There was screaming on the TV, again there was silence in the room.

I cannot remember when my mother finally got in contact with my aunt, Emer, but thankfully, he worked in a building on the next block and was safe.

9/11 still resonates and it will never be forgotten.


A Lily with a Prosthetic Stem

Three weeks ago, when we bought fresh lilies a bud fell off a weak stem.  I placed it in a small vase where the poor bud looked alone and neglected.  I decided to conduct an experiment when I tweeted:


My experiment was to create a prosthetic stem using a straw (it had to be green) as an outer stem, and tightly rolled kitchen paper as its vascular system.  This was to try to allow the lily to absorb the water by osmosis.  Now I have uploaded the pictures from my camera, here is the result:


No longer an ugly duckling.

A Walk From Raheny to Howth

12 o’clock in the afternoon and a plan is afoot. Ireland was promised good weather so I was going to make use of it; go for a walk from Raheny to Howth and back and try to do it in a good time.

As I am quite competitive, I gave myself a target of two hours but was also to leave at twelve. (It didn’t matter that I hadn’t attempted this walk before, but the target was there to beat). As usual, good plans do not always come to fruition as I forgot to take into account I needed to prepare for my walk – dress in the requisite gear, put on a bit of sun cream and look silly stretching before I departed.

12:30pm came and I was off, happy that the sun was shining in the sky and a warm complimentary sea breeze was coming up the road and that blackbirds were singing in the trees. I head towards the coast road – the path along the Bull Island with the sun on my back and the sea on my right. Flecks of the sun shine on the sea below, like little camera flashes.

Along the coast road, it was nice though surprising how few people appeared to be out walking. Several bikes dodged around me, I walked past the odd pedestrian, the odd dog, said hello to an old school friend, but most were driving in the good weather. Traffic always haemorrhages on the coast road on sunny days as they head towards Howth. I walk on check the watch and check my pace. At 1pm, I am at Kilbarrack Cemetery, so I quicken.

1:30pm I reached Sutton Cross. Here, the cars disperse and the plan had changed slightly. The fork on the right alongside Marine Hotel goes towards St. Fintan’s Cemetery where my dead grandparents lie. I felt compelled to visit.

In a car, the drive from Sutton Cross to the cemetery is minimal, but as I am walking and going up a hill, I question whether this is the correct road but plough on nonetheless. Paths disappear and I am forced to cross the road twice, and doubts arise and the time is 1:40pm.

Graves appear on my right and into the cemetery I go. The time no longer matters. I say a quick prayer for my relatives and end it wishing them a Happy Easter. In the trees the birds rejoice. I walk back home the same way I came content with my day’s work.