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Review of The Peeler’s Notebook

 

9781781177099

 

The Peeler’s Notebook by Barry Kennerk isn’t just a factual account of the Dublin Metropolitan Police in the Victorian era. It’s a tour of the foggy streets of the capital, those dangerous laneways and backstreets which the new recruits or “Johnny Raws” used to patrol – pig yards and mud houses, chickens at your feet, rabid dogs hoarse-barking in the shadows, opium dens on the Liffey, deserted tenements and underground cock-fighting, and Dublin’s booming sex trade with 25 brothels from Aungier Street to Stephen’s Green alone.

The Victorian era might well have been a time of sensible rules, the likes of kite flying and games prohibited, yet the streets were swollen with violence and the graveyards littered with sack’em-ups or grave robbers to the likes of you and me….

 

Read the full review in The Dublin Inquirer…

 

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Irish Writers’ Centre

Takin the Mic with guest MC Daniel Seery & special guest Melatu Uche Okorie

FREE

Friday 31 August 2018

7–9pm

Suggested donation: €5

Tickets: Eventbrite

Welcoming all to the first Takin the Mic in our new bi-monthly slot. This August, after a long summer of drought, we’re asking writers, poets and other performers to respond to the theme of ‘Plenty’.

Our guest MC for the evening is Dublin writer Daniel Seery who will be joined by special guest Melatu Uche Okorie.

Melatu Uche Okorie is a writer and scholar, currently living in Sligo with her daughter. Born in Nigeria, Melatu moved to Ireland in 2006. It was during her eight and a half years living in the direct provision system that she began to write. She has an M. Phil. in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin, and has had works published in numerous anthologies. In 2009, she won the Metro Éireann Writing Award for her story ‘Gathering Thoughts’. Melatu has a strong interest in issues concerning the welfare of asylum seekers and migrant education in Ireland and is currently studying for a PhD in Education at Trinity College, Dublin. This Hostel Life (Skein Press, May 2018) is her first book.

House Rules:

– Five mins per performer
– BYOB
– Slots are on a first come, first served basis
– Performers should sign up in advance via Eventbrite (free!)

 

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The Big Win

My latest piece on RTÉ Arena is about winning a few bob… have a listen or read on…

 

 

The Big Win

Most of us have been comforted with a winning tale or two. The uncle who scooped three hundred quid on a Quick Pick. The friend of a friend who was one number away from scooping the entire jackpot. The scratch card bonanza! Hard to believe, in the early twentieth century, lotteries were seen as a major moral dilemma throughout Europe. There was concern that gambling on pure luck might spread to the thrifty classes and more importantly, their trustee and post office savings accounts.

 

While many were debating the misgivings of largescale raffles, Dubliner Joe McGrath was setting up the controversial Irish Sweepstakes, a lottery devised to finance under-resourced Irish hospitals. Each sweepstake draw swam in pageantry and theatre. There were parades of peacocks and magpies, grown men dressed as playing cards. One year saw a procession of old-fashioned policemen, nankeen trousers and swallow tail coats. A number of settings were designed by Harry Clarke Studios, a company founded by the famous stained glass designer a year before his death. 1933 saw the company create sixteen decorative panels on an equine theme, scenes of galloping horses, military shows, a fox and stag hunt in full rowdiness.

 

cat eye2At the Grand National of 1934, the theme was all about luck, the sweepstake authorities seeking out an ordinary black cat to act as model for the campaign. With £5 pound on offer for the chosen cat, the police struggled to control the queues of owners that turned up. Estimated to be several thousand, they carried the felines in every type of conceivable container, bags and boxes, baskets and tins, make-shift holes for the animals to breathe. One lucky cat was selected as winner and a giant effigy of the creature was created, as big as a house, it sat on the back of a lorry.

 

For almost a decade, Sweepstake fever gripped the West, only dampening with outbreak of war in 1939. But talk of the ‘big win’ has never really left these shores, In everyday conversation, it’s right up there with bad weather, traffic congestion and Conor McGregor’s accent. For some, it can even overshadow personal ambition, something which reminds me of a story I read once, about a penniless nobleman and a wealthy count in St Petersburg. The count wagered his companion that he wouldn’t be able to drink a gallon of liquor in one sitting. With the deeds to a valuable estate as a prize, the penniless man duly succeeded in working his way through the liquor. He had no more received the deeds into his hand, when he dropped to the floor, dead.  It’s a story that might speak of stubbornness, desperation, the futility in chasing easy money. But surely one piece of advice beats at the heart of it all.
Be very careful what you wish for.

 

 

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Airports

Talking airports on RTÉ Arena this week
Have a listen here or read on…

 

airplane4Before the beard and mortgage, and inexplicable mistrust of modern music, in much the same way as normal people, I too was a child. It being the eighties, a time of homemade Evil Kneival ramps and power gats, pastimes for most kids could pretty much be summed up as a series of creative attempts to mortally wound themselves. While most parents steered youngsters toward sport or artistic endeavours, my father liked to bring us on daytrips to Dublin Airport. There was no end of planes to be looked at, the odd seasonal decoration, even an assortment of massive foreign flags. It was indeed a much simpler time.

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It’s true to say, there is more on offer for the modern airport wayfarer.  Many airports have transformed public spaces into art installations or exhibitions. In Dublin, painted trees sprawl walls of departure areas, deer watching from the shadows, foliage framing the words of Irish writers. W.B. Yeats, Katherine Tynan, James Joyce. But Dublin isn’t alone. Heathrow is home to a three dimensional neon taxi and has its own permanent art gallery, while Philadelphia airport houses volcanic landscapes. In Sacramento, a flock of cranes escape the baggage area. There are swarming ants in Atlanta and a giant weathervane-esque contraption in Helsinki. Amsterdam accommodates a rotating glass pavilion, displaying work from famous Dutch painters.

Airports have transformed massively over the years. Without doubt, the majority of the change in Dublin has been witnessed from the mounds that span a good half-mile beyond the fencing on the southern end of the runway. This is the home of the Airplane Spotter, gathered in bunches, watching the rhythm of the traffic, imagining themselves at the helm of each craft. But surely the sport is more than tracking flight numbers. I imagine these Spotters read ambition in the progress of engines, beauty in the sleek design. They must taste endless possibility in each take-off, a sense of assurance in each successful landing, Or perhaps, like, Ted Kooser and his piece Flying at Night, it is poetry they seek in the idea of flight…

 

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.

Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies

like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,

some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,

snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn

back into the little system of his care.

All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,

tug with bright streets at lonely lights like his.

 

by Ted Kooser
Published in “Flying at Night”

 

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Imagination

 

…my latest piece is about imagination.
Have a listen to it on Arena here or read on…

 

imagination

Imagination

 

I used to read dinosaur books as a kid. Everything about them screamed big. The oversized hardback covers and colourful illustrations. The lengthy prehistoric periods. Even their complicated names warranted the shouty ‘all-caps’ font.

GIGANTOSAURUS. TITANASAURUS. DOUBLE-MOCHA-GRANDE-SAURUS!

When it came to highlighting their magnitude, one thing that struck me was how these giant reptiles were always compared to the African elephant. In general, I’d never encountered that many elephants. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure the elephants I’d met were actually African. A person might believe it would make more sense to measure against commonplace objects, things that a child of the 80s could easily relate to. BMX bikes or space-hoppers, the fact that the Tyrannosaurus Rex weighed five-and-half-thousand Nintendo 64s. Or was as long as one-hundred-and-twenty Caramello bars. But the great thing about imagination is the ability to fill in the blanks. This skill of picturing objects or situations never experienced is a key element to creativity and something that’s widely considered to be a rarity in the animal kingdom.

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Although limited in other species, we humans certainly know how to take it to the next level. Think entrepreneurship, advances in technology, the evolution of the gadget and the scope of stories in all their forms. For me it’s truly captured in our ability to build concrete worlds out of imagined foundations. Take the simplicity of something like the air guitar. There was a time when it was confined to the privacy of one’s own home, something the old man did after one too many glasses of stout. These days, not only is it common to see someone pretend to play a guitar on a night out, it’s even led to an annual air-guitar championship, where people converge from all over the world to showcase their skill at strumming the breeze.

The idea of pretending is something I see all the time with my own kids. The mundane transforms to a setting. Household objects become characters. I’ve been roped into countless worlds but in truth, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was running around the park as a child myself. We were soldiers. Explorers. Cowboys. There was never a character of office worker or IT consultant. You wouldn’t catch any of the lads acting out the part of lab technician in a supervisory capacity. And perhaps it is the destiny of most to end up in the shallower end of the imagination pool.  But sometimes, when I meet an old friend from school and we talk about our jobs and the economy, house-prices and bin charges, all the boring things that grown-ups are expected to talk about, I can’t help but shake the feeling that for some of us, the pretending never really went away.