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Time Stands Still

Another new song.



Now the world is blue and grey
Darkness on a sunny day
Would not take me by surprise

You and I will soon be found
Somewhere on the higher ground
With my reflection in your eyes

Is it memory?
Is it fantasy?
I see you and me
On the hill
Time stands still

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Make Time Good

A new song.


I know you’ve done the best you could
I know you have a hill to climb
We just need to make time good
We don’t need to make good time

I don’t have any place to go
There’s nothing heavy on my mind
I’m prepared to take it slow
You never know what we might find

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Wild Geese and vultures

I watched two programmes tonight that made me think about the state of this country. The first was an episode of Nationwide that featured young Irish people who are doing very well in London. One of them is Conor Clinch, from Coolock, a 20-year-old photographer who plans to open his own studio. He shows no signs of wanting to return to Ireland. Who could blame him?

I thought of Aer Lingus’ recent marketing campaign in which it brought some family members back to Ireland, squeezing the maximum emotional capital from the tearful reunions while informing us mournfully that over 50% of Irish people wouldn’t make it ‘home’ for Christmas. How many of those people didn’t come ‘home’ because home is now somewhere else—somewhere where they have happily integrated, perhaps married a local person? The sentimental notion of ‘Wild Geese’, tied up with historical victimhood, is no longer appropriate. Continue reading

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A new song that I’ve written.


I lie awake and I’m pondering


Where the money goes

I think of times I was following


The Emperor’s new clothes

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A new song that I’ve written.


You can’t drive a straight mile on a crooked road
Or walk away from reaping what you’ve sowed
Or fill your head with other people’s stuff
Because their dreams will never be enough

You will try
To live a life of peace
With love that will increase
The summer’s golden glow

When the dark
Of night will take its toll
The hope that’s in your soul
Will let you

Echoing the songs of long ago
Love will grow
When it’s time to start again you’ll go
With the flow

All the things you’ve done are in the past
All the days are flying by so fast
Still you try to read another sign
The time has come for crossing one more line

Soon the sun
Will bring another day
The night will fade away
New flowers will start to grow

And the life
That brings them out to play
Will find some other way
To flow


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Five years


Sean, it is five years today since you died. These have been the saddest and strangest years of my life.

There were rivers of tears in the early days—the tears are less frequent now. Back then every minute of every day was a terrible weight.

Your mum and I came through the extreme desolation—and the snow and ice—and into a phase where loss was an ever-present ache, but less raw.

I wrote about you: poems, songs, your favourite music, extracts from old diaries, your sporting interests, your extraordinary personality.  After three years I seemed to have written all that was worth writing. Some things are unsayable, but I still speak to you every day.

We are strong and resilient. You would be proud of us for that. We have tried to live the right way. You inspire us with vivid memories of how you were. In April 2010 you told us that you had learned a lot about yourself in the previous six months, and we knew it was true. We have learned a lot about ourselves in the past five years.

We have changed. The channel of our humanity deepens and widens as life continues to flow through it. Though we love this world, we are not afraid of dying.

You would be hugely proud of your little sister. Susanna has been incredibly brave and determined. She has set high goals and achieved them all. It has not been easy, but her good humour and sense of fun are as contagious and lovable as ever. She has been out in the world and found lovely people there. She is a shining star, just like you.

We enjoy talking about you with your friends when we have an opportunity, either in real life or online: the light you gave off is still being reflected, although the source has gone; we like to glimpse it where we can. Many things we didn’t know about you till after you died; many photos we hadn’t seen. You are still in many minds.

Between ourselves, we talk about you often. We think about you all the time. Your life and memory are not stored in some compartment; they are in the air we breathe.

You helped us find out things we didn’t know. You and Susanna showed the world to us. Being with you was always an adventure. We were partners in discovery.

This year we went abroad and met a lot of new people; we got to know people in Ireland through new connections. You would be delighted about that: you always encouraged us to socialize and make friends; something you did as naturally as breathing, it seemed. You would have been proud of me for being invited to the conference in Canada.

No year is as good, though, as when we had both our children. No year ever will be.

As I wrote the first Christmas without you—you are a hero to me, and I will love you always. Thanks again for the 7021 days.


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Editing Goes Global 2015


On 11 June, Pauline and I were sitting in a coffee shop in Dublin Airport when I spotted Liz, and she came over to join us. With time to kill before our flight to Toronto for the Editing Goes Global conference, the three of us drank coffee and chatted about what the weekend might bring.

There followed the longest flight that Pauline and I had ever experienced, then a short trip on the brand-new Union Pearson train to central Toronto. Tired, we had more trouble finding the hotel – the Intercontinental on Front Street – than we should have done. After a short time to freshen up, we made our way, with the help of Dawn’s map, to Il Fornello on King Street, where around 35 people – nearly all editors – were already dining. Many of them I recognized immediately from Facebook (Greg, Gael, Roberto, Joanna, Marie-Christine, Sara, Suzanne, Arlene, Dawn … and lots more); as the evening went on there were numerous hugs and short, happy conversations.

Twenty or so of us then went to the Strathcona Hotel, where I stood at the bar and spoke mostly to Dawn, Kara and Ted; we walked back to the hotel having wisely not drunk too much: it was very late by Irish time, and I had a busy day lined up, as had Liz. Continue reading

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Six days and nights in Palma


The swifts speed, chase and soar above Carrer d’Arabi in the warm afternoon; conversation rises from the café tables in the street to our apartment on Carrer de la Confraria de Saint Miquel.

Earlier a busker strummed his guitar hard and sang in Spanish or maybe Catalan: I could not distinguish the words coming in the window. Then an accordionist played ‘Those Were the Days’, ‘Roll Out the Barrel’ and ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’.

We walked around the town, listening to Senegalese music or reggae. Other street performers are elaborately dressed and perfectly still, or appear to levitate as they sit by a pole.

We went to Palma beach and then had a meal at a restaurant where the proprietor was extremely friendly, and gratified that Susie had kept last week’s promise to bring her parents. He showed us all a photo of his son, who lives in England, as a suitable boyfriend for Susanna. He was mortified then to hear, on enquiring about our other children, that we had lost our own son – Pauline showed him a photo of Sean. As we left he was still apologizing unnecessarily for being ‘insensitive’. The food was excellent, as was the proprietor’s English. Continue reading

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In the year of my ninth birthday I became interested in English football, acquired an album and began to fill it with photos of First Division footballers that were sold with chewing gum, and swapped by boys; we didn’t get to see the matches or goals in our single-channel television world, but that didn’t seem to matter. The season was 1969–70, and 45 years later I can still name all 22 clubs in alphabetical order: Arsenal, Burnley, Chelsea, Coventry City, Crystal Palace, Derby County, Everton, Ipswich Town, Leeds United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers.

I chose to follow Arsenal; they finished just 12th that season but would win the League + Cup double next time out.

Surprisingly little has changed in terms of the top-division clubs in 45 years. Fifteen of the 22 listed above are now in the 20-club Premier League. Of the seven that aren’t, six – Derby, Ipswich, Wolves, Forest, Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday – are, as I write, in the top half of what is effectively the second division. Only Coventry are outside the top two divisions: in fact they are in danger of slipping further.

So, as far as English football goes, it’s pretty much a case of plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.


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A year in Ireland – 1742


  • On 8 March, William Crotty, highwayman and outlaw of the Comeragh mountains in Co. Waterford, is tried at Waterford and later hanged, drawn and quartered, having apparently been betrayed by an associate named David Norris. According to legend, Crotty’s wife later commits suicide by leaping from a great height while being pursued by soldiers.
  • Others who die in 1742 include Hugh Boulter, Church of Ireland archbishop of Armagh and political power-broker, and John Waller, member of parliament for Doneraile, of whom the lines were written: ‘Who is this hell-featured brawler? Is it Satan? No! ’tis Waller.’
  • On 13 April Handel’s Messiah has its first public performance (conducted by the composer), at Neal’s Music Hall, Fishamble Street, Dublin, before an audience of 700.
  • In August, Jonathan Swift is found to be ‘a person of unsound mind and memory and not capable of taking care of his person and fortune’ by a commission of lunacy composed of twelve Dublin tradesmen.
  • Russborough House (Co. Wicklow), designed by Richard Castle, is built. The inland section of the Newry navigation, on which work had commenced in 1731, is completed: this is the first commercial canal in Britain or Ireland, and is originally intended to bring coal from the Tyrone coalfield to Dublin. Castle has also been involved in its design.
  • Another famous architect, James Gandon, is born on 20 February. He will design some of Dublin’s most famous buildings, such as the Custom House and the Four Courts. Clotworthy Skeffington (2nd Earl of Massereene), who is born on 28 January, will spend nearly 20 years in debtors’ prisons in France until liberated by a mob in July 1789. The lawyer, orator and politician Walter Hussey Burgh is born on 23 August.




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