Turn Around, And You’ve Grown


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She was the last of the three, the baby of our babies, but now our baby is a young woman.

Tingirl is 18 today.

She faces into adulthood as wonderful a person as she has always been. She has a warm and kind nature, a host of friends to whom she is fiercely loyal, and a smile that makes her face light up like a sun. She is a typical teenage girl – sometimes funny, sometimes grumpy, sometimes full of energy, sometimes a bundle of yawns barely visible beneath a duvet on the couch.

She still loves acting, and is still part of the closely-knit drama group with whom she has essentially grown up.

To me, her Dad, she is still a source of wonder, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a hoodie.

She is also a source of deep, joy-filled love.

So Happy Birthday today, Tingirl, and enjoy the life and possibilities that now lie before you.

You are our baby, our Princess, and now our wonderful grown-up girl.

Tingirl for 18th



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This picture, of Gemini 5’s return to Earth in 1965, is the prompt for today’s Flash! Friday challenge.. 

Gemini 5 landing

We don’t speak Martian here at NASA. Anything more complex than five notes and we’re pretty baffled.

So when we got the message, with co-ordinates and then something that sounded like Swedish being coughed through bagpipes, we thought that they wanted to meet us.

The co-ordinates were at sea, so Halsworth and I were put in a dinghy to wait, and to offer them Mars Bars in greeting.

They hadn’t wanted to meet us. They’d been asking us to take the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Their giant bucket bounced us out of the dinghy like two kids on too tight a trampoline.

We were rescued by conspiracy theorists. They follow us everywhere, ever since Roswell didn’t happen.

The Martians have sent us the video and we feel that we now have a bond.

So we’re challenging the Klingons, launching our own huge ice-filled bucket to land at high speed on their planet.

We have a good feeling about this.


Washed Up


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Ok, I’m back. I could make some excuse, but I’ve just been plain lazy. Anyway, the picture below is the prompt for today’s Flash! Friday challenge….


There should have been a girl.

Everyone knows this. When you wash up on a desert island you meet a girl stranded by a previous shipwreck, blonde, beautiful and wearing an outfit that she has apparently fashioned out of her handkerchief.

That was why he had jumped ship. He was too good for life at sea, with its scurvy, rats and monotonously easy games of I Spy. He would find the girl and found an Eden.

But now he sat dejectedly on sand that stretched endless and empty, like his future. There wasn’t even the obligatory single palm tree. Too late he reflected that urban legends do not apply outside an urban environment.

Actually they do. At that very moment the girl was sitting under the single tree, calmly awaiting companionship.

Sadly, it wouldn’t be with him. He had come ashore on Bikini Atoll, and she was on the other half.


Baring My Head


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HeadSpace 3 (cover art by Michelle Granville)

HeadSpace 3 (cover art by Michelle Granville)

HeadSpace Magazine is a writing and art magazine based around the theme of mental health. It is published online, and also has print copies which it distributes free of charge to hospitals and support groups across Ireland and the UK. You can read more about the magazine and its aims here.

Issue No 3 is being launched tomorrow night at White Lady Art on Wellington Quay in Dublin. It features art, poems, fiction and memoir, and much to my astonishment it includes a piece I submitted about my stress-induced bout of depression in 2001 and about an incident which I regard as the start of my recovery.

Even more to my astonishment I have agreed to read this piece out at the launch. At least that proves that I am nuts.

Actually, I’m quite looking forward to the event, and I hope that the magazine gets all the publicity and attention that it deserves.

Opening Line


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Babies practise their first word in their heads for months before saying it out loud. (BBC News Website)


He woke at four a.m., flat on his back, chubby little fists clenched either side of his head. He woke because he was wet. For a moment he felt like yelling out “nappy!” but decided against it.

He didn’t want “nappy” to be his first word.

He had been thinking about it for months, like a miniature Neil Armstrong planning the first lunar sentence. He knew, just knew, that it had to be special, something that his Mum and Dad would remember forever.

He was considering simply saying “Hi”, but was afraid that they would think he had hiccups and force gripe-water upon him.

He was considering saying the name of Daddy’s favourite football team which he knew, from the way Daddy shouted it when they were on the TV, were called the Gobshites.

He was also considering saying something clever. After all, his parents always applauded wildly if he simply farted loudly, so if he said something like “physiotherapy” or “Solzenitsyn” they’d probably explode with pride.

Meanwhile he had to continue to act dumb, in every meaning of the phrase. Whenever he wanted his teddy, or his ball, or his Dalek (his parents were Doctor Who fans, and were determined that he would be too) he would point and grunt, rather than ask for them by name. During mealtimes, when he was being fed some mush consisting mostly of carrot, since he was now on what were laughably called solids, he would have to clamp his mouth tightly shut and turn his head away instead of hopefully saying “ice-cream?”.

And sometimes, when his gums were really aching, he had to fight the urge to moan “f-u-u-u-ck”.

Words were important.

The cold dampness around his bum now reminded him that, when applied to nappies, the words “keeps Baby dry” are meaningless. Unable to call out for help, he began to cry.

And her face appeared above him. Her hair was wild and partly stuck to her face, and her eyes were bleary and barely open, but she smiled down at him, a smile of deep, boundless love. He decided.

“Mama,” he said softly.



Your Country Needs Ewe


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Our Government had a re-shuffle yesterday, and the Minister for Agriculture is now also Minister for Defence…


No one would have believed in the early years of the twenty-first century that this world was being scrutinized, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Yet across the gulf of space intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded this Earth with envious eyes, despite the fact that we have stuff swarming and multiplying in our water, and slowly and surely they drew their plans against us.

The Martians, for it was they, landed on a small farm in Killala in County Mayo. There were seven of them in this advance group, and they intended to take control of the farm and establish a base from which to co-ordinate the main attack force. The farm was home to the Murphys, Pat and Mary and their twin children Jimmy and, well, Daenerys, because Mary was a big Game of Thrones fan. The Martians reckoned that they would be overpowered in less than an hour.

And they were right, because there is more than one way of reading that last sentence.

First to fall was Benzhi. He hadn’t been listening during briefings, so upon seeing a cow he approached it and said “take me to your leader”. The cow regarded him placidly, chewed for a few seconds, then farted, and Benzhi, overcome by methane fumes, fell face first into a cowpat.

Although not a vampire, Ronaarn was killed by cloves of garlic. Pat drove over him in a truck full of them.

Xanoz was shot between the eyes by young Jimmy. Jimmy only had a water-pistol, but had loaded it with the only substance in the universe harder than diamond – a brussels sprout.

Kharwan made it as far as the farmhouse, but Mary had seen him coming, and had left an Irish breakfast on the table. The aroma was irresistible, and Kharwan eagerly tucked in. The Irish breakfast consists of sausages, rashers, black pudding, white pudding, eggs, beans, fried bread and, as one of your five-a-day, a mushroom. It is essentially a cholesterol bomb, and the Martian had eaten only half of it before his arteries exploded.

Bacon was also responsible for the demise of Makjar, who cornered Daenerys in the outside toilet, a shed with not enough room to swing a cat. There was, however, room to swing a small piglet, and Daenerys caught him full in the face.

Geronax was hit by blue ice falling from a passing plane. In fairness to him, that was just sheer bad luck.

The horrified leader, Neadak, radioed the mothership and called off the invasion before hiding in terror. Unfortunately he chose to hide in a greenhouse.

He had heard of the film Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, everyone in the universe has. He had just never realised that it was a documentary.







Take That Back


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This was the prompt for today’s Flash! Friday challenge – 140 to 160 words, and the story had to include friendship…

“Hamilton-Burr Duel, After the Painting by J. Mund.” Illustration from Beacon Lights of History, by John Lord, 1902. Public domain image.

“Hamilton-Burr Duel, After the Painting by J. Mund.” Illustration from Beacon Lights of History, by John Lord, 1902. Public domain image.


“Take it back,” said Hamilton. “I do not dress like a girl.”

“You’re wearing ladies’ stockings,” said Burr. “They actually gleam in the sunlight.”


The Best Foot Forward Gang had grown up together, mercilessly poking fun at one another in that curious way in which boys demonstrate affection. Their growing up had not included emotionally, and they still believed that there was no truer sign of friendship than a barbed insult, apart perhaps from a good slap with a wet towel.

But they did not usually impugn one another’s manhood. It is a sign of the gravity of Burr’s error that none of them sniggered at that last sentence.

Hamilton fired, but as he did so a lifetime’s friendship jerked his hand upward. The shot hit the branch above Burr’s head and ricocheted into Hamilton’s chest.

Or, rather, into one of the socks he had stuffed into his bodice. Luckily, he did dress like a girl.

It’s Off To Work She Goes


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This photo is today’s prompt for the Flash Friday challenge..

Joan Ranger

She was leaving town now. Her work was done.

Once she had been a simple schoolteacher, and engaged to be married. Then he’d died.

There had been an ambush in which he and his comrades had been killed. She had wept, pined, and drunk whisky by the bottle, because this was the Wild West, after all.

Then months later she’d heard of the mystery avenger, the man with the white hat, the mask, and the ridiculous silver bullets, as if he was up against werewolves.

She’d known straight away that it was him. He’d always been a show-off.

He hadn’t written, he hadn’t telegraphed, he hadn’t even got his friend to send smoke signals. He didn’t care.

So she had set out across Texas, always one town ahead of him, fighting crime in her own way just to annoy him. She wore a mask, simply because she was now single and it made her look hot.

Here in the town of Little Falls (the waterfalls are massive, as you can see, but this is Texas, remember) she had fought drunkenness with stern lectures. She had fought gambling with statistics about the odds against winning. She had fought bar-brawls by fighting everybody in the bar-brawls, because she was still a very angry woman.

Now she was on the bridge outside the town. She made sure she was in silhouette, because that was important. She knew that HE would have reared his horse at this stage, but she had tried that once and had ended up wearing her skirt over her face. She nudged her horse and slowly trotted away.

The townspeople watched her go.

“Who was that masked woman?” asked one of them.

“That was Joan Ranger,” someone replied.

Working Clothes


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This is the photo prompt for today’s Flash! Friday 150-word challenge ….

Nuclear Winter Recon

He had tested the mask thoroughly. He had painted it in gravy. He had dangled sausages from the end. He had had a friend, a baseball pitcher, hurl haggises into his face.

He had plunged face-first into a bowl of porridge, though only because he had fallen asleep during breakfast, so hard had he been working on perfecting the mask.

He was the ultimate vegetarian, so anti-meat that he felt uncomfortable having a beef about it. It had never impacted his job before. Until today.

When he arrived there were giggles from his peers, and muttered unfinished sentences that began with “what the”. He knew that he looked daft, but kept reminding himself that he wasn’t the weirdest-dressed person there. He took a deep breath, causing his mask to momentarily contract like a dying balloon, then stepped forward, microphone at the ready, to interview Lady Gaga in her meat dress.

Heart’s Desire


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“New crowns for old ones!” –Benjamin Disraeli presents Queen Victoria the crown of India. Punch, 1876, by cartoonist John Tenniel.

“New crowns for old ones!” –Benjamin Disraeli presents Queen Victoria the crown of India. Punch, 1876, by cartoonist John Tenniel.

This is today’s Flash!Friday prompt: 140-160 words, and the story has to involve arrogance…


He could sense her attention wandering.

“As I was saying,” said Djisraeli the Wizard, “I can offer you this new crown-shaped lamp in exchange for your old -“

“What’s that on your arm?” asked Mrs Aladdin.

“Proof of my genius,” said Djisraeli proudly. “I call it a handbag.”

“What’s in it?” asked Mrs Aladdin.

“Everything I need,” said Djisraeli. “Tissues, money, carpet-keys -”

“It must be wonderful,” said Mrs Aladdin. “You can lay your hand instantly on anything.”

“Er, yes,” said Djisraeli. “You’d think, wouldn’t you?”

“I want it,” said Mrs Aladdin. “I’ll give you this lamp for it.”

“Seriously?” said Djisraeli, turning scornfully away. “You think I’d swap my wonderful invention for some old lamp?”

He was two hundred yards away before what had just happened sank in.

“Djoh,” he said.

Meanwhile Mrs Aladdin sighed, absent-mindedly rubbing her lamp. The Genie emerged.

“I can grant you -” he began.

“A handbag,” said Mrs Aladdin. “Now.”


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