Monthly Archives: July 2014

Baring My Head

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

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

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

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.