Me, studying the Book of Daniel at my stand up desk

I’m Younger Than That Now

“In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand at the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy in the instant that I preach
My existence led by confusion boats, mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”

  • Bob

Sometimes I write stories, sometimes I share them, sometimes I don’t. I ‘ve entered some competitions and they usually have a limit of 1,400 words which can be a tough discipline to follow. I have done introductions to other stories that were longer than 1400 words, so being confined to that amount to introduce characters , a plot and an ending of sorts , certainly cuts out the waffle.

I think I’ve developed a habit of leaving the ending of those stories on a cliff edge, with several possible next events, almost like an interrupted dream, or a chapter ending. I like that. It allows the reader to imagine their own ending.

Some of my friends don’t like that.

I have a great friend from Bangor, the fun one up the North, not the fun one in Wales, a lapsed Presbyterian, so lapsed in fact that he’s positively Buddhist, let’s call him Richard. Richard introduced me to the wonderful Tenx9 events in Belfast and encouraged me to submit stories there, and I have done on several occasions since. Tenx9 is a free event on the last Wednesday of each month in the Black Box Theatre in Belfast where 9 people each tell a true story lasting 10 minutes on a theme. I’ve had some stories on BBC radio as a result and even got paid for them…by the Queen ! Well in my mind I got paid by the Queen, as she rules England and the BBC are her court jesters. I actually got paid by Mr.Phillpott in the radio procurement office, Sheffield. Thanks Mr.Phillpott.

Apart from my Soulmate, my brother Stephen, my son Jake , and my other brother John, oh , and my friend Ger, Richard is invariably the first person I show anything I write to. Usually I email it , and then wait , in purgatory , for someone, anyone to reply. At this point I immediately regret sharing it with anyone. The minutes tick by….they hate it…I hate it…what was I thinking…no, they’re just busy…no…they hate it…what fucking age am I to be worried about getting my homework corrected…Christ, this is agony…how do you recall an email…just read it you bastards…maybe they are so in awe of what they’ve read that they’ve fainted…all of them….no, they hate it… I HATE IT…

And then Richard replies.

And then I decide not to read his reply for several hours.

And then I can’t sleep, so I get up to read it.

The last time I asked him to have a look at a story, one I entered into an RTE radio competition, he sent me this reply :

“If you don’t finish this I’ll come down into Europe and break your windows !”

I don’t care if I win the competition now, I’m determined to finish the story , and have it published just to have Richard’s quote on the cover.

My problem with finishing a story is that I think of a new one every day.

Over the past couple of years I’ve tried to reduce the number of commitments that I have to make more room for writing. I no longer coach the mighty Drumkill Rovers Under 8’s. I no longer turn up on Tuesday evenings to amuse the Phoenix Athletic under 8’s , jog a bit with them, point out some stars in the night sky, make up stories about some of their teachers, play cool tunes on my phone that they without fail referred to as ‘old people music’. I finished two terms on the school’s board of management. I resigned from the parish Child Protection Committee. I no longer help out with the Foroige/Youth Diversion Project…just wasn’t the same after Paul and Brenda moved on. Coder Dojo was suspended due to Covid.I haven’t been as involved with the Monaghan Town Team…ZOOM is not for me. Covid also knocked out the food festivals, Christmas Lights, and other outdoor events that I’d end up doing something at. And my near death experience on Innis Oirr has curtailed my running.

So I’ve loads of time.

Or so you’d think.

Time seems to evaporate , like water spilt on paving stones, it finds its way to the earth, or sky, it doesn’t sit as a wee puddle that we dip into whenever we chose. It carries on regardless.

That would have annoyed me before, but I go with the flow now. We’re not running out of time, we’re just choosing to fill it with other things….like not writing. I have spent a surprising amount of time this year exploring agri-science, and this week, out of nowhere I’ve been asked to help with a sportswear company. I’ve also climbed the highest point in Ireland, Carrantouhill, and the highest point in Ulster, Slieve Donnard, having sworn last year, after stumbling up and down Croagh Patrick that I’d never climb anything higher than the stairs in our house.

I stumbled into a Garda traffic training exercise this week. I knew Cormac and Mike were training a bunch of new recruits nearby and went out to offer them the use of our facilities and tea or coffee. Cormac was driving a car up to the checkpoint, I stopped him to say hello. He chatted for a moment, and then said, “I better press on, I’ve a kidnap victim in the boot.”

What ?

“Hello” said a little voice from the boot.

Eh, hello Kidnap Victim, how are you ?

“Oh, you know, fine…I guess”

Every day’s a school day.

When I was a kid at school we were taught the bible story of Daniel and the Lion. The only time it has ever come up since is when I’m in a particularly bad mood my Soulmate often says  “Here , let me take that thorn out of your paw”. And then a few weeks ago I was reading a biography about Newton, yes, the apple guy, and found out that he spent more time on alchemy than physics and was obsessed with the apocalyptic ‘Book of Daniel’.

“What ??? The Book of Daniel is apocalyptic ??? I thought it was a fable for kids , like Noah’s Ark ?”

Interesting aside, when Elliott was in primary school , he was 6, studying for his First Holy Communion, and was full of questions about the Old Testament, so I explained to him that for hundreds of years none of those stories were written down, but were told as stories so that the message, or moral, could be explained easily and memorably, like a fairy story, rather than history. Elliott nodded wisely.

He went to school the next day and when the teacher asked if anyone knew the story of how Moses led his people out of Egypt, Elliott shot up his hand.

“Yes Elliott ?”

“My Dad says they’re all fairy stories.”

“Thank you Elliott” She said hurriedly “Does anyone else knew the story of how Moses led his people out of Egypt ?”

Newton wrote a whole treatise on the mathematics and true meaning of the Book of Daniel. It’s wonderful.

More wonderful still is that a famous Monaghan son, Sir William Whitla, also became obsessed with Newton’s obsession, and he wrote about that. Whitla Hall is the building at the front of Queen’s University in Belfast, where they have their conferring ceremonies and where they host big fancy black tie dinners. I was invited to one once by Barry Adams, the most opinionated rugby loving Dutchman in Belfast, who also fiddles about in SEO. I met Ana Matronic that night, yes,, the ‘Take Your Mama’ singer. She showed me how to take a selfie. Lovely girl.

So I’ve been reading   Sir Isaac Newton’s Daniel & The Apocalypse; with an Introductory Study Of The Nature And The Cause Of Unbelief, Of Miracles and Prophecy. It’s wild !

And I’ve been listening on repeat to these on the greatest playlist on Spotify, mine :

Heat Above by Greta van Fleet

My Back Pages – Live At Madison Square Gardens by Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric The Fascist , and Bob.

Fireworks by First Aid Kit

Hermit The Frog by Marina

So Long, Marianne by Leonard Cohen.

And that’s 1400 words.

Where does the time, or inclination , go ?



P.S. For Richard, the youngest man I know ‘MyBack Pages

Author: paul

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