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MEET BRENDAN GERAD O’BRIEN

OK, OK, I admit it I have a soft spot for Irish writers, the land of my birth, though I have long since lost the accent.  While we may speak the same language as the English, Welsh, Scots, Americans and the Australians, I maintain we have poetry and words flowing through our veins. Have you guessed that this week’s guest is also from Ireland? What a surprise!  Welcome, Brendan Gerad O’Brien. He now lives in Wales, but you can never take the power of words away from the Irish – not that I’m biased of course. Over to Brendan.

Brend

When I won my first writing competition I was so excited I ran all the way home. I was about eight years old. The Fun Fair was coming to Tralee – our little town on the West coast of Ireland – and apart from Duffy’s Circus which came in September, this was the highlight of our year. Our English teacher asked us to write an essay about it and I won the only prize – a book of ten tickets for the fair.

So writing was in my blood from a very young age. My uncle Moss Scanlon had a small Harness Maker’s shop in Listowel – a bus ride from Tralee – where I spent some wonderful summer holidays. The shop was a magnet for all sorts of colourful characters who’d wander in for a chat and a bit of jovial banter. One famous storyteller who often popped in was John B Keane, and I asked him once where he got his ideas from. He told me that everyone has a story to tell so just listen to them. I was there when John B’s first story was read out on Radio Eireann. I can still remember the buzz of excitement.

But it was only when I got married and the children came along that I made any serious attempt to write a book.

DarkSeptemberbyBGOBrien200

The result was Dark Septembera brutal alternative history thriller set in Newport during WW2. Germany invade Britain. Stormtroopers attack the South Wales coast to capture the coal mines. Newport is blitzed. Danny O’Shea’s wife is killed. O’Shea heads for neutral Ireland with his son and they witness Welsh Nationalists ambushing a German convoy carrying a mysterious cargo.

But the Nationalists fall out and the cargo disappears. Then O’Shea goes to the aid of a dying woman – and both the Germans and the Nationalists believe she told him where it’s hidden. Now pursued by both the Germans and the insurgents, his only concern is to get his son to safety.

I always found writing short stories is amazingly therapeutic. I get a great buzz from taking an idea and developing it, often watching it evolve into something completely different from how it started out. Great ideas are all around us. Little gems are waiting to be harvested everywhere we look. I found myself listening to what people are saying, and the way they say it.

For instance, the Irish are famous for their colourful and exaggerated language, always using a dozen words when one would have done. So I set my short stories in Ireland. The names are changed, of course, because I don’t earn enough to survive a lawsuit.

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Dreamin’ Dreams contains twenty of my published short stories. They’re all based on real people who passed through my life at some time or other, or events that actually happened to me. Enhanced, of course, and sometimes exaggerated out of all proportion.

The title comes from something my father said years ago when I got poor grades at school. ‘What do you expect?’ he said to my mother. ‘He never does any studying. He just sits there, dreamin’ dreams.’

Gallows Field paperback new

This was followed by Gallows Field, set in Tralee, Ireland during WW2.  Eamon Foley, a Local Security volunteer is in a crowded pub when his brother-in-law Joe McCarthy is shot dead. Foley thinks he sees a face from his past when he was working in Dublin and witnessed a brutal murder. Important items went missing then and the killer believed Foley took them. Foley thinks shooting Joe was a warning that they’ve caught up with him and are looking for their stuff.

But Garda Sergeant Liam Edge believes Joe was a victim of a jealous husband because of his involvement with numerous women.

Then Foley’s sister Mary is found dead in the town park.

And his son is taken by a nun in a car.

When Foley illegally obtains evidence saying who is responsible, Sgt Edge dismisses it, insisting they follow proper police procedure.  With dreadful results.

a pale moon print cover final

My latest book is A Pale Moon Was Rising, again featuring Eamon Foley during 1944. A German submarine is spotted in Tralee Bay on the West coast of Ireland.

Next morning the body of a young man with fatal head injuries is found in the river. He’s wearing a distinctive silver ring.

Garda Eamon Foley traces the ring to Paudy Daly, who’s been missing for over nine months.

But Paudy’s father, the notorious Mixer Daly, is furious when he sees the body. Because it is not his son.

Garda Foley discovers that the body is that of a Polish seaman. So where did he get Paudy’s ring?

Then Garda Foley learns that the last time Paudy was seen alive, he was on his way to rob a pig-breeder’s house.

Writing magazine

Thanks for choosing me for your blog, and have a great week,

Sláinte

Brendan

bgobrien.net

I had no idea that Brendan was such a prolific writer, as the books featured here are only a part of his vast repertoire. Check him out on his Amazon author  page

https://www.amazon.com/Brendan-Gerad-OBrien/e/B006ICG2HE 

and thank you for being my guest this week.

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We love people

Rush hour in our local petrol station. The queues were back to the door. The young lad in the hi-viz vest had just finished paying when he accidently stepped back into a young woman in the line behind him.

‘Oh, sorry love,’ he said with a beaming smile.

But the woman turned into the Antichrist. She rose up to her full 5ft height and started howling like a demented banshee.

‘Don’t you call me love,’ she screeched. ‘How dare you call me love? You don’t know me. I’m not your love. You have no right to call me love. I didn’t go to university for three years to be called love.’

There was a shocked silence. The poor lad was mortified. He just stood there all red in the face with his mouth wide open as she waded into him.

Then an older man in a similar hi-viz vest sauntered over and looked the woman up and down.

‘So what do Cinderella and your other sister call you?’ he asked as he took a bite out of a meat pie the size of a small dog.

It was my turn to be served at the other counter so I missed the finale …

 

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friends forever

I was fifteen when I got my first job as a trainee waiter in a posh German owned hotel on the west coast of Ireland. One day the owner’s grandson turned up. The owner insisted that family members who wanted to join the business had to learn the ropes by spending time in every department. Marcus was the same age as us so we took him under our wing, and we quickly became great friends. He was tall and gangling and only spoke basic school-book English. But he was so eager to learn that he buzzed around like a lunatic wasp, sometime falling over himself in his hurry.

Anyway, one evening a crowd of English businessmen converged on the dining room and it was all hands on deck. Wine flowed and the banter was loud, and we were so busy taking orders and serving the food we didn’t have time to look out for each other. But Marcus seemed to be holding his own amongst the melee.

Suddenly he rushed up to me in the kitchen. He was all red in the face and anxiety dripped off him. Apparently one of the guests kept clicking his fingers at him and he had no idea what it meant.

‘Well,’ I said without really thinking it through properly. ‘It means that he is very important and you must show him extra respect.’

Marcus swallowed nervously, his Adam’s apple bouncing like a yo-yo around the inside of his collar. ‘How do I do this?’

‘Very simple. You go over to him, give a respectful bow and pat your back pocket. Then say: as I am your dog tonight, bite this.’

Unfortunately before I could tell Marcus that I was only joking he took off like a racing snake. And I watched in horror as he gave the bow, patted his back pocket and gave the sweetest smile. And I cringed as the enormous guest slowly rose to his feet, wiping his mouth with his napkin.

And he gave such a loud laugh that the glasses shook on the table in front of him. He gave Marcus what looked like a man-hug, clapped him on the back and sat down again. And Marcus had one of the greatest nights of his career as the guests joked and fussed over him.

And, you know, he never thanked me for that advice.

 

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Mistaken Assumptions

One of the hazards of working in a major supermarket is dealing with shoplifters. In a place the size of ours it was a daily occurrence, sometimes two, and three, even four times during a busy period.
There were the usual suspects, of course – career thieves who believed we owed them a living and that there was nothing wrong with robbing a supermarket. The only crime they recognized was getting caught.
One particular guy – he called himself Rambo – was a nasty piece of work. Built like a brick shed with tattoos on his tattoos, he didn’t have a neck, just a bullet head sticking out of his enormous shoulders. No one challenged Rambo unless they had a posse of security guards to back them up.
Anyway, one bright summer morning, I had to go in early for some reason and as I rolled into the deserted car park the sun was shining and the birds were chirping away in the surrounding trees. As I got out of the car there was a shout like a fire-cracker going off.
‘Oi!’
I spun around, and my heart nearly stopped. There was Rambo lurching towards me, little puffs of dust spurting up from where his knuckles pounded the ground. In one nanosecond a million questions flashed through my mind. Is this how it ends, torn to pieces in a supermarket car park? Will Jennifer ever know what really happened? Is this how the kids will remember me, stuck back together with superglue? Is my life insurance still good? Who’ll get my Andy McNab collection of hardback books?
Then he was beside me, blocking out the daylight.
‘Listen,’ he snorted.
‘What?’ I know I said the word. I just couldn’t understand how it came out of a mouth that was drier that a Bedouin’s sock in the Gobi desert.
‘The birds. Can’t you hear them?’
I tried, but all I could hear was my heart thumping in my ears.
‘Aren’t they beautiful?’ Rambo continued, pointing around at the trees. He took a deep breath through his nose, sucking in so much air that a wayward shopping trolley came rolling towards him.
‘I love this time of day,’ he said. ‘So beautiful and calm. I love the peace and quiet.’
Suddenly his eyes glistened.
‘What is this life, if full of care,’ he sighed, ‘we have no time to stand and stare.’
I swear there was a sob in his voice. Then he was gone, lumbering off across the car park with the shopping trolley following in his wake.
I never looked at him the same way again. Though I still wouldn’t challenge him unless he’d been tazered five times and wrapped in duct tape…

 

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Newport RNA visit to Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth on 8th July 2017

 

A beautiful sunny day greeted the Newport RNA shipmates as they disembarked on the hallowed ground of the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth under the attentive eye of Shipmate Spider Kelly – organiser supreme and guide extraordinary.

And again we were challenged by the captain himself – no, not that one! The REAL one – Captain Jack Sparrow, who demanded to see our ID.dartmouth 1

But he was immediately advised to desist by Shipmates Kelly and Routly.dartmouth 2

They were about arrest him when he produced a warrant giving him free passage for the day! So we ambled off down the road to the Parade Ground where a Cadet rounded us up for a tour of the college.

And no matter how many times you visit this amazing place you’re still impressed by it. You can almost taste the history that seeps from every brick of an establishment that dates back to 1905. Designed by Sir George Aston Webb, one of the more distinguished architects of his day, he also designed Admiralty Arch and the East Front of Buckingham Palace. The foundation stone was laid by King Edward VII in March 1902 and the first cadets entered the College three years later.

First up was the Captain’s garden where the teenage Princess Elizabeth was accompanied by the dashing Lt Prince Philip of Greece during her visit to the college.  And the guide drew our attention to a bricked up window, reminding us of the class prejudices of the time when cadets weren’t permitted to see into the Captain’s apartments.

Next we visited the chapel and saw the small round window up in the wall through which, once every year, the sun casts a beam of light that touches on the statue of Jesus – at the exact moment Lord Nelson died at the battle of Trafalgar! Glass doors replaced the old oak ones in 2000 to celebrate the millennium and are engraved with the prayer ‘They that go down to the sea in ships …’

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The Museum was a place you could spend a whole day in. There was an impressive collection of artefacts that illustrated the college’s longstanding Royal connections. Generations of the Royal family have trained at Dartmouth, including King George VI, The Queen’s father, whose dress uniform is still on display. Also on display was the sea chest of a young cadet, assumed to be fifteen years old, in which were his whole worldly possessions, including a half written letter to his parents. There was a desk with a typewriter and parchments, a writing bureau with original pens and ink. We could also listen to the Britannia Voices oral history project, which captures first-hand accounts of College life from the 1930s to 1980s.

 

Photos taken after a German gunboats came up the river Dart and bombed the College in September 1942 showed the damage to the dining hall. Fortunately the college was practically empty at the time and the only fatality during the dreadful episode when a young WREN who was walking through it.

As it was an open day over 3,000 visitors came to see the College and stalls, and to enjoy the many demonstrations throughout the day. Highlights included a Field Gun run, the chance to look inside a Royal Navy helicopter and of course the beer tent, which came second only to the hot dog tent.

For the final event, a performances by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Plymouth, the Newport RNA Shipmates were invited to stand with Captain Jol Woodard RN on the balcony. The band gave us a wonderful display of music, marching and humorous sketches for which they got enthusiastic applause.

As we were about to disperse Captain Woodward chatted with us and posed for a group photo before wishing us well and inviting us back again in the near future.

It was a wonderful day, and we enjoyed being one of the attractions for the public. People asked us about Newport RNA and said how much they admired the way we turned out in smart blazers and military bearing. It reminded so many people of relatives who served in the forces and they were anxious to tell us their stories.

Then it was back on the bus and a quick buzz up the road to our friends at the White Ensign Club, Exeter where we were welcomed with the usual warmth.rum bosun

And a rousing serving of rum by the excellent Rum Bosuns.  Then a beautiful buffet was laid on followed by live music that had some people shuffling around the dance floor as if they knew what they were doing. And the beer flowed and the food disappeared with great gusto.

Then back on the bus for the last leg home, arriving in Newport at 11.30 knackered but satisfied.

The credit for this great day out must go to Shipmate Spider Kelly, but also to the rest of the group who were fantastic company and an honour to spend time with.

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Overheard on Newport Bus

 

‘Hi Jean, haven’t seen you for ages. Where’ve you been?’

‘I’ve been to see my brother in Cwmbran.’

‘The farmer? Didn’t he get married last year?’

‘Yeah, the silly old sod. Eighty years a bachelor and suddenly he decides he wants an heir to leave his farm to. And he was so obsessed by it he went and married a twenty year old girl. Then he’s asking us for advice on the fastest way to get her pregnant. Get a fit young lodger in, we joked. And he did. Can you believe it?’

‘So how is he doing?’

‘Well, when I got there today he was buzzing like a cat on a hot tin roof. He couldn’t wait to tell me his wife is pregnant. “Oh,” I said. “What about the lodger, you know, what does…?”

Well, he gives me this sly grin and says, “Actually, she’s pregnant as well!”

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Overheard on Newport Bus

‘How’s that boyfriend of yours? I haven’t seen him lately.’
‘He’s not my boyfriend anymore.’
‘Well, that’s good news. He was a right Muppet. Talk about needy! He stuck closer to you than a tinker’s vest. Remember the last time we went out – he wouldn’t even let you go to the toilet on your own. Naw, you’re well shot of him. How did you manage to get rid of him, anyway?’
‘I didn’t. We got married …’