An Auspicious Day

As most people know (well, my Mum remembers, I think), I was born on 28th February 1953. An auspicious day, you must admit.

Watson & Crick

I was slightly miffed earlier this week, on popping into The Eagle pub in Cambridge, to see that a couple of guys called Watson and Crick have hijacked my birthday for their own ends. And collected Nobel prizes into the bargain. The Watson guy is still alive. I believe that I’ll be lodging a complaint with him.


Les P’tits Faîtieaux

Many places have their mysterious and mostly unseen supernatural beings, but the British Isles and Northern Europe are particularly rich in such folklore. In Ireland for example, the ancient race of the Tuatha De Danann were defeated in battle and retreated to dwell underground in the Otherworld. They manifest in folklore as leprechauns and fairies. Scotland’s equivalent are divided into the Seelie Court (benevolent) and Unseelie Court (mischievous).  Norse mythology has its elves, both dark and light.


Les P’tits Faîtieaux (The Little People) – Kerry-Jane Warner

But it’s not so well known that Jersey has it’s own ‘little people’ who dwell in our ancient dolmens. Like their cousins elsewhere they are capricious. They can cause harm when annoyed but are capable of good deeds when placated.

Here, local artist Kerry-Jane Warner has portrayed a few of these folk caught unawares outside the entrance to the Neolithic passage grave of La Hougue Bie in the Jersey parish of Grouville.

Seeing Both Sides

It had been years now since he’d said a sweet word to her, or given her a cuddle, much less bought her flowers on her birthday. Barely a ‘hello’ as he came home from the office at the end of each day. Still, she believed it was her place, her duty to look after him – cook his meals, iron his shirts, keep a clean and tidy house.

‘There must be more,’ she often thought as they sat in silence each evening, watching television. He would frown in disapproval on the rare occasion that she’d go and see her friends, perhaps attend an evening lecture or even a performance of the local amateur dramatics society. He himself never went anywhere other than to and from work. Wouldn’t dream of accompanying her anywhere.


Yet he wasn’t cruel, didn’t mistreat her. Separation had never entered her head. But one evening, not feeling well, the pent-up frustration got the better of her. She shouted at him, cried, poured her heart out about her wasted life. He looked at her in astonishment, said not a word.

The next morning he packed a bag and was gone.

She was in despair, at her wit’s end. She was alone. No one even to watch television with. She burst into tears over a cup of tea with a friend. The friend suggested she join a club, a group, a society. So one day she steeled herself and presented herself, with tennis shoes and an old-fashioned tracksuit, at a beginners’ jogging group. There she quickly made new friends, lost a bit of weight. Her confidence growing, she changed her hairstyle, starting wearing make-up again, bought fashionable running gear and a Garmin watch.

A few months later, hardly believing herself, she lined up with hundreds of others at the start line of the local athletics club’s annual 10k road race. It wasn’t easy but she wasn’t last by any means. As she approached the last fifty yards, the crowds applauding the competitors, she couldn’t help but burst into tears. This time tears of joy. She had never known happiness like it, not since her wedding day.

And as she accepted her medal her vision was too blurred with tears to notice, arms aloft and receiving the cheers like a champion, her husband as he, too, trotted over the finishing line.


Do Not Go Gentle

We meet most Sunday mornings. She is much older than me but I don’t care. Funny how she always seems surprised as I gasp ‘Good morning’, as if she’d never seen me before. ‘Good morning’, she answers back. Then we are apart again.

Shuffling along with her stick, skirting Grouville Common, set on a destination unbeknown to me. To her daughter’s house maybe. A cup of tea and a chat. Looks forward to seeing her grandchildren.

She certainly has a past, a long one too. What stories could she tell if I were to fall into conversation with her? Of her Jersey childhood, the village school, visits to the nearby beach, a weekly visit to the town of St Helier. Then the arrival of the Germans and the five long years of hardship before the Liberation. Love, marriage, a family. Maybe none of the above. I know nothing about her.100_0870

Perhaps she was a champion swimmer as a young lady. She wishes someone would ask her about her medals. Now she walks to keep fit, unbelieving that her body could ever let her down.

And does she know, or care, that this puffing stranger is also raging against the dying of the light? One day, sooner or later, we’ll meet no more.

I wonder who will let the other down?


A character looking for a story

In my second novel ‘A Jersey Midsummer Tale’ the early scenes were of four young Jersey people meeting up on Midsummer Day 1935. Soon enough one of them – Tess Picot – was trying to tell me, convince me, to write her story. And so I did in ‘Tess of Portelet Manor’.

In ‘A West Cork Mystery’ a young, feisty barmaid in Darwin, Australia makes a brief appearance to help out one of the story’s leading characters. Later, Chantilly Taylor reappeared as the subject of a short story in my collection ‘Aspirations of a Sheep’.

Which leads me to the point of this post. Chantilly won’t let me go. I have explored her character, personality and appearance. She is pale, ash-blonde cut in a severe style, blue-eyed, straight-talking, gay or a-sexual, likes Goth music. But she is highly intelligent and, despite her background, has always wanted to study History at one of the Oxbridge colleges. Due to some good fortune she has managed to get a place a Magdalene, Cambridge.


Nothing to do with this post, but a nice view of Havre des Pas, Jersey from the old swimming pool.

Never having been to Cambridge I have researched the city, and Magdalene, in some depth. And I have written the first couple of introductory scenes. And I have no clue what comes next! I haven’t a plot, though I want it to be crime-based.

Which got me to thinking about the popular authors who have readers gasping for their next release. Lee Childe must always be thinking up new adventures for Jack Reacher. Tess Gerritson and her protagonist Jane Rizzoli, Rowling and Harry Potter, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. There are innumerable examples. What is their process for thinking up a new overarching plot?

It’s a new one on me but I’m going to have fun figuring it out. Meanwhile Chantilly is getting used to her new life as a fresher in Cambridge.



Whatever happened to my running blog?

It was early in 2003 that I ‘discovered’ running, as I approached my 50th birthday. At around about that time I set up my first blog site ‘Athletics Jersey’. This documented my early efforts, as well as commentating on the athletics scene generally here in Jersey.

I let that website lapse when I headed off to Ireland in 2008. Amazingly I’m still registered with the US hosting company and I might try to retrieve access to those early (and probably cringeworthy) posts.

In October 2008 I started my ‘Roy In Ireland’ blog which was later rolled into this one. Happily the WordPress archive has retained everything from that point.


Anyhow, the point being that only in comparatively recent times has this blog turned more writerly, with a definite emphasis on Jersey’s social history and its environment. Though my running has continued on and off it rarely features on here any more. During 2016 I ran 773 miles compared to my best years of 2010 (1,333) and 2015 (1,178). I had a lousy start to 2016, taking many weeks to recover properly from severe manflu which struck on Dec 25th 2015. But, as I write, I’m getting back to a point where I’m ‘fit to train’ as they say in the coaching world. In other words I’ve got back to a reasonable basic level from where I can push on towards harder, more specific training targets. In 2017 I want to challenge my best times, which are

1 mile – 6.58 Irishtown Stadium, Dublin 25/12/08 (Watch out Mo)
5k – 22.51 Jersey 13/10/15
5 miles – 40.22 Bandon, Cork 28/12/08
10k – 47.54 Jersey, 21/2/10
Half-Marathon – 1:46.30 Jersey 20/8/07 (An outlier, the only time I’ve run inside 1:50)
Marathon – 4:27.23 Cork 7/6/10

Any runner will tell you that these times are pretty rubbish BUT they’re by an ageing guy and represent his best shots. To get near these times again I have to be putting in consistent long training miles. The 5k, 10k and HM marks above were set off the back of heavy marathon training, so there’s a clue. Whether or not I try to improve that pretty poor marathon PB I ought to be aware of the training effect.

My last run of 2016 was earlier today, the Bouley Bay Hill Climb. I huffed and puffed up the severe 0.85 mile climb in 10 minutes or so and was near the back. But it was great to see the many young kids (some very young indeed) running for the sheer enjoyment of it.

So that’s where the running blog went. Twitter is where I hang out for running purposes these days, but I’ll get back to you again on this subject in 12 months time.

Happy New Year from sunny Jersey


Waterfront, St Helier, Jersey

Industrial, marine, heritage. Not always pretty but endlessly fascinating. (click on image to enlarge and open gallery.)


Family Lines – part 4

While Donal McCarthy was growing up in Dunmanway, young Joan Culverhouse, aged 18 months, was being deposited with her grandparents in Bandon, a town roughly half way along the road to Cork city. This was in the early 1930s.

No one is quite sure why the young English girl remained in Bandon, but she was to call it home for the next 17 years or so.

As we have seen, the McCarthys get everywhere. Joan’s grandparents were McCarthys. They lived a short way from the Protestant town of Bandon in a cottage in Kilbeg. A few years later they moved to Knockbrogan Cottage nearby.


Joan, my mother, at Kilbeg early 1930s and in August 1995

My great grandfather Patrick died in 1938 and great grandmother Margaret (in the first photo above) in 1949. In 1911 there was a tragedy with their young son John meeting with a fatal accident when driving a horse and cart along the road. They all lie in lonely Kilbrogan cemetery, the headstone having been erected in recent years. (Here’s a link to the image.)

Somewhere along the way Donal and Joan hooked up, joined the general emigration from Ireland and rocked up in Birmingham in about 1950. These were the days of landladies openly displaying signs saying ‘No Dogs, Blacks or Irish’.

The rest, as they say, is history.


Done & dusted – Book 7

Funny, when I started doing a bit of writing I harboured – like most beginners – a hope that one day I’d hold a book with my name on the front. Today I went live on Amazon Kindle with my seventh.

It was only reading it over for the very last time I realised I had written a YA novel. I don’t aim my books at anyone in particular but it’s clear to me that, if this one has an audience, it will be young adults. Again a young female protagonist with not one, but two separate quests.


Those of you who have read my recent Family Lines posts will soon realise that much of the story is set in Dunmanway, West Cork. Indeed the cottage named ‘Coolbawn’ in the story and its present and former inhabitants bear a passing resemblance to Tonafora and my father’s family. Beyond that it is fiction, and a bit of fantasy fiction at that.

It’s available at, or indeed at your regional store. Paperback follows.

Will there be a Book 8? Probably, but the muse has yet to arrive in that respect so it might be some time.


Family Lines – part 3

So, Grandpa Flor and Grandma Ellen – as was the Catholic Irish way – had a large family. They must have sometimes lost count. Six boys and four girls I believe (edit – I’m advised eight boys, four girls + one more adopted), though I’ll need to check that. All somehow lived together at ‘Tonafora’. Flor & Ellen had their own room, the boys in another and the girls in the last one. They would sleep, like pilchards in a tin, alternatively head to feet.


Grandma Ellen, outside Tonafora

No wonder that they scattered to the four winds once they were old enough. Their stories are, for the most part, long forgotten. The family lived through the early years of the last century, through the War of Independence with Britain and the ensuing Civil War which saw the birth of the Irish Free State. Indeed Uncle Jimmy, one of the youngest boys, was born during Easter Week 1916. The somewhat bodged ‘Rising’ that week nonetheless kick-started Ireland’s freedom from British rule.


Cousin Mary, Jimmy’s daughter, d.2013

Uncle Jimmy became a legend in my eyes. He worked on the railways. When I first knew him he was a level-crossing keeper. He lived only a couple of hundred yards from ‘Tonafora’ with his wife Sheila and his children – my cousins – Mary and Ann. The West Cork line ran through the meadows here between Cork city and Bantry. When the bell sounded in their house Jimmy would put on his hat, completing his uniform, and would head outside and open the level crossing gates. We’d stand on the gates and watch the train rumble through. Later, Jimmy would go on to work at Cobh Station, out along the estuary from the city. He died one Christmas, relaxing in his armchair with a glass of whiskey after lunch.


The last inhabitants. Aunt Nuala with husband Jack outside a renovated Tonafora in 1989. Tonafora has since been demolished.

My father Donal was the youngest of the boys. I used to travel back to Dunmanway with him when I was young. We’d do the rounds of aunts, uncles, cousins. I used to think Ireland as a sort of fairyland and I never got over my love for the place.

But what of my mother’s side, I hear you cry. Part 4 coming up.