Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Choosing Pen Names - Gerry Hancock

I read somewhere recently that a good fountain pen should be heavy in the hand when held flat, but well balanced when gripped so that when the nib comes in contact with paper the words seem almost to form themselves. This is especially true of the pen under discussion which boasted a beautifully styled 15 carat gold nib. Eat your heart out Laszlo Biro! But then I realised I knew all this already…
My maternal grandfather, Charles King, had been in the British Army from 1912 to 1919. His skills it appears lay more in administration than in actual fighting so he began his service in supplies – making endless lists of of uniforms, boots, belts and their sizes and quantities. Later of course following the outbreak of the Great War he would learn to develop more soldierly skills quickly if he were to survive. Thankfully he did and in 1919 he resigned his position in the army and successfully applied for a position back in Ireland with the then Dublin Corporation as a clerk in their Pump House in Ringsend, again ensuring that he was as far away from the literally dirty end of the stick as possible.
He began work there in November 1919 armed only with a Conklin Crescent fountain pen. This he bought in Bristol with the larger part of his army gratuity for 7 years service. To many at the time this seemed an extravagant purchase for a humble clerk but Charles always had a great love of handwriting and indeed his calligraphy skills had often been in demand among his army buddies and later among his co-workers. What may be more surprising is that the pen he purchased was manufactured by an American company – the Conklin Pen Company – which had been established in Toledo, Ohio, in 1898. By 1903 this company had established a firm foothold in the quality pen market and Samuel Clemens, pen name Mark Twain, was a proud owner of several of their products. Clemens praised the Conklin on two grounds: primarily because it was the first pen that had its filler built in so that, as he pointed out with great delight, this eliminated the need to keep safe not only the pen but its filler as well. The the new Conklin pen had a sac inside which filled with ink by pressing on a crescent shaped piece of metal which protruded from the pen’s body. This design feature greatly impressed the aforementioned author not just for its convenience but also, as he put it, for its role as a “profanity saver” as the protruding crescent prevented the pen from rolling off his desk.
The model Charles purchased was new to the market in the United Kingdom in 1919 and was the Conklin 2. It was not the most expensive model however being a black hard rubber 3/4 length body though with a rose gold filled filigree overlay, about 8 inches long and the date 1919 engraved on the cap cartouche. It was obviously a wonderful instrument nonetheless as Charles used it on a daily basis right up to his death in 1986. Indeed my Aunt Mavis, with whom Charles lived for many years following the death of his wife Elizabeth, remarked recently that on Charles’ death the local bookmaker declared that he would “mightily miss” my grandfather’s beautifully scripted betting slips which always stood out among the rest.
On his burial the pen was placed with him in the coffin so that Charles would be as well equipped for whatever role he would play in the next life as he had been on his return to Ireland almost 70 years previously.
I remember seeing the Conklin in my grandfather’s hand on many occasions as he completed his daily Irish Press crossword but never gave it a second thought. Recently I have begun to scour the internet for Conklin Crescents but so far I have found only one or two in what is described as “fair condition” with an asking price usually hovering around the “offers above $500” mark. And so my search continues for that elusive pen in mint condition but at what price I dread to think. Whether or not I ever purchase such a pen will of course depend on two things: most practical of which will be the price but much more importantly will be my ability to live with the extra burden it will impose on me to write and so justify its purchase price. Somehow or other I do not feel that writing betting slips with it will be enough to salve my conscience.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Alphabet Story By Annette  Brown

Amy struggled to
Begin her piece,her
Concentration fading
Definitely was going.Must be the tiredness.
Each word was pulled out of her tired brain.
Fuzzy thoughts invade
Going to get inspiration soon.
How hard is it to write?!
Inquiring from her neighbour
Just what are we supposed to be writing?
Kindness perhaps
Love was in the air.
Many words eluded her ,that night.
Nowhere to hide
Only  write let it flow.
Possibly the hardest thing to do.
Quite a task
Really a tough job.
Stuck in my mind.
Too tired to write
Utilising my mind.
Very slowly words tumble out.
Worn out
X-ray of my mind,
You did it!
Zebras in my dreams that night.

Friday, March 31, 2017


We all have hair-long, short, thick, fine, straight, curly and the colours too many and varied to be mentioned. Mine, as far as I remember, was always there and was never of much interest to me, well only when my sister instructed our local hairdresser to ‘chop it all off’ and she butchered me!

But to some people their hair was the be all and end all of their existence. Paul was one of those people. You see, Paul’s father would’ve had what he liked to call a ‘high forehead’. Others described him as follically challenged.....he was bald. Paul’s older brothers showed signs of heading along the same path....yep.....the path that ran from the front of their heads all the way to the back. The males, well some of the males, of this family were blessed with mops of curls in various shades all the way down to their shoulders-real ‘woman traps’ as they called them. Unfortunately those with the curls also had the ‘gene’ and as the curls disappeared so did the hair.

Paul was determined that he was not going to lose his hair. In fact he always said “I’ll die with a full head of hair”. Every potion and lotion on the market was bought, usually with somebody else’s money, always ‘borrowed’ but not necessarily with the knowledge of the lender. It was nothing unusual to see Paul washing his hair in the middle of the back garden, in the middle of winter, with fresh old wives tale stating that this would stimulate the hair follicles!! Never was a mirror passed without a sweep, or a tweek and always a check. The hair was the crowning glory.

Paul got his wish though. He did die with a full head of hair but he was only twenty five at the time. My one serious regret is that I didn’t slip a mirror and/or a hairbrush into the coffin with him. His brother, my husband, is bald.....not because of the ‘gene’.......he had a full head of hair until he met me.....seemingly!

Monday, February 27, 2017

A short piece which resulted from a conversation with a man on the train.

Monday, Monday by Gerry Hancock

T.G.I.F. Yeah! Bring on the weekend – free-time and lots of things to do. You can't beat that weekend feeling!
Well for some perhaps but not for all. For others, maybe more than we realise at times, the two day break from work is not so welcome. For some it is a long blank period with nothing to distinguish the day, hardly any reason to get out of bed. They are not bar-flies or clubbers, not habituees of fashionable restaurants or galleries. They have no families to chivy and organise for outings or picnics by the sea or in the country, nor visits to great houses and castles.
They are the weekend lonely, hurting people who don't fit in or have seen life pass them by. They are the eternally shy who slip away from work on Friday evening – that solitary source of personal contact no matter how shallow – to spend two dreary days wishing it was Monday

Friday, February 24, 2017

Hi everyone! Following on from our Feb 2017 meet-up here are some examples of the writing we did on the night.

The two exercises were:

1. You have been honoured with a museum celebrating your life. List 5 objects that have some personal connection for you that would be found in this museum and then write a short piece - maybe 100 words or so - about one of them in the form of a description which might appear beside the exhibit.

2. Write a 26 sentence story where each sentence begins with the next letter of the alphabet. This is an excellent exercise to carry out when you are having difficulties in either finding a subject to write about or need a quick starter.

Exercise 1:

  • Copy of Dubliners
  • Cricket ball
  • Old style cabinet radio/wireless
  • Copy of RTE Guide, Christmas edition
  • Woolly hat
Gerard Marin Hancock purchased the Christmas edition of the RTE Guide religiously every December on the day it hit the shops. The rest of that day and the day following were spent underlining and highlighting in bright colours those programmes he dared not miss over the holiday period. 

The following week was spent in an often vain attempt to convince the two women with whom he shared his life that they too could ill afford to miss the highlighted broadcasts. Unfortunately, his diaries (exhibits 27-84) reveal he was largely unsuccessful in this undertaking than he had hoped. 

However hope being one of those intangibles that insists on springing eternally, The Christmas TV guide continued to be purchased and highlighted until his untimely death at the age of 107.

Exercise 2:
Alphabetical story - Gerry Hancock

Along time ago, before there was history there was myth. 
Back in the mists of time man and the spirits shared the same table. 
Chiefs and peasants were equal in the spirit world. 
Daring deeds were performed on a daily basis. 
Each and every event went unrecorded however. 
For it would be many thousands of years before even an oral tradition would evolve.
Greatest of those myths was the story of Machbrinn. 
How he defeated the Spirit of Darkness was told around fires but then forgotten. 
In this way each generation had its own greatest hero - a hero for their time. 
Just as one hero's fame reached its zenith it was snuffed out. 
Kith and kin could not recall a single event from their family history. 
Later, much later, with the emergence of a  recorded history greater heroes arose whose fame spanned generations. 
Men and occasionally women who performed great feats were celebrated down through the ages. 
Now we live in an age of instant fame and anti-heroes were every event no matter how pedestrian is recorded. 
Only those who negate what went before have standing. 
People no longer look to heroes to inspire them. 
Quite the contrary in fact. 
Revisionism is the new history. 
Stalin wasn't all bad, Collins was flawed, and 1916 was no more than a blood sacrifice. 
Terrible Beauty has no place in this version of history. 
Unfounded allegations assume the status of News. 
Vicious social media trolls are encamped under every bridge. 
We have lost our way. 
Xenophobia is the new patriotism. 
You can feel the change all around you. 
Zorro was never more needed than he is today.

Alphabetically Speaking - Gabrielle Gannon
Ah here, what’s the story.
Can’t! I don’t know how.
Don’t be stupa’.
Easy now!
For God’s sake, shurrup.
Give it up I told ya.
Here! Who died and put you in charge?
I’m Warning ya.
Just chill will ya.
Knock it off.
Listen! Relax!
Make me.
Now you’re being really stupa’!
Oh go way.
Play nicely
Quick! Move or I’ll box ya.
Really yeah
So help me I will.
Use your head.
Very smart aren’t ya.
What about it?
Xrays are what you’ll need.
Yeah right!
Zonin’ out so I am. Zonin’ out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Una Kelly - The Woods

These woods are lovely, dark and deep, the gnarled faced man thought. He hunted for the glass phial. His quest was hampered by having only one working eye left. All the better to seek the glass bottle that held the remedy. He stumbled through the tree tunnel. He passed the site of last year's incident.

In a blinding flash its memory came back to him. 'Seek and ye shall find,' it had said. He was drawn by birdsong to a clearing in the thicket. Raised on a stump was the object of his desire.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gerry Hancock - Random Autobiography

I was the Pride of the Coombe, the old one whose steps now bear Zozimus’ name.
Carried aloft
‘Would you look at the head of hair on that lad!’
‘Never mind the hair, what’s the weight?’
A whopper! 5 kilos the matron said.
‘What’s that in Irish so?’
‘10 pound 10 ounces.’
‘Jesus! Poor woman!’

I was brought home to Fairbrothers’ Fields
Number four in a growing gang and
I was baptised before my mother came home.

I went on a message once with a rolled up note and took it to the Convent School
And presented it to Sister Rose who tutted and sent for Tim
My older brother by thirteen months and he took me home.
It was my best day in school, any school, any day.

Later in the Big School I learned to hurl on a concrete yard
I soon learned not to miss the ball.
Electric shocks down all my arm
Who’d have thought - electrified by concrete.

I've swum with every boy in the Tenters
First in the canal, locks are best - the rubbish too deep to snag your feet.
And then in the Public baths
Not Roman but still aristocratic
Named for Lord Iveagh - a champion of the Poor
And gur cake in St Kevin’s Dairy on the way home.

I've lost foot races, too busy looking around me, so I learned to focus quickly.
I've lost at football and hurling and learned to toughen up
No prize for last, not even for second best.

I lost a dog when I was five but he came back.
I lost him again when he was five
But I think he was too big for our house by then and we were six children now
Da said he went to a farm
I learned that grown ups tell lies too.

I grew up and became a different person
Bought a car, bought a house, bought in.

Before that I had a bike built it with my brother from scavenged bits
And bought a bell for it - my pride and joy
And I bought a record once, a single flat grooved piece of black vinyl
I thought it was the Beatles
I didn't know Peter Sellers spoke ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ too
The shop wouldn't take it back
I went twice, the woman was no better to deal with
An important lesson for many reasons.

I witnessed people passing on
First my Gran, carried out of our house the day they buried Churchill
She would have been delighted to steal his limelight.
I’d heard her sing 'Kelly the Boy from Killane' and tell tall tales
And Mam calling her Mam and telling her not to make a fool of the child
For I repeated every word in school.
I saw her lose her sight and let go of hearing.

When DecĂ­an - number eight came along she said she never misheard worse
To name a child after a deck of cards
What a name for a child and Heaven only bursting out with Saints.

My Dad and Mam passed too though years apart
Angels now I hope for that was their Faith then.

I've seen new life, new love repeat
And have been blessed to see new family join the ranks and add a verse
To an ever growing song of place and family and belonging.

I'm not sure what I want to be when I grow up.

Gerry Hancock - Wonder No More

I always wondered
The world spins ‘round
And we don’t fall off
And the seas don’t spill
And cows look so still
And we don’t hear an earth wind
In our ears
And if we did
And if we fell
Would we go up

And meet the clouds
Because there is
No way down
When you are already
On the ground.
Then I hear a voice
That says
Stop wasting time
And do some work
And be best in class
And get a job
And get on well
And wonder no more...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cathy Beck - Random Autobiography

I was the hoped-for girl after three boys were birthed – fourth time was the charm.
I discovered early that being the youngest and only girl was not a piece of cake, not eazy-peezy. Too much rough-housing with me in the middle. But, I was the apple of Daddy’s eye, the one who wouldn’t disappoint.
I held out hope for similar status in Mama’s heart.
That spot was held by her first born.

I’ve held a life-long fear of snakes – long story.
Stroked a yellow ball python curled around a man’s arm. Once.
Just once. After several gin and tonics ginned up my courage, phony as it was. The yellow beauty was surprising in its dryness and smooth as silk. Warm.
Never again.
I heard the rattle of a snake hiding under a broad hosta leaf. Too close for comfort. Hopefully  
Never again.

I’ve been scared of figments of imagination brought forward by books and film. The Monster from the Black Lagoon, fish-head dripping algae-laden water, reached for me in dreams. Frankensteins’s monster jolted to life in our small attic crawl space during a fierce electrical storm. Cobra Woman lurked at my bedside. I once screamed when I awoke to see through blurred, sleepy vision her head swaying, looking for the deadliest place to strike.
But I once saw the Cisco Kid on his horse Diablo dressed in all their TV finery – black and silver glowing in the sun – riding down Park Street to the delight of every kid in town. When he passed he smiled down at me and said, “Hello Honey.” I occupied cloud nine for weeks. The one and only time Mama pulled me out of school. Still can’t believe she did that.

I saw Robert Kennedy standing on a flat-bed trailer in a shopping center parking lot giving a campaign speech. Who knew then that I’d be crying a few weeks later when yet another Kennedy took a bullet. I watched Daddy shed tears when the first one died. And Daddy was a Republican. Some things really do transcend politics. I witnessed many times Daddy giving the last money in his pocket to someone who needed it more than he. Maybe he wasn’t a Republican after all.

I grew up in Poplar Bluff
Not as sophisticated as Paris, not as lively as London, not as friendly as Dublin, not as beautiful as Florence but it grounded me in real life. I’ve seen the hardships of poverty, I’ve heard people I thought I knew spew racial hatred, I’ve heard stories of hometown folk illustrating extreme hypocrisy.
I also experienced the beauty of nature, the nurturing of an old-fashioned neighborhood, life-long friendships, my first library card, my first love, peaches that ooze juice down my arm and drip off my elbow.
The best.
The best and the worst.
A full life.

CARROWNISKEY, MAYO - after "Knoxville, Tennesse" by Nikki Giovanni.

I always liked Mayo
you ate Granny's brown bread
still warm and moist
and potato cakes
and tarts
and egg sponge
and boiled cake
and lamb chops
and colcannon mountains
that burst open
with golden pools
of butter
that oozes out
flowing like lava
down scallion-flecked slopes
to puddle
on the flowery plate
and feel full
and content
with food that delights
and nourishes.

Mary Finnegan.

Written on a writers' course with Cathy some years back and slightly tweaked in May 2016 and shared today because I found it when looking for something else!!