LIVE OR JUST DIE

First and foremost. I am not an expert and everything that follows is just opinion, my opinion. This article is about promoting hope and beating fear.  Live and Not just die. The subject is the Coronavirus or COVID-19 which ever term you prefer. Like my last subject it is not a joyous subject, but like the last I cannot turn a blind eye to it.

In the run up to the recent general election in Ireland, the subject of climate change and the threat to our planet looked as if it would be foremost in the people’s mind.  However, the results based on the Green Party return, the main supporters of climate change policies, did not endorse that policy to any great extent. It did not bother me greatly as I do not subscribe to climate change being the greatest threat to mankind and question the control we have over a vast universe.  I do believe though, that man is the biggest threat to mankind.  The weapon of choice is most likely to be chemical or a virus.  Did man contribute to the existence of COVID-19?  The stories of the wet markets in Wuhan born out of the famines of the 1970’s certainly points the figure at man’s contribution to the existence of this virus which now sweeps through the world as I write. Is this the Armageddon virus? … I don’t think so, but it is certainly a wakeup call and then again as I said at the offset, I’m not an expert.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes COVID-19 as a pandemic. Pandemic if a frightening word, but all it means is that it is a disease epidemic that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents, or worldwide.  No surprise.  Is it serious? Obviously, it is, no question, but is it recoverable from? Of course, it is. Let’s not forget that.  Fact, in Wuhan and Northern Italy, the recoveries far outweigh the deaths, though I accept that is little consolation to the deceased or their loved ones. However, I will return to this in a while.

To recover from anything, one needs hope. Unfortunately, hope is being slowly eroded by fear.  Fear that is driven by people both through social media and even sources that were once considered reputable media.  If hope is eroded completely, there is no future and fear will take over which leads to the inevitable of man turning on man.  We have seen it in so many apocalyptic films and books. Maybe for rations, maybe for medicine, maybe for food. Maybe because some nation sees another nation as a weak touch to take advantage of. I hope not for toilet paper though. It is called war.  Nations who disagree on approach may find like two children in the playground who disagree, a primitive resolution.  Fear causes stress. Stress is known to affect your immunity.  Immunity is the one and only weapon you have in your arsenal.  Your body will fight to the last, but you must choose to give it a fighting chance.  Too much stress reduces your firepower.

In coaching parlance, respect the opposition, but do not fear it.  You have only jurisdiction over what you can control. You can control the personal sanitising and hygiene as advised and everyone knows that advice at this stage.  It still doesn’t guarantee the opposition will not find a chink in your defence. We know that there is no cure at the moment other than the battle your body is prepared to put up against it.  Give your body every chance.  Exercise regularly and do not stress your mind. Prepare for the onslaught. You need all your energy to launch that counter attack. The blanket defence will not work. You have to fight back when you are put to the pin of your collar.

A couple of things do come to my mind.  Firstly, this is not the world’s first or only pandemic. AIDS/HIV was one which commenced in the eighties. It is still there but very much in the background of our thoughts.  In 2018, 1.1 million people died from AIDS related illness worldwide.  The WHO estimate that in 2016, that there were 1.35 million road related deaths in the world. Who is afraid to get into a car and drive?  Yet we only have control over our own car, not the many thousands of other cars that are on the road. We’ve all seen the lunatics and it is never us. But we haven’t left that fear stop from living or driving.  WHO also estimate that there are 320,00 drowning deaths per annum in the world. How many of us will not swim because of this statistic? 

In 2016, Cancer was the highest contributor to deaths in Ireland with 30.7% of 30,667 deaths. However, worldwide, the greatest cause of death, is heart related issues including stroke.  It contributed to 30.1% of deaths in Ireland in 2016 or 17.9 million worldwide that year!! I have experienced heart attack twice (November 2016, 10 days apart). I am a survivor. Do I have a fear of it?  Yes, there are times. If I feel odd at all, fear can immerse me for a time. I do have what I call “moments”, some may have noticed. When I hear of a young person or even people around my age, dying from heart related issues, it does give me the shivers. However, when that emotion starts to consume me, I fight it, remembering I have recovered twice. I take my medication regimentally. I exercise to the best of my ability, allowing for two artificial hips. My weakness is probably my diet.  It could be better. But one thing is for sure, mentally my body and mind is up for the battle, should it happen again.  Mentally, I need to be strong and ready for the battle. Believe me reading too much bad news is not useful for developing mental strength. Again, in coaching terms, I focus on my strengths which I can control rather that the uncontrollable strengths of the opposition.

The power of social media is frightening when used indiscriminately. Too many people, who like me are not experts are posting and sharing information that is adding to the fear.  Sharing an article that suits your own thought process is not wise unless you really know the person the wrote it originally. They could easily be a waffler like me! I’m not an expert. You are not an expert. How can you tell if an unknown on social media is an expert?

To that end, it is a fact that there are vastly more people who have contracted COVID-19 and recovered than have died.  Why not share these people’s stories? They have experienced it. Using my heart experiences, they are more expert than anyone who has never had it. They are the people who can give us hope.  Let’s listen to them.  This is not to understate, that people will die, like our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated and the HSE experts.  It is not to reduce the effort put into precautions. Hope is important. And maybe there are people who were in the high-risk category who contracted the virus and have recovered.  Imagine the hope their story would give. Unfortunately, at the moment, people are too interested in the negative numbers rather than the positive stories. Stop people. THINK before you post your badly constructed, poorly spelt reaction or over reaction or blame of someone.  Think will your comment give hope or further despair?

The mentioning of the Taoiseach brings me to a something, I was trying to steer clear of and that is politics. Fact, I have no allegiance to any political party.  I do like the best people to run the country. To be honest the best people are actually cross party.  However, it is worth giving praise where praise is due.  The Government and the HSE are doing a brilliant job in what is uncharted territory.  A situation that changes on a daily, maybe even an hourly basis.  When this is all over maybe people will recognise that the HSE is doing a huge amount of the right things.  I know from my own heart events in 2016, I had no private health insurance, but the care I got was absolutely brilliant and I really appreciate that from the doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, administrators, helicopter crew and aftercare staff at St Luke’s, Kilkenny, Waterford University Hospital and Cork University Hospital.  Some parties and politicians came to the last general election with policies that they knew would never have to be implemented. They were promising the world with untold money, knowing that in reality it would never be tested.  Many of those who wanted change fell for the propaganda. You will note now, how quiet they are and probably how relieved they are at not being in power at this time, because you cannot promise the solution for COVID-19, a cure.  The people will see through that much more quickly.

I would like to finish this blog, by reminding people, that living in fear, is not living.  Hurl clever, and stay mentally strong and positive. Work on your game everyday and keep the spirits in the team high and unified. Victory can be ours!  And if despair does get to much of a burden, use the technology to talk to someone.  Social must not die from the virus. If the technology doesn’t work there is always the option to talk to your God, who or whatever that maybe. It is at times like these, the value of Prayer to give hope will be seen. Because if you do end up in isolation, that God, will be the closest friend you will have.   I hope when this is all over, we (as in the world) will be more honest and caring to our fellow mankind.

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POETRY

 

HOW COULD IT HAPPEN?

Last week I visited Poland and specifically the City of Kraków. It is a typical and beautiful eastern European city and the people are very friendly. Normally, when I go somewhere, I want to write a story about the place and use it as a backdrop to my fiction.  The place normally adds substance and variety to my fiction.  Yes, there was the intriguing and fascinating Salt mines with its underground Church, shop, theatre and restaurants as well as the wonderful House of Illusions, the lovely food from the reasonably priced restaurants, the horse drawn carriages and the brilliant architecture. However, Kraków’s biggest tourist attraction has its own real stories, too brutal and painful for many to hear, but also too true. 

Myself, Sheila, Jennifer and Lisa took in a tour of the concentration or more appropriate extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. There were no souvenir T-Shirts, fridge magnets, calendars or pens for what is the area’s biggest tourist attraction.   There was plenty of stories already there, told in a very solemn manner by the knowledgeable tour guide. The train tracks to the death camps. The accommodation, far from human luxury, crowded and even inhumane for animals.  The stories of torture and separation from family.  The shootings and the hangings were not even the worst. The medical and genetic experiments.  The thoughts of the agony and the failure to catch those final breaths in the gas chambers. The stark reminders with the thousands of shoes, the combs and brushes and pots of all kinds, but must brutality for me, the prosthetic limbs and the tons of human hair. Mostly brown, but made even more harrowing with the random cuts of blonde interspersed. Normal everyday things representing a massive inhumane atrocity.

The thought of the untold cruelty to men and women alike brings huge emotion. Even more grotesque when you consider the horrors inflicted on the children, very young children. Then there is that horrible glee you feel as you see where the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss was hung for his crimes, but there were so many more “humans” involved.  Over a million people were murdered in those extermination camps.  Mainly Jewish and Poles, but not all. There were many other races. How is justice ever achieved for those crimes against mankind?

Being one that always looks for the logic, my overriding thought was “How could It happen?” How could so many of the perpetrators let it happen? Surely as humans we should learn.  Surely it could never happen again. Then that evening I arrive back in the hotel. Turn on the television and watch Sky News.  The story of the refugee camps in Syria is prominent….

THE ONLY THING NECESSARY FOR THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL IS FOR GOOD MEN TO DO NOTHING.

(Edmund Burke)

I do not have an inspiration for any play, novel, short story or poetry after Auschwitz and Birkenau. I do know that in all walks of life, he above saying is so true, yet so often we as people, both men and women often do NOTHING.  I urge you never to forget and learn for the future.

It might sound like I am not recommending Kraków for a visit. On the contrary. I think everyone should visit. It is not all gloom, and do most definitely include Auschwitz and Birkenau, if only for it to serve as a reminder of the cruelty of the human race and the importance battling evil.  Let us never forget those people and what happened, ever.

THE STORY

The Story… If you Google the definition (and everyone loves to Google these days), you get an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.”  This is why when I write, The Story, is the most important aspect of my material, factual or fictional.  I write to entertain, I write to tell a story because everyone has a story and everyone is a story and reading the written, should be entertaining. The academic scholar and literary writer indulge in the extravagant words with exquisite narrative and description. Often the pace and the context of the story is lost in the elaboration of their finely manicured words. My words are more simple than most, but the story is the key.  The Story… Everyone loves a story no matter what the theme, setting or overriding emotion.

We Irish have a huge tradition of storytelling.  The seanchaí of old, pictured by the fireside with an attentive audience, entertained with stories of legend, folklore and current affairs of the time, long before television, Netflix, Amazon and the many other forms of streaming entertainment. The story is what mattered to them. It had to provide entertainment on the long nights before electricity became available.  The Irish culture is traditionally a social one and storytelling is the foundation that it is built upon. We love to socialise, from the fireside, the graveside, the church wall to the pub, the local shop or sports facility. We love to meet, talk, gossip and have a laugh. It is probably one of the reasons why we became known as the land of saints and scholars and produced so many renowned writers. Those special interactions. Even the guy on the bar stool regaled his audience with the story. His words and grammar were not always the best, but his story mattered and adapted versions would be narrated in workplaces and other hostelries thereafter.

Recently, I was at a book launch in Langton’s, Kilkenny. The book is called “Uncover, Discover, Recover” by Fergus Heffernan. Fergus is a man I have come to know and respect over the years through my hobbies of Drama and the GAA. The book is his story. It was a very good and intriguing launch with excerpts of the book read by local drama group members to great dramatic effect.  I have to admit I am very slow to read books and it will take me some time to finish it, mainly due to all my hobby demands and reading shorter articles in my thirst for quick knowledge. (I know! A bit hypocritical for a writer). It could possibly take me a few months to complete. Although I had no idea before the launch what the book was going to be about, I get the gist of the story from the launch and the bit I have read. It has two strong threads of suicide and sexual abuse both underpinned by mental health. I have known and respected Fergus for many years and the content surprised me. I did not know or even guessed. Just goes to show. However, it his story and it takes a lot more courage to write your own story, especially that story, than the fiction that I write. Fair play to Fergus.  I do hope the end of his written story offers hope and I am confident it will, because Fergus was there to launch the book himself, with a smile, to a huge, diverse and enthralled audience.

Hope is one key component of my stories. No matter what the content or context, I want my stories to give hope. Hope that they live happily ever after. Hope that they will find a way. Hope that they can live with the consequences. Hope that it will be better. Hope that there will be more. Hope is a belief in a better tomorrow. If you have hope at the end of a story, your story, the story has touched you, life gets better. 

The stories, I write are fiction, but many, particularly the Irish based ones are based on real life events. Others, particularly the westerns, are the product of my wild imagination. But they all tell a story. As I said previously we all have a story and we all are a story. Our stories entertain. Our lives entertain. Even the sad and tragic ones entertain and capture our imagination and empathy. Entertainment is not always about the happy emotion, but hope is. We Irish love to ask “anything strange, exciting or new?” The answer is more often than not “No.” But the truth is our lives are exciting when you think about it and every day is actually different and sometimes even strange.  The story is different every day, albeit similar. And maybe it is that similarity that causes us to miss the subtle differences. We are all diverse characters in one huge big story called Life.

My characters are often composites of people I know or the person I would like to be. We all strive to be someone else, better than what we are, but how many of us achieve that? Few I suggest. But writing and the story allow us to get close. It allows me to get close.  If you love a story and who doesn’t, I believe you will be entertained by the stories I tell. My website and online published library is now over two years old. I am disappointed with the number of people who visited here and/or have read any of my stories, plays, novels etc. My stories have to be read to have life, provide entertainment, to give hope. I really appreciate those that have taken the time and especially those who have gave me feedback, positive or negative.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are good friends. I need more people to read and share my content. That is my ultimate hope for 2020.  As I said at the start, everyone loves to Google.  Why not Google into my stories this Christmas. Share with friends and relations. Be entertained. Find hope. Most of all… Savour the Story!

THE WILD WEST

BLOOD BATTLE (Click to read), is my latest short story published here. The American Civil War and the aftermath of the Battle of Amelia Springs, Virginia in 1865 is the setting for a game of cat and mouse between a Union soldier and a Confederate soldier as they fight for their principles in a battle for survival and death. I would consider it possibly my darkest piece to date in that it highlights the horrors of war and especially that of a Civil War. In fact, it could be adapted for a civil war in any country. I have used the American Civil War as the basis because of my long love of the America of the 1800’s, the wild west, the frontiers and all the Western films I loved growing up and still love with a passion.  Growing up, watching Westerns was a simple innocent pleasure. We’d watch them, then we’d go out and play Cowboys and Indians (Native Americans) on make believe horses with toy guns, or make-believe sticks or hurleys. A bit like after watching a great hurling match and then playing the All-Ireland in the garden or field. It is only as time moved on, I noticed the sad undertones of racism, violence including sexual and lawlessness that these films contained. However, at the end of the day they were primarily about good versus evil where more often than not the good guy won and there was rarely ambiguity about the ending.  The high moral ground was generally successful and life’s lessons were always positive. Most Westerns were set against the fabulous background of the wild west with beautiful mountains, rivers, hills and forests underneath wonderful blue skies or battling the strength of storms that mother nature can throw. All showcased the best and most powerful that nature has to offer. For the reasons of morals and nature, I do not apologise for my passion and love of the Western.

My writing has regularly used the Western theme for these reasons. THE MAJORS WIFE set during the Arizona Indian wars of 1869/70, started life as a one-act play before I turned it into a short story.  (Both are available on the site). A relationship triangle based in a real historical setting tells the story in a simple way even if relationships are never simple. My first real full-length play was HUNTERS FOR REVENGE and it is set in a saloon in Texas, 1885. We all love heroes, enough said.  THE BALLAD OF SAM STONE is a short story set in the famous Arizona town of Tombstone in 1881. It started life as an epic poem about a gunslinger before merging into the short story. Westerns are not about gadgetry, but they are about people and emotions and their story. This is what make the stories simple while also giving huge curiosity. My first novel which I started writing (and never finished) at the age of 10, “The United Family” was also a Western, loosely based on the John Wayne film, “The Sons Of Katie Elder”.  It started in the West and there will be more.

Arizona is a location that you will notice that I often use. I was there at the Grand Canyon in 1985 on my tour of America with my friend Dick Walsh. It is without doubt the most awesome natural site I have ever seen.  No picture or video can do the depth and colours justice. So, for my holidays this year I wanted the “Cowboy” experience, (I know, I am a cowboy!). Therefore, Sheila and myself headed to Arizona and the Mohave Desert. We started in Las Vegas (Worth a day/night at best, but very plastic). Then we headed to the Grand Canyon. Wow! As awesome as ever.  Then we stayed in a lovely quaint town called Williams on Route 66. The next day we made our way to Utah and the absolutely brilliant picturesque Navajo property of Monument Valley. The red rock formation many will see on your standard Microsoft wallpaper is here.  For me it was more than that. This was the location for the classic John Ford directed, John Wayne starred Western, “The Searchers” as well as their other collaborations, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” and “Fort Apache”. This was Western heaven. I cannot express the wonder I had on the 17-mile sand covered loop drive through the valley. It was almost as if civilisation had never arrived, its beauty was so raw.  This epitomised the setting for so many Westerns. It made us think about the pioneers in their covered wagons as they headed across the vast wilderness with no sign of civilisation, little water and definitely no GPS. They were tough people!

The final stage was back to Arizona and Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch via a small quaint mining town called Oatman also on Route 66, a village in the Black Mountains.  We drove up a very narrow mountain pass to get there although there was an easier way which we found out after arriving. Oatman is named after Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who had been taken captive by Indians during her pioneer family’s journey westward in 1851 and forced into slavery. She was later traded to Mohave Indians, who adopted her as a daughter and tattooed her face in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1856 at Fort Yuma, Arizona. Many donkeys roam the streets and they are the descendants of burros brought there by the miners in the late 1800s; when the miners no longer needed them, they were turned loose. Each morning they come into town looking for food. They wander the streets and greet the tourists. Shortly before sunset they wander back to the hills for the night.

Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch is a ranch in Yucca in the Mohave Desert. It is an 18-mile sandtrail from the main road and an hour from the nearest shop. It is an oasis in the wilderness of the desert.  The Proprietors were wonderful people (of Irish descent) and made you feel part of their family on the ranch.  The food was glorious and what a super feeling sitting outside around the camp fire under the moonlit and star lit sky as coyotes howled in the background. Miles from anywhere but yet somewhere so magnificent and special. Nature is its foundation and its roof. The highlight for me was riding the trail on the painted horse, Amigo (pictured) or Piebald as he’d be called in Ireland. We were great together. Particularly just after sunrise as the temperature was very comfortable and there was hardly a breeze. We headed out into the desert strewn with the Joshua Tree on sandy, stony trails. The silhouetted shadow of myself on Amigo looked so tall as I gazed down to my left. For those moments I was the great Western characters played by Audie Murphy, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, James Stewart and Gary Cooper. I was in those films I deem iconic. Those already mentioned plus “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly”, “High Noon”, “Cat Ballou”, “Maverick”, “The Quick Gun”, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, “A Few Dollars More”, “The Quick And The Dead”, “Pale Rider”, “Unforgiven”, “High Plains Drifter”, “Apache Rifles”. “How The West Was Won”, “Dances With Wolves”, “The Fastest Gun Alive”, “The Quick And The Dead”. The list is almost endless. This was living the dreams of my childhood.  I was the cowboy!

Admittedly, with two artificial hips, it wasn’t easy to get on or off the American saddle horse, but once I was up, my world and my imagination merged as I rode off into the brilliant sunsets where the sky seemed to turn into an inferno.   The Wild West is a passion. It is one of my passions. Las Vegas could not compete because it is man made and nothing man has created can compete with what God gave us in the first place. If you love the Wild West and/or Westerns, these places are a must for any bucket list. Ireland and Kilkenny are beautiful too and also a massive love for me. It is a different type of beauty, but there is nothing to say you can have only one passion when it comes to the world and nature. It is not unfaithful, just spreading the love and passion for our beautiful world.

Enjoy BLOOD BATTLE or reading some of my other Western material. Share with your friends who might be of a certain vintage. Let me know what you think of the stories. Publishers always welcome!

ADULT CLUB COACHING SESSIONS – PART 1

Coaching GAA is infinite learning process. Be it hurling, football or Camogie, like the top players, the top coaches or managers are always striving for perfection. Having coached and managed in all codes, club and county at all levels over the years, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that things are entirely different now to be successful as compared to even a decade ago. Everyone is looking for that little edge. That slight advantage that will tilt the balance of success in favour of their team. In this first GAA coaching blog, I open up for discussion what has evolved over the last four decades in club coaching with a key focus on what I believe in principle are the ingredients of a good adult club “training” session.

Back In the seventies, a typical club training session consisted of lads hitting the ball (often just A ball) to each other until everyone was ready. Then two lads would pick teams for a match or something unscientific like throw the hurl’s in and randomly divide, often ending up with two crazy uneven teams. Play continued until lads got tired of it and then headed to the pub if it was open.  If fitness was required, a few laps of the field. The more fitness needed, the more laps. It was rare that science was used. Over the years the concept of drills, drills with cones, drills with more cones, warm ups and warm downs, stretching exercises, core stability building and nutrition added to the evolving science of the club training session. Science and now mental preparation are the main advantages pursued.  The better you are at these the better your chances of success.

Now the majority of club players who are serious about their sport put in the time and they have to if they want to be part of a successful team. Each individual is an important cog in a team and indeed a squad as the more lads pushing hard in the squad, the greater the encouragement from within. They practice the skills on their own. They go to the gym or do their own fitness training. They take care of their own nutrition.  The top players even at club level are way more educated on what is required than their predecessors.  Therefore, as a coach or manager you have to decide how best to make use of the short time you have with the players. And it is short. At best you will do two training sessions a week of about 90 minutes. When you take out the mandatory warm up and cool down, that leaves at best, 2 hours per week or 1% of the week to work with the players themselves as a group. Very little when you consider it is a team sport. So as coach/manager you have to use that time efficiently for the greatest gain of the team in a competitive sport.  That means trusting your players to do the individual work themselves. That is the culture than underpins success.

The themes of Team, Enjoyment and Competitive are key. Those 2 hours must be about the team, must be competitive and must be enjoyable. It is their hobby too. Therefore, there is little or no room for the circus act of cone to cone drills in group sessions for adults. Anyone could take part in these, even me!  They are adults and need to be treated as such.  Surely they all know how to rise the ball, catch it and strike it, etc. at this stage.  If you are still teaching adults the basics, you are in real big trouble. The level of how good depends on their own commitment to their own practice and each will be different so a general drill rarely helps the majority of players. You would be lucky if 2 or 3 gain from any single general drill.

The focus of the group session must be about how the team works together, the game plans (note plural), understanding what their team mate can do. Becoming aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their team mates so that together they can perform to the optimum level.  There must be enjoyment and people play the sport which they enjoy and GAA sport is in the form of team matches.  So matches must play a huge part in the group session.  Those matches should be competitive. There must be a score, a result and an aim to win. There must be an incentive to win for the individual match and for the overall. This is where Training Leagues play their part.

These are the components that make the session competitive. That’s what makes your team competitive. That’s what will bring the intensity to your training session which becomes the sandbox for your match day performances.

As an example, your 90 minute session for hurling could be something like this.

  • 20 minute warm up incorporating all the main ball skills and dynamic stretching.
  • 20 minute team play development (tactics) which covers things such as puck out strategy and includes physical replication.
  • 40 minute match – Vary teams, score matters, league points allocated.
  • 10 Minute cool down

That’s an example in its simplicity though each component does require a level of detail and planning and should not be over repetitive. The challenge is to make sure the match incorporates the team play development in practical terms. Even adults look forward to the training match. Imagine the enthusiasm of the players to turn up if they knew every session would have 50% match and that match would be competitive and matter.

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” Babe Ruth

In general what you are doing is combining the individual skills learned by each player in their juvenile development years into more powerful concoction as a group. Putting the pieces of the jigsaw in the right places and making them perform together and better. Together Everyone Achieves More! This is just an overview at a high level but hopefully, you get the gist and understand the concept. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or just to make a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

THE SNOWBALL THAT’S JAMIE

To start this month’s blog, it is a Happy 21st Birthday to my son Jamie Peter Norris. That was the easy bit. Having written poetry for my daughters Jennifer and Lisa, it would be pertinent to do something for Jamie though he may not thank me nor did he ask me, but that’s fine too. This task did not sit easy at all as inspiration failed me and given my quirky dislike for poetry, it was a challenge that beat me.  However, in parallel, a number of artistic ideas were flowing around the eerie maze that is within my head.

One was inspired by a film that I really like called “The Shawshank Redemption”. Most of you will know it. I was always under the misconception it was based on a Stephen King short story and wondered how a short story could become such a detailed and brilliant film. I wanted to write a short story that could be turned into a film like that, but could not figure out how I could reduce the words to succeed. Then I discovered it was actually based on a Stephen King novella called “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”.  A novella is a long short story or a short novel with the word count generally varying between 20,000 and 40,000 words.  Now I was in the right territory. A novella beckoned, but on what subject.

In another parallel sphere, I was getting to the end of watching the TV series, “Castle”, one of my favourite US Crime dramas. I love the chemistry and wit between the main protagonists, Rick Castle and Kate Beckett and to be fair she is not half bad looking.  A thing that baffles me about US television police dramas, is the use of last names when calling each other.  The Cops almost always call each other by their last name or surname. Even when Rick Castle and Kate Beckett got married they still most often called each other Castle and Beckett rather than Rick and Kate. The trend was noticeable in other similar genre programmes like “Blue Bloods” and “Rookie Blue”. I think perhaps it is a North American thing. Then, coincidentally after one episode which I had discussed the phenomenon with Sheila, the following day, I was unexpectedly called “Norris” by a work colleague, ‘out of the blue’, to stick to the blue theme. No harm meant. It just made me think that it is unusual in Ireland, a bit American in fact. I didn’t find it offensive but it did give me a thought. How would an Irish crime drama go where the protagonists and characters only used first names? That would be more Irish and different. It would contrast with the Americans and I reckon it would be unique.  But what name to choose?

As I was looking for inspiration for a poem about Jamie, the thought occurs, why not Jamie for the main character? Not a bad name. I gave Jamie Norris the name (with Sheila of course). Why not borrow it back so to speak? It’s a good name for a lead character, but a novella is a huge leap from a poem.  But hey let’s see where it goes, I thought. I wanted the theme to be an Irish crime thriller, set locally in the South and South-East of Ireland and incorporate places that I know well.  The characters would only be known by the role or their first name unless there I was referencing real people rather than fictitious people.

Around the same time as inspiration was growing, I went to the “Cowboys and Heroes” festival in County Leitrim, a country and western festival headlined by the singer Lisa McHugh.  Really enjoyed my weekend in the North West and Lisa McHugh, so I introduced a Country and Western singer into the plot. This gave me the opportunity to write the lyrics of song which I called “Jamie(Click link for lyrics) for the purposes of my Novella plot rather than a poem. Not exactly about my son Jamie, but it is called “Jamie” in a novella called “Jamie”. It was as close as inspiration could bring me.  A leap and a small compromise. If any reader with a female country and western background wants to put the music to it, please contact me. At the moment, it is just words.

From here the novella snowballed into my most risqué piece of work yet. It is definitely not suitable reading for young people with murder, bad language, sexual innuendo and nudity involved but honestly no wildlife was really harmed in the writing of my first novella.  Locals will recognise scenes around Kilkenny especially Piltown, Hugginstown, Windgap and Paulstown, in Tipperary, Grangemockler and Carrick-On-Suir, as well as Mahon and Fota in Cork and Tinryland in Carlow.

To my son Jamie, enjoy your birthday and thanks for the inspiration and the use of your name.  Thanks to rest of my family who throw their eyes to heaven on a regular basis. To my work colleagues at Glanbia whose actions and words inspired different elements of the story, plot and characterisation.  I know you are a covert reader, but always delighted to have you as I target double figure readership.  Please read my debut novella, “Jamie” and share with your adult friends. To US crime drama fans, your crime drama has now been given a unique Irish slant.  To publishers, it’s new, it’s different and it’s Irish! Read it and try not to weep.

JAMIE

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SUPERWOMAN

Happy 81st Birthday to Eileen Norris (Da Mammy) on Thursday (28th March). A harder working woman you will never find. A really proud and independent woman who has huge pride in her children and her grandchildren and all her family and dozens and dozens of cousins. I have dedicated my latest poem to her. All the writing I’ve done, I have never written about her before. So hopefully she won’t kill me and people will enjoy this short tribute called Eileen.

GDPR – THE RIGHT TO REMEMBER

Some digression to a more debatable issue in this month’s blog.  GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas. It affects businesses, but it also affects voluntary organisations. Many businesses have the resources in terms of people and finances to cater for GDPR, but there is no way voluntary organisations have the resources.

The most worrying aspect is the “right to be forgotten” or the” right to erasure” which is included in GDPR. It provides that the data subject has the right to request erasure of personal data related to them on any one of a number of grounds, including noncompliance. From a voluntary organisation point of view, this means deleting all references to a person both hard and digitalised once they have finished with the organisation.  This is effectively erasing history.  This is a hornet’s nest!

For example when a player retires who has the unfortunate record of having played in and lost a dozen county finals, all of which he wants to forget.  Should he/she really have the right to have that information erased from the record books?  Or if a player holds the record for the most championship red cards, he/she can make the dubious record disappear after retirement.  In a hundred years’ time and if GDPR is implemented in full there will no such thing as history as governments, businesses, voluntary organisations, historical groups will all find they will have to clear their information and data due to the fear of non-compliance with GDPR and potential fines of up to a €20 million or up to 4% of the annual turnover. For a GAA club or county board or any sports or voluntary group, that 4% is huge.   

If GDPR existed in 1916, would we now know who the signatories of the Irish Republic Proclamation were?  Would any names exist on the World War 1 memorials in Kilkenny or Callan? If the ancient Egyptians had GDPR, would we be able learn as much from the Egyptian hieroglyphs?  If the hardcopy minutes of the initial meeting which founded the GAA in Hayes Hotel, Thurles in 1884 had to be destroyed or erased, would we now know who founded the GAA?   Would we know what players played in that first All-Ireland in 1887?  These are just a few examples of information that could and would have been erased if GDPR existed to satisfy the “right to erasure”.   What history will remain in another 100 years with GDPR?  Tracing family trees or biological parents will have to become non-existent. History will become obsolete if GDPR is a success.

GDPR was probably aimed at big social media and technology companies. Data protection was all that most people really wanted specifically bank accounts and medical information; let’s face it as long as nobody can get at our money!  The “right to protection” part of GDPR should have been enough.    Your email address and telephone number in a transient modern world is the modern equivalent of your home address. In the past people knew your home address in order to contact you, post a letter and send a bill. Now it is by phone or email or electronically.  This information does not need to be a secret.  Your email address and mobile contact number should be known. It is your contact identification.

Although, GDPR has yet to be challenged in the courts, many businesses and organisations wait with baited breath for the first high profile case. In my opinion, the “right to remember” and the “right to have memories”, should far outstrip the “right to be forgotten” or the” right to erasure”. If it doesn’t then mankind is on a slippery slope to erasing people’s memories. Is this really a road to go down?  No memories, no history, no records, no accuracy, no past! It is from the past we learn, so let’s not forget how much we learned from our predecessors on this earth who recorded information, data and pictures. Let’s remember then it is our responsibility to continue recording information for those in the future.  Let’s not erase or forget our human right to be remembered and our human right to have memories.  Nobody has the right to be forgotten even if they want to be forgotten. Nobody should be forgotten.  Forgotten is a lonely place when you are alive.  Let the memories and the right to be remembered triumph!

ENDS AFTER SWEET SIXTEEN

Juvenile GAA ended for the three lads (Jennifer, Jamie & Lisa) on Sunday (13th January 2019) at John Locke Park when Lisa played in the2018 Minor Roinn A Camogie Final against Young Irelands of Gowran. It ended 16 years of juvenile GAA for our family which started when Jennifer attended her first club coaching session on Wednesday 5th February 2003 in Piltown, indoor hurling. It was a disappointing end with Piltown going down to Young Irelands but having said that there have been so many good and even great days for us as a family. Ending with a Roinn A final is more than fitting to sixteen brilliant years of sport, recreation and enjoyment.

It was 16 years of huge enjoyment for all of us. For the lads the GAA team sports allowed them the opportunity to meet friends for life and to develop positively as people. It allowed them to develop their physical skills and gave them regular participation in healthy exercise. It developed their confidence and taught them leadership skills and how to work well with others in a team scenario. It made them better communicators and taught them the importance of respect and discipline. It also helped them understand organisation and time management. So many of life skills harvested in a mostly enjoyable atmosphere. All this before I mention the huge enjoyment of the successes they have achieved in the games at club, school and county level. In fact, the Norris “children” have more winners’ medals in Piltown across All the Juvenile GAA codes than other family in Piltown (Listed at the end of this blog, just the winners and excluding tournaments). In summary, 5 All-Irelands, 6 Leinster, 7 Munster, 14 Kilkenny Championships, 3 Kilkenny Leagues, 2 Kilkenny Shields and 1 Tipperary Championship! In 2016, all three captained victorious teams across three different codes. I say this with huge pride in what they have achieved.

For Sheila and me, it has brought huge enjoyment and pride to us both. For us, it gave us a social life, gave us plenty of friends around the county and far beyond. By actively being involved ourselves in coaching and administration including setting up the first Ladies Gaelic Football club in Piltown, it gave us plenty of challenges but we felt part of something really special. Sheila has gone all the way to being the top Camogie administrator in Kilkenny by taking the role of County Chairperson. I believe she is one of the best GAA administrators in the country let alone the county. I have coached across all codes at both club and county level and notched a couple of All-Irelands along the way as well as getting to work with some of the legends of GAA. I believe my coaching and management ability has grown significantly over the years and has been helped no end by having first hand interaction with the lads in the challenges and opportunities they faced along the rocky road. Both Sheila and I have had success in our own right and that is important for us as people.

We always loved the GAA, but knew very early that we could not force our interests on the three lads. They had to grow to love and enjoy the games in their way. We did take the approach of strong encouragement, even when things go against you. However, the best encouragement was to lead by example and take on the roles that we have done with enthusiasm, vigour and originality. That way, we could be part of their social recreation and they ours. It didn’t mean that we always had to train them, but it did mean we always had to support them. But like every parent we were the initial coaches, something we both did in our own way and using our own skills, physical and mental. I’d like to say they got their GAA skills from me, but the truth is they all worked hard to develop their own skills which far outweighed that which I achieved as a player. However, I do think I have influenced their thinking and mental approach. We do take huge pride in their achievements to date. We do hope they continue to play for many more years and when the playing stops that they consider options in coaching, administration or officiating. Jennifer has already become the National Secretary of the CCAO (the body responsible for 3rd Level Camogie including the Ashbourne Cup). I believe there is so much more enjoyment for us as a family to have.

I hope this blog may be inspiration for other parents who might have dreams and ambitions for their kids but like us wanted the kids to develop their own dreams and ambitions and are worried how to achieve and encourage it. Yes, it does involve hard work, lots of time, but the rewards and enjoyment are fantastic and limitless. The proof is in the pudding after a sweet sixteen years.

LIST OF HONOURS WON BY JJL

CAMOGIE
All-Ireland Minor Championship (Kilkenny 2013)
All-Ireland Under-14 Community Games Bronze (Piltown 2009)
Leinster Minor Championship (Kilkenny 2012)
Leinster Under-14 Community Games (Piltown 2009)
Munster Senior Colleges C League (Scoil Mhuire 2013)
Kilkenny Minor Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2012)
Kilkenny Minor Roinn C Championship (Piltown 2011)
Kilkenny Minor Roinn A League (Piltown 2015/2018)
Kilkenny Under-16 Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2011)
Kilkenny Under-16 Roinn A League (Piltown 2013)
Kilkenny Under-14 Féile Na nGael (Piltown 2012)
Kilkenny Under-14 Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2009)
Kilkenny Under-14 Roinn A Shield (Piltown 2013)
Kilkenny Under-14 Community Games (Piltown 2009)
Kilkenny Primary Schools Roinn A (Piltown 2010)

HURLING
All-Ireland Under-17 (Eugene Carey) Plate (Kilkenny 2015)
Leinster Under-15 Shield (Kilkenny 2013)
Munster Senior Colleges D Championship (Carrick CBS 2013)
Kilkenny Under-16 Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2013)
Kilkenny South Under-13 Championship Roinn B (Piltown 2011)
Tipperary Post Primary Schools Under-17 “B” (Carrick CBS 2015)

GAELIC FOOTBALL
Kilkenny Under-16 Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2012)
Kilkenny Under-14 Roinn B Championship (Piltown 2012)
Kilkenny Under-14 Roinn C Championship (Piltown 2010)

LADIES GAELIC FOOTBALL
All-Ireland Senior Colleges Roinn A (Scoil Mhuire 2016)
All-Ireland Junior Colleges Roinn C (Scoil Mhuire 2014)
Leinster Under-16 Roinn C (Kilkenny 2011)
Leinster Under-16 Roinn C Shield (Kilkenny 2010)
Leinster Under-14 Blitz Division 3 (Kilkenny 2009)
Munster Senior Colleges Roinn A (Scoil Mhuire 2016)
Munster Senior Colleges Roinn B (Scoil Mhuire 2014)
Munster Senior Colleges Roinn C (Scoil Mhuire 2013)
Munster Junior Colleges Roinn C (Scoil Mhuire 2014)
Munster Junior Colleges Roinn D (Scoil Mhuire 2012)
Kilkenny Under-16 Blitz Shield (Piltown 2010)
Kilkenny Primary Schools Roinn B (Piltown 2008)
Kilkenny Under-16 Roinn B (Piltown 2016)
Kilkenny Under-14 Roinn B (Piltown 2014)

FIRST ANNIVERSARY – CHRISTMAS REUNION

The website is one year old today! As members of the smallest author fan club in the world I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you for looking at the website and its content at least once in the past year. Thank You.

Due to the special day that is in it and the festive period that is coming, I’m relaunching the full length play script called “Christmas Reunion” CHRISTMAS REUNION

The play was first launched in 1997 (21 years ago!), but is one that has never been performed. Set between 1985 and 1995, it may bring back some nostalgic moments for some and raise emotions for other in what I’d like to think is a festive thriller. What better for the festive season than some chocolate and a drink of your choice with some tissues next to you reading and weeping (hopefully for the right reason). Then add in some mystery and maybe some happy moments and you have a typical Christmas classic. I hope you can stay awake until the end but don’t tell me what happens at the end!! I like the suspense.

Unfortunately on the downside to manage costs of the website, I have to increase the fan club membership fee by 10%. You can all do the math on what you paid this year yourself.  Next year I’m hoping to grow the social media following and maybe even my Mother might follow me if she gets broadband in the new year! (Doubtful!). It would be great to get a following on my social media platforms but more important have people read my works and spread the word and share works. Welcome to any publishers. Please like and share my content.

Feliz Navidad

Seamus D. Norris