In Search of My Father 2017 Writing Project

In Search of My Father 2017 Writing Project
In Search of My Father, 2017 writing project supported by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. January 2018, this potential book project is in development.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018


I'll take my chances with plastic but I have much more of a problem with 'leaders', out to promote themselves as tough, bombing the shit out of the landscape and killing people. Oops, collateral damage. I don't think Earth deserves any more wounds. 

Sunday, 6 May 2018


I haven't had the opportunity to read the first collection of poetry by Colin Dardis, The X of Y, but from many Facebook and Twitter posts and a general understanding off his passion for poetry and other issues, I have much faith in him as a writer and ambassador. I point you in his direction.

Here's a link to who he is and what he's about.

Good luck with the book, Colin.

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Friday, 4 May 2018


I am writing a memoir about my father's disappearance. In 1960, he left our Belfast home, his wife and seven young children and pretty much vanished. The next we heard of him was when we were told he had died at 57 in Chapman, London in 1982. Apart from many questions, we were left with the mystery of 22 'missing' years.

A couple of years ago, after a conversation with Damian Smyth, Head of Literature & Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, I received a grant to help cover expenses in researching and writing the story of my father's life.

Over time, it became clear to me that this wasn't just about my father. This was about my mother, the rest of my family and me. And so the story expanded.

In tandem with the memoir, I scribbled together a collection of thoughts and memories in loose poetic form, a collection published by Lapwing (Belfast) called Feathers Ruffled. In retrospect, I jumped the gun and published these pieces without proper editorial advice. But, published they are and I'm sorry if I have irritated some people who have supported me thus far.

The memoir is still in production and a select few have had sight of extracts. Some feedback has been good and helpful. A couple of contacts have yet to reply.

On the advice of a reliable contact, I got in touch with a professional editorial expert with a view to entering into a contract to get the manuscript in shape. The editor was kind enough, after extracts submitted, to respond with three pages of free advice, an extraordinary generous act that has driven me on to produce in a very short time thousands of words on my family's history.

I have reviewed and rewritten a substantial amount of material and feel the flow in is the right direction.

This is a writing project that requires time and not my impatience to get published. The manuscript will be finished and edited professionally. Then, it's a question of who believes in it enough to publish it as a book.

Finally, for those who have not heard it, I was a guest recently on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live with the Reverend Richard Coles, Aasmah Mir and J P Devlin, invited to talk about this story. Here's the link:

Keep the faith.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018


For Pete Hardy

You were a whirlwind,
a man of Jesus,
solid devotion,
no doubts, none at all,
'kids like us' you'd say,
'kids like us' such fun.
We shook hands, had hugs,
yes, those bear-man hugs,
teacher, believer,
a family man,
husband and soul mate,
full of life, belief,
certainty, no doubts,
the end of this life
is a beginning
but you knew that stuff,
all through the darkness,
you saw the bright light
of everlasting
joy, comfort and peace.

Thank you Pete, thank you,
for references,
wise words and stories,
a storyteller,
memorable man.

Rest in peace.

Saturday, 14 April 2018


John Cushnan 1925 - 1982

Over the past year or so, I have been researching and writing a memoir about my family, the core of the story concerning my father who left us in 1960. He never came back home to Belfast. He died at 57 in Clapham, London in 1982. Amongst other things, he left a mystery of 22 'missing' years.

There have been a number of drafts of the manuscript and the latest is well underway after I contacted a professional editor, recommended by someone I trust.

I have yet to fully commit to a firm contract with the editor but already she has provided me with a generous amount of notes and guidance based on some sample chapters I sent. This guidance and steer is proving invaluable in reshaping the narrative and in drawing my attention to dimensions that I had not considered.

She has suggested areas to dig into to strengthen the general background to the story - describing locations, people, living and working conditions in much more depth that I had planned. But it makes perfect sense to (although these are not her words to me) fully analyse the who, what, when, where and why as each of the story's characters takes centre stage.

The advice not to worry about trying to write the perfect book is sound. "Write down everything you want to say, everything you remember, even if you think it might be irrelevant. Don't worry about shaping the story too much or about going off on tangents. The revision and editing process will trim away the fat and suggest what's relevant." 

There's much more in several pages of notes but it is helping enormously. And for now, it is free!

This advice coupled with comments from another independent source is worth its weight in gold. (I am waiting for a third independent response.)


If anyone reading this has knowledge of Clapham in the 1960s/1970s, who frequented the Rose & Crown pub (landlord Jim Nicholson), the Royal British Legion Club (Victoria Rise) or who knew John Kelly, aka John Cushnan who lived in Orlando Road, please get in touch via

Friday, 6 April 2018


After many years as a customer 'servant' in retail management with a little dabble in hospitality and tourism, I understand delivering service from a business's perspective and receiving service as a customer.

I know what service standards should be in theory and the difficulties, sometimes, of putting it into practice.

I think I know what turns customers on and off. I certainly know what turns me on and off. There are shops, restaurants and cafes that will never see another penny piece from me ever for various reasons.

Let me focus in on booking a table in a restaurant.  Here are questions I intend to ask at the time of my phone call:

What is your policy on service charges and tipping? (I loathe pressured or expected tipping, enforced service charges and waiting staff's faces changing from grin to grim if I decide not to leave a gratuity. By the way, it's a reason I pause whenever I consider a trip to the US. The vile and vicious tipping culture is a real bummer brought on by tight-fisted employers. It spreads beyond America with even a 'tips box' becoming a fixture in some establishments.) I will evaluate my decision based on whatever the policy is.

Do you have eardrum-busting music blaring out of the ceiling? (I detest the noise of screeching divas screaming for the highest note just below the white noise of a dog whistle while I am trying to have a conversation.  It is distracting, annoying and totally unnecessary and, no, it does not add any pleasant atmosphere whatsoever. In addition, it is unseemly to have bleeding ears when in company.) If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.

Do you allow dogs? (I'm not a dog person and I find the whole notion of dogs in restaurants abhorrent.) If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.

Do you allow customers to vape at their tables? (I have seen a few examples where this appears to be acceptable in pubs. I saw somebody vaping in a Belfast bar and another in a Chester pub. Noooooo.) If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.

At the time of this phone call, do you already have bookings for cackling hen parties or rowdy stag parties? If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks, although they are unlikely to admit to the prospect of either or both.

Do you have tables underneath heaters that broil customers as they eat or under air-conditioning units that would freeze the orbs off brass monkeys? Er, you don't allow monkeys and dogs, do you? If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.

Booking a restaurant, for me anyway, has become a complicated business...... as you can tell.

Friday, 30 March 2018


I bought this book and paid the full whack, £14.99. 14 fucking 99. What a stupid price for a book that starts 'Reader, we have got you between the covers on a false pretext. This is not exactly a 'how to' manual.' Bastards. I'm thinking TV's Hustle.

But, I read it and found out things that I knew and remembered (duh), things that I knew but had forgotten and things that I never would have thought of in a million years.

I am a 64-year-old wannabee poet, and wider writer. I need to learn. I want to learn. 

This book is a revelation, a teacher, a bully (in the positive sense if that's possible) and a companion with permanent residence in my man-bag.

You get the practical experience of a mouthy (compliment) poet and a seasoned publisher. You get both worlds. You also get guest stars writing stuff that is useful but sometimes highfalutin'.

You get advice on writing, reading, editing, drafting, preparing to get published, getting published, not pissing off editors, impressing editors and all the ballyhoo.

I like this book a lot and I will refer to it many times when I try to write decent words and phrases.

If you are in this world of a wonderful writing arena, find a copy and be prepared to soak up a wealth of experience ...... and to get your ass kicked.

Happy qwertying, folks.

But £14.99? 14 fucking 99? Don't exclude the poor writers in their garrets. A great investment for sure but 14 fucking 99? Make it a tenner and sell more books. 

Much love Nine Arches Press, Jo Bell and Jane Commane. 


Wednesday, 21 March 2018


Since retiring from a near 4-decade retail management career including BHS, Alfred Dunhill, Makro, Asda and Frank Thomas (motorcycle gear), I have devoted a considerable amount of time to freelance writing.

I have had a good run as a radio, book and occasional TV/theatre reviewer for Tribune magazine, thanks to the kindly and receptive George Osgerby.

I have had several features published in the Belfast Telegraph, thanks to the encouraging editor Gail Walker. Other journals have carried my work but none more so than the Bel Tel. Forever grateful. I have written nostalgic pieces and a few personal ones about my family. They have been well received.

I have had a book published about my retail career, Retail Confidential, and one about the Belfast-born 1950s-70s film star Stephen Boyd, he of Ben Hur and The Fall of the Roman Empire, amongst many others. I have self-published some others that could fall under the heading 'humorous'.

I have been writing and pitching a book about my father who, in 1960, left our Belfast home, his wife and seven young children and vanished. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland awarded me support funding to investigate my father's 'missing' 22 years and that story and potential book is still alive and kicking and being considered by experts in the publishing business. Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly? is the title.

This story has attracted the attention of BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Sheffield and BBC Radio 4, the most recent example is my appearance as a guest on Saturday Live with Aasmah Mir and the Reverend Richard Coles. I think the iPlayer link is still live -

I have written a crime thriller called Belfast Backlash featuring a duo, PI Sticky Miller and his sidekick Limp Donnelly. I think it has legs. I have a sequel idea burning away.

I have a 'holiday' project, a screenplay for a western called Seven Pouches. It's slow but getting there, pardner.

I continue to attempt poetry and, more recently, flash fiction, aspects of 'quick' literature that suit me. I have two stories published online at Fairlight Books and hopefully that strand of my writing will continue.

I do not rely on freelance writing to earn a living, so every opportunity to write, every commission, every invitation, every royalty is a bonus. I love doing it.

If you want to say hello or would like to commission some writing, I reside at

Subjects on the back burner:

My 4 years as an examinations invigilator
My Granda Tommy Millar
Eavesdropping - collecting snatches of everyday conversations
Soaps - how on earth do they get away with grim storylines on primetime TV?
Tips, tipping and service charges - don't get me started!
Numerous themes for poetry collections
and others.

Happy reading and writing.


In a time before television
There was the option to sit
At the window and look outwards
Taking an interest in the world
Or at least the street,
Waving to or ignoring passers-by,
Fingering the lace curtains
If something juicy was happening,
A barney of a shouting match, perhaps.
Looking outwards? Nowadays,
We all have better things to do with our time.


Monday, 19 March 2018


I watched others, cockier than me,
Shout themselves to the forefront,
Individuals at pitch volume
Like honking geese leading the V-pack,
Observing, sometimes jealously,
Their chutzpah, their certainty,
Wanting to but not having the guts
To plug myself in to a higher voltage.