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Thursday, 13 June 2019

MY ITINERARY - BELFAST BOOK FESTIVAL'S LAST 3 DAYS

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan



Okay, here is my itinerary for the next three days, Friday to Monday at the Belfast Book Festival: 

Friday, I land at George Best City around 08.40.

Coffee at The Mac with brother Kevin soon after.

Friday, 3.00pm  Waterstones - The Fantastical Mirror: Science Fiction Across Boundaries. I know nothing much about science fiction and I don't recall ever reading an SF novel. But I am interested in how creative writers think. So, looking forward to it.

Friday, 6.00pm Crescent Arts Centre Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers. I am from a working class background but now I don't feel working class. Not sure what class I am, if I am a class.  Strong panel here to enlighten me about writing from a particular background.

Saturday, 2.00pm Crescent, celebration of the Open University at 50. As an OU BA Hons grad, always proud to hear about and be part of this amazing organisation.

Saturday, 4.00pm Crescent, Twelve Thousand Days by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne. Looking forward to this re my own attempt at memoir.    

Saturday evening, dinner with a lot of my family. Can't wait.

Sunday, 12.00 am/pm, Babel at Bullitt Hotel, 'Yes' Molly's Soliloquy, chapter 18, James Joyce's Ulysses - and there's brunch and, cough, a cocktail! What's not to like.

Sunday, 8.00pm, Crescent, Roddy Doyle in conversation with Glenn Patterson. I mean, what? Literary royalty, right there. Excited.

Lots of time in between to spend time with family, old friends, new friends, and just enjoying a world of words and pages and books and associated wonders.

Bring it on. Belfast, I'm coming home.


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

NEW YORK: A CARELESS MISTAKE AND AN ACT OF KINDNESS

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


Last year, I entered a competition, connected to the film Ocean's 8, to win a three night break in New York. I'm just back from there and it was a great experience - a very nice hotel, lunch at The Met, sightseeing, shopping, dining, and a few hundred dollars spending money. But I'll not bore you with the details. Rather, I'd like to mention one thing, amongst a number, that impressed me.

Included in the package was an executive car to take us from and back to JFK airport. On the return journey home, the car arrived promptly and off we went. I was in the back seat with my wife. The driver had his radio on and we heard the news that a helicopter had crashed into a high-rise building in Manhattan, in an area we had been only about a half hour before. As we listened, I received a text from my brother Kevin asking if we were okay and I responded we were. I texted my sons to let them know we were fine and on the way to the airport. I kept my phone out in case other messages pinged.

At the airport, we got out of the car, paid the driver and hauled our suitcase to the check-in desk when it occurred to me that I had left my phone in the back seat of the car. Now, the route from Manhattan to JFK is traffic madness, no make that utter madness, and God knows where the driver was ten minutes after he had dropped us off. Whilst I had the number of the car company, three attempts to ring failed to connect. Then, my wife had the brainwave for me to use her phone to phone my phone. This I did and the driver answered.

To cut a long story short, he told me to wait outside the departures door and he would return to the airport with my phone. A quarter of an hour later he arrived handed over the phone, graciously accepted my apology with a "No problem sir" and went on his way again.

Moments like this stay with me. I could talk about the big stuff, the touristy things and all that jazz, but little acts of kindness are not forgotten. I had thought that my phone may well have been lost forever, based on a stereotypical impression of tough-ass Big Apple taxi drivers, but no. This man saved the day and is embedded in my memory's hall of fame.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SMOKING WITH STYLE?

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan

 


Many people frown on smoking and more recently on vaping, and I am one. I don't really care if people choose to smoke or vape but I do care about smoke-clouds and sickly-sweet vapour that hit me in the face as I am walking through town. Ghastly.

Even though it is not my cup of tobacco, there was a time when smoking could be done with grace and dignity. I think of Cary Grant and Lauren Bacall, two personifications of style. However horrible I think it is, and if I was forced to choose, I'd prefer the classy smoker to some of the puffing Billys and Berthas who roam the pavements and stand in pub and bookie doorways.

Today, I watched a young lad vaping like it was a minute to the end of the world. There was a nanosecond between each inhalation and blow. His head really was in the clouds. Two women stood chatting, both smoking and belching out cumulonimbus-thick layers that hung dreamily above them for a few seconds after each exhalation.

We are in the slalom generation when it comes to walking in towns as we dodge and weave our way through advertising boards cluttering the pavements as well as inconsiderate and oblivious bipeds, spatially unaware and unconscious to the fact that they are being a bloody nuisance.

But then, don't get me started on manners and social behaviour!




Tuesday, 4 June 2019

ENTERING COMPETITIONS - A HOBBY THAT PAYS OFF (SOMETIMES)

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


Soon, I will be flying off to New York, on a 5-star luxury trip, all expenses paid, thanks to a competition I entered relating to the film Ocean's Eight. Lucky guy!

Luck.  Here's the Chambers definition:

luck noun 1. chance, especially as it is perceived as influencing someone's life at specific points in time. 2. good fortune. 3. events in life which cannot be controlled and seem to happen by chance...........

"You make your own luck" is one of those glib expressions that work colleagues and bosses have said occasionally over the years. I have never believed that. How can you make something happen with certainty that is down to the roll of the proverbial dice? You can have a go, make a bet, buy a lottery ticket, enter a competition, apply for a job, etc, etc but you can't make those things a certainty for you unless you cheat or enter into some criminal activity, but then even that kind of chicanery is not a guarantee of success. 

You can prepare for things to the nth degree for what you believe is a sure thing, but it is still a game of chance. I heard someone say "you make your own luck" recently on the radio and it got me thinking about the sheer amount of meaningless claptrap that permeates business life, sports punditry, social networking and life in general.

God knows, we only have to spend a few minutes on Twitter to read all kinds of pseudo-sage advice. I'm as guilty as anybody. I add my tuppence on a regular basis. But if you really can make your own luck, it can be either good luck or bad luck, can't it?  Either way, you're not in the driving seat. Depend on the rabbit's foot if you like but remember it didn't work for the rabbit. In the Sunday Times Rich List, for example, there are winners of huge lottery jackpots in the ranks.  Did they make their own luck or did they just buy a ticket that happened to coincide with the big money balls?  

Ladies and gentlemen, I have an admission to make. 

I am a competitions junkie.  

If I see a prize worth going for, I enter. I have won:

a Mini car (that's a real car, not a toy!)
a £4,500 holiday to Alberta, Canada
a £500 cosmetics/perfumes hamper
a TV
an X Box
tickets to see The Three Tenors at Wembley
a bench top tool system/saw set
a weekend in Cornwall
a cookery school weekend in Aldeburgh
several National Lottery tenners
several Premium Bond £25s
an outdoor jacket
a laptop computer
a selection of computer accessories
a lot of books
a lot of DVDs
a lot of CDs
several gift cards
etc
etc

Entering competitions is fun and very cheap. I go for free entry comps or, if interested enough, I'll stretch to postcards and stamps. I never, ever enter by phone call or text. Those methods of entry are mugs' games, very expensive at rates that might hover around £2 a minute and they keep people hanging on for far longer than a minute.

If you are looking for a fun hobby, go on, have a go. If you're not in, you can't win.

Good, er, luck!

Monday, 3 June 2019

WHY USE TWO WORDS WHEN ONE WILL DO?

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


The July issue of Writing Magazine has landed and, from The World of Writing pages, they draw from the John Humphrys book Lost for Words.

The gist of the piece is why use two words when one will do, citing examples:

future prospects
past history
past record
future plans
live survivors
safe havens
temper tantrums
new initiatives
still continuing

and this rather longer one:

at this moment in time


As Muriel Spark noted:

'Write as if writing to a friend and use as few words as possible.'

On the other hand, write like the Dickens, as I was advised, saying anything and everything you want to say, and then find a great editor. As I did.

I am learning all the time!

Saturday, 1 June 2019

MARY PETERS AT 80 - AN ANECDOTE



Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan

Once in a now defunct department store – Anderson & McAuley - in Belfast, I was down on my hunkers, as they say, browsing through some bric-a-brac on the bottom shelf of a display stand.  Gradually, the light around me began to fade and an enveloping darkness cast a giant shadow over and around me.  “An eclipse in a department store?” I pondered for a moment. “They’ll believe in leprechauns before they believe this.”  Slowly, I looked up from my crouching position only to see a formidable lady towering over me.  It was a David and Goliath moment only this Goliath was female and no less a sporting legend than Mary Peters, the Commonwealth and Olympic Games gold medal winner.  Oblivious to this innocent shopper, she inched her way along the aisle, looking at stuff on the higher shelves and eventually ploughed into me, knocking me over with all the power of, erm, an Olympic athlete.  She looked down at me and said: “Are you alright?”  I looked back at this goddess of the games and said: “I’m so sorry.”  She smiled and said: “Don’t worry.”  With that she walked on and I was left in a confused state, knocked over by Mary Peters and wondering why apologised.  The incident happened in the late 1970s and I still applaud her sporting achievements but if it had happened nowadays, think of the claim I could have made.  I could have sued her for at least one of those medals.  Talk about Belfast and furious!

😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

Friday, 31 May 2019

FREELANCE WRITING IDEAS FOR JUNE

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


JUNE

1 - 60 years ago, Juke Box Jury first aired on the BBC.

2 - 50 years ago, John Lennon and Yoko Ono recorded Give Peace a Chance during their 'bed-in' in a Montreal hotel.

4 – 30 years ago saw the massacre of hundreds of people in Tiananmen Square.

8 – 70 years ago, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was published.

11 – 40 years ago, supreme star of westerns, John Wayne died at 72.

11 - 50 years ago, the western True Grit was released, earning John Wayne an Oscar.

12 – 90 years ago, famed diarist and tragic Holocaust victim, Anne Frank, was born. Died 1945.

14 – 100 years ago, actor/director Sam Wanamaker was born. Died 1993.

14/15 -  100 years ago, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown piloted the first non-stop transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Galway. 

16 – Father’s Day. Well, we all have a story……….

16 – 60 years ago, TV’s Superman, George Reeves, died in mysterious circumstances.

22 – 50 years ago, actress and singer, Judy Garland, died at 47.

25 - 10 years ago, Michael Jackson died at 50.

26 - 60 years ago, the 'Oirish' fillum Darby O'Gill and the Little People was released.

29 – 100 years ago, actor and western stalwart Slim Pickens was born.