Tuesday, 22 January 2019


Recently, I turned 65. Without explanation, here are 65 films that have been and maybe still are important to my life. I have watched and enjoyed quite a few dozens of times.There are more than 65, of course, but 65 is the number of the moment.

In no particular order:

The Searchers
The Informer
Citizen Kane
The Third Man
It's A Wonderful Life
The Maltese Falcon
The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
White Heat

The Big Sleep
The Ox-Bow Incident
Rear Window
North By Northwest
Singin' In The Rain
Strangers On A Train
My Darling Clementine
High Noon
Touch Of Evil
The Night Of The Hunter

Some Like It Hot
The African Queen
The Quiet Man
Witness For The Prosecution
Dr Strangelove
The Apartment
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
The Wild Bunch

In The Heat Of The Night
Mary Poppins
Bonnie And Clyde
Midnight Cowboy
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
The Great Escape
The Dirty Dozen
Cool Hand Luke
Once Upon A time In The West

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
To Kill A Mocking Bird
The Guns Of Navarone
The Godfather
Taxi Driver
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
The French Connection

All The President's Men
The Sting
The Deer Hunter
Die Hard
The Terminator
True Grit
Pulp Fiction
Toy Story

The Departed

A surface has barely been scratched! 

Monday, 21 January 2019


Recently, I turned 65. Without explanation, here are 65 songs/pieces of music that have been and maybe still are important to my life. Quite a few would be played often in our Belfast home. There are more than 65, of course, but 65 is the number of the moment.

In not much order:

Theme from Bonanza (TV)
Faith of Our Fathers (Hymn)
Hound Dog by Elvis Presley
Theme from The Magnificent Seven (Film)
Buck's Polka by the Miami Showband, featuring Clem Quinn
Forty Shades of Green by Johnny Cash
Rocky Road to Dublin by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
In My Life by The Beatles
If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot
W.O.L.D. by Harry Chapin

It's All Over Now by The Rolling Stones
The Twist by Chubby Checker
Bird on the Wire by Leonard Cohen
The House of the Rising Sun by The Animals
The Days Of Pearly Spencer by David McWilliams
The Sound of Silence by The Bachelors
The Hucklebuck by Brendan Bowyer and the Royal Showband
Unchained Melody by Joe Dolan and the Drifters
What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival

These Boots Are Made for Walking by Nancy Sinatra
Galveston by Glen Campbell
Reach Out, I'll Be There by The Four Tops
Up Went Nelson by The Go-Lucky Four
I'm A Believer by The Monkees
I Only Want To Be With You by Dusty Springfield
God Only Knows by The Beach Boys
Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way by Waylon Jennings
Theme from The Rockford Files (TV)
The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me by Gladys Knight and the Pips

Dedicated Follower Of Fashion by The Kinks
Tequila Sunrise by The Eagles
The Streets of London by Ralph McTell
Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty
Oliver's Army by Elvis Costello
Whiskey On A Sunday by Danny Doyle
He'll Have To Go by Jim Reeves
Your Song by Elton John
Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding
Lovely Day by Bill Withers

Apache by The Shadows
Dancing Queen by ABBA
Sylvia's Mother by Dr Hook & the Medicine Show
Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick by Ian Dury & the Blockheads
Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen
Band On The Run by Wings
Piano Man by Billy Joel
Albatross by Fleetwood Mac
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack
Rio by Michael Nesmith

Telstar by The Tornados
The Young Ones by Cliff Richard
From A Jack To A King by Ned Miller
I Like It by Gerry & The Pacemakers
Here Comes My Baby by The Tremeloes
When You Walk In The Room by The Searchers
Mr Tambourine Man by The Byrds
Pied Piper by Crispian St Peters
Home Thoughts From Abroad by Clifford T Ward
Rex Bob Lowenstein by Mark Germino

Theme from The Big Country (Film)
A Mother's Love's A Blessing by Bridie Gallagher
Lily The Pink by The Scaffold
That's The Way God Planned It by Billy Preston
It's Not Unusual by Tom Jones

That's 65 off the top of my head and from memories. Hundreds, if not thousands more. But there we are.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019


Today, I prepared the goulash from a recipe in this fine book to eat tomorrow (the food, not the book) on an 'important number' birthday. It looks and smells amazing (the food, not the birthday).

Rest in peace, Anthony Bourdain. I don't know what troubled you but I continue to have fond memories of your books and television shows.


Monday, 7 January 2019


The Diary of a Bookseller
Shaun Bythell

The Bookshop
17 North Main Street
Tel: 01988 402499

I have never worked in a book shop but I did spend nearly forty years in and around supermarket retailing, so I fully understand the arc of customer types from the genuinely nice to the quite rude to the completely bonkers. I wrote about the latter in my career retrospective, Retail Confidential. They are the most fun to write about but a drag to deal with.

The Diary of a Bookseller gives the full flavour of frustrations and fluctuations of life as a second-hand shop owner and Shaun Bythell hits us with a brilliant combination of criticisms, complaints, wry observations, eye-rolling notes about customers who should not be allowed out in public and no-holds-barred comments about his employees. Perceptive comments, sarcasm and much humour inhabit the pages of an excellent book that I recommend highly.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Wednesday, 2 January 2019


RIP the tremendously funny Bob Einstein, multi-talented but forever Marty Funkhouser in Curb Your Enthusiasm.

IMDB link https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0251872/?ref_=nv_sr_1#actor

Bob Einstein - 20 November 1942 - 2 January 2019.

Saturday, 29 December 2018


Oscar Cainer - Daily Mail - 29 December 2019

To truly understand your 2019, look at the end of that year first. When Jupiter, planet of luck and adventure, enters Capricorn in December, half the major planets will be in your sign — a uniquely strong position, suggesting a period of great success in the run-up to the year’s end.
Your ruler, Saturn, remains in your sign, and Pluto has been there since 2008, so you have powerful allies already helping you to resolve complex situations.
A series of encouraging links between your ruler and Neptune mark crucial turning points in your year. Together with innovative Uranus, which changes signs in March, they highlight your creativity and compassion.
The cosmos is also encouraging you to have faith in your talent for inspiring others. Your self-motivation is legendary, but this year you’ll also reap the benefits of good teamwork.
November’s Transit of Mercury brings a moment to revisit past decisions and find ways to progress before Jupiter drops by to help. It’s an enjoyable year in prospect.

Well, that's my year mapped out!


Friday, 21 December 2018


Thank you to everyone who supported and encouraged my writing in 2018. I wish all a happy Christmas and a creative and contented 2019.

Looking back,
there were decisions I should not have made,
there were decisions I should have made,
things I should not have said,
things I should have said,
people I should have forgotten,
people I should have remembered,
situations I should have avoided,
situations I should have arranged,
jobs I should have abandoned,
jobs I should have done.

Looking forward,
there will be decisions I will not make,
there will be decisions I will make,
things I will not say,
things I will say,
people I will forget,
people I will remember,
situations I will avoid,
situations I will arrange,
jobs I will abandon,
jobs I will do.

And at the end of this year, what will be different?
Will I write the same words, think the same thoughts,
write a summary poem exactly like this.....will not.....will.....?
Be someone else or be the same man?
We are what we are in life for good or ill.

Life, the rough, the smooth,
the pleasure, the pain,
bring on 2019,
for off we go again..............

Thursday, 20 December 2018


I am planning another series of A Dozen Questions, featuring only creative people from Northern Ireland, where I was born and raised as a Belfast kid. Click on any link below and I think you will get the gist of the idea.

Thank you once again to the stars of 2018.

At the beginning of this year, I ran a blog series of questions and answers featuring a wondrous variety of Northern Ireland creative talent.

For me, it attracts attention to my blog. For the contributors, it promotes anything they want to draw attention to. Any and as many links will be included. I share the blog posts widely.

Invitations will be sent out soon.

Here are the links to the 2018 special guest stars:

Mandy Bingham

Colin Dardis

Anne-Marie Quigg

Gerry Kelly

George Larmour

Geoff Hill

Lynette Fay

Janet Henry

Michael Smiley

Paddy Nash

Edelle McMahon

Kathy Clugston

Brigid O’Neill

Stephen Dunwoody

Colin Breen

Ursula Burns

Charles Lawson

Mairead Healy

Simon Murphy

Anthony Toner


Anna Burns

Faber & Faber

The Man Booker Prize winner, 2018

In this unnamed city, to be interesting is dangerous. Middle sister, our protagonist, is busy attempting to keep her mother from discovering her maybe-boyfriend and to keep everyone in the dark about her encounter with Milkman. But when first brother-in-law sniffs out her struggle, and rumours start to swell, middle sister becomes 'interesting'. The last thing she ever wanted to be. To be interesting is to be noticed and to be noticed is dangerous.
Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.

Milkman is not the first major prize-winning book to attract widely differing opinions. In a not terribly scientific trawl through comments on Amazon, here's a flavour of what has been posted:

If you’re looking for a light entertaining read, pass this one by. Long rambling sentences with very few paragraph breaks call for high levels of concentration just to grasp some understanding of the narrative. I’ve struggled through the first 90 pages and am fighting the urge to give up on it. Story teller she ain’t!

This book must count as the most miserable, dull read I have ever attempted.

Terrible. The tone/language used is not at all recognisable as anything even remotely used in Northern Ireland. 

This book, I found confusing, the writing style so opaque I couldn't really get a handle on the story. It was as if it was trying really hard to be clever and use everything in your inventory- something's got to work! Well it didn't work for me- I almost gave up. Lost my interest and was a chore to finish- sadly.

It is vastly overlong with rolling paragraphs of irrelevance.

It didn't work for me with few chapters a total lack and use of paragraphs the whole experience was muddled and confused. If the intent of the author was to get inside the mindset of the politically deranged "Ulsterman" it failed miserably and was a great disappointment to me personally.

 It is boring because there is much repetition of situations and of the girl's thoughts and her behaviour. 

It’s a chore to read this book. The story is pedestrian and lacks any ability to draw you in.

I found this book tedious, repetitive and difficult to read. 

I have no idea how to describe this book – it is so strange and dystopian and hypnotising and scary and funny with heart full of black humour. Milkman is not an easy read, but it is good. It is quirky, strange and surprisingly delightful. Did I mention the sarcasm and black humour? In abundance!

I found this quirky novel just a delight. The warmth and humour balanced this account of the Troubles in 1970s Belfast.

The author enabled one to fully enter the life of a young woman living in a situation like Belfast. 

I loved this book. I loved the writing. It was beautiful, lyrical, poetic.

It is a wonderful, crazy, energising, funny, ultimately life affirming read. Brilliantly written, and because the characters don't have names, I found it easy to remember who was who.

One of the best books I’ve read in recent times. The narrative is so real, I felt I was in the Northern Ireland of the 70s and 80s. 

This just took my breath away. By far the best thing I have read in years.

And so on and so forth.

From the back cover, some other comments:

If somebody hands over their hard-earned cash to buy a book, they are entitled to their opinion. So, here's mine.

I started reading Milkman twice. The first time, about twenty pages in, I thought 'this is challenging me to find a rhythm' and I hadn't found it. So, I started again. A kind of rhythm began to emerge and, as is my wont, I read it in my native Belfast accent. The story began to flow. The humour was there. So was the intrigue and menace, the soul-searching, the claustrophobia and pressure of troubled localities, the powerful versus the powerless, the dividing lines, the thinking aloud. I could put faces to the unnamed characters, faces from my own circle growing up in Northern Ireland. I could hear voices from the city where I lived and worked until my early twenties. I grew into the narrative and I was more than happy to be swept along by imaginative and daring wordplay. This is quite unlike anything I have read before. Anna Burns, in my view, has invented a new style of writing. 

Yes, it is challenging and takes a bit of getting used to but it is nowhere near the impossible novel or improbable prize-winner that critics with negative views would have you believe. Like any book, you either get it or you don't. After my brief stumble when I first started reading Milkman, I found my way in and I'm glad I did.

It is a rollercoaster of just about every emotion you can think of. It reeks of honesty and is layered with light and dark humour. It is unsettling in parts, as was intended, but has a kind of uplifting ending.

The fact that Anna Burns hails from Northern Ireland makes me and a hell of a lot of other people proud.

This was an extract that cracked me up:

'Don't be thinking I'm not grateful because I am grateful.' After a pause brother-in-law said he was going to beat him (Somebody McSomebody) up all the same. 'Not necessary.' I said. 'Still,' he said. 'Ach,' I said. 'Ach nothing,' he said. 'Ach sure,' I said. 'Ach sure what?' he said 'Ach sure, if that's how you feel.' 'Ach sure, of course that's how I feel.' 'Ach, all right then.' 'Ach,' he said. 'Ach,' I said. 'Ach,' he said. 'Ach,' I said. 'Ach.'

For the readers who gave up on the book: 'Ach, catch yourselves on!