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. 2018, this potential book project is in development. Currently working with guidance from a professional manuscript editor.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018


Burton Daniels, up to this point, had been a model employee, straight-laced, no trouble, to some a little dull and boring, a fixture like the wilting pot plant next to his desk. He was well-known for his impeccable timekeeping and a full attendance record. He kept his head down, worked hard and always enjoyed high scores in his annual performance appraisals. He was predictable. But all of that was about to change.

It was too beautiful a morning for a conventional sacking. Burton pressed the elevator button for the sixth floor, home to human resources. He had been summoned to a meeting with a manager about half his age and with less than one tenth of his years of service in the company. He knew his time was up. He knew on this gorgeous day that he was for the chop but he felt relaxed and more than ready for mischief. Forty years in the same firm counted for nothing after the takeover. Loyalty and zero absenteeism in all those years were worth zip. The company, once as British as sausage and mash, was now owned by an American outfit and staffed in the upper ranks by whizz-kids sporting small but noticeable MBA lapel badges. It was not the company he joined decades ago. He had seen how the Yanks were cold and ruthless. Burton exited the lift on six and approached the reception desk.
“Burton Daniels, 10 0’clock, if you please.” The assistant ticked a schedule and asked him to take a seat. Almost immediately, Della Hinges appeared, shook hands with Burton and escorted him to an interview room. He thought she was a bit too jolly for an executioner. 

Let the mischief begin, he thought, and as Ms Hinges began speaking, Burton started to hum. When she paused, he paused. When she started speaking again, he started to hum again. He did not hear much of what she was saying. He could see the irritation and slow-burn of frustration on Della’s reddening cheeks. Time for a change of tactics. 

Every time he was asked a question, he answered: “Poultry”. “Do you know why you are here?” “Poultry”.  “What’s the matter with you?” “Poultry”. “Why are you being silly?” “Poultry”.  Della sat back in her chair and rolled her eyes. “Burton, I have important things to say.” 

At that, he broke wind and in the entire history of bodily gas incidents, this was epic, this indeed was Ben-Hur times a thousand. It was noisy and noxious. Della shot up and opened a window wide. Burton was giggling like a schoolboy. “Well,” he said, “when you’re getting the sack, all bets are off.” 
Della had a perplexed look on her face. “Burton, no one is being sacked. I was trying to discuss a new opportunity with you. With all your experience, we have been considering offering you a general consultancy role to improve the wider business.” Burton scrunched his eyes tightly. “But, now, after this behaviour, I’ll have to report back to the directors. I don’t know what they’ll decide now.” 

Burton Daniels pressed the elevator button and headed for the ground floor. Outside, he noticed that in an otherwise clear blue sky, a clump of black cloud had formed just above him. He caught sight of his reflection in a shop window and he and the reflection both shook their heads in total disbelief. In a moment of calculated madness, predictable Burton Daniels had achieved the unpredictable. By default, on this too beautiful a morning for a conventional firing, he had just sacked himself.

Friday, 15 June 2018


Readers may or may not know that I am researching and writing a memoir about my father, but it also concerns my mother, my family and growing up in Belfast in the mid-1950s/1960s.

The memoir has been support-funded by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, support for which I am eternally grateful. I will see this manuscript through to its conclusion.

The working title is: 'Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?'

In 1960, my father, John Cushnan, left our Belfast home, his wife and seven children and vanished. The next we heard of him was when we were told he had died at 57 in 1982 in Clapham, London. 22 'missing' years, in which he reinvented himself as John Kelly from Derry.

It is a project that is alive and developing well. Recently, I have enlisted the help of a professional editor, so anything I wrote pre-2017 has been reassessed and rewritten, developed and the word count, the territory I have not been aware of until this year has been explored tirelessly. In two months, thanks to this guidance, my words have doubled.

Now, for a chapter, I need the help of Belfast people born in the mid-1950s who, therefore, grew up in the 1960s.

To balance my own perspective of growing up in Belfast, I invite my fellow Belfast folks in their early to mid-60s to think of at least 10 things they remember about being kids and teenagers in our city.

Start with the two words: 'I remember' ..... and think about family, friends, school, food, hobbies, playing outside, holidays ...... anything, anything at all about yourself and your reminiscences.

As a bonus, if anyone can recall anything about my family, the Millars and Killens (New Lodge Road), the Cushnans (Bingnian Drive, Andersonstown), then please include that.

If you go way beyond 10 memories, so be it. Keep going.

I am trying to build a real picture of growing up in Belfast in the 1950s/1960s.

All I can offer is your 'guest star' appearance in my memoir. If it is ever published as a book, you will be acknowledged and will beam with pride, and I will send you a signed, personal, complimentary copy.

If you know me or don't know me, but you are a fellow Belfast 60+ kid, please get in touch

'I remember' x 10.

Thank you.

Thursday, 14 June 2018


I have been looking through my online medical records, accessible via my local health centre.

Two months after I was born, I was given injections mostly (I'm not sure if it was one big cocktail of an injection) to protect against the following. (These are my notes in brackets and not highly defined medical terms!)

Diphtheria (potentially fatal nose, throat and skin infection)

Tetanus (potentially fatal infection in a wound)

Pertussis (whooping cough, respiratory disease)

Polio (infantile paralysis, muscle weakness)

HIB (haemophilus influenza B)

Hepatitis B (infection of the liver)

Pneumococcal (a whole host of ailments)

Rotavirus (diarrhoea, sickness)

Meningitis B (spinal cord and brain)

A month later I was given a second dose of most of those and then a month after that another round of needle fun.

Following that, a year or so later, I was given booster shots for the first four on the list.

One year later, I was given the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination and two years on I got a booster shot.

It all must have worked, touch wood, more than sixty years on, I have been relatively trouble-free in the health department. Drugs, much milk and Farley's Rusks set me on my way.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018


Compensation culture - if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

I need compensation for:

.....unnecessary queuing in shops, post offices, etc..

.....anxiety in car parks when the machines won't accept perfectly good coins

.....wasted time answering annoying phone calls about PPI, double-glazing (still happens), time share et al.

.....wasted time answering the door to people who try to worry me about my roof, my windows, my driveway, my drains, etc.

.....wasted time listening to Vivaldi when contacting call centres.

.....thumb-strain as I channel hop for ages trying to find something interesting or entertaining to watch on TV.

.....angst when my mind shuts down trying to remember one of the dozens of passwords, pins, security questions, etc that plague modern life.

.....increased blood pressure when TV announcers butt in at the end of programmes, ruining the moment of reflection and blanking out the theme music. 

and on and on and on.

Cheques payable to "Home for the Bewildered".

Monday, 11 June 2018

JOHN WAYNE: 26 MAY 1907 - 11 JUNE 1979

Today in 1979, we lost John Wayne. Here's a few movie memories.

as the Ringo Kid: 
‘You may need me and this Winchester, Curly. Saw a ranch house burnin’ last night.’

Fort Apache,
as Captain Kirby Yorke:
‘Colonel Thursday, I gave my word to Cochise. No man is gonna make a liar out of me, sir.’

Red River,
as Thomas Dunson:
‘Cherry was right. You’re soft. You should have let them kill me, ‘cause I’m gonna kill you. I’ll catch up with ya. I don’t know when, but I’ll catch up. Every time you turn around, expect to see me, ‘cause one time you’ll turn around and I’ll be there. I’m gonna kill ya, Matt.’

She Wore A Yellow Ribbon,
as Captain Nathan Brittles:
‘Never apologise. It’s a sign of weakness.’

The Quiet Man,
as Sean Thornton:
‘There’ll be no locks or bolts between us, Mary Kate, except those in your mercenary little heart.’

The Searchers,
as Ethan Edwards:
‘What do you want me to do? Draw you a picture. Spell it out? Don’t ever ask me. Long as you live, don’t ever ask me more.’

Rio Bravo,
as John T. Chance:
‘Sorry don’t get it done, Dude. That’s the second time you hit me. Don’t ever do it again.’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,
as Tom Doniphon:
‘Pilgrim, hold it. I said you, Valance. You pick it up.’

El Dorado,
as Cole Thornton:
‘I’m lookin’ at a tin star with a drunk pinned on it.’

True Grit,
as Rooster Cogburn:
‘Fill your hand, you son of a bitch.’

as Lt. Brannigan:
‘Knock, knock.’

The Shootist,
as John Bernard Books:
‘I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.’

Friday, 8 June 2018




I had a browse around Castle Galleries, Meadowhall, Sheffield this morning and what a fine shop/gallery it is.

The main event at the moment is Bob Dylan: The Drawn Blank Series 10th Anniversary:

'Whilst travelling on tour between 1989 and 1992, Bob Dylan created a collection of drawings that were published in a book entitled Drawn Blank in 1994. These expressive works captured Dylan's chance encounters and observations. The creation of these portraits, interiors, landscapes, still lives, nudes and street scenes were done to "relax and refocus a restless mind".'

In 2008, a major exhibition of selected original paintings from 'The Drawn Blank Series' premiered at Halcyon Gallery, London, and signed limited edition graphics have been released since 2008.

Train Tracks, Woman In Red Lion Pub, Sunflowers and Bicycle are just four of the limited edition exhibits in Castle Galleries.

Thank you to James Shore for the chat and for the complimentary copy of the rather splendid catalogue. Greatly appreciated.

And to you, dear reader, much encouragement to pop in to one of a number of Castle Galleries across the country, but make the effort if you are in the vicinity of Meadowhall. Follow the links above.

And it's not all about his Bobness, although that is a bit special. There are many other works of brilliant art on display.

Oh, and they are nice people!

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Thursday, 7 June 2018


Over a long period of time, I have jotted down snatches of conversations overheard in the streets, in queues, in waiting rooms and barber shops, on trains, in cafes, pubs and restaurants and all manner of places.

They are all true moments. I have no idea what the conversations were before and after the bits I overheard. Here's a few examples to add to 

“It’s my relationship.
Nobody’s business.
And it suits me.”

“It’s predicated
on a different suite of relationships.” 

“He lies horizontal
and I lie diagonal.” 

“I told him straight
and he didn’t like it one bit.” 

“It’s years since
I did that.” 

She goes on and on and on.
I just switch off.” 

“Ach, you’re joking.
You're not, are you?” 

“I’d rather have a fracture
than a break any day." 

“Probably Greece
but more likely the back garden.” 

“It’s a brand new one.
It’s made of wood.” 

“If that’s what it takes,
I’m all for it.” 

“Really? I can’t imagine
doing that.” 

“No chance.
Not a hope, pal.” 

“She wasn’t even invited.
The cheek.’ 

“You should see the list of things 
he gets free now that he’s a pensioner.” 

“What’s the point of a tattoo
if nobody can see it.” 

“The car park machine
wouldn’t take my coins.”

“Stop touching my arm.” 

“I’m his wife.
Not a passenger."

“It curls my brain.” 

Wednesday, 6 June 2018


(A stock image to illustrate the point.)

I am not wishing a plague on High Streets but I am highlighting a growing epidemic ........... of advertising A-Boards outside shops, estate agents and other businesses.

I live near the town of Worksop in the East Midlands. The main thoroughfare is Bridge Street. I try to avoid going in on market days. Today, Wednesday is such a day. I had to go into town to do an urgent bit of business.

A-Boards + market stalls = not a helluva lot of walking space for the public.

In a half-mile or so stretch of Bridge Street, I counted 49 A-Boards, making the street more like a slalom run. It is very frustrating, especially if you are in a hurry because the car park clock is ticking. I couldn't wait to do what I came in to do and get out of there.

If there are still such things as Town Centre Managers, why are they allowing businesses to spill out onto the streets? Why are A-Boards not controlled more strictly? And what evidence is there to show that A-Boards actually bring in more punters? They are a bloody nuisance.

It is not just Worksop. I have visited dozens of market towns over the years and most of them suffer from this blatant and unchallenged commandeering of public walking space.

Rise up and take back our pedestrian space! (I'll have to work on that slogan!!)

Tuesday, 5 June 2018


I joined British Home Stores, Belfast in 1973, was transferred to Manchester in 1976 and then to Romford, Essex in 1977, where this piece is set......
In British Home Stores in the 70s, we in the lower ranks seemed to find common ground and team spirit in our collective fear and dread of our store managers who were tough, sometimes uncompromising authoritarians, “old school” status-conscious bullies at times, you might say.  The most fearsome of them all, Mr Robinson, (for these were the days when we were definitely not on chummy first name terms) would rule his store and his team with an iron fist and a terrifying scowl.  He controlled everything and if you crossed or displeased him in any way, you were subjected to the fiercest bollocking you can imagine and you left his presence shaking.  He had the sinister knack of arriving on the sales floor and, somehow, exuding an aura of terror amongst the managers.  We did not even have to look up.  We knew he was there.  On the occasions when I did look up, he would be standing a good hundred feet away staring back at me before wagging his come-hither finger.  In a terrified Uriah Heep, ever so humble way, I would approach him knowing that he had spotted at least three things on my department that needed attention.  “Use your eyes, son.  Make sure you see these things before I see them.”  I would nod silently and he would march away to terrify the next department manager.

If you wanted a new duster for your department, you had to take your old one to his office, knock the door, await his barking instruction to enter and then request a replacement cloth.  He would be reclining back in his chair, stone-faced and, I swear, not blinking.  He would grab the old rag dangling from your trembling fingers, hold it up to the light, peer at you through the holes in the fabric and then thrust it back at you.  “There’s at least half a dozen more cleans in that, boy,” he would shout.  This was one of my first groundings in cost control, albeit a trifle extreme but a good lesson in watching the pennies.  I wasn’t rational enough in those days to understand it but when I became a store manager myself, I often used this true tale as a benchmark against waste.  My team members looked at me with the same quizzical expression I had used a couple of decades before.  But, no one can deny the principle of not wasting a business’s money unnecessarily.

On reflection, seeing how standards of service and *staff appearance are these days in a lot of shops, I think retailing could use some of the Robinson bark and bite to restore a wee bit of discipline.  I have obviously lived and learned - a graduate of the old school.

*And don't get me started on that!

Monday, 4 June 2018


Over a long period of time, I have jotted down snatches of conversations overheard in the streets, in queues, in waiting rooms and barber shops, on trains, in cafes, pubs and restaurants and all manner of places.

They are all true moments. I have no idea what the conversations were before and after the bits I overheard. Here's a few examples to add to Eavesdroppings 1 -

“I know it’s only a pound more
but I begrudge giving it to them.”

“No, no, no. That’s not what
you said this morning.’

“I was so sure
his middle name was Charles.”

“How many more times?
No. No. No. No. No.
Same answer to the next five questions.”

“I’m fed up backing losers.”

“Just tell him. Let him know.
Draw a line.”

“That dog’s disgusting.”

“He can walk alright
but it hurts when he turns left.”

“You need to bring a packed lunch
to that Post Office.”

“Not if I win 
the lottery first.”

“Most of the time
she’s in her jim-jams all day.”

“Come four o’clock,
the big light goes on.”

“I couldn’t care less
about my wobbly fat on a beach.”

“I had a big lunch
and a big dinner
every day last week.”

“He cut his hand
on a tin of salmon
and the laugh is 
he doesn’t eat fish.”

“My shoes have
memory foam.”

“Be careful.
Nothing too spicy.”

“I need a hobby. 
Nothing expensive.”

“Been to the doctor
but he’s too young to understand.”

“That school is like a prison.
Too many stupid rules.”

“No way can I drink coffee
without sugar. Loads of it. 
The sugar police can fuck off.”

I’ve off TV for Lent,
except for the odd catch-up.”