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Thursday, 8 April 2021

A LITTLE SPARK BY CHRIS PARSONS; ILLUSTRATIONS BY MIKE MOTZ

I am available for writing commissions. Many published reviews, features, poetry and short fiction.

Most recent pieces accepted include articles on actor Burt Lancaster, biblical epic films, Ben-Hur, actor Sam Kydd, actor/writer James Ellis, a trip to Japan, autograph collecting, etc - with 3 further articles accepted and awaiting publication. Contact: joecushnan@aol.com

Browse this blog at your leisure.


A LITTLE SPARK by CHRIS PARSONS; ILLUSTRATIONS by MIKE MOTZ


This book arrived out of the blue several weeks ago. From Dallas, Texas. Man, I have some reach. Ha, ha!

Anyway, what a lovely, uplifting story it is and illustrated beautifully.  In fact, the whole book is an amazing production. It looks great. It feels great. It is great.

A Little Spark is more than just a story. Its timeless message of hope leaves the audience with a sense of purpose. We all have A Little Spark inside and that Spark can make a big difference to those around us. 

Oh, yes!

It is not just a story book. It is an activity book, encouraging readers to scan codes, find hidden treasures.

Check out the website. www.bethatspark.com

The lessons:

Be that spark by helping those who need a hand up, a chance.

Believe in ourselves.

Understand the situation.

Everyone should be treated equally.

Friends look after friends

Don't judge too quickly.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

All hail Spark, the heroic, brave little mouse. 

This is a book for children of all ages. I should know. I am a child in my advanced years!!





Thursday, 1 April 2021

COMPETITION PRIZE WINS

A blog of words, wandering thoughts, supportive posts applauding work by creative people and sprinklings of life's bric-a-brac. 

AVAILABLE FOR FREELANCE WRITING COMMISSIONS joecushnan@aol.com 


Ladies and gentlemen, I have an admission to make. 

 

I am a competitions junkie! 


                        March 2021 - Latest prize win - £175 Cross ballpoint pen 

after winning a Sunday Times crossword.

 

If I see a prize worth going for, I enter.  In the past several years, I have won:

 

Mini car (that's a real car, not a toy!)

£4,500 holiday to Alberta, Canada

£1,000 cash in a radio competition
£500 cosmetics/perfumes hamper

£175 Cross ball point pen

TV

X Box

tickets to see The Three Tenors at Wembley

bench top tool system/saw set

weekend in Cornwall
cookery school weekend in Aldeburgh

several National Lottery tenners

several Premium Bond £25s

outdoor jacket

laptop computer

selection of computer accessories

lot of books

lot of DVDs

lot of CDs

many gift cards

hamper of ancient grains, flour, yeast and a bread recipe book

£100-worth of Tea Pigs tea

etc

etc

 

Sunday, 21 March 2021

CHAPTER TWO OPENING EXTRACT FROM 'HAS ANYBODY HERE SEEN KELLY? - IN SEARCH OF MY FATHER' - A MEMOIR

 © Joe Cushnan 2021 and beyond


Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly? 

In Search of My Father

Written by Joe Cushnan

Edited by Averill Buchanan

Word Count: 46,000

Here is a taster from Chapter 2 of a memoir about my father, John Cushnan from Belfast who vanished for 22 years (1960 to 1982) and resurfaced, with a reinvention of his background, as John Kelly from Derry.

Previous posts contain extracts from the prologue and chapter 1.

Enquiries to joecushnan@aol.com


CHAPTER 2: A Blue Folder

In 2013, I sat in my study staring at an array of items laid out on the desk. Stored in a ragged blue folder, the items had been buried in a filing cabinet drawer since 1982 when the folder was presented to Kevin and me at our father’s wake in the Rose & Crown. The folder contained:

·      undertaker’s receipts;

·      an employer’s letter;

·      a wage slip;

·      eight floral bouquet cards;

·      one mass card;

·      five club membership cards and five payment receipts;

·      a note on a scrap of paper;

·      two letters from friends;

·      correspondence from the Department of Health and Social Security;

·      a cheque book and a paying-in bank book;

·      nine photographs;

·      an empty wallet. 

These are the only things my father left behind. It is a rather pathetic inventory; nevertheless, most of the items turned out to be useful in researching his life.

Back at the wake, Kevin and I were in the company of strangers who were shaking our hands with gusto and passing on warm thoughts and happy memories as they reminisced about their recently departed friend. He sounded like a great guy – witty, generous when he could afford to be, and everybody’s pal. He had been living, working and mixing with Irish folks far from home in the Big Smoke and was being lauded and mourned by his circle in a boozer not far from Clapham Common. In true Irish fashion, this was a fond farewell, a celebration of a life, maudlin to a point but peppered with stories and a few homesick songs to send his spirit on its way. 

It was fuelled by free-flowing beer with wee chasers of whiskey and rum, trays of ham and tomato sandwiches and lots of watery-eyed throwaway plaudits: ‘Ach, sure, he was a great fella, right enough’; ‘One in a million, one in a million.’ 

Mourning is hard work when you don’t know the person you’re supposed to be mourning.

Someone handed us the blue folder containing the rather sorry collection of bits and pieces.

‘Kelly would have wanted you to have this,’ they said. 

Saturday, 20 March 2021

CHAPTER ONE OPENING EXTRACT FROM 'HAS ANYBODY HERE SEEN KELLY? - IN SEARCH OF MY FATHER' - A MEMOIR

© Joe Cushnan 2021 and beyond

Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly? 

In Search of My Father

Written by Joe Cushnan

Edited by Averill Buchanan

Word Count: 46,000

Here is a taster from Chapter 1 of a memoir about my father, John Cushnan from Belfast who vanished for 22 years (1960 to 1982) and resurfaced, with a reinvention of his background, as John Kelly from Derry.

Previous post contained an extract from the prologue/

Enquiries to joecushnan@aol.com

CHAPTER 1: Grave Thoughts

 

On Monday 19 July 1982 it was mild and cloudy at Lambeth Cemetery, London.

I was living in Hemel Hempstead at the time and my brother Kevin was over from Belfast for a business meeting. We met up and travelled together to Clapham as representatives of the Cushnan family for the funeral of our father, John. He died at the age of 57 from an intracranial tumour. At the funeral, all the people there knew him better than Kevin and I did. Jim Nicholson, landlord at the Rose and Crown, our father’s local, had informed my mother of her husband’s death. She wanted nothing to do with the funeral, with very good reason.

At some point in 1960, my father left his wife and seven young children in Belfast and pretty much vanished. The next we heard of him was when we were told of his death, twenty-two years later. 

I was six when he left and Kevin was two. This dead man in Clapham was, to all intents and purposes, a stranger to us both.

We spent the day of the funeral surrounded by his friends, there because they knew and liked our father. But for us, there was only a bizarre emptiness. We were playing the role of mourners. I am reminded of T. S. Eliot, from Four Quartets: 

 

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older

The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated

Of dead and living.

 

I have never felt comfortable in graveyards. The nearest one to home when I was growing up in Andersonstown, Belfast, was Milltown Cemetery. It is where most of my deceased relatives, including my mother, my eldest brother and my grandparents, are buried. A predominantly Catholic graveyard, Milltown is situated between the top end of the Falls Road and the M1 motorway and covers nearly sixty acres. It dates back to the mid-1800s and houses (if that’s the correct term) the remains of over two hundred thousand people in around fifty thousand graves. Despite being a ‘resting place’, Milltown has had its troubling incidents in the past, the best known being when Michael Stone, a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), attacked mourners at the funeral of three IRA members on 16 March 1988. He shot around the crowd randomly and threw hand grenades. Three people were killed and over sixty were wounded. Stone was arrested and eventually jailed. Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ were pretty horrific over the years, but there are still some incidents that send shivers down the spine. I still associate Milltown with the chill of howling winds, miserable drizzle and, on the ghosts’ angrier days, pelting rain. 




Friday, 19 March 2021

SHORT PROLOGUE EXTRACT FROM 'HAS ANYBODY HERE SEEN KELL? - IN SEARCH OF MY FATHER' - A MEMOIR

© Joe Cushnan 2021 and beyond



Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly? 

In Search of My Father

Written by Joe Cushnan

Edited by Averill Buchanan

Word Count: 46,000

Here is a taster from a memoir about my father, John Cushnan from Belfast who vanished for 22 years (1960 to 1982) and resurfaced, with a reinvention of his background, as John Kelly from Derry.

Enquiries to joecushnan@aol.com


Short extract from part of the Prologue

 

The film I Never Sang For My Father (1970), starring Gene Hackman and Melvyn Douglas, is a powerful human story, beautifully scripted and performed. The plot revolves around a complicated and emotional father/son relationship. The nub of the story concerns a decision by the son to move to America’s West Coast, leaving his widowed father alone in New York. One line has stuck with me over the years. Gene Hackman, the son, struggling with his father’s predicament and fear of loneliness, says: ‘I hate him. And I hate to hate him.’

While I have been researching and writing this memoir, I have often thought of those words with regards to my own father. As I uncover more about his life, I wonder what my conclusions will be in the final chapter. Will I choose to use the word ‘hate’? The plot of the film is not quite the same as my story, but it’s interesting nonetheless. One other thing the Gene Hackman character says after his father’s death made me think: ‘Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind towards some resolution, which it may never find.’ How powerful is that?

I was also struck by the chemistry in John Mortimer’s play A Voyage Round My Father. The father in this play loses his sight in an accident, and as result of which he is dependent on those around him to assist whenever he needs help. The father, a barrister, is opinionated and irritable, but he also carries around a lot of wisdom which he imparts liberally. The relationships within the family are stiff, cold and unemotional. His son becomes a barrister too and increasingly resembles his father in word and action, even though their relationship has never been particularly deep or serious. The final act sees the father take his last breath while the son reflects on the father who is no longer there.  It is a very powerful play, and a reminder that family relationships often have more faces than Big Ben and the Albert Clock combined.

In setting the scene for this memoir I was also drawn to the painting And When Did You Last See Your Father? by William Frederick Yeames. The painting allegedly depicts a Royalist family captured by the enemy. The boy in blue is ‘in the dock’, being questioned about the whereabouts of his father, considered a traitor by the Parliamentarians. If I was the young boy in blue and I had been asked that question when I was six, I wouldn’t have had a clue about the answer, as you will soon see. 

Sigmund Freud coined the term ‘infantile amnesia’ to describe his theory that, until the age of six, children either forget or hide their earliest memories. They are either blocked or withheld, but not completely erased. Freud described this as repression. As children approach their teenage years they remember more than they realise, but as they grow into adulthood and the decades pass, the early memories really do fade away. 

Why am I mentioning this here? Well, when I was six my father left us; as I write I am heading into my mid-sixties. I have racked my brain and tried to recall as many details from my childhood as I can. I’m convinced that I do remember some things. Occasionally a forgotten memory has been triggered by someone else’s recollections; sometimes, though, I’m aware that I may well have hijacked someone else’s memories and claimed them as my own. It’s difficult, too, to disentangle family stories, repeated over and over and over again, from fact. The problem is, there is very little ‘fact’ to go on.

In this memoir I have the urge to do a couple of things. I am interested in detective mystery stories and, leaving my personal connection to the ‘missing person’ aside, this is a pretty good mystery to investigate. Why did this man disappear? Where did he go? What did he do? Who were his new friends? Did he have a second family? Did he have a relationship or relationships with other women? Did he have other children? But I also feel a responsibility to research and record this aspect of the Cushnan family history to share my findings with Cushnans down the line. Will this bring any kind of closure? I don’t know, but I have found out a considerable amount about my father, my mother and their forebears, information I would never have known had I not embarked on this project.

This memoir, then, is a mixture of conscious recall, fact, and a lively imagination. It is both true and accurate, and a fabrication, much like the man it seeks to find.




Thursday, 18 March 2021

HAS ANYBODY HERE SEEN KELLY? MEMOIR IN SEARCH OF AN AUDIENCE



Contact: joecushnan@aol.com

I wrote a memoir and hired much-lauded and Belfast-based professional Averill Buchanan to knock it into shape. Here's a link to her site. https://www.averillbuchanan.com

In 1960, my father John Cushnan, left our Belfast home, his wife and seven young children. I was six. He vanished. The next we heard of him was when we were told he had died at 57 in Clapham, London. Apart from anything else, he left us 22 'missing' mystery years. He reinvented himself as John Kelly from Derry and denied any family back home.

I investigated his journey and whereabouts and filled in quite a lot of blanks. I knew the exact address of his bedsit in Clapham, the pub he frequented, the friends he made, the life he lived, the work he did, the Catholic church he may have attended and, the possibility that he had a relationship and a son - my half-brother. Maybe! Really!

He is at the core of the memoir but he is not the most important person. My mother stepped up, naturally and instinctively, and raised her kids alone. She became and remains the greatest woman I have ever known. 

I have presented the story in newspaper features (Belfast Telegraph), on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio 4.  The link to 4's Saturday Live with the Reverend Richard Coles and Aasmah Mir is here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09rwtg8

I would like a publisher. I would like an agent.

Randomly, over the next few weeks, I may well publish here some paragraphs to give a flavour of my story.


Monday, 15 March 2021

STEPHEN BOYD - IRISH NEWS ARTICLE BY ANNE HAILE

Anne Haile wrote about film star Stephen Boyd in today's Irish News and highlighted my book, Stephen Boyd: From Belfast to Hollywood. Follow the link to find the article. 4 July, 2021, is the 90th anniversary of Stephen Boyd's birth. He died at 45.


https://www.irishnews.com/lifestyle/2021/03/15/news/anne-hailes-book-puts-hollywood-pin-up-stephen-boyd-back-on-the-map-2250489/