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Friday, 30 October 2015


Here's the opening few pages to my current humorous project - getting on well with it and great fun.

It will definitely be a book but could also be the makings of of newspaper contributions or a series of blog posts.

Beware of the Bull

Image result for bull clip art

 Random Thoughts,
If Thinking Aloud
Is Still Allowed

Joe Cushnan

Published in 2015 by Publishing 
Copyright © 2015 Joe Cushnan

The author asserts his moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author or authors of this work.

All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.


Image result for bull clip art 

The full title of this book is really ‘Beware of the Bullshit’ because bs is all around us. We are swimming, sometimes drowning in an ocean of political correctness + made-up rules by officialdom + opinions shouted, tweeted et al to sound like facts from every Dick and Dora + bandwagon-jumping politicians sounding tough or weasely + advertising executives scaring us to death in a bid to get us to buy cure-all stuff + daily frustrations and irritations to drive us to the brink of insanity, and on and on and on. We must be on our guard because every second of every day someone is trying to manipulate us to hand over our votes, our loyalties, our personal information and especially our money, or they are just annoying oiks getting in the way of a simple life.

Resist this nonsense. Beware of the bull. This book identifies some of it in my humble and, at times, not so humble opinion.

(And some taster entries.......)

Image result for bull clip art

Stop treating libraries as community hubs, crèches, nurseries, playgrounds, youth clubs, silver surfer sanctuaries and gigantic phone booths. They are places for books, reading, study, quiet contemplation, not indoor playgrounds for kids to run around in or places for adults to shout into their mobile phones, chat loudly or cackle uncontrollably. Sssssshhhhh.

Stop buying personalised car number plates. A55 H0LE5.

Stop reinventing, reshaping, remoulding, rewriting Star Wars. We get it. We got it a long time ago. These days the pointy-ear guy must be offending somebody. Enough.

Stop playing screechy diva soul music in coffee shops or else I will counter it by reading my newspaper in a high-pitched voice, slurping my coffee loudly, smacking my lips as I eat a pastry and burping with all the gusto of Desperate Dan.

Stop kidding ourselves that reducing plastic carrier bags is going to save the planet. All it does is tidy the place up (and that’s okay) but as an effective environmental action, it sits between pissing in the wind and farting against thunder.

Stop politicians and environmental lobby groups from dictating how much plastic we use. If you give me the choice of war (you know, that thing that bombs the shit out of the planet) and plastic, I’ll take my chances with the plastic.

Stop wasting political party money on printing manifestos that will be shredded the day after elections. Fewer manifestos, a decline in supplies of shredded paper and a hamster cage bedding crisis is the worst scenario.

Stop inventing scientific-sounding ingredients for cosmetics, lotions and potions and just admit it’s snake oil infused with gobbledegook and a dash of balder.

Stop crowding entrances to buildings with your gangs of smokers. You smoke if you want to. I’ll not smoke because I prefer not to. But spare me the jog through your fog-smog whilst holding my breath, otherwise I’ll fart my way in and see how that goes down. 

Stop putting me on hold when I call a service centre. You call centre people have forced me to hate Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and no matter how often you tell me how important I am, I am so thoroughly pissed off that I am very reluctant to confirm my mother’s maiden name which, by the way, is really none of your damn business. 

Stop texting while walking. One day you will fall down an open hole in the pavement and never be heard from again. No signal. 

Stop contaminating TV soap operas with criminals, boozers and liars. Does life in these miserable locations not have any comedy? Does it all have to be gangsters, guzzlers and gits?

To be continued......

Tuesday, 27 October 2015


What is it about the “thinking outside the box” people?

Like a lot of business managers, I have been to many meetings and conferences, and been in conversation with colleagues and bosses about life, the universe, everything and all the bs in between.  More often than not, someone will say eventually:  “It’s not rocket science” or “let’s think outside the box”.  It is the latter expression that intrigues me. 

Who owned the first box and who was the first thinker outside of it? What was in the box before it was an empty box that we could climb into, get a mental block and then get out of it to think things through?  When was the decision made to get in and out of a box as a process of contemplation? What happened to the original thinker’s box? When did thinking inside the box become such an untrendy thing to do?  We hear this “outside the box” stuff so often that is has become pretty meaningless, rather like that rocket science blah.  If we all thought outside the box, some guru would start to encourage us to do the opposite.  

We never seem to elaborate on the “think tank” idea by suggesting that people should think outside of the tank, do we?  If we had our thinking cap on, no one suggests we think with the cap off.  The inventor of exterior box thinking thought he was onto something and I wonder if he ever considered thinking about his invention inside or outside of another receptacle altogether – a bin, a carton, a crate, a chest, a basket, a hamper, a cauldron, etc, etc.

To take it to extremes, what about a tropical fish thinking outside the aquarium, or a dog thinking outside the kennel, or a bird thinking outside the nest, or an undertaker thinking outside the coffin or a window cleaner thinking outside the bucket? Okay, I’ll stop this nonsense.

Let’s get rid of the box and just, er, think inside our heads!

Monday, 26 October 2015


With red meat, processed meat including bacon in the news again, here's a breakfast poem.........

I sat down to breakfast,
bacon, egg and toast,
pot of tea and orange juice
and the morning Daily Post.

But all at once I jumped ten feet
frightened for my life
when the egg let out a scream of "Oi,
watch where you put that knife!"

Then the bacon laughed and laughed and laughed
and began to dance a jig,
singing "I wish I was at home again
on the backside of a pig."

The teapot lid was banging,
the crusty toast began to cuss
but the orange juice let out a pip
to quieten all the fuss.

I came down from the ceiling
chaste and unaccusing
vowing to give up fatty foods
for something more ameusling.


It doesn’t take much –

the sizzle of bacon frying,
a wasp squashed by a newspaper,
a dandelion,
a soft handshake,
the smell of bleach,
champ and butter,
raindrops on a window,
an ink blot,
finding coins down the back of a sofa,
tomato sandwiches,
a TV theme tune,
washing up liquid bubbles,
stewed tea,
whispering a prayer,
melting candle wax,
talcum powder,
a full moon,
the rush of a tide,
a crying baby,
good manners,
a church spire,
knitting needles,
Forty Shades of Green,
furniture polish,
rosary beads,
snooker -

all this and more
and I am my mother’s son again.

Sunday, 25 October 2015


In his book, Searching For John Ford, Joseph McBride wrote about the many delays in getting The Quiet man film up and running. He quotes Maureen O'Hara who, it is said, made a handshake deal with Ford to play the female lead:

Image result for Maureen O'Hara The Quiet ManImage result for Maureen O'Hara The Quiet Man

"Each year we would hold the summer open and each year there was no money and we couldn't make the movie. The script was taken to Fox, RKO and Warner Bros and all the studios called it a silly, stupid little Irish story. "It'll never make a penny, it'll never be any good," they said. And the years slipped by. John Wayne and I used to go to the studio and say: "Mr Ford, if you don't hurry up I'll have to play the widow-woman and Duke will have to play the Victor McLaglen role because we will be too old."

Well, history shows that the little Irish story became a classic film, shown often on television and loved by many people across the generations. The cast is classic John Ford. John Wayne, Victor McLaglen, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, a host of great Irish supporting characters and, of course, the wondrous Maureen O'Hara.

Image result for Maureen O'Hara The Quiet ManImage result for Maureen O'Hara The Quiet Man

All the key players in The Quiet Man passed away long ago and, now, Mary Kate Danaher has joined them  She made it to 95.

She was as great a movie actress as any you could mention, doing wonderful work on her own terms and playing perfect scenes with John Wayne, not only in The Quiet Man but also in Rio Grande, The Wings of Eagles, McLintock! and Big Jake.  (If you look up her filmography on Wikipedia, there are some great quotations from her about her film CV.)

Image result for Maureen O'Hara McLintock

In 1999, she was asked in an interview if she got on well with Ford because they were of the same temperament:

Image result for Maureen O'Hara John Ford

"Frankly, I'm a bloody good actress and he let me use the talent I was born with. I was never happy with the things Hollywood made me do. I felt there were chains around me. But the first time I worked with Ford, the chains were gone. I could do any damn thing I wanted to and it was all right. He gave me freedom...... he was tough, very tough..... but between 'roll it' and 'cut' he was a pleasure to work with."

Like millions of others, I loved Maureen O'Hara. I have watched westerns for over fifty years and (pc alert!) I never really cared for actresses in jaunty stetsons cluttering up the action. Maureen O'Hara was different from all of them. She was a class act in terms of looks, screen presence and acting range. I liked the fact that she was Irish too. In cliche terms, she lit up the screen any time I saw her.

John Wayne called her: "The greatest guy I ever knew." She said of him: "I made John Wayne sexy. I take credit for that."

She was very special and a bloody good actress to boot.

RIP Maureen O'Hara (1920 - 2015)

Friday, 23 October 2015


That bastard sugar has been in the news again. Oh how some shake their fists at it.

Food, diet, health all have their actual or well-spun controversies, crises, epidemics, etc.  The obsession with reducing plastic bags (don't get me started on that one) seems to be much more important than actually changing behaviour on what we put into our cakeholes. 

Supermarkets need a bloody good overhaul to make things clear to the dumb, dense, witless public (for that is what we are folks in the minds of the behavioural nudgers in politics and business).  So, here it is again.  My revolutionary supermarket layout to satisfy nanny and matron, and to guide us to the promised land of long life and happiness..


All the talk about retail regeneration, clarity for customers and healthy living, got me thinking that all food stores, large, medium and small, should adopt the simplest form of layout.  

Asking customers to read product labels is a non-starter. Too much information. Too much blah. Too much cover-your-arse verbiage.  Here's the solution:

4 sections all painted - floors, walls, ceiling to avoid any confusion:

Green zone: Contains all food and drink that Matron says is very, very good for us.

Amber zone: Contains all food and drink that Matron says is not too risky

Red Zone: Contains all food and drink that Matron says is bad for us - but it's our choice to enter this zone.

Black zone - for all food and drink that Matron considers extremely bad for us even though it might be the tastiest selection - enter if you dare!

There you go. Simple as that. No need for expensive research. 

It's worth a pilot, surely.

Food and drink retailing is saved.


Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha, left their eight-year-old daughter, Nancy, in a pub after having Sunday lunch, Downing Street has confirmed. (Reported 11 June 2012)

This week Mr Cameron took the Chinese President Xi Jinping to The Plough for a pint and they both had a laugh as the incident was recalled by the PM. Here's what I wrote in 2012.

Hey Sam, kids, do you know
what I fancy?
A pub lunch,
so come on love,
Arthur, Florence and Nancy.

Let's go to The Plough,
and have Sunday lunch,
just us as a family
and my bodyguard bunch.

The lunch was great,
so tasty and yummy,
three kids and the heavies
and Daddy and Mummy.

Now back to Chequers
to chillaxe I fancy,
with Arthur and Florence
and....... crikey, where's Nancy?

Thursday, 22 October 2015


I have a long-held ambition to hear Willie Nelson singing this song, hence the country music use of the word "don't" rather than "doesn't" in the chorus.

It started out as summer love,
warm days and loving nights,
picnic fun and country walks,
feather kisses and dizzy heights.

Riding horses across the fields,
wind blowing our cares away,
stetson hats to shade the sun,
on every one of our summer days.

But now it’s over, we’ve drawn the line,
summer’s gone and the sun don’t shine,
what are the reasons who and how,
we’ve closed down for winter now.

Once this room was light and air,
sunbeam rays played on the chair,
we would talk all afternoon,
'til we witnessed the evening moon.

Now the room is dark and cold,
young love is now feeling old,
windows locked and shutters down,
and I look like the saddest clown.

But now it’s over, we’ve drawn the line,
summer’s gone and the sun don’t shine,
what are the reasons who and how,
we’ve closed down for winter now.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


As a wannabe writer of a certain age, I like to scribble and type away at a variety of things and then decide whether or not the ideas are worthy enough to be developed into books that might draw a modicum of interest from somewhere or other.

I have had a go at biography, business books, fiction, drama and poetry from light to dark. I enjoy playing with words and will continue to do so.

One of my related interests is to talk about books, about reading and about having fun with rhyme.  An outlet for this kind of thing is the local library.  I will not identify it here but those who know me will have a fair stab at the location.

In the past 18 months, I have sent two letters, six emails and spoken in person to library staff on two visits to request a table and chair in a public area to present 'meet the author' days where I could display and discuss my books and passers-by could tell me about their books, ideas and their reading and writing interests.  The intention is not to do a sales job, although that might be a by-product. The response has been zip, nada, zilch, nothing. Not even a straightforward 'no'. At worst, this is just plain rude and, to me, shows a complete lack of interest in such a simple event idea that is wholly in keeping with what a library is all about.

I frequent this library, browse, have coffee, borrow books, sit and do some scribbling and I enjoy it. It is a great building but apathy seems to be the order of the day when it comes to encouraging locally-based writers, or maybe it's just me! Paranoid.......

I will find other ways to share my love of books, reading and writing and not bother with the library in that regard. Shame, as I have supported libraries wherever I have lived. Now, I suppose I'm only a partial supporter.


Tuesday, 20 October 2015


Black Friday - a day of shopping madness - is scheduled, I believe, for 27 November, 2015. Stuff is sold en masse and customers act as if it is the last shopping day before the Apocalypse.......

Black Friday, get in a queue and wait,
dressed from head to toe in combat gear,
prepared, who dares wins, shopping with no fear,
eyes on bargains, gathered hordes salivate,

wearing elbow pads, knee pads, shin pads, hobnail boots,
the atmosphere rising to fever pitch,
the mild-mannered become bastard and bitch,
battering and bruising, not giving two hoots.

The luckiest ones hold their prizes high,
triumphant in their quest to win the day,
victorious survivors of the fray,
while unlucky ones hang their heads and cry.

And after all the sales are rung and checked,
both store displays and shop staff nerves are wrecked.

Friday, 16 October 2015


All of my books available to buy here:

 The original Only Yules & Verses was published in 2013. This edition contains the previous material plus new text. When the first book was published in 2013, an unsolicited comment appeared on Amazon. I call stuff like this little nudges of encouragement. Of course, for every flattering nudge, there are several pokes in the eye waiting in the wings. Here’s the comment from a man called Joe Koot: “Only Yules and Verses is one of those special little books that you happen upon serendipitously. I have read authors' blurbs before extolling the mirth to be found in THEIR book only to buy the book and be severely disappointed. What an unexpected joy, therefore, to pick up this little gem and read it to the end with smiles, a few laughs out loud and some headshakes at the ingenuity of Joe Cushnan. I thoroughly enjoyed this and wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. P.S. I am not a friend or family member of the author, but how I wish I were!”
ISBN: 9781786101853  Total Pages: 132  Published: 6 October 2015  Price: £5.99

 ‘I’ve a grand memory for forgetting….” Alan Breck to David Balfour in Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped” Before Amnesia, Seeds of a Memoir is a blend of humour and serious reflection, there to entertain, inform and, perhaps, enlighten. It is not a conventional autobiographical project. The book contains two essays on my background (Belfast and beyond), a selection of random memories, two poetry sections and a script for a proposed radio drama about a father and a son meeting after a gap of fifty years. On a quite serious note, we are all prone to losing our memories as we get older, either through natural forgetfulness or by something more debilitating. I would like my family in the future to have some written record of me, not for personal vanity but to give them a few details about life as I experienced it. I might get round to writing my whole story but for now, with the words of Alan Jay Lerner singing in my head: ‘Ah yes! I remember it well’, these notes and observations lay some kind of a foundation. Joe Cushnan is a freelance writer of books, features, reviews and poetry.
ISBN: 9781786101655  Total Pages: 141  Published: 23 September 2015  Price: £5.99

A version of this book was published in 2013. I have made minor adjustments to the text, added some illustrations and some extra writing segments. "Stephen Boyd was one of the nicest, kindest people I have met in my lifetime, rare in this profession." - Euan Lloyd, film producer of Shalako, The Man Called Noon and The Wild Geese. "Joe Cushnan’s excellent biography of Stephen Boyd, the forgotten film star and a fellow countryman of mine, fills a disgraceful gap in cinematographic history and should be read by all who are interested in that fascinating subject." - James Ellis, actor in Z Cars, The Billy Plays, etc Stephen Boyd was one of the biggest film stars of the late 1950s and 1960s (The Man Who Never Was, Ben Hur, The Fall of the Roman Empire, Fantastic Voyage, etc), an ordinary boy from Northern Ireland who made a dream journey to Hollywood, starring alongside some of the most prestigious names in cinema including Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward, Gregory Peck, Brigitte Bardot, Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, James Mason, Gina Lollobrigida, Omar Sharif, Doris Day, Sean Connery and Raquel Welch. This is the first book to celebrate his life and work. He had a 20-year film career, sadly cut short by his sudden death, aged 45, in 1977. Joe Cushnan is a freelance writer of books, features, reviews and poetry.
ISBN: 9781786101105  Total Pages: 208  Published: 5 September 2015  Price: £6.99

 The two books in this volume emerged from my long experience as a retail manager and, for a short time, one of the unemployed. “Retail Confidential” was first published in 2010 and it takes an honest, practical and cynical look at shops, shoppers and shopping. One or two critics have not taken too kindly to my sarcasm at times but my gracious reaction is to tell them to go and write their own books. This is not a theoretical text book. This is real life. “Much Calamity & The Redundance Kid” is an account of the job losses in my career followed by some serious and tongue-in-cheek advice for people struggling with the trauma of unemployment but determined to rise to the challenge of finding new work. The first book covers shops, shoppers and shopping. The second book is the shafted part. Both books have had minor text corrections and some layout changes. For freelance writing commissions and invitations to talk to business students, company teams, etc please contact me via
ISBN: 9781786101938  Total Pages: 359  Published: 6 October 2015  Price: £7.99

Thursday, 15 October 2015


Every morning, my radio-alarm goes off. It is set for Radio 4 and, at 6.30am, it's the Today Programme.  It seems without fail that the headline story is always a bad news story and on many occasions it is a story about the National Health Service and how it is not fit for purpose, in a dangerous state, crumbling, financially strapped, risking lives, straining morale and on and on and on.

The NHS is under so much scrutiny and rightly so because it is critically important to keep what is working well working well and to fix things that need fixing. Like any other service or business, the NHS is a daily grind that needs management routines, operating procedures, efficiency and due diligence second to none to fulfil its very reason for being.  The NHS website summarises:

"Since its launch in 1948, the NHS has grown to become the world’s largest publicly funded health service. It is also one of the most efficient, most egalitarian and most comprehensive. The NHS was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth – a principle that remains at its core."

The NHS is undergoing major changes in its core structure, including who makes decisions about services, service commissioning and the way money is spent. There is nothing wrong with that approach but the NHS is also a political football presided over currently by Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt who has form in not liking the way the NHS is run and funded.

It does not take a genius to see that if a publicly funded NHS is struggling to cope in areas because of financial cutbacks and the head honcho Hunt seems content to bring the whole organisation to its knees, the ultimate aim is clear: break up the NHS and sell the pieces off to private investors and get the public used to the fact that if they visit A&E or stay in a hospital bed or visit their doctor, they should have a debit or credit card handy or else they can get stuffed.

If a Chief Executive of a company presides over a failing business, he or she will be booted out.  It is the same with football managers whose teams do not score enough points - the boot. But, Secretaries of State wear Teflon suits, it appears and take the stance that the buck stops somewhere other than at their doorsteps. Jeremy Hunt and many before him have been in charge of a struggling NHS but now, with daily news reporting more negative stories and surveys, the organisation is being strangled brutally and deliberately in plain sight but not with honesty. 

We are being brainwashed with bad stuff and prepared for the end of the NHS as we know it. It might take a generation but if you allow a wrecking ball to swing and connect with a structure long enough, the structure becomes rubble and something else will take its place.

The wrecking ball has been in motion for some time and it is not going to stop any day soon. The 6.30am alarm will confirm it tomorrow and the next day and the next day.........

Significantly, the UK electorate voted back into office the very people operating the levers and switches, a bit like (if I can mix up my thoughts) saying the Boston Strangler was a safe pair of hands.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


What a strange era we live in.  It is an era of guilt, worry and fear. It is an age personified by the Eeyore news presentation of people like Huw Edwards and others.  There seems to be (at least to this viewer) a kind of enjoyment in delivering news in a droll, downbeat fashion (furrowed brow essential, as is an occasional shake of the head or a desperate glance away from the camera).  The overuse of the 'breaking news' banner on TV screens just adds to that sit-up-and-take-notice angst that we are subjected to whether or not the news story breaking is important.

Radio phone-in shows just stir the pot and add to the problem rather than making much effort to ease minds about whatever topics of the day are deemed worthy of airtime.

Looking at the front pages of daily newspapers over a period of time suggests that, unless there is a big national or international story that captures the collective attention of editors and readers, there are diverse headlines about all sorts of stuff from celebrity boo-hoo stories to weather warnings to campaigns for whatever to a member of the Royal family sneezing without a hankie in sight.

Politics, media and business have always latched on to the guilt, worry and fear bandwagons to influence, persuade and convince people to part with their votes, their loyalties and, of course, their money.

We are now cursed with an avalanche of TV and gadget channels and, if you watch them long enough or regularly, there is a bombardment of advertisements about charitable causes, insurance, health, finances, etc that wave guilt, worry and fear in front of us along with, of course, product and conscience solutions that we must buy or sign up to or else we may as well get on the road to hell and final damnation.

Politicians love the guilt/worry/fear tactic because it is their job to change behaviour and shackle everybody to their ways of thinking.  Their job is not to serve the electorate (only important in the run-up to elections) but to do whatever they like once in power.  If you listen carefully enough in the days after a General Election, you can hear shredding machines sucking Rennies and burping because of indigestion from gorging on useless manifestos.

This is an era when the powerful and influential combine to suck all the joy out of life by ensuring through relentless drip-drip-drip brainwashing that we feel guilty, that we worry and that we fear for our lives, livelihoods and loved ones every day.

I am reminded of a couple of things. Go to YouTube and look up a clip from the film Network starring Peter Finch who plays a newsman pushed to the edge, urging us to stick our heads out the window and yell: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." Incidentally, Network came out in 1976, so guilt, worry and fear are not new.

There is a book, published in the 1950s, called The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard. Look it up. It is more relevant today that it was back then.  Today, the persuaders are not hidden. They are out in the open and in our faces.

And then there is the depressing sight of UK politicians at their grubbiest and deceitful in the EU referendum campaigns, lying, threatening, bitching, and showing politicians really are hustlers out to con their way to victory and power - and most of these horrible specimens walk away rather than help clear up the mess they've made .

And then, and then (gas and air), we have even worse politics as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton square up to each other in America's most bitter and twisted political campaign ever.  One of these people will be President.  How the hell did that happen?  Let us all practice sticking our heads between our legs and kissing our arses goodbye.

Finally, sod the lot of them as much as you can. Get up and go for a walk in the park, along the coast, out in the countryside and remind yourself that there is more, much, much more to life than the messages of doom and gloom that surround us.  Reclaim life's joys. They are still out there. Resist the agendas and campaigns, blatant or subtle, to make us feel guilty, to make us worry and to make us fearful.

I'm off to watch ducks on a lake for a while.