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Wednesday, 25 April 2018


For Pete Hardy

You were a whirlwind,
a man of Jesus,
solid devotion,
no doubts, none at all,
'kids like us' you'd say,
'kids like us' such fun.
We shook hands, had hugs,
yes, those bear-man hugs,
teacher, believer,
a family man,
husband and soul mate,
full of life, belief,
certainty, no doubts,
the end of this life
is a beginning
but you knew that stuff,
all through the darkness,
you saw the bright light
of everlasting
joy, comfort and peace.

Thank you Pete, thank you,
for references,
wise words and stories,
a storyteller,
memorable man.

Rest in peace.

Saturday, 14 April 2018


John Cushnan 1925 - 1982

Over the past year or so, I have been researching and writing a memoir about my family, the core of the story concerning my father who left us in 1960. He never came back home to Belfast. He died at 57 in Clapham, London in 1982. Amongst other things, he left a mystery of 22 'missing' years.

There have been a number of drafts of the manuscript and the latest is well underway after I contacted a professional editor, recommended by someone I trust.

I have yet to fully commit to a firm contract with the editor but already she has provided me with a generous amount of notes and guidance based on some sample chapters I sent. This guidance and steer is proving invaluable in reshaping the narrative and in drawing my attention to dimensions that I had not considered.

She has suggested areas to dig into to strengthen the general background to the story - describing locations, people, living and working conditions in much more depth that I had planned. But it makes perfect sense to (although these are not her words to me) fully analyse the who, what, when, where and why as each of the story's characters takes centre stage.

The advice not to worry about trying to write the perfect book is sound. "Write down everything you want to say, everything you remember, even if you think it might be irrelevant. Don't worry about shaping the story too much or about going off on tangents. The revision and editing process will trim away the fat and suggest what's relevant." 

There's much more in several pages of notes but it is helping enormously. And for now, it is free!

This advice coupled with comments from another independent source is worth its weight in gold. (I am waiting for a third independent response.)


If anyone reading this has knowledge of Clapham in the 1960s/1970s, who frequented the Rose & Crown pub (landlord Jim Nicholson), the Royal British Legion Club (Victoria Rise) or who knew John Kelly, aka John Cushnan who lived in Orlando Road, please get in touch via

Friday, 6 April 2018


After many years as a customer 'servant' in retail management with a little dabble in hospitality and tourism, I understand delivering service from a business's perspective and receiving service as a customer.

I know what service standards should be in theory and the difficulties, sometimes, of putting it into practice.

I think I know what turns customers on and off. I certainly know what turns me on and off. There are shops, restaurants and cafes that will never see another penny piece from me ever for various reasons.

Let me focus in on booking a table in a restaurant.  Here are questions I intend to ask at the time of my phone call:

What is your policy on service charges and tipping? (I loathe pressured or expected tipping, enforced service charges and waiting staff's faces changing from grin to grim if I decide not to leave a gratuity. By the way, it's a reason I pause whenever I consider a trip to the US. The vile and vicious tipping culture is a real bummer brought on by tight-fisted employers. It spreads beyond America with even a 'tips box' becoming a fixture in some establishments.) I will evaluate my decision based on whatever the policy is.

Do you have eardrum-busting music blaring out of the ceiling? (I detest the noise of screeching divas screaming for the highest note just below the white noise of a dog whistle while I am trying to have a conversation.  It is distracting, annoying and totally unnecessary and, no, it does not add any pleasant atmosphere whatsoever. In addition, it is unseemly to have bleeding ears when in company.) If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.

Do you allow dogs? (I'm not a dog person and I find the whole notion of dogs in restaurants abhorrent.) If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.

Do you allow customers to vape at their tables? (I have seen a few examples where this appears to be acceptable in pubs. I saw somebody vaping in a Belfast bar and another in a Chester pub. Noooooo.) If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.

At the time of this phone call, do you already have bookings for cackling hen parties or rowdy stag parties? If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks, although they are unlikely to admit to the prospect of either or both.

Do you have tables underneath heaters that broil customers as they eat or under air-conditioning units that would freeze the orbs off brass monkeys? Er, you don't allow monkeys and dogs, do you? If the answer to this question is yes, then it's thanks but no thanks.

Booking a restaurant, for me anyway, has become a complicated business...... as you can tell.