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Friday, 28 June 2019

JACK LEMMON - ONE FROM THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan

27 June, 2001, we lost Jack Lemmon at 76.

Here is an autographed photo which he kindly sent when he was appearing in Long Day's Journey Into Night in London's West End, 1986, I think.




He was an extraordinary actor with a range from comedy to drama. On screen, he cut his teeth in various TV shows before wowing big screen audiences as Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts (1955), holding his own alongside Henry Fonda, James Cagney and William Powell. He won an Oscar for best supporting actor. He struck comedy gold in Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot (1959), performing hilariously in drag along with the equally hilarious Tony Curtis, a duo on the run from the Mob, who occupy themselves by pursuing Marilyn Monroe. Then came The Apartment (1960), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), Irma La Douce (1963), The Great Race (1965) and The Odd Couple (1965) as Felix Ungar, an inspired pairing with Walter Matthau's Oscar Madison.

His three big dramatic parts that stand out for me were The China Syndrome (1979), Missing (1982) and Glengarry Glen Ross (1992).

But he had the knack of being brilliant in great films and brilliant in not-so-great ones. Always magnetic, he was one of the greatest actors in history.

He once said: 'I won't quit until I get run over by a truck, a producer or a critic." But it was cancer that stopped him in the end. He is buried in Westwood Memorial Park and his headstone says simply: 'JACK LEMMON in'.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

NURTURE A BOND WITH BOOKS

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


I wrote this post two years ago, but now that I have a brand new grandson, I thought I'd share it again.
The death of Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington Bear, was sad news indeed. But it reminded me of the importance of reading books to children. To be more specific, reading books to babies and from the earliest possible moment getting them used to the rhythm, melody and flow of words.

I cannot remember anyone reading to me when I was a child. I might be wrong there but I really cannot remember. But, within weeks of my two sons being born, I would read to them every night as they were drifting off to sleep. I assumed the sleepiness was due to their natural human tiredness, although I suppose it could have been my delivery. No matter. The important thing was to read stories to them. Over time they developed their own favourites and would prefer to hear stories repeated, a kind of verbal comfort. Some evenings, I would be so exhausted after work that I would skip a couple of sentences and the boys would perk up knowing full well that I was editing the stories. It showed me they were listening, absorbing and enjoying this nightly entertainment.

Thankfully there is no shortage of books out there but I wonder if there is a shortage of parents who can be bothered to read to their children. Maybe they think a glass of wine or a TV show is higher up the agenda. To me, investing time in children from their first gurgles as babies until they develop the skills to read and write for themselves, is not a pious or worthy effort. It is essential.

My sons grew up on fairytales, nursery rhymes, Roald Dahl, Dick King-Smith and many others including the wondrous Michael Bond and Paddington. (Nurture a bond with books. That just came to me!)

Books are great lifelong companions. Start the friendships early.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

GOD’S GIFT

"Congratulations," said God,
Here is your present. 
Treat it with care,
It's uses are wide,
Detailed instructions
Are tucked inside."

"Thank you," we said
And pulled at the string,
Clawed at the wrapping
Like kittens at play,
Found the instructions
And threw them away."

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

LEADERSHIP? WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW?

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


With the manure-stench of leadership campaigning in the air, I know a thing or two about leadership  styles and behaviours.

Over 40 years, I have worked for 40 bosses. Neat, but true. I have worked for some idiots and numpties, many an ego, some harmless average managers, only one female and just two people I revere to this day. But I'll not bore you with too many details (unless anyone wants to commission a piece - see above) but I will share my one word appraisals of the 40.

BOSS 1 – AMBITIOUS
BOSS 2 – BRUISER
BOSS 3 – BULLISH
BOSS 4 – CONSISTENT
BOSS 5 – DRIVER
BOSS 6 – EAGER
BOSS 7 – EGOTISTIC
BOSS 8 – ERRATIC
BOSS 9 – FREEWHEELER
BOSS 10 – FRIENDLY
BOSS 11 – FOCUSED
BOSS 12 – FUSSY
BOSS 13 – GRITTY
BOSS 14 – GROUNDED
BOSS 15 – HAUGHTY
BOSS 16 – HUMANE
BOSS 17 – HUMBLE
BOSS 18 – HYPOCRITE
BOSS 19 – INCONSEQUENTIAL
BOSS 20 – LAZY
BOSS 21 – METHODICAL
BOSS 22 – MILITARY
BOSS 23 – PATIENT
BOSS 24 – PURITAN
BOSS 25 – RANTER
BOSS 26 – REAL
BOSS 27 – REBELLIOUS
BOSS 28 – RUFFIAN
BOSS 29 – SCRUPULOUS
BOSS 30 – SELFISH
BOSS 31 – SINCERE
BOSS 32 – SMUG
BOSS 33 – SNEAKY
BOSS 34 – SNOB
BOSS 35 – SOFT
BOSS 36 – SUPERIOR
BOSS 37 – TENACIOUS
BOSS 38 – UNCERTAIN
BOSS 39 – UPSTART
BOSS 40 – VETERAN

If anyone wants me to write about leadership, please get in touch via joecushnan@aol.com

Monday, 24 June 2019

ZER BOINK TAPES..........

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan




In past ages of tragedy, worry and despair, newspapers have always tried to include some light relief in cartoons and also in humorous writing. As a Belfast kid, through some of the darkest troubled days, I found solace, entertainment and laughs in the columns of John Pepper and Billy Simpson, both more often than not illustrated by the great Rowel Friers.

Billy Simpson was (maybe still is) an exceptional writer.  His column appeared on Mondays in the Belfast Telegraph and it was impossible not to crack a smile as he developed a story, launched a flight of fancy, stretched an observation and did what he was hired to do – be funny, and funny was guaranteed.  You never knew what to expect.  On one occasion he retold Custer’s last stand (“The Scalps My Father Wore”) with an Irish influence in the shape of Native Americans talking in Oirish accents and passing round the war shillelagh. In “The Barley That Shook The Wind” he described the Poteen Taster of the Year contest; in “Zer Boink Tapes” he exposed a scam of someone trying to sell tape recordings of conversations between William of Orange and Pope Alexander; in “Brief Encounter at the Customs” he imagined the scenario of a man trying to smuggle pythons in his underpants; “The French Concoction” had this introduction: “There are several things in life that a man should approach with caution. Matrimony. Unattended parcels. And home-made liquor.”  Classic humour that hit the spot back in the 1970s and, after a re-read, just as funny today.

But who are the humour columnists today? Point me in their direction.

I declare my readiness to step in, typewriter and wit cocked and loaded.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

WHERE WOULD BE BE WITHOUT QWERTY?

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan




I am making an educated guess that this photograph was taken in the early 1980s, not because of my boyish good looks but because of where I was and what I was working on. The room is the smallest one in our first house as a married couple in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. The scattering of books and paper is research material for a manuscript that eventually became a biography of film star Stephen Boyd. But the significant curiosity in this modern era is that I am using a typewriter. I was not a trained typist and now that my healthy looking dark fringe has turned a tad whitish, I still only use one finger to type, two if up against a deadline and, on really adventurous days, a thumb as well. I remember all the palaver of changing messy black and red ink ribbons, struggling to align perfectly carbon paper in between two sheets of A4 paper, keys sticking when my typing became too frenzied and the slapstick joy of working with Snowpake correction fluid. My older sister Mary was the fully-trained and qualified typist in the family. I’ll come back to Mary later.

These were the days, children, before the information super highway and all of the things we take for granted nowadays like Google, online shopping, YouTube, Twitter, music streaming and all the other layers of world wide web wizardry that now obsess mankind for good or evil.

Seven years ago on 20 November 2012, the manufacturer Brother claimed to have built the UK’s last typewriter in its North Wales factory. Since 1985, when the Wrexham operation opened, the site had produced nearly six million typewriters but demand in these islands had declined sharply, although there were still healthy markets for the machines in other parts of the world including the USA and the Far East, where Brother continued to manufacture typewriters.

As far back as the 16th Century, a number of inventors had a go at experimenting with ‘impressing letters onto a page’ using a machine and historical pictures show all manner of contraptions in their bids to come up with something that would benefit communications and printing. The first patent for “a machine for transcribing letters” was issued to Henry Mill, an English engineer, in 1714. The patent read, (in the days before spellchecking): “That he hath by his great study and paines and expence invented and brought to perfection an artificial machine or method for impressing or transcribing of letters, one after the other, as in writing, whereby all writing whatsoever be engrossed in paper or parchment so neat and exact as not to be distinguished from printing.”

The first claim for a practical typewriter as we would recognize it today came from four American inventors working together including Christopher Sholes who designed the familiar QWERTY keyboard layout. It was the first typewriter proven to be faster than handwriting. There is a plaque in Wisconsin to record that “at 318 State Street, C. Latham Sholes perfected the first practical typewriter in September 1869. Here he worked with Carlos Glidden, Samuel W. Soule and Matthias Schwalbach in the machine shop of C. F. Kleinsteuber. During the next six years, money for the further development of the typewriter was advanced by James Densmore who later gained the controlling interest and sold it to E. Remington and Sons of Ilion, New York.”

Remington further developed the typewriter idea with various models and in a matter of years, offices were getting used to the clatter of keys and margin-reached pings. In turn this led to a boom in secretaries and personal assistants, as well as multi-staffed typing pools, jobs mostly done by women. Eventually manual machines gave way to electric typewriters and many brands and versions emerged in the 1950s and beyond from manufacturers like Olivetti, Casio and Smith-Corona. Typewriters with electronic memory functions arrived in the late 1970s to be superseded in time, of course, by computers.

Whilst it may have been hard, tedious work typing business letters, reports and news stories all day, typewriters were seen as cool gadgets for writers and you don’t have to look too hard to find nostalgic photographs of Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, Anthony Burgess and many others posing, some with a cigarette or a pipe (not Agatha), next to their machines. For a jolly burst of nostalgia, it is worth heading to YouTube to listen to The Typewriter tune composed by Leroy Anderson and first performed in 1950 by the Boston Pops Orchestra. It is a brilliant piece of music making the most of keys, bell and carriage return.

Rather like vinyl LPs, the typewriter may not be extinct just yet. I am sure there are many people still using them and revering them as trusty old companions. Of course, even in this age of technological overload, computers are not universally loved. The actor Tom Hanks has stimulated interest by writing a book of short stories, each one featuring a typewriter and, it is reported that he is a collector with around two-hundred typewriters in his loft. On Desert Island Discs, he chose as his luxury a Hermes 3000 manual typewriter and paper.

Some nuggets from the typewriting archives - the writer Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men, etc) bought a Lettera 32 Olivetti in 1963 for $50. It was sold at auction a few years ago for $254,500. Mark Twain, it is said, reckoned Tom Sawyer was the first novel ever written using a typewriter. J. K. Rowling said: “I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” As mentioned earlier, the last typewriter made by Brother in Wrexham was donated to the Science Museum in London because it represented the end of a technology that had been important to so many lives.

My sister Mary tells me that she learned to use a typewriter at Lisburn Technical College around 1968. She used an Olivetti manual machine and the teaching itself was interesting. A wooden box was positioned so that the student could not look down at the keyboard. It was not only a skill to get all the fingers choreographed, it was a memory test. Each student had to memorise the position of every letter, number, symbol and function of the keyboard. Mary’s typing speed achieved 80 words a minute and she remembers loving the sounds of hitting the keys and the growl of the carriage return. 

A text book at Lisburn in those days was The Early History of the Typewriter by Charles E. Weller who was an advocate of the practice drills of typing over and over again phrases like ‘now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party’, ‘now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country’ and the classic ‘ the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’, a popular teaching phrase or pangram, as they say in the trade, because it uses every letter of the alphabet, (for the pedants, using a few letters more than once).

Mary’s skills led her to a great career, starting at 17 years old in Belfast with Solomon and Peres, the music, entertainment retailer/distributor for Decca, RCA, Brunswick and Coral Records in Ann Street and then to Cyril Lord’s, the carpet people in Bangor before moving on to several Northern Ireland civil service jobs doing secretarial work, shorthand and typing. She describes leaving a typing pool, in which she punched away at manual typewriters, as “escaping that enclosure”.

We are so sophisticated now with our finger and thumb gadgets that most of this modern generation of texting and phone-checking obsessives is oblivious to a good old-fashioned typewriter. But in the history of QWERTY from its outset, there are people of past generations, mostly female, who could recall their days, for good or otherwise, on automatic pilot tapping away at the behest of their bosses, mostly male, in industry, politics and media. Without typewriters and typists in the past, the whole commercial world might have ground to a halt and the brown fox and the lazy dog might have been redundant. Time moves on, as do methods for typing, but there is still, and hopefully, always something that reminds us of where it all began. My sister Mary reminds me of many great things but I am in awe of her mastery of the keyboard.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

BOOK REVIEW - THE FIRE STARTERS BY JAN CARSON



The Fire Starters 
by
Jan Carson





‘Dr Jonathan Murray suspects his new-born daughter is not as harmless as she seems. Sammy Agnew is wrestling with his dark past, and fears that the violence in his blood lurks in his son too. The city is in flames and the authorities are losing control. As matters fall into frenzy, and as the lines between fantasy and truth, right and wrong begin to blur, who will these fathers choose to protect?’

This fine and gripping novel surfs on a sea of angst, regret, desperation, lies, trauma, violence, conscience, and hand-wringing, head-hurting decision-making. And fire. That is not to say it lacks humour or wisdom or humanity. It is a veritable casserole of impressive storytelling, wondrous phrasing, amazing wordplay, superb analogies and deliberate playfulness to keep the reader engaged whilst never allowing the predictable to ruin the books finale. The final chapter had me sweating.

The novel is set in East Belfast, which has a nice part and a not-so-nice part. Dr Murray lives in the former and Sammy Agnew in the latter. They have different backgrounds and lives but there is common ground between them, involving grave concerns about their respective children. The backdrop to their individual stories is a city plagued by fires started by arsonists encouraged by an elusive figure via the Internet. The figure and his firebrand followers are ‘the fire starters’.

As a result of a sexual encounter, Dr Murray is left with a baby daughter after the mother disappears. He convinces himself that the child is half-human and half-siren, a dangerous being who will create havoc once she grows and learns to speak. He hatches an extreme plan to curtail any potential evil. He discovers that he is not unusual in having an ‘unfortunate’ child but struggles with his job, his role as a lone father, the anxiety that controls him and his conflicting thoughts on his baby girl’s future.

Sammy Agnew is a former paramilitary with much blood on his hands. He wrestles with his past and tries to make the best of his uneasy present. His son Mark still lives at home. He is reclusive and Sammy suspects his son is involved in evil acts. Their relationship falls between strained and non-existent. Sammy is determined to find a way to save his son from any consequences that might result from his actions. The old anger and violent tendencies, whilst under a degree of control since the end of The Troubles, still simmer but could erupt anytime. Sammy is extremely worried that his own past evil has been passed on to his son.

The book follows each father’s separate story and draws them together in a doctor/patient relationship that develops into a mutual confession, opening themselves up, but not fully, about what is eating away at them. The conclusions are dramatic and tense, exciting and terrifying. As I indicated, I read the final chapter with moist hands. 

Jan Carson has written an outstanding novel, fascinating in its analysis of how far human beings are willing to go physically and emotionally. This is sublime, gritty, compelling human storytelling that never runs out of puff from page 1 to page 289. It deserves wide readership. It has already won the 2019 EU Prize for Literature, the first of many deserved accolades. Bravo, Jan Carson, bravo!

Monday, 17 June 2019

BOBBLE HAT


Mother’s skill set expanded out of necessity,
Back in the tight money days, post-Elvis, pre-Beatles.
Alongside kitchen and other housewifery talents,
She knitted in every spare moment,
Aran jumpers a speciality, but also
Scarves, gloves and non-military balaclavas, hats,
Especially one unforgettable hat for me,
A bobble hat, green, an almost exact replica
Of a Mike Nesmith Monkees hat, cool woolly number. 

Should have seen my face! I was a believer.

Still am.


THE LAST COUNTRY SONG

Over in Belfast at the weekend, a great family dinner and the craic was 90. My brother Kevin and his wife Sue handed me a scrap of paper on which the lyrics of a song I wrote were typed.

It's called The Last Country Song and remembers our brother Paul who was killed in a road accident in 1974. He was 26. He loved singing and one of his favourite songs was Blue Side of Lonesome. There is a tune to my song but here are the lyrics. I was about 22 when I wrote it. I am nearly three times that now. It was very nice to get the scrap of paper.

It's a bit of a clumsy lyric, but then again, at that age, so was I.

The Last Country Song

It's the last country song that I'll ever remember
being sung from the heart to the crowd.
The last time I saw him on the blue side of lonesome
he was singing from the heart to the crowd.

Can't remember if the rain was falling
on that cold, cold December day.
I know I couldn't cry, just sat and wondered why,
it happened as the day was dawning.

The last country song that I'll ever remember
being sung from the heart to the crowd.
The last time I saw him on the blue side of lonesome
he was singing from the heart to the crowd.

And somewhere he is looking down on me,
listening to me praying to the wind,
blowing all my thoughts to the sky,
to kiss the crowd and love his memory.

The last country song that I'll ever remember
being sung from the heart to the crowd.
The last time I saw him on the blue side of lonesome
he was singing from the heart to the crowd.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

MY ITINERARY - BELFAST BOOK FESTIVAL'S LAST 3 DAYS

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan

......

Okay, here is my itinerary for the next three days, Friday to Monday at the Belfast Book Festival: 

Friday, I land at George Best City around 08.40.

Coffee at The Mac with brother Kevin soon after.

Friday, 3.00pm  Waterstones - The Fantastical Mirror: Science Fiction Across Boundaries. I know nothing much about science fiction and I don't recall ever reading an SF novel. But I am interested in how creative writers think. So, looking forward to it.

Friday, 6.00pm Crescent Arts Centre Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers. I am from a working class background but now I don't feel working class. Not sure what class I am, if I am a class.  Strong panel here to enlighten me about writing from a particular background.

Saturday, 2.00pm Crescent, celebration of the Open University at 50. As an OU BA Hons grad, always proud to hear about and be part of this amazing organisation.

Saturday, 4.00pm Crescent, Twelve Thousand Days by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne. Looking forward to this re my own attempt at memoir.    

Saturday evening, dinner with a lot of my family. Can't wait.

Sunday, 12.00 am/pm, Babel at Bullitt Hotel, 'Yes' Molly's Soliloquy, chapter 18, James Joyce's Ulysses - and there's brunch and, cough, a cocktail! What's not to like.

Sunday, 8.00pm, Crescent, Roddy Doyle in conversation with Glenn Patterson. I mean, what? Literary royalty, right there. Excited.

Lots of time in between to spend time with family, old friends, new friends, and just enjoying a world of words and pages and books and associated wonders.

Bring it on. Belfast, I'm coming home.


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

NEW YORK: A CARELESS MISTAKE AND AN ACT OF KINDNESS

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


Last year, I entered a competition, connected to the film Ocean's 8, to win a three night break in New York. I'm just back from there and it was a great experience - a very nice hotel, lunch at The Met, sightseeing, shopping, dining, and a few hundred dollars spending money. But I'll not bore you with the details. Rather, I'd like to mention one thing, amongst a number, that impressed me.

Included in the package was an executive car to take us from and back to JFK airport. On the return journey home, the car arrived promptly and off we went. I was in the back seat with my wife. The driver had his radio on and we heard the news that a helicopter had crashed into a high-rise building in Manhattan, in an area we had been only about a half hour before. As we listened, I received a text from my brother Kevin asking if we were okay and I responded we were. I texted my sons to let them know we were fine and on the way to the airport. I kept my phone out in case other messages pinged.

At the airport, we got out of the car, paid the driver and hauled our suitcase to the check-in desk when it occurred to me that I had left my phone in the back seat of the car. Now, the route from Manhattan to JFK is traffic madness, no make that utter madness, and God knows where the driver was ten minutes after he had dropped us off. Whilst I had the number of the car company, three attempts to ring failed to connect. Then, my wife had the brainwave for me to use her phone to phone my phone. This I did and the driver answered.

To cut a long story short, he told me to wait outside the departures door and he would return to the airport with my phone. A quarter of an hour later he arrived handed over the phone, graciously accepted my apology with a "No problem sir" and went on his way again.

Moments like this stay with me. I could talk about the big stuff, the touristy things and all that jazz, but little acts of kindness are not forgotten. I had thought that my phone may well have been lost forever, based on a stereotypical impression of tough-ass Big Apple taxi drivers, but no. This man saved the day and is embedded in my memory's hall of fame.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SMOKING WITH STYLE?

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan

 


Many people frown on smoking and more recently on vaping, and I am one. I don't really care if people choose to smoke or vape but I do care about smoke-clouds and sickly-sweet vapour that hit me in the face as I am walking through town. Ghastly.

Even though it is not my cup of tobacco, there was a time when smoking could be done with grace and dignity. I think of Cary Grant and Lauren Bacall, two personifications of style. However horrible I think it is, and if I was forced to choose, I'd prefer the classy smoker to some of the puffing Billys and Berthas who roam the pavements and stand in pub and bookie doorways.

Today, I watched a young lad vaping like it was a minute to the end of the world. There was a nanosecond between each inhalation and blow. His head really was in the clouds. Two women stood chatting, both smoking and belching out cumulonimbus-thick layers that hung dreamily above them for a few seconds after each exhalation.

We are in the slalom generation when it comes to walking in towns as we dodge and weave our way through advertising boards cluttering the pavements as well as inconsiderate and oblivious bipeds, spatially unaware and unconscious to the fact that they are being a bloody nuisance.

But then, don't get me started on manners and social behaviour!




Tuesday, 4 June 2019

ENTERING COMPETITIONS - A HOBBY THAT PAYS OFF (SOMETIMES)

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


Soon, I will be flying off to New York, on a 5-star luxury trip, all expenses paid, thanks to a competition I entered relating to the film Ocean's Eight. Lucky guy!

Luck.  Here's the Chambers definition:

luck noun 1. chance, especially as it is perceived as influencing someone's life at specific points in time. 2. good fortune. 3. events in life which cannot be controlled and seem to happen by chance...........

"You make your own luck" is one of those glib expressions that work colleagues and bosses have said occasionally over the years. I have never believed that. How can you make something happen with certainty that is down to the roll of the proverbial dice? You can have a go, make a bet, buy a lottery ticket, enter a competition, apply for a job, etc, etc but you can't make those things a certainty for you unless you cheat or enter into some criminal activity, but then even that kind of chicanery is not a guarantee of success. 

You can prepare for things to the nth degree for what you believe is a sure thing, but it is still a game of chance. I heard someone say "you make your own luck" recently on the radio and it got me thinking about the sheer amount of meaningless claptrap that permeates business life, sports punditry, social networking and life in general.

God knows, we only have to spend a few minutes on Twitter to read all kinds of pseudo-sage advice. I'm as guilty as anybody. I add my tuppence on a regular basis. But if you really can make your own luck, it can be either good luck or bad luck, can't it?  Either way, you're not in the driving seat. Depend on the rabbit's foot if you like but remember it didn't work for the rabbit. In the Sunday Times Rich List, for example, there are winners of huge lottery jackpots in the ranks.  Did they make their own luck or did they just buy a ticket that happened to coincide with the big money balls?  

Ladies and gentlemen, I have an admission to make. 

I am a competitions junkie.  

If I see a prize worth going for, I enter. I have won:

a Mini car (that's a real car, not a toy!)
a £4,500 holiday to Alberta, Canada
a £500 cosmetics/perfumes hamper
a TV
an X Box
tickets to see The Three Tenors at Wembley
a bench top tool system/saw set
a weekend in Cornwall
a cookery school weekend in Aldeburgh
several National Lottery tenners
several Premium Bond £25s
an outdoor jacket
a laptop computer
a selection of computer accessories
a lot of books
a lot of DVDs
a lot of CDs
several gift cards
etc
etc

Entering competitions is fun and very cheap. I go for free entry comps or, if interested enough, I'll stretch to postcards and stamps. I never, ever enter by phone call or text. Those methods of entry are mugs' games, very expensive at rates that might hover around £2 a minute and they keep people hanging on for far longer than a minute.

If you are looking for a fun hobby, go on, have a go. If you're not in, you can't win.

Good, er, luck!

Monday, 3 June 2019

WHY USE TWO WORDS WHEN ONE WILL DO?

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


The July issue of Writing Magazine has landed and, from The World of Writing pages, they draw from the John Humphrys book Lost for Words.

The gist of the piece is why use two words when one will do, citing examples:

future prospects
past history
past record
future plans
live survivors
safe havens
temper tantrums
new initiatives
still continuing

and this rather longer one:

at this moment in time


As Muriel Spark noted:

'Write as if writing to a friend and use as few words as possible.'

On the other hand, write like the Dickens, as I was advised, saying anything and everything you want to say, and then find a great editor. As I did.

I am learning all the time!

Saturday, 1 June 2019

MARY PETERS AT 80 - AN ANECDOTE



Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan

Once in a now defunct department store – Anderson & McAuley - in Belfast, I was down on my hunkers, as they say, browsing through some bric-a-brac on the bottom shelf of a display stand.  Gradually, the light around me began to fade and an enveloping darkness cast a giant shadow over and around me.  “An eclipse in a department store?” I pondered for a moment. “They’ll believe in leprechauns before they believe this.”  Slowly, I looked up from my crouching position only to see a formidable lady towering over me.  It was a David and Goliath moment only this Goliath was female and no less a sporting legend than Mary Peters, the Commonwealth and Olympic Games gold medal winner.  Oblivious to this innocent shopper, she inched her way along the aisle, looking at stuff on the higher shelves and eventually ploughed into me, knocking me over with all the power of, erm, an Olympic athlete.  She looked down at me and said: “Are you alright?”  I looked back at this goddess of the games and said: “I’m so sorry.”  She smiled and said: “Don’t worry.”  With that she walked on and I was left in a confused state, knocked over by Mary Peters and wondering why apologised.  The incident happened in the late 1970s and I still applaud her sporting achievements but if it had happened nowadays, think of the claim I could have made.  I could have sued her for at least one of those medals.  Talk about Belfast and furious!

😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂