Tuesday 22 October 2019

For Darker Days and Nights

When Inspiration fails...surf, bookworm and become a couch potato....

Creativity and inspiration somewhat elusive for me these days but ...
Discovered a new Ezine for flash fiction: Splonk...it's the irish word for flash apparently.
Worth a read- great stuff in it...

A book to recommend is The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

And TV series World on Fire

Lesley Manville,as the mother from the manor, has all the Maggie Smith lines...

!!!!! Happy Halloween!!!!!

Thursday 5 September 2019

Blogs to follow


Gill James does a great job featuring  new and budding authors- worth a try. The stories are meant to be short enough to read over a cup of coffee, glass of wine or whatever takes our fancy.
Am featured on 2nd September and will have a piece blogged again on 7th.


Still editing. By the time I am finished this novel will be a mini-pocket novel....
Mrs Mac really is the villain of it so here she is showing her true colours.


The topic under discussion at toastmasters is Ireland the land of welcomes – Myth or Reality?” It isn’t a very original title and Angela MacFadden has thrashed it out year in year out in the Leaving Cert syllabus. She considers herself to be somewhat of an expert on the subject.  There will much sentimentality spoken on the night of the under-privileged immigrants seeking refuge in our increasingly affluent economy, of the increasing prices in Ireland’s tourist and catering trade, and of exploited Americans and disillusioned Europeans. 
 Phil McCarthy will wax lyrical on the subject of cultural eclecticism.  The librarian loves all things foreign and takes herself off on downright foolhardy global expeditions several times a year. Phil is a naïve who wanders through life embracing diversity and goodwill. The treks she makes are probably so stage managed that she barely scrapes the surface of indigenous communities, but that will not prevent Phil from taking up the cause of the Third World and suggesting that the Irish provide a safety overflow for the Third World’s surplus population. This is not Angela MacFadden’s opinion. Let the developing countries limit their population instead of inflicting it on her hapless shores.
 Charlie Moore will insist that we, as a nation of emigrants ourselves, should at least recognize the destitute circumstances of the flood of immigrants that is arriving at our ports. He will talk of empathy and responsibility; Charlie emigrated to Australia in the seventies, stayed for six months and begged the fare home from his auntie Bridie. He speaks with experience, and at length, of his ordeal.
 John Dillon will talk rationally, thank God, about the devastating effects on our service industry of introducing cheap labour. Matt Byrne will make parallels with the Jews and Nazi Germany, for he can leave the topic out of no debate. It will be interesting to see how he might angle it this time. Sissy McKeown can be relied upon to dwell on the spectacle of droves of beggars haunting the streets, swelling the tide of itinerant paupers. She will have tears in her eyes imagining the gaunt eyed babes in arms and toddler children dragged past waiting car queues at traffic lights and placed strategically at supermarket outlets to extend their puny hands to passersby. Sissy once accosted an itinerant on the subject of childcare and received a verbal tirade for her trouble. Sissy has no children of her own, and has sentimental notions about their susceptibility.
 Dick Brady will be sure to scandalize the company with his reference to illegal prostitution and its links with immigrants. He will savour dwelling on human trafficking to the delight of Jemima Stewart, Blackrock High ancient historian, who will let her mind run to riots in the streets. Carnage at Carthage. Miss Stewart is a bloodthirsty spinster whose imagination finds refuge only in the truly barbarous.
 But of all these it is Lily Devlin’s response that most interests Angela. For Lily will plead for liberalism, agree with cultural diversity, agree John Dillon’s hard economic realism and fall victim to Jemima’s hysteria. Lily will be susceptible to all sides and concur with everyone. It is Angela MacFadden’s opinion that Lily, if personally challenged in her smug middle-class cosiness, would be the first to send the immigrant ship home, and she, Angela MacFadden, is going to test her theory tonight.
 Angela will, like Lily, plead the reasonableness of all of the arguments. She will opt for state controls, law reforms and democratic decisions, but she will personally not support any politician who cannot be relied upon to keep this country free of radical foreign ideas and influence.

 The evening unfolds exactly as Angela MacFadden expected. John Dillon surpasses himself quoting figures from various recent surveys. Sissy sheds more tears than usual. Angela thinks Miss Stewart has lost the edge on her normal level of paranoia, perhaps it is the effect of the Christmas season mellowing her. Angela had forgotten that factor, the Christmas season and the no- room -in- the- inn theme. Matt Byrne, however, has not, and he opts for the marginalized Holy Family instead of the Jews. Angela enjoys listening to Lily embrace all sides of the argument. She enjoys it particularly well tonight because of the bombshell she is about to drop.
 “So I see your Fred has got himself un amour, or should I say amoureuse?” Angela says chattily to Lily at the tea break.
 “Fred. A girlfriend? No. I think you’re mistaken, Angela. He’s far too disorganized for that kind of thing,” and Lily continues sipping her tea from a china cup, flicking her grey honey blond hair and smiling at Dick Brady.
 “They were wrapped around each other walking along the beach, Lily. But if you say so, perhaps….” Angela swallows a custard cream whole.
 “Are you sure it was Fred?” Lily stops flirting with Dick.
 “I teach him, every day, Lily. I wouldn’t be mistaken about that!”
Lily’s colour is rising. She has just caught hold of a possibility that has long hovered on the edge of her consciousness. How will she feel when she is no longer the only woman in her son’s life? The feeling is uncomfortable.
 “Wrapped around each other?” Lily asks. Dick is waving a plate of biscuits in her direction, but Lily doesn’t seem to notice.
 “Very much so. Young love. You remember that Lily?” Dick’s toupee is slightly askew on his forehead as he surges forward with the plate. “I’d love one of those Kimberly biscuits, Dick, thanks,” adds Angela.
 Lily begins to recall dropped clues, little symptoms of secret trysts, lies that she may have wrongfully indulged. There have been a lot of demands for aftershave and excuses spun out so wide that Lily cut them short and settled for ignorance, trusted in his loyalty. Naively, as it turns out!
She totally ignores the proffered plate of delights that Dick Brady is waving under her nose.  There’s been a lot of wet towels left strewn lately on the bathroom floor after long showers taken at odd hours and his bedroom door closed at all hours, never his habit before. Her darling, childish Fred in love? Lily can’t swallow another mouthful of tea.
 “No Dick,” she says brusquely as Dick Brady now hovers over her with a tilted tea pot. “Do you know who she is?” Lily can barely whisper the words. Angela’s moment has arrived.
 “Oh, yes, there could be no mistaking who has put the spring into our Fred’s step,” she says draining her cup. Lily’s eyes are riveted to Angela’s face.
 “Dick, I’ll have one of those bourbon creams as well, if I may,” says Angela. “I have a real weakness for these ones,” she adds to the undertaker’s wife.
 Lily is cringing under the weight of Angela’s ugly words, “put a spring in his step.” Her Fred has always been lighthearted, sprightly, never morose, an affectionate loving son. But come to think of it, he isn’t turning back to give her a goodbye hug as often as usual and he’s stopped peppering every parting with, “Love you!” and one night, a while back, he popped his head quickly inside the sitting room door and sneaked off to bed in a very guilty like way and the next day she noticed a bruise on his face.
 Is the girl abusing him? Lily’s imagination is running off the Richter scale while Angela watches her face closely as she exchanges some pleasantries about biscuits in Bethlehem with Dick.
 “Angela, for God’s sake tell me who is she?” pleads Lily so insistently that Dick looks sharply in her direction.
 Angela reckons the moment is ripe and the evening’s topic lends her triumph more panache than she could have hoped for.
 “Well, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you Lily. I had assumed you must know or I’d never have mentioned it, but from the rumours flying about, it seems that he walks her home - to that place- everyday after school.” Angela munches contentedly on the chocolate biscuit.
 “Rumours? What place? Angela?” Lily is even more distressed than Sissy McKeown could ever be at the sight of a child street beggar.
 “Lily, I’m so sorry to be the one to break it to you. The girl’s a foreigner, an immigrant, Algerian. She lives in that council dive at the far side of town, across the railway tracks.” Angela brushes the crumbs from her skirt in one wide sweep.
For a moment Angela thinks that she may have gone too far for Lily physically blanches and Dick Brady notices it.
 “Lily, are you alright there? You’re as white as a-?”
   “Get her a cup of hot tea,” urges Angela.
   There is a buzzing in Lily’s ears. Images shift and dissolve. She blinks her eyes and her head feels separate from her body and floats into space. Lily digs her heels into the floor and Angela’s words seem to come from a long way off.
 “No, no!” She struggles to get up as someone pushes a cup of steaming tea to her lips.
 “If you would just call John? I need to go home now.”
 “Of course, Lily! I’ll bring you myself,” says Dick helping Lily to her feet.
 “I’m so sorry, Lily. I had no idea you didn’t -”
 “Yes, yes, Angela. Thank you. Yes.” Words come to her mouth and then recede and she cannot even remove Dick Brady’s proprietary arm from her waist as she makes a hasty exit.
 Once Lily has been ushered from the room, Angela tuts aloud to Miss Stewart who has missed none of the exchange; Angela’s only surprise is that the ancient historian did not interrupt her performance.  “Only sons! A lot of trouble. I think I’ll have another one of those bourbon creams and perhaps a drop of tea to wash it down, thanks Jemima.”
 Jemima Stewart pours the tea with relish. She has to take her hat off to the D.P. When it comes to inflicting pain Miss Stewart knows none more skilful than Angela MacFadden.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Tuesday 27 August 2019


The Mills and Boon editing team weren't overly fond of Tara, though she probably is my favourite character in the novel....
Her attempts at orienteering recall my own adventures once upon a time.


Tara avoids the N11 brought to a standstill by the weekly Sunday scamper from suburbia, and follows the scenic route to Enniskerry instead. The road winds through narrow gullies, snakes past undulating farmland and for a few miles ancient oaks and beech provide a thick canopy of gold and copper over her head. At Powerscourt she turns left and follows the sign for Djouce Wood passing her favourite mid-term break retreat, Powerscourt Spa, and then begins her slow ascent to the Pine Forest. There will be no beauty treatment for her this midterm as she is heading to Europe with Jane. They made a pact to explore the salsa potential and local brew of some European capital.
Her apple green Mini Cooper splutters on the incline and chugs reluctantly towards a darkening tree skyline; she changes gear and lets out a long sigh. Tara loathes the great outdoors unless it is relieved by a balmy Mediterranean breeze and accompanied by a G and T, cuisine al fresco, and an exotic waiter hovering around her, but she has walked briskly around Blackrock Park three times every evening for the past week in preparation for this, her first orienteering event. A glimpse of the darkening sky overhead prompts her to tilt her rear view window and scan the back seat of the car for her pink woolen hat and mittens. No sign of them. She smooths her recently straightened hair with a sigh; without the cap her blonde locks will look like a bird’s nest if these clouds open.
Djouce Woods is looming on the horizon, over shadowed now by a low heavy laden sky. Running through trees on an inclement afternoon in late September is not her idea of fun but she can hardly set up an orienteering club if her only contact with the sport is on-line.
How difficult can Orienteering be? She has bought a compass and she will be provided with a map. She is wearing a new pair of Nike runners and has rooted out her one and only tracksuit from the pink charity bag due for imminent recycling. Luckily the baby blue cotton-velour suit survived the last purge, and while she suspects that it might be a bit démodé, who is she likely to meet in the wilds of Wicklow?
Tara levers a packet of cigarettes out of her handbag with her left hand, shuffles the box, extracts her last cigarette, pinches it between her lips and takes a mock drag. Fags and fitness just don’t match, but she is keeping this, her last, for an emergency. The road sign she has been anxiously looking for glides out of vision on her right. Tara stands on the brakes and reverses into a stony enclosure already full of orienteering enthusiasts.
Jeeps vye with Mazdas and four wheel drives for space in the small makeshift car park, while young men in black lycra limber up with a professionalism that suggests that perhaps Tara has under estimated the demands of the sport.  
So this is where the talent comes on a damp Sunday morning in post modern Ireland. Forget the night clubs. Here they all are, biceps and triceps bulging through skintight fabric, toned, tanned and running for Ireland. Tara places the cigarette carefully back in the box, tucks it into her pocket, reaches underneath the pedestrian seat for a bottle of diet coke and pops a piece of Wrigley’s Cool Breeze into her mouth. Slowly and deliberately she strolls towards the two men who are registering competitors at a fold up table.
“Think I might be out of my league here, lads.”
“Not at all,” replies the younger man grinning as he gives her a long, slow, head-to-toe appraisal.
“This is the West Wicklow One Day?”
“Three events to choose from- Beginners, Intermediate or Advanced?” says the older man, anxious to avoid another long discussion about the various categories.
“Advanced sounds a bit daunting. Do you think I might qualify as an intermediate?”
“Whatever you like, you’ll hardly get lost.”
There is a group of eager West Wicklow Gazelles building up behind her and she notices that they are all wearing black lycra.
“Official gear?”
“You’ll be grand,” says the younger man. “Frankly you look far too fit for the intermediate category.”
“You’ll rescue me if I don’t get back before nightfall?”
“Personally.” He has a great set of orthodontically rearranged teeth; there is no doubt about it, that lad will be dangerous in a year or two.
Equipped with a map and a card Tara sits on a mossy bank and considers her options, speed versus accuracy or hopefully a winning combination of both. Should she rely primarily on the compass or the map? She slides the brand new compass out of its leather bound case. The young female sales assistant in the Great Outdoors was too busy chatting up a customer to pay any attention to Tara’s legitimate apprehension about the plethora of dials on display in the clock face. She looks now at the confusing array of needles and arrows and slides the compass back into its case. She has only five minutes to decide on a route before a whistle blow sends her hurtling through potted tracks and wet stream beds.
The jogging is pleasant until a stampede behind her alerts her to the competitive arrival on her shoulder of the Gazelles who are here to settle a score with Bray Antelopes. Tara withdraws into the path verge and lets them past. Then she resumes a gentle jog. Colourful butterflies and luminous blue flies flit past her and a brief glance at the map every few minutes assures her that she hasn’t already strayed off the course. This necessity does, however, slow her down and after another five minutes of halting progress a small excited gathering of lycra to her right pulls her attention to the red can in the tree branches that she is about to by-pass. She punches holes in her card and studies the map again. To heck with speed, she almost missed that first can! The Gazelles have already plunged into the depths of the thickly forested parkland to her left.
Sitting on a boulder Tara considers the symbols on her map more carefully. She extracts the compass from its brown leather case and tilts it this way and that. The next can should be at 10 degrees North West of her current position, the opposite direction to the break in the vegetation left by the Gazelles’ heels, but they are probably doing the advanced challenge. She spends another few minutes rechecking her position and then sets off at a brisk walk.
The ground underfoot is becoming stony, ferns and reeds choking up the track. The forest is unrelievedly pine and every junction looks exactly like the one before, pathways appearing that aren’t mapped on Tara’s small 6x 6 inch map. After ten minutes she decides that it has been too long since her last can sighting and she begins to listen for the sounds of lycra legs breaking through the thickets, but the only sounds come from the  streams that gurgle in the mossy underlay beneath the trees and from the buzzing of late summer flies. More ominously, midges begin to gather in dark clouds around her head. 
She stumbles along a path strewn with fist size boulders until the track deteriorates into a muck trail. Tara is forced to negotiate her steps along the grassy verges, abandoning all attempts at record breaking. She passes several piles of chopped tree trunks, newly cut, but none of these are marked on her map. The streams are not even indicated. Tara hadn’t noticed that September has been a wet month until now. A fork in the road prompts her to consult the compass in her pocket but its leather case feels light as she eases it out. The sound of twigs cracking nearby startles her; it isn’t the crash of legs through thicket. Sweat trickling into her eyes blurs her vision. The compass case in her hand is empty and she digs her fingers into her pocket again; a gap in the pocket seam explaining everything.  Her eyes strain in a wide arch but she can see nothing beyond deadwood logs and pine trunks. She listens intently. The thud of hooves breaks the silence as a herd of about five actual reindeer sweep into view, scamper through the trees and disappear again. She realizes that she is holding her breath.
Ahead of her the terrain begins to open up into an expanse of gorse covered hills. She studies the now torn map in her hand but there is no indication of open ground on it. She has obviously strayed off the map. She clutches for the mobile in her other pocket, her fingers curving gratefully around its solid shape. She should have taken an emergency phone number at registration- she should have taken that Goddamn little flirt’s number instead of simpering back at him like a besotted adolescent. In her mind’s eye Tara sees herself being spirited out of the mountains by a helmeted, uniformed volunteer from the Wicklow helicopter rescue service.
Overhead the sky is darkening and the first few spits of rain hit her forehead. She sets off towards the hilltop, twisting her ankle as she labours up the uneven surface, gorse bushes scratching her hands as she forces her way through closely packed clumps. The rain is falling more steadily.
Dave MacFadden hears the voice, high pitched and alarmed, and on the hilltop ahead of him he sees the figure waving her arms and calling out to him. A damsel in distress! Djouce woods is full of them on Sunday mornings. He lengthens his stride and dives through the furze bushes with the vigor of a man practised in the sport of hill running. By the time he reaches her side Tara’s hair is plastered to the sides of her face and her Mac mascara is dripping ink stains down her cheeks. She lights up her last cigarette and inhales deeply.

Thursday 15 August 2019

Ailwee Caves

Am still editing my semi-bio novel so Here's a short extract giving you a feel for school trips with tricky students....I'm sure a lot of you have been there...on one side or the other


“Miss, where’s sir?” asks Maeve as the group lines up in the courtyard for the day’s outing.
 “Mr. MacFadden has been called away unexpectedly so I will divide you into two groups instead of three.”
 “Miss, are we going to the caves today?”
 “You are, and I want no messing, Johnny Dolan.”
 “Miss, why did Mr. Mac have to go anyway?”
 “We leave in five minutes,” says Carol Scully gesturing to Annie for a word. “I’ll take the boys and you have the girls, Annie.”
 “What? In a co-ed school? No, let’s just do it alphabetically.”
 Annie’s group turn out to be a motley crew, but with Corr gone and Madden not included Annie is hopeful that most disasters can be averted.      
They arrive at the Ailwee Caves before 10.30am where a rash of students invade the souvenir shop and several head straight for crisp and chocolate bar dispensers.
 “We can expect the adrenals to get a shock after all that wholesome vegan hostel food. Slow carbs goodbye!” says Annie.
“You can only walk one abreast, and mind the slippery pathways,” warns the guide, a second year geography student on Easter holidays from UCD. He begins his speel about stalactites and stalagmites to the usual lurid suggestions that pillars and columns look like great big dicks. Puerile humour, would they ever outgrow it? Holiday in and out, Richard Roche listens to this banter. The girls giggle, the boys mouth on, until he turns off the lights and warns of a possible failure in electrical connections and the possibility that they might have to remain silent in the cave for a few hours, as any unnecessary sound could cause rocks to loosen and walls to collapse. After a few disbelieving guffaws they usually quieten down and he treats them to a lecture on crystallization, surface erosion, grikes and clints, underground water systems and permeability. Once concluded the lights will miraculously return and he will suggest a speedy and orderly retreat while the window of opportunity lasts. He is doing them a favour, and the teachers are always grateful.
 “Miss, I’m claustrophobic,” someone screams only a few minutes after the lights fail. This is followed by a frantic scuffling and pushing that sends one student hurtling through the rope barrier. When the lights return Johnny Dolan is spotlighted hugging the massive limestone pillar. The self diagnosed victim of claustrophobia stands over him with a camera. One student is taking swipes at descending stalactites that have taken decades to grow an inch and Richard Roche has no option but to push the emergency button. Sirens wail, lights brighten and a loud speaker requests that the group proceed immediately to the nearest exit. There is a stampede; more ropes are transgressed and when Annie finally arrives back into the reception area with all bodies accounted for she is greeted by the director of the centre informing her that Seapoint High will never be admitted entrance to Ailwee caves again.
Everyone is subdued on the way back in the coach to the Bog Hostel Centre.
 “Jaysus, Miss, the place was freezin’ anyway,” Johnny Dolan attempts to console.
 “Mr. Doyle will not be impressed with this,” she quips back.
 “Besides, Johnny,” complains Maeve, “I didn’t even get to see anything.”    
 Sobbing starts and the body of students that had not had the opportunity to misbehave inside the caves make their grievances heard at the top of their lungs.
 “Would yous ever shut it!” declares one of the H.Dips. “MacDonald’s in Gort if I don’t hear another word out of yous!”
 An uneasy silence takes over the bus and Annie's thoughts roam onto the possibility of venturing out into an alternative career. Her discipline is non existent; maybe she could try map making or road surveying, anything but teaching. Tears cloud Annie’s vision now as a road sign alerts her to the proximity of Gort and the predictable ordeal of 4D creating havoc in MacDonald’s.                    

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Introducing characters

Editing this novel for publishing is proving to be a very time consuming,tedious process, as any of you know who have done it....
And I have nothing new to post. 
So am going to post extracts of the novel as I go along. Any constructive feed back is welcome.
Dave was referred to in the last post by Tara, so here he is confronting a group of difficult teens. 
Set probably in the nineties or eighties when I was in classrooms.


“Where’s Miss-what’s-her-name?” asks a voice from the back of the class-room as Dave makes his way to the teacher’s podium.
 “Change in time-table, so you have me instead.”
 A cheer goes up from the ranks.
 “One down already.”  Tommy Corr punches the air with his fist.
 “You look like yer man, sir!” shouts a freckled boy from the back row.
 “And who would that be, Christopher Madden?” Dave asks the stocky red-haired boy whose feet rest on a school desk. He knows most of this crew already from detention supervision.
 “The boozer!” replies Christopher.
 “You mean the rake!” says Fred Devlin in a voice that is breaking.
 “He’s a chain smoker too!” This comment comes from a foreign accent, Miriam Abache, a dark clad girl who yanks a black leather bag onto her desk and takes out a novel.
 “Do you mind if I have a smoke, sir?” asks Tommy.
The whole of 4D hold their breath.
 “Haven’t you heard about the negative effects of passive smoking, Tommy Corr?” says Miriam.
 “Sure we’re all active smokers except for some swots I could mention!”
 “Ah, would you ever shut it Corr,” says Fred.
 “It’s against school rules and you are time wasting Corr!” interrupts Dave.
 Corr was expecting at least a detention order for his smoking request. He decides that he must be definitely onto another soft touch with Mac Fadden. The whole group of twenty fifteen year olds begins to relax; this eejit won’t last a month. Laura Smith, the H.Dip. he’s replacing has set a new record; it has taken them just three weeks to break her. Last year’s student teacher Claire Kelly had cried her way through the first term of daily baiting before she keeled over. She pleaded, begged, even resorted to her feminine wiles, but to no avail. 4D, then 3C, were relentless in their pursuit of teacher resignations. They made crosses in the woodwork class and brought them to Claire’s Environmental Studies group.

“What’s with the crosses?” she’d asked them.
“To keep vampires away, Miss.”
“Do you mean me, Tommy Corr?”
One day Fred Devlin told her not to take it personally, that they were waiting to reach the  school leaving age of sixteen before legally bolting. But she took it personally. Somebody said she had a breakdown. Others said she’d given up teaching for good. Mr. Doyle gave the student teachers their baptism of fire with the likes of 4D. If they could survive that they’d be teachers for life, he claimed.
“Rake. Now there’s an interesting word,” says Dave to the disheveled group in front of him.
 “What does it mean anyway, Devlin?” demands Corr. No response from Fred. “Sir, he doesn’t even know.” And he surveys his audience with satisfaction.
 “Something to do with chasing women,” suggests Fred.
They all laugh except Miriam Abache who seems to be absorbed in her reading.
 “Vocabulary. Now there’s a good place to start. I want you all to take out your dictionaries, and starting with the letter A, mark every word you don’t understand.”
 “Can Devlin mark the whole book, sir?”
 “Then put each word into an appropriate context,” continues Dave.
 Mouths opened. “A contest?” someone asks.
 “A sentence,” says Miriam, closing her novel.
 “Exactly!” replies Dave.
The groans threaten to escape through the thin partition walls and spill over into Miss Stewart’s Classical Studies class next door.
 “Sir, this isn’t English class,” declares Christopher Madden, who is still relaxing at full length, his arms now folded across his chest.
 “You’ll need to take your feet off that table to do this exercise, Madden. That isn’t a suggestion.”
 “What do you mean, sir?”
 “He means it’s an order Christopher,” explains Miriam.
 “Sir, I forgot my dictionary,” says Corr.
 “You can borrow one of mine; I always bring two.” And Miriam stretches a pocket sized Collins towards him which he accepts with a mock smile.
 “His is only a little dictionary!” declares Madden.
 “Show of hands for those who need a dictionary?”
There is a reluctant show of elbows, with some catcalls and whistling from dissenters.
 “I make it eight. Today you share, tomorrow you bring your own, or there’ll be consequences.”
 “Sir, we’re timetabled for Environmental Studies.”
Christopher is now on his feet making a great din about looking for his pencil case.
 “7am tomorrow morning on the playing pitch for twenty laps of the field if you don’t sit down and get on with your work, Madden. That goes for the rest of you as well.”
Silence descends on the classroom. Whatever about the detraction of detention, exercise is one activity they all shy away from.
 “Sir, I don’t know any words in this dictionary!”
 “How many words do we have to do?”
 “Thirty-five minutes worth.”
 “Sir, are you not going to teach us anything today?” asks Miriam.
 “You’re not paid to just sit there and do nothing.” declares Corr.
 “I’m watching you. That’s work enough.”
 “This is all your bleedin’ fault, Devlin. Rake, indeed!” Corr’s mood is turning ugly. More protests follow but Dave is unrelenting.
 “Early morning training for anyone I see slacking.”
Five minutes before the bell four students are ordered to turn up at the pitch the following morning.
 “Tomorrow I want everyone to bring their own dictionaries. You have been warned.”
 “You mean we have to do this bleedin’ exercise again?” asks Devlin who knows he is in for it at break-time.
 “All the way to Z, and without expletives. The young lady will translate.”
 “Without cursing, Fred.
 “Jaysus, I’m not doing this every day,” pronounces Corr.
 “Tommy, you now have the added advantage of one detention period. That should speed up your progress.”
 The bell rings. Dictionaries catapult into bags, under desks and some into the air.
 “Could our resident expert in vocabulary stay back a minute? I want a word with you.”
 “Bleedin’ smart arse, Mademoiselle Abache, now there’s a mouthful for you. Bleedin’ foreigners takin’ over the language,” sneers Corr as he returns the dictionary, slamming it on the desk in front of her. “You’re in for it now.”
 “I did nothing wrong, sir. You needn’t be giving me detention,” she says drawing herself up to her full height. At five foot ten, even in flat heels, she towers over most of the group.
 “I’ll meet you outside the DP’s office at lunch-time. Agreed?”
 “I suppose,” she manages before she tosses her long dark hair and follows the others out of the classroom and down the corridor past Miss Stewart who is making straight for Dave.
 “Bleedin’ know-all!” Dave hears Corr’s pronouncement on her as she walks past him holding her head high.
 “Mrs Mac’ll sort you out!” someone calls after her.
Only the boy with the breaking voice lingers. Jemima Stewart is writing names furiously in her black hard-backed notebook, kept specifically for the purpose of naming names.
 “I don’t know why you’re picking on her. They all pick on her.” Fred shoves the dog-eared books into his well worn school bag.
 “Devlin, isn’t it?”
 “She’s just in the wrong group.” A tall shuffling figure, Fred dips his head and lops out of the classroom. Dave watches as the shirt tail and half zipped up school bag dodge the jeers and guffaws along the school corridor.
The boy is right about one thing; Miriam Abache is in the wrong group. He needs to talk to the DP about this.
 “A word, Mr MacFadden?” Jemima Stewart’s grating voice interrupts his musings.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Writing Novels

I started to write this novella years ago.I am usually too lazy to write the longer forms but have ventured there twice just to experience the pain of it.... 
The idea initially was - Why not  Mills and Boon? Sure I've read dozens of them!
HOWEVER Mills and Boon said I didn't follow their formula. Fair enough. I meant to follow it but got waylaid by the characters themselves... 
Another publisher or two liked the style but  Could I write about something else? Who wants to read about love in a school staff-room???
A fourth Publisher didn't really like any of the main characters. Could I make them nicer??
Now I know that Austen, the Brontes and many other of the greats have suffered lots of rejections but I'm very thin in the skin and I'm not one of the Greats so Three's A Crowd was relegated to a shoe box- a very fancy designer one, but a shoe box all the same.
I am at that "tidy up the loose ends of my life" stage, where possible, and have finally decided to air it again, so the plan is to put it up on Amazon as an e-book. 
Will keep you posted and meanwhile here's an intro....


Tara Jones watches as her friend’s limbs spin sex to the sound of Spanish guitar. Jane Rooney loves all things exotic and at the moment she is netting Joshua Williams, a Nigerian medical student, all six foot five of him, in an aphrodisiac of rolling limbs and smouldering glances. Jane never seduces an Irish man. “They’re all gobshites! And none of them can dance,” she declares as she sallies forth in skin tight top and spray on jeans.

Jane is a dancer; there can be no doubt about that. The level of testosterone rises by 50% within her orbit. Tara throws another glass of Chardonnay into her as she surveys the matchbox dance floor now heaving under the weight of poets, well heeled winos, and Latin American music lovers. La Taverna on a Sunday night is a heady mix to the English teacher, but with the Monday grind stone hovering and Emily Dickinson’s poems still to be abridged, Tara Jones wonders if she might not just call it a night. She extracts her mobile from her Fendi shoulder bag and with a painted forefinger scrolls down to City Cabs.
Geoff Rodgers spotting Tara from his bar stool lunges towards her. “Tara Jones? God, I haven’t seen you since-” He plonks himself on top of her sequenced cardigan, spilling drinks and upsetting the Moroccan bouncer who is chatting up, what looks to Tara, like a high maintenance fifteen year old.
 “He’s with me, Georgio,” she reassures the Moroccan who is squaring up to Geoff, not impressed with his drunken slither.
“Any friend of the Salsa Sway Queen’s,” he says thumping Geoff on the back causing him to spill a few more drinks.
“Sorry Tara, I’ll replace that.” Geoff calls to a waiter and orders the most expensive wine on the list; at a hundred and seventy five euro a bottle Tara decides that her annihilation of Emily’s poems can wait another day. Geoff Rodgers springs onto the dance floor where he indulges in dangerous gyrations between Jane and her score.
He is cute, Tara thinks, in a boyish sort of way- not really her type, but then why restrict herself to types? Besides, she is out to get over Trevor Adams who hasn’t bothered to call her since that smooch at the Oscar Wilde annual bash. He is probably holed up in his cave writing sonnets to some other muse. A man from Mars unable or unwilling to deal with her Venusian curves. There is a limit to Tara’s New Age patience and unconditional loving.
She hates to hide her feelings; in and out of bed she is passionate, but she had felt so differently about this one. She had resolved to play it cool, to allow for his fear of intimacy etc, etc. A poet afraid of intimacy? Who ever heard of it? His feelings were all in his head and at the tip of his pen. She could delude herself no longer; no return call three weeks after the event is a bit of a freeze. Tara sips her Margot.
There is, of course, the prospect of the new heart throb on the staff of Seapoint High. Dave MacFadden is hot and handsome, perhaps a bit aloof, but definitely not a would-be artist, rather an outdoorsy type of man, Indiana Jone-ish, a bit of rough and tumble. Maybe she’d made a mistake going for the pale interesting ones who were so precious about themselves. Maybe it was time to go walkabout among the Wicklow Hills, join the local Orienteering club, or better still set one up in the school; Mr. MacFadden would be sure to be impressed by that little initiative.
She pours another glass of Margot. It couldn’t be the top of the range, but still, Margot is Margot and the alternative is Emily’s “Funeral in her Brain.”
“Leave some for me,” Geoff cautions her from swathes of body heat and pulsating limbs. Tara closes her eyes. Her head is beginning to spin. Geoff Rodgers lunges for what remains of the Margot and places it to his lips. Jane’s snakelike arm encircles his torso as she attempts to pull him back to the throes of a hot salsa threesome but Geoff resists and instead sweeps Tara off to the basement of La Taverna.
Geoff Rodgers certainly isn’t in his cave. His hands are up her thighs and in a minute it will be full coitus non interruptus. The thought startles her.
He is beginning to groan as he pushes himself towards her and is more than a bit surprised when she pulls away and stumbles past him.
“Geoff, I just have to go, I’ll see you around.”
“Jesus!” he mutters. “Bitch! Fecking tease!” he adds, before sinking into a stupor.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Monday 17 June 2019

Using Props

Week 9 of my flash fiction course and nearly there...
The object of this exercise is to take a prop and  let it chart the life of a character in 300 words...

The Sacred Space

 She first became aware, somewhere in her teens, that a crack in the wall is not a bad thing. The Sacred Heart on her parents’ wall, the burning heart surmounted with cross and thorns, that surveyed her every misdemeanour and purported to represent long suffering love for humanity and boundless- passionate love, appalled her. She was done with self loathing, guilt and catholic recrimination.

She found a wall of her own and replaced the bloodied heart with a giant poster of Bogart, trench coat fitted and feodora hatted, flicking ash from the corner of his curled lip snarl. Like a totem pole the man-poster attracted bad boys until she ran out of patience with them. A clenched fist inside the Venusian mirror with handle became her aspiration. She feasted on de Beauvoir and Kate Millett, the Second Sex and Sexual Politics and baulked at her status as “the other”.  

 But biological clock ticking, cow heavy like Sylvia, she watched the wall morph into Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too as she moved backwards and forwards simultaneously. She lost sight of the wall while it cracked and shattered until, suddenly free, cheap prints of Venetian canals, Greek ruins, heavily carbon footprinted vacations reflected her domain.

 These copies of copies attracted creative friends and their very own originals: water colours, oils and acrylics of fruit bowls, sunflowers and streetscapes. An army of creative women demanding wall space. She wrote a poem and won a mirror. And at last found a wall that reflected her own image.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Monday 3 June 2019

Continue the opening line..

Week 8 Flash fiction course.

The task is to continue the opening line," Smoke escaped from the basement window" and end the story with the image of smoke.
This exercise did not interest me at all but to progress to week 9 I had to complete it. Doggedly I sat at keyboard and here is the result. Try it!


Smoke escapes from the basement window. She’d opened the sash window to stifle the smell and there it is, the tell tale curl, the waft of forbidden activity drifting into the garden. He would kill her if he knew what she was at. She’d promised on her grandmother’s grave to never do it again. So much for oaths. Her grandmother lived for sixty years with the same problem. Three score years, she’d be happy with that, until the end anyway. In the end her granny felt short-changed, her life’s ambition, to write her account of a stifled life, unaccomplished. 
The trails of smoke curl upwards like silk scarves thrown. Cleo stiffens. She hears him pottering about nearby trying to connect two hose pipes. He’s cursing and muttering to himself. Not handy. That’s what her granny said about him when he arrived. And very bad tempered is what she should have added. Violent, in fact, at times; hopefully not this time. 
But he hadn’t much sense of smell which was a disadvantage if you live with someone with a compulsion like hers. There was a name for it; she couldn’t remember what it was.  They said the habit was foul. They talked of it as if it was a genetic deviation. They didn’t get it, the anticipation, the exhilaration. She’d set fire to the curtains once or twice, her own that is, but that was unintended. Her damage was usually confined to old shacks and derelict buildings. 
“She’s at it again.” Her mother’s voice dowses her musings. “Can’t you smell it coming from the basement?”
 “I’ll tan her hide!” he shouts.
 Cleo takes a final drag, legs it out the window and heads for the barn where she can already smell the euphoria of smoke rising.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Dialogue in Flash fiction

The Fallout

Clara picks up the long stemmed wine glass and frowns, “Did you wash this?”
“What does it look like,” he says waving the chopping knife in her direction.
“You need to use the glass linen tea towel to polish them properly.”
“Jesus! It’s not a Michelin Star restaurant. Your standards lately are a bit….”
“Can you point that elsewhere?” she says, deflecting the knife towards the chopping board.
“High- All those late night business dinners in the city.” He packs a salad lunch into a plastic container.
“It’s work for Christ’s sake. Somebody has to pay the mortgage.” Clara smacks her lips as she reapplies her lipstick.
“I’m a writer and - ”
“Listen, I have work.” She studies her reflection in the hall mirror as she makes for the door.
“Trying to impress somebody? - Don’t forget your rabbit food, Ma’am.”
“Put the glasses in the damn dishwasher or lay off the wine. It’s midweek for Christ’s sake.” She shoves the box into her bag and turns on her heel again.
“They’re Galway Crystal.”
“Which reminds me, I have an away trip to Galway, end of the month. Pencil that in your diary.”
“Are you saying I’m an alcoholic?” Behind her back he picks up the wine bottle and necks back the last dregs.
“It’s to do with the Wugi takeover.” Her hand is on the latch.
“So the HR head and the IT geek have to trip off together once a month to seal the deal?” He’s waving the empty bottle in her direction.
“Bin the booze, Ivan and go out and get a real job.” Clara wheels around to face him.
“And you’re shagging a goddamn IT geek.”
“The IT geek is a woman. Put that in your novel!”
“I have.”

Copyright wit Cathy Leonard 2019

Saturday 11 May 2019

The Punter

Week 7- Dialogue
Create a dialogue from a crisis. Husband crashes car and has to tell his wife.

The Fallout

“People over seventy shouldn’t be allowed on the roads!”
“Missed the first race again?”
“Had a great tip for the two-thirty.”
“A few grand would come in handy for the patio. No luck at Punchestown?”
“No…. Do faulty break lights constitute contributory negligence?”
“Our breaklights are fine. I checked them the other day.”
“The OAP’s.”
“Did somebody have an accident?”
“I don’t think he indicated either- he’ll probably claim whiplash- fifteen grand a pop.”
“They’re reviewing those outrageous whiplash payouts.”
“Third party or comprehensive? Which do we have? Either will cover it, I suppose.”
“Cover what?”
“I tipped into the back of an OAP on the Naas dual carriageway. The eejit had a green light and didn’t move. Missed the two thirty at Punchestown.”
“Jesus, Mike!”
“But Ruby won the Gold Cup, his last race. Can you believe it? The man’s a legend! What a way to retire. You have to hand it to him.”
“How much damage? Was it an old banger? Did he complain about his neck?”
“A 191 Volvo- wish I was on the pension.”
“But you only tipped him, right?”
“It’s a brand new Volvo. A tip is priceless.”
“And his neck? Is that speculation or…”
“He took himself off to A & E, just to be sure. At his age he probably needs a neck brace anyway. I’m sorry, love. It wasn’t entirely my fault and…”
“We don’t have comprehensive.”
“Our damage is minor.”
“Or third party.”
“Is there another type of insurance?”
“No. It was due last week, and so was the deposit for the new patio, so I decided to take a punt.”

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Tuesday 7 May 2019

The Mother from Google


The Mother from Google

Dating again? Isn’t it a bit soon? (Pauses double-bill finale of Line of Duty)
Well, yes. It’s one way of getting over him, but weren’t you the one who finished it?
I’m not saying you should have stayed. (Rolls eyes)
Yes, your gut feelings matter. (Lolls tongue)
He was judgemental? You find everybody judgemental.
I’m just saying. It’s a favourite refrain of yours.
I’m being judgemental!!(Reaches for laptop)
Haven’t you watched any of those Tinder documentaries? They’re not pretty. (Begins to scroll for evidence)
You just want to get laid? Tinder’s your site for that.
I know what I hear. Anyway who’s this Tinder date?
A DJ!! I thought you were looking for stability?
If your man was flakey can you imagine what a DJ would be like? What’s his name anyway? (Fingers poised on keyboard)
Markus de what? Quercy? That’s got to be a stage name. (Googles)
Not a great sign if he’s using his block-rockin’ hip-hop name on Tinder.
What age?
Forty two probably means fifty five. (Downloads photos)
He could be using an old photo or a fake one.
All I’m saying is check him out. If he’s a DJ he must be on YouTube. (Presses mute button)
You have? Well, so have I and if he’s forty two I’m a spring chicken.
You need to go past the first two clicks, sweetheart. His name’s Mark Deegan and he was probably playing Abba when I was a dancing queen.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Thursday 25 April 2019

Leaving Home

The exercise this week is to write about somebody packing a suitcase.

The Vanity Case

I’m packing your vinyl vanity case, the one you hated, the pillar box red, square, awkward to handle. Not hospital bound this time. I’m all out of charity, watching the sexagenarian antics of the pair of them. You wouldn’t even have shortlisted her for the role. Too sociable, what with the bingo, bridge, knitting circles, book clubs, and a domestic diva- her lemon meringue, the ultimate, not a soggy bottom in sight. Not much like your bread and butter pudding. And she makes her custard and mayonnaise from scratch. I don’t think a bar of soap would make her birthday present list, what with the personalised prosecco and the blissful spa day. I found a drawer full of your soaps afterwards, avocado oatmeal, aloe-aloe, bamboo charcoal, typical of you not to even open them. Too nice to use, you’d say. She’d have washed them all down the drain if I hadn’t salvaged them. I’m taking them with me, with your scarves, the ones you only wore on Sundays; she wears scarves every day, with a French twist over her Calvin Klein gold tune necklace. And I’m taking your faux pearls; he bought her the real deal. You should have set the bar higher. I cried all the way through their ceremony; not that they noticed. I suppose they did know each other for a long time, her being his work mate and all, and maybe even his bit on the side, we won’t go there, but the mourning period was short and for all her lady-like squeaky sweetness she’s a piece of work and he’s all calf eyes. It’s puke churning to watch, and you were right about this case, it doesn’t hold much.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Tuesday 23 April 2019

The Call

Still week 6 of flash fiction course and following on with Point of View. Have rewritten Emily from two points of view.

The Call

If I don’t answer the she’ll say, “You were nearer. Maybe somebody died.” If I do answer, it’ll be, “You know it’s always Emily. Why do you bother to pick up?” I hold the receiver and listen to her low dulcet tone imploring me.
“It’s nobody,” I tell the wife, joining her in the kitchen. “Let’s do the crossword. Nine across, six letters, money lender who charges exorbitant interest?”
“Emily must have nothing else to do,” I add. That makes her chuckle.  She should do sex-chat, the wife suggests. What would the wife know about sex-chat? When’s the last time we even did it? Menopause and dwindling libido. Maybe I should listen to Emily; Fred Marsh spent three grand listening to Emily. “Good for him. There’s life in the old dog,” I say to piss her off.

Can’t he hear that ringing? He’s definitely losing it. Wish he’d get a hearing aid. Not that he wants to hear anything. Not that he wants to listen to me. Not that I have much to say. “Is it her again?” I roar from the kitchen. For Christ’s sake why doesn’t he just hang up? It had to be somebody. It was probably her. She’s probably reversing the charges. “You should have hung up immediately,” I say. We used to talk to each other, now we do crosswords. Usurer, why doesn’t he know that? He used to be sharper.
“What would you know about sex-chat”? he asks. Let him wonder. He knows that’s not what I mean about Fred.
”If the phone fraudsters used a person instead of a pre-recorded tape you could tell them to sod off,” I say. He says they’ve done that. I’ve done that.
“Persuade with promise of reward? Five letters?” he asks. Definitely Emily.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Thursday 18 April 2019

Different Perspectives

Week 6-Flash Fiction. Looks at Point of View.
The Exercise is to give two points of view of same incident in 300 words.
Here I am using a short short story I wrote before and manipulating it a bit.

 The Walk

He wore a pink tie and he was carrying an umbrella with a pointed ferrule and a long shaft -with twelve stretchers at least.  He looked like he might know -an older man with a real umbrella –bound to have some experience of it.

I shouldn’t have said, “We’re early on the road.” I must have sounded like one of those carers in the ward who addresses everybody in the first person plural, when they really mean you.

When he raised his hands and said what he did I thought of a priest calling on the congregation to stand for the gospel. What was it he said? And as if summoned, the injured bird took flight -its beak no longer frozen in fright.

“Ha”! he exclaimed with the thrill of it.

We watched it rise and dip and then rise again, and on we walked, the older man and me, around the whole periphery of the park.                                                       

Today a woman, not young, stopped me in the park. She was cupping a fledging in her fingerless-mittened hands. I suppose she asked me because of my halting gait, as if my years might know. The bird looked uninjured, no open-mouthed shock or fixed eye, its wings intact, peagreen-skyblue sinewed feathers.

The only time I held a bird in my palm I was ten, a baby thrush that had fallen out of its nest among the hedgerows that lined the pathway to our front door.

“I don’t know why it doesn’t just fly,” I said and raised my hands in mock take-off.

Perhaps it was my tone or my waving hands, for the fledgling rose, cleared the bushes and landed on the topmost branch of an ash tree.
And so I tipped my hat to her, the not-so-young woman, and walked on.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Tuesday 16 April 2019


This week the task is to write about an uncomfortable subject. This one is topical.


He was into threesomes. And he had slept with his best-friend’s mother. His ex-wife hooked up with his brother and he hooked up with his brother’s ex-girlfriend. A lot of incestuous ex-cross-sex. 

So when he suggests they visit his best-friend for a night’s craic,something in her gags.

His friend loves the colour of her hair, pearl blonde, and the fact that she is bare-faced, no makeup, and the sylph-like contour of her foot. He sits beside her, removes her sandals and fondles her toes, tracing the thread veins in her ankles. Glasses clink. She’s already drank a bottle of Chardonnay and her boyfriend is mixing cocktails. His friend is still stroking her leg, his whiskeyed breath whispering in her ear, “He never shares anything with me anymore. He used to share everything, and he owes me; I could tell you a thing or two.”

Inside her head she’s screaming, I already know about your mother.

A glance between the men and her boyfriend disappears. The friend’s hand begins to climb her leg. She grips it firmly, but it’s stuck, like a bloodsucker, and she meets resistance when she tries to stand up. Room spins. Steady on! He’s stroking her thighs, his fingers clenching and pinching her crotch. The rim of a glass strikes her teeth. Her lips part, she gulps, vodka drips down her neck. His tongue licking, worm-like crawls into her mouth. Her head spins and she blanks.  

Beneath her a woman is pinned beneath a man. She is screaming, but no voice comes.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

Friday 12 April 2019


Week 5- The exercise was to vamp up a piece of flat prose. you could take any scene from any book and decide which are the important elements. Then do a rewrite under 300 words.

The Queen of Baked Alaska

A shadow eclipses the wedding shot of Lady Reece Beverly to Squire George Winthrop. Maisie Taylor clicks her tongue and swivels her head to view the orbiting source of this hiatus in her perusal of last month’s copy of Hello. Ethel Stillman’s frame fills the doorway of Dr Henry’s surgery and from behind her, a quart to her pint-size, her husband Arlen Stillman emerges hugging a crooked shoulder.

No caps tip to Her Highness today. Most of the patients are blow-in yokels who don’t know that Mrs Stillman has aspirations. Aspirations and one seat to share with the quart-size. Maisie watches the sixty-plus matron scope out the territory before directing her foot soldier to the three-legged stool at the end of the corridor that passes for a rural doctor’s waiting room.

Her elastic smile belies the eruption flaring across Ethel’s neck and the lour that follows her sighting of Albert Sweeney sprawled across the battered two-seater, eyes fastened to the Dandy. It’s few Dandys that lad ever sees in his piggery, so not even a cosmic event like Ethel is likely to scupper his gaze.

Maisie strokes the feather in her lapel, abandons the newly wed royals, happy to forgo the fopperies of Hello would-be celebs for the foibles of a local one.  For Ethel, resident queen of the County Fair Baked Alaska Competition, is her arch rival and Maisie knows something that Ethel doesn’t.

Quietly steaming as the matron is now, fur rising on her faux-fox collar, hackles will soon eject at high speed. For Maisie Taylor is advised to keep her varicosed legs raised at hip level, and when Joe Carbery beside her goes in to get his weekly blood check, she plans to moor her right calf to the next available chair.

295 words
Copyright with Cathy leonard 2019