A + F

Scanlmf 8Following a fortuitous meeting at an impromptu family dinner in Dubai, which neither of them really wanted to go to, Ashleigh and Frank started to hang out in Geneva. Life was great; the pair chatted away in cafes, by lakes and in the mountains.

Scanlmf 8 - Version 3Unfortunately, Ashleigh’s internship in Geneva ended and so this blissful period also came to a close. They went to the airport and a forlorn Frank waved goodbye as Ashleigh boarded the plane, thinking about when she would see Frank again. Frank’s heart was feeling heavy at the loss of its new friend and so decided it would go back to London with her. It snuck out from under Frank’s ribcage, scuttled across the runway and hopped onto the plane behind Ashleigh. Scanlmf 3Frank went home and realised later that evening that his heart was missing. He searched everywhere. He retraced his steps and checked his regular haunts. He went to his favourite cafe; he ransacked his house; he checked his car and he even checked under the rug. He ran round the park and asked all the dog-walkers and bench-sitters, but no one had seen his missing heart.

Scanlmf 3 - Version 2Meanwhile in London, Ashleigh was greatly enjoying showing her newfound companion around the city.

Scanlmf 4Back in Geneva, Frank had a brainwave. He thought about it and remembered that this heart shaped hole in his being came about while he was at the airport. Maybe his heart had gone abroad? So, following his heart, he went to the airport and jumped on a plane to London. When Frank finally found his heart, he scolded it, “You can’t just run off like that, I was worried! I had no idea where you had gone, you could have been anywhere, you didn’t even leave a note.” His heart apologised and promised not to do it again, on one condition: that Frank never let Ashleigh fly away again.

Scanlmf 4_2Frank agreed and this delighted Ashleigh, who was quickly falling in love and liked having this joyful being, who sees the good in everything and everyone, by her side.


Also published on Huffington Post: 

Generally when I’ve moved to a new place I am in language learning mode: learning new words everyday, being puzzled by expressions, and dealing with the frustrations of not being able to express exactly what I want.

Oddly I have come to enjoy this process and so considered learning Irish, but this hasn’t happened and not many people really speak Irish here in Dublin anyway.

That said, I have been getting my dose of linguistic educational experiences as speaking English with the Irish has its own set of puzzlements and quirks. Here are some key pieces of vocabulary for any English speakers that find themselves learning English as a foreign language in Ireland:

The Lads

In my mind, lads = a group of young males who are probably loud, sometimes offensive and have their lad identity continually confirmed by banter and group antics with their other lad friends. The Oxford dictionary has ‘lad’ down as “a boy or a young man”; “a group of men sharing recreational, working, or other interests”; “a boisterously macho or high spirited young man”.

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In Ireland, people use lads to refer to any assortment of individuals. Your nephew, great aunt and her cat are also ‘the lads’.

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The Conditional Tense

Another quirk is the frequent, sometimes misleading and seemingly unnecessary, use of the  conditional tense. The comment “He would be a good friend of mine” leaves you thinking that something has happened. He would be a good friend of yours if… he hadn’t burnt your house down, crashed your car, stolen your girlfriend…? But no, nothing so dramatic, it just means that he is a good friend, generally. No conditional meaning intended.

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Your man

Being told that a man I had met once was “mine” was quite a surprise the first time I heard it. The Irish like referring to people in conversation as “your man” which is actually quite nice, compared to the more distant “that guy”, that I’m used to. If the person in question in female then “your wan” may be used. Another variation is ‘poor man’.

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No, ‘ye’ did not die with Shakespeare. The Irish still use this archaic plural form of ‘you’. It makes sense, most languages do it.

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I’m after going….

If someone says “I’m after going to the shop” it means “I just went to the shop”, which I guess makes sense because you are now inhabiting a time, after going to the shop.. but when first hearing it I had no idea what was going on. My Irish speaking neighbour Emma explained: “It’s pretty much a direct translation of how you’d say it in Irish, Tá mé tar éis x. A lot of Irish English has this feature, like how we tend to answer in the affirmative instead of a straight yes as there is no yes (or no) in Irish.”

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Yeah yeah *yeah*

The Irish are very good conversationalists. Part of conversation is reacting to and acknowledging what someone is saying to you. This might be done with a nod, making a sound, saying ‘yes’, saying ‘oh’, etc. ‘Yeah’ is commonly used in this way, and then there is a special ‘yeah’ which is said on talking an inward breath.

This may actually be more efficient, allowing the speaker to perform two tasks at once: inhaling oxygen (necessary) and responding to the interlocutor (polite). Apart from this, the inhaled ‘yeah’ is apparently a more intense version of the normal ‘yeah’, often occurring on the third ‘yeah’ in the conversation, according to Karen Gardiner, a teacher of English as a Foreign Language in Galway. She said that students from abroad learning English in Ireland are often alarmed at this gasp for breath, or sometimes choking sound, in the middle of a conversation.

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Hannah and the Tiger Fierce

January 30, 2015

This true and tragic tale took place in 1703. LAYLISCAN-1

The White Lion was a pub in Malmesbury, famed in the sixteenth century for refreshing the locals and those travelling through.


Hannah Twynnoy was a young barmaid working at The White Lion and she found it terribly boring doing the same thing and seeing the same sort of people, day in day out. Malmesbury was a small, quiet town and not a lot happened there.


One weekend a new and exciting group of visitors came to the town and they were staying in the yard of the White Lion! A travelling circus was setting up in Malmesbury and Hannah welcomed the company of these exotic animals.


She particularly liked the tiger with teeth as big as bottles and fur that shined like a well polished floor. Hannah would pass its cage every day after work to poke the tiger and rattle the bars of the cage with a stick. Sometimes she would try other items, like keys, to see what the tiger would do.


The menagerie manager warned Hannah that tigers were fierce animals.


But she took no notice and carried on poking, rattling and jiggling the cage and its occupant. Hannah loved it when the tiger would shake its head and roar, jump and move up and down the cage.


One day after work she went to poke the tiger, as had become habit, and was waiting for his usual reaction but this time the animal went a step further. The tiger shook its head, roared and when it jumped, the cage cracked and the door broke open.


Hannah froze petrified, suddenly realising how fierce the tiger really was.


She made to hurry away but the tiger leapt and mauled the poor pretty girl.


Her tomb now stands in Malmesbury abbey and reads:

In bloom of Life

She’s snatched from hence

She had not room to make defence

For Tyger fierce

Took Life away

And here she lies in a bed of clay

Until the Resurrection Day


Moscow Метро

January 24, 2015

LAYLISCANMETROMoscow is vast. The city is very big, the urban landscape is varied and to get from a spiral ice cream like cathedral to a Stalinist tower to a soviet block of flats, you need a good public transport network. There are buses and taxis, but the traffic is very bad and so most people use the underground transport system – the metro. LAYLISCANMETRO - Version 2 Metro in Russia is spelt метро. LAYLISCANMETRO-1Like any major city, the metro system is very complex and sprawls from one corner of the city to another. The Moscow метро is the world’s busiest by daily ridership. To get anywhere takes a very long time, and often involves entering the centre only to change lines and head back out. So a lot of people spend a lot of time on the метро. LAYLISCANMETRO-2 The commuting experience on the метро offers an impressive sight. It is beautiful and grand, with huge corridors, chandeliers and painted ceilings. Park Pobedy station is 243 feet or 74 metres underground, one of the world’s deepest public transport spots.

The метро was designed, under Stalin’s instruction, to embody a “radiant future”, hence the tall marble walls, bright chandeliers and overall shininess. This underground palatial structure was supposed to show what a wonderful life the Party was giving its people and also what proletariat labour was capable of building. LAYLISCANMETRO-3_2 The метро commuter is reminded, by announcements frequently blared out from a loudspeaker, to be considerate and selfless when travelling. Instructions to give up your seat for those who need it more than you are printed on the windows in case you did not hear. Failing this, an old Russian woman scowling at you is sure to make you jump off your seat.

[note: the Russian word for a disabled person is “invalid”, which is impossible to get used to no matter how many times the loudspeaker says it]LAYLISCANMETRO-3   Despite the institutionalised selflessness, random acts of kindness are regarded with suspicion. The woman who scowled at you for not giving up your seat, will also scowl at you if you offer to help carry a heavy bag up the stairs.

In some instances, non-consideration of others seems to be factored into the design. The doors in and out are built in a way that makes it more cumbersome for everyone involved if you try and hold the door open for the person behind you. Best to just let it swing, everyone has learnt how best to react to a heavy door swinging towards them.   LAYLISCANMETRO-2_2 Through observation I have picked up some handy tips from other commuters. Some people keep their eyes shut, possibly taking a nap or imagining that they are somewhere else. Others use ear plugs – the метро is very loud which can be tiring. Listening to music or anything is difficult, unless you own very powerful headphones. The last one is maybe a result of the second, and is not exclusive to the Moscow метро – it also doesn’t necessarily constitute a tip, but it is a reality: commuters don’t chat. LAYLISCANMETRO-4   At the end of the day, after having sat on the метро for hours, having given up your seat, having swung a door in someones face, having struggled to listen to your favourite podcast, having attempted to take a nap and having arrived safely to your destination, you can be grateful that you are not employed by the метро to perform some seemingly needless task. Drawn above is a personal favourite: an automatic photo booth attendant.

Sam Quinn’s Success.

September 1, 2014

This is a story, entirely fictional, of a young boy who thought he was following his dreams.

Sam Quinn, a young aspiring artist, moved to the city. He did not visit the sites, he did not see the Queen, he simply stayed in his attic studio flat and painted.

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He had forgotten time. The only indicators of the days passed were the scarcity of clean socks in his drawer and the wall of free newspapers blocking the front door. Sam Quinn decided it was time to leave the house.

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He walked up and down Gallery Street and visited gallery after gallery, trying to get his work exhibited.

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But he was laughed out the door every time.

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Filled with grief and remorse, Sam Quinn returned to his attic flat and did the only thing he could do. He painted. He painted and painted in such a frenzy that he broke his paintbrush.

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And cut his hand.

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An art dealer had heard of this young frenetic painter and decided to stop by his studio. Sam was shocked and delighted. He nervously but excitedly, almost forcefully, took the dealer around his small flat and showcased all of his best work. But the art dealer, uninterested by Sam’s depictions of cities and skies, picked up from the floor the abandoned and blood stained canvas.

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The art dealer loved this accidental masterpiece so much that he used all of his connections to get the young unknown artist an exhibition in a top gallery downtown. All of the finest members of society came along and the reviews were outstanding.

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Sam Quinn was the talk of the town: the critics wanted to know him, the press wanted to know him and the gallery owners who had rejected him a few weeks previous were now knocking at his door.

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Sam Quinn enjoyed the success and happily responded to the demand for more of his now trademark bloodstained pieces.

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One member of the art public who was a particular fan of Sam’s wanted to commission some work, but he wanted it more of them and he wanted them more vibrant, more red.

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More red meant more blood. Sam Quinn was unsure whether to carry out this almost surgical commission or whether to pack it in and move back to the country.

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He did it. He could not give up at this pivotal moment of his artistic career. Without art, life was not worth living.

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But this art made living an impossibility. After completing the sixth painting of the ‘Red’ series, Sam Quinn died of blood loss. The words spoken at his funeral painted Sam Quinn as a dedicated young soul, whose art was his life. But everyone sat in the audience understood that as art was his life, he had made it his death.


March 14, 2014

Many countries in the world have, at some stage, become a place of refuge or a new start, yet there is always some turbulence caused among the “host” population. Here are some observations from recent travels:

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We have had tension in Swindon over Indians from Goa.
Headline from Union News, January 2012. 

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And then tension in Goa over the Russians who have made the Indian region their home.
Headline from The Goan on Saturday, December 2013. 

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While in Russia there are protests about the waves of people arriving from other countries, most of all from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Headline from the Guardian, November 2013. 

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And some Tajik locals are less than friendly to the Afghan refugees arriving on their soil.
Headline from an Al Jazeera report, February 2010. 

Maybe, we could just accept it as a natural phenomenon? National identities are constantly constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed as the reality of a place changes and national boundaries are by no means eternal. Previously, a nation was defined by an external “other”, to unify in opposition to. Boundaries are now blurred. The “other” is no longer external and, in many senses, ceases to be an “other” altogether.

“The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” – Baha’u’llah

India Rules.

January 12, 2014

Quick Christmas trip to India to discover Indian roots, rules and roads.

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The ratio of airport staff to passengers in Mumbai airport must be around 5:1, at least. One man had the task of taking boarding passes and passing them to the man directly beside him to stamp. Is stamping a boarding pass really a two man job?Scan 29
Taxi driver: So where did you guys fly in from?
Me: Oh, from England.
Taxi driver: Ah yes, the English were here for a long time.
*pause – what can you say to that??*
Taxi driver: …made a real mess of the place!
Me: Ha… yes, it’s quite awkward…

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One of my second cousins spent the family reunion part of the holiday giving my mum doctor advice to bring home. Here are some of my favourites:

  1. All medicine is mostly nonsense, you just need to prescribe something.
  2. Deal with the incurable by giving the patient highly complicated and impossible to follow instructions.
  3. The most important thing to remember is: always blame the patient.

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Kentucky Fried …. Cauliflower? Chickpeas?

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In England people sound the car horn when something bad happens or they are angry. In India drivers honk their horn just to kind of state their existence, to tell the other drivers that they are there, on the road, turning a corner, speeding up, sat in traffic etc. Some vehicles display ambiguous instructions regarding this matter, such as HORN OK PLEASE: does this mean that to honk your horn is ok, or to please honk the horn, or that this vehicle’s horn is in ok condition?

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The Taj Mahal fell by the wayside as women, men, teenagers and children queued up to have their photo taken with my very blond cousin. Apparently photos with random fair tourists is a popular addition to the family album. It’s mutual – I hope my uncle and aunt stick it on the fridge.

Sheepish Mr Gastard.

December 18, 2013

A Rabelaisian Tale

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Mr Gastard’s sheep were world renowned. They were magnificent and he knew they were. Everyday he thought about the various graces of his wonderful sheep, especially his unique golden fleeced sheep.

Scan 18  One sunny afternoon Mr Gastard was happily parading around the cliffs with his sheep when a traveller came by.Scan 18_2He was extremely taken by the sheep, but was outraged by the price.

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The traveller tried to bargain but Mr Gastard would not budge. He shook his stick at the traveller and began to rant about the wondrous qualities his sheep possessed.

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It is unknown whether the traveller was persuaded by the rantings of Mr Gastard or whether he was simply sick of listening to his voice, but he finally did agree to purchase one sheep at Mr Gastard’s original price.

Scan 21After a moment of reflection, he picked up his newly purchased sheep and hurled it over the edge of the cliff.

Scan 21_2As sheep are known to do, they followed their friend, jumping off the cliff, one by one, into the dark depths of the sea.

Scan 19Mr Gastard was struck by fear and distress. He threw his arms around the golden fleeced beauty and held on with all his might, trying to save his precious sheep. Scan 19_2But the golden fleeced sheep was too strong and too healthy and so charged headlong over the cliff and into the ocean, dragging poor Mr Gastard over with him.

The Craigs go to the cliffs.

November 19, 2013

Drip drip drop.

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Mr and Mrs Craig were having a cup of tea one Sunday afternoon. Mr Craig suggested they take a walk along some cliffs nearby that were said to be the most beautiful on earth. Mrs Craig hesitantly agreed, peering out the window at the pouring rain. Scan 3

They got into their little car and drove out to the cliffs. The rain poured, the wind howled, but the cliffs were indeed very beautiful. Scan 4

Mr and Mrs Craig romantically stood on the cliffs overlooking the vast stormy ocean and contemplated how their love would survive even the harshest of times.Scan 4_2

All of a sudden a the wind mightily blew Mrs Craig over the edge of the cliff and into the water, never to be seen again. Scan 5_2

Mr Craig was distraught. Everyday, without fail, he would return to the same spot to look for Mrs Craig, or just to think about her.Scan 5

Many years later, Mr Craig was watching television and the weather forecast announced terrible storms.Scan 9 - Version 2

Mr Craig was delighted. Scan 9

He wrote his will, said his prayers, and went to the cliffs ready for the mighty winds to take him to Mrs Craig. Scan 11

Mr Craig ran to the cliffs, deeply breathing his last breaths of the sea air. Scan 11 - Version 2

Moments later the storm cleared and the sun came out. Scan 10Mr Craig returned home devastated.

The Violet Violin

October 31, 2013

A love story. Almost based on a true story.

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One Thursday evening, Violet was invited to a concert. She did not have any major plans and so she went to the concert.

Numériser 3 - Version 2The music is so beautiful that she is overcome by a frenzied love for the violin.

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All she can think about is the violin. She sees the violin in all things. In the trees, in the ground, in the stars.

Numériser 1She gets a violin and practices all day.


And all night.

Numériser 2So much so that her friends started to worry about her.

Numériser 2 - Version 2She goes to parties, tries to act as though everything is normal.

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But it’s not. Scan 1 - Version 2Violet returns home.