Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Ogoki - Call of the Wild" Podcast

As I am planning on doing a podcasting session in Filmbase tomorrow morning, I thought
I would post the link to the podcast of my radio documentary, "Ogoki - Call of the Wild".

Here it is, happy listening!:

Just to recap, here's the blurb again:

An isolated Indian reservation in Northern Ontario, Canada is the setting for “Ogoki - Call of the Wild”. It was here in the 1970s and 80’s that the Mulrooney Family, from Limerick lived for seven years. Over two decades later Deirdre and her mother Mary return to the reservation and hear the Ojibway Indians share their shocking and moving history.

Cirque du Soleil comes to town!

A few moons ago, in 06/07, I worked as an Artistic Talent Scout with Cirque du Soleil.
Today, they pull in for the first time ever to Dublin, with Quidam. Here is my article in today's Irish Times on them, and a couple of the things I learned (just a couple of them!) during my stint there. That's me over there to the right in the picture by the way, made up as a Geisha by Cirque make-up artists. Another day at the office in Cirque du Soleil! Here's a link to the actual feature too:

Reinventing the circus with human wonders

What goes on behind the scenes at the most famous circus in the world? DEIRDRE MULROONEY, who spent a year as artistic talent scout with Cirque du Soleil, reveals all


Who would have thought a bunch of happy-go-lucky hippy jugglers, stilt-walkers and fire-breathers known in 1982 as “The High-Heels Club” in Baie St. Paul, rural Quebec could give birth to one of the most successful entertainment companies on the planet?

Well, this is precisely what Gilles St. Croix and Guy Laliberté’s playful gang of dreamers have gone on to do. Tonight, at last, you can go and see for yourself what all the fuss is about as Cirque du Soleil pull in to our Republic for the first time ever at Dublin’s O2. “Quidam” (Latin for “Anonymous Passerby”, pronounced key-dam), one of their gems, now numbers among nearly 25 individual Cirque du Soleil creations, each one more mind-blowing than the next.

No wonder Guy Laliberté, the billonaire bright spark who is the source of this vision, is referred to as “Le Guide” back at their Montreal HQ. About to turn 50 in September, the bald former fire-breather/street artist, and now 95% owner of the Cirque du Soleil empire, states his aim as: “to contaminate the planet with good creative projects that suggest reasons to hope". World domination, in other words.

Cirque du Soleil’s winning streak was unleashed when, in a daring act, they brought their impudently titled 1987 “We Re-invent the Circus” to LA without sufficient funds for the return journey home. And re-invent the circus they did. Gilles St. Croix drew inspiration from The Bread and Puppet Theatre. Belgian director Franco Dragone brought his bag of European tricks from Dario Fo to Commedia dell’arte. Cirque du Soleil proceeded to infuse what seemed to many like a dying art with magical theatricality, original live music, song, contemporary dance, myth, Olympic standard athletes (the 1976 Montreal Olympics were an inspiration), charismatic and often quirky artists, fabulous hand-made costumes, artisan shoes, extreme make-up – and dream-like narrative.

“We re-invent the Circus” captured those trend-setting Californian hearts, and - hey presto - their wallets too. Not only could the French Canadians afford the petrol to get them home, but it set the Cirque du Soleil craze, which has spread across the planet like wildfire alight. First the visionary troupe with marketing-savvy took the USA, including, bit by bit, Las Vegas where they revolutionised the entertainment landscape. They now boast 6 resident shows there, each with its own massive custom-built theatre, including “Love”, their 2006 Beatles extravaganza. No cow is too sacred - Elvis is next.

Spreading their “contamination” further afield, Cirque du Soleil are now to be found roaming across 5 contintents simultaneously performing, and scouring the planet for quirky and amazing talent to put in their shows. Last year Tokyo got its own resident show - the Tarot-inspired “Zed”, directed by “Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould” director, Francois Girard, as did Macau - Asia’s answer to Las Vegas. Dubai is next on the hit-list. On the brink of their 25th show, from humble beginnings a quarter of a century ago, Cirque du Soleil has cast its spell over more than 90 million viewers worldwide.

What is this magic? Is there a secret to this prosperous creativity? Quidam, the endearing 1996 story of 12 year-old Zoë, who gets lost in a fabulous dream-like world gives a good taste of this extraordinary entertainment phenomenon. Its creator Franco Dragone also directed their first Las Vegas show, the classic 1993 Mystère, which sells out 10 shows a week in its custom-built 1,600 seater theatre at Treasure Island resort and casino to this day. Pushing the boat out as far as it could go, Dragone’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous 1998 swansong for Cirque du Soleil, “O” at the Bellagio, features a 1.5 million gallon pool and Olympic standard synchronised swimmers. Xanadu-like, even the clowns are scuba-certified, and exits are often underwater. Everything, including a grand piano which gets submerged, is waterproofed.

Since Dragone’s departure to create Celine Dion’s Las Vegas show at Caesar’s Palace, Cirque du Soleil has continued expanding its creative horizons too, collaborating with many renowned Quebec directors, like Robert Lepage on the $165m production “Kà”, and Dominic Champagne on “Love”, as well as American clown, David Shiner, on the 2007 “Kooza”. Always after the zeitgeist, and very choosy about who they collaborate with, they take creativity seriously enough to give it its own “Department of Creative Synergy”.

During my stint with them as as Artistic Talent scout in their Montreal HQ in 2006/’07, I learned that no performance category is too outlandish to go in the Casting bank – from Mountain-bikers (who take a twirl in “Love”), to world champion whistlers, to shoulder dislocation dancers.

Cleverly, the anonymity-inducing heavy make-up ensures there are no “stars” apart from the show itself. The young artist playing Zoë, in Quidam, for example, usually performs the role for about 2 years until she outgrows it. Contracts and conditions are excellent. There are on-site physiotherapists, pilates teachers, and even career coaches for those reaching retirement age, which of course approaches early for acrobats.

Their focus is firmly on the wonders of the human being. Instead of sad camels, or hungry lions, under Cirque du Soleil bigtops you will find well looked-after Olympic medallists at the height of their powers performing death-defying numbers that could have been dreamed up by Harry Potter himself. Indeed, Acrobatic Performance Designer André Simard, whose grey beard is reminiscent of Dumbledore’s admits “I fly a lot in my dreams”. As for clowns - from traditional Russian clowns like Slava (remember his “Snow Show” at the Dublin Theatre Festival?), to contemporary clowns of the Ali G ilk, and the renowned American David Shiner, these are the subversive and mischievous crème de la crème of the clown universe.

At frst glance, Cirque du Soleil’s Montreal HQ, the company’s beating heart, and home to 1,800 of their 4,000 employees does feel like a cross between Hogwarts, and Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Full of paradoxes and unlikely juxtapositions, administrative offices are wrapped around massive studios where the shows are created, and Olympic athletes given 3-month training sessions in theatricality and ensemble performance before being sent out onstage. Yes, there are standard work cubicles - but just lean over the photocopier in the busy Casting department (for example), and you’ll see acrobats rehearsing and contortionists bending their plasticine bodies into unimaginable shapes, under the patient supervision of attentive coaches.

Naturally, the place is oozing with Utopian, and sometimes Darwinian circus culture. Creativity is worshipped like an elusive, pernickety goddess at every corner. Vegetables grow outside the front door for consumption by the employees. Boardroom meetings in Cirque du Soleil HQ are often framed by trapezists flying past as they try out the latest in mid-air hand-to-hand manoeuvres at the other side of an interior window. There is no lack of corporate rigour here though, they are armed to the teeth with all the latest and most efficient management strategies. Cheek by jowl with this oft-criticised corporate conglomerate culture, some original members of the “High Heels Club” are scattered reassuringly throughout the building. The inspiring work aesthetic – even if you are no aerial artist yourself - is to never lose sight of the product you are part of.

Under the same roof, the Costume Department is a phantasmagoric haven of artisan industry. There they are, 400 of them, studiously designing, silk-screening, hand-painting, cobbling, wig-making, dyeing fabric, individually hand-glueing sequins, and lace-making as if their lives depended on it.

In the Casting Department, I was in the elevated company of a gold medallist acrobatic skier, internationally acclaimed trapezists, trampolinists (with trampoline moves named after them), Claude Vendette of acclaimed Quebec band Fanfare Pourpour, and Contemporary dancers from groundbreaking Quebec companies like La La La Human Steps, and Carbon 14 – to recall but a few of my 15 fellow Talent Scouts. As I write this, they are still scouring the world for that certain je ne sais quoi for which no remote village in West Africa or yuurt in outer Mongolia (known for its abundance in gifted contortionists) is too far.

It’s an eclectic, fun, and extremely hardworking world. Across the road in the Artist’s residence, you’d regularly rub shoulders in the lift with Russian Strong-men, little people of big talent, Indian singers, Chinese Diabolo-experts, and computer programmers-come-world-champion whistlers who had run away with the circus. In Las Vegas I even got to share a motel with Joey Arias, then transvestite star (even though there are no stars), of “Zumanity”, and close friend of Andy Warhol’s.

So – ready to be “contaminated”?


Deirdre Mulrooney is currently Visiting Fellow at Gradcam (www.gradcam.ie) in Performance. Her book, “Irish Moves, an illustrated history of Dance and Physical Theatre in Ireland” is published by the Liffey Press.


• from 74 employees in 1984, Cirque du Soleil now employ over 4,000, spanning 40 nationalities, and 25 languages.

• Over 1,000 of these are artists.

• Cirque du Soleil are the prime example of “Blue Ocean Strategy – How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant”, (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2005), by W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

• CEO and owner Guy Laliberté last year finished fourth in the World Poker Tour Season Five event at Bellagio in Las Vegas, winning $696,220.

• Renowned for his fabulous lifestyle, Laliberté a collector of classic cars, from custom Bentley’s to Aston Martin’s, and hosts a legendary A-list annual Grand Prix weekend party in Montreal.

• Cirque du Soleil have thrived without subsidy since 1992.

• Tickets for Las Vegas resident shows cost $59 - $160.

• Cirque du Soleil allocates 1% of its revenue to charities and good causes, including “Jeunesse du Monde”, their own “Cirque du Monde” and “One Drop” foundation.

• Quidam showcases approximately 250 costumes, 500 costume accessories and 200 shoes. The average age of the cast is 28: the oldest artist is 52, and the youngest is 12.

• Quidam has toured the world for the past 13 years, playing to over 9 million spectators.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hip to be Square: Thought for Saint Patrick's Day

How would you rate yourself in relation to De Valera's dream speech, the one he made on Saint Patrick's Day, 1943? Here it is again, just to refresh your memory, quoted on p.45 of "Irish Moves" (note there are no comely maidens dancing at the crossroads, I don't know how those mythic dancing girls burned their way into our collective psyche!):

"The ideal Ireland, that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living. Of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit. Whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths, and the laughter of happy maidens..."

(from RTE Radio Archives).

I have been thinking about this speech lately, quite independent of the fact that John Waters referred to it in a recent column. Suddenly, out of nowhere, don't you think that De Valera is getting cool and relevant? I mean: "Frugal comfort"? Talk about "the zeitgeist"... No mention of the Celtic Tiger, property in Bulgaria (etc) and 100% mortgages in HIS dream...

And have you heard any "laughter of happy maidens" lately?

Come on, it's hip to be square.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

CoisCeim's "Boxes" - My Pick of the Month

The trek out to Tallaght's Civic Theatre was well worth it last night to see the premiere of CoisCeim Dance Theatre's fantastic revisitation of "Boxes", the kernel of which came into this world in 2000, in Trinity's Player's Theatre - when it featured none other than David Bolger himself, and Sean Jeremy Parker. The choreographer has stepped out of its current reincarnation, and let his playful duet for 2 men and a pile of cardboard boxes accumulate a wealth of zeitgeisty 2009 resonances - are they packing up their work things? And there's the addition of a 3rd, totally cute animated dancing partner. Jym Daly's wonderfully playful and humorous animations are at times mesmerising, and always delightful. Get a load of the agile stick-man (inspired by the original drawings Bolger used when first mapping out the choreography) whose head rolls off into a football a la Roger Rabbit. The muscular, and rather substantial live performers - Broadway boy Jason E Bernard, and Lee Clayden give that stick dude a run for his money. Throw in a bit of clubby music, and it at times drew me into a similar eye-popping world to the one my pal Catherine Owens creates with her animated screen-backdrops for U2 Concerts. That fits with the dropping in of a motivational "we are going to beat this recession" speech from Obama! Later, just when we thought we found a recession-free zone, "we are living beyond our means" comes out of nowhere, a little sneakily. No, no-one, no-one will be spared! Not even Contemporary Dance Shows. Well, all art responds to the world it's living in.
It's a long journey from the mad, complex, and very populous world of "Dodgems" to "Boxes" - back to simplicity, clean lines, and an almost pure focus on movement and gestural vocabulary.
Words may lie, and betray us all, as we are learning to our detriment in the "pre-boom" currenteconomicclimate, but bodies don't. So go and tune in again to the truth, and the humour of the body! You will laugh, oh yes you will. Avail of this opportunity to switch the incessant barrage of bad news off, let your mind go, and dance. Or how about "just be"... Touring to a theatre near you. Nationwide, pretty much everywhere except Limerick - unfortunately for Limerick. See www.coisceim.com

Friday, March 6, 2009

Gradcam Talk on my IRISH MOVES research journey

Next week I'll be giving a talk at Gradcam (Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media), on my ongoing IRISH MOVES research journey. Check out their website at www.gradcam.ie:

The Graduate School is delighted to announce a Special Guest Lecture by Dr. Deirdre Mulrooney author of (2006) Irish Moves: An Illustrated History of Dance and Physical Theatre in Ireland. Dr. Mulrooney will be visiting the School to discuss research on aspects of contemporary and historical dance culture.
There will be a brief discussion (9:30-10:00) of researcher career paths post-PhD completion by way of introducing Dr. Mulrooney's presentation.

09:30-11:00 (John's Street Seminar Room)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Interesting Talk on Nurturing Creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert


A South African pal of mine in Montreal sent me the link to this talk on "genius" and creativity by
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love", among other tomes.
Interesting, I thought, and worth a listen...

Fighting Words

I've really been enjoying volunteering with Roddy Doyle's "Fighting Words"
Creative Writing Centre up opposite Croke Park (www.fightingwords.ie). There's a magic bookshelf, and best of all Mr and Mrs Cranky to make grumpy comments on stories
put together by groups of kids from schools all over Dublin. What fun!
Also good was author Colm McCann's "Writing out of your Skin" talk on writing fiction
(he wrote the amazing "Dancer", on Rudolf Nureyev, among many other great books),
and all the occasional interventions by Mr. Doyle himself. Needless to say, Fighting Words
crept into my first attempt at a short story, or should I say "struggle with fiction", below. Well,
sometimes it's hard for a non-fiction junkie, and recovering academic like myself!
But apart from all that, have you ever been mugged?

Miracle on Parnell Street
by Deirdre Mulrooney

“Who is that statue of again?”, wondered Jane, turning into Parnell Street. She made a half-hearted attempt to read the writing underneath the open-armed statue, the one that seems to be giving directions to Cineworld, and quickly gave up. There was no way she was pulling her glasses out. It wasn’t that important. Definitey historical. Will have a closer look another time.

It was high noon on Parnell Street. Well, actually it was twenty-two minutes past twelve. It was a cold, crisp January day, and as you might expect at that hour the sun was high in the sky. Today, fluffy clouds hung, halo-like, behind some of Parnell street’s tallest buildings. Jane looked up, and the phrase ‘a la silhouette’ ran through her head – a term she came across at an art exhibiton recently, that had something to do with frugality. Thoughts! Musings! She was listening to Joni Mitchell on her i-pod. Life was sweet. “This is just like New York”, she thought to herself as she dawdled along, peering into the Polish shop to see what Polish people looked like these days – ah – flirting with each other; gazing across again at the Korean hairdressers, that she meant to visit one day; admiring the cool Korean “Hop House” bar and restaurant that she was so fond of, smiling at the Africans who were rushing by, pushing their children in prams. So New York. So Walt Whitman.

“If you can keep your head, when all about you
Are losing theirs..”

Joni Mitchell. Uplifting dreamer. Jane hummed along.

Thoughts and reminiscences floated in a fluffy, associative manner through her head – she was really hoping some ideas for a short story would float up into her consciousness.

When – BANG! – out of nowhere, her blind-spot, let’s say, she felt an immense WHACK from the vicinity of her right shoulder. A sudden unmerciful tug at her laptop crashed into her inner city idyll - ruining it, absolutely ruining it.

From there in, it was like an out-of-body experience, except for the bitter reality that her laptop really was in the computer bag this time, one of the first times ever. Normally it was just full of documents and A4 pads. She heard shrieking, and shrieking, and shrieking. My God, was that her own voice? Everything went into slow-motion, as it does in these cases. Did she really let “F***** YOU!!!!!!!” erupt out of somewhere deep and primal, her own, at a dark and fiendish creature now attached umbilically to her right arm? How un-ladylike. Jane hung on for dear life – as this blurry, faceless bad-energy-being tried with all his wiry might to wrench her office out of her grasp. “Noooooo!” She envisioned her laptop disappearing down the street. She could feel it being pulled out of her defiant iron grip. But defeat was in her head, in her head only. Contradicting her worst, the dark force suddenly subsided, and as mysteriously as he appeared, the shadowy, desperate figure disappeared off through the lunchtime crowd, furiously legging it now onto O’Connell Street. Like a forlorn, disabused thing left behind in the wake of a tornado, Jane looked down. All there? To her disbelief her laptop bag was still hanging in there, at the end of her right arm, albeit by the flimsiest thread.

As if inhabiting a different dimension, the lunchtime crowd continued their bustling without missing a beat, oblivious to the hyperventilating girl in their midst, glued to one spot.

A miracle had occurred. Yes, a miracle. Jane hugged her laptop, with more love than ever before. (Well she had never really hugged it before. Ever). She was too shook and out-of-breath at this point to realise that this benign little incident was not what it seemed. She still didn’t know what hit her. The last thought on her mind was that what came across as inauspicious, was in fact the opposite. Where was her ipod? Still in her pocket.

The longer she stood there, the more passersby cowered and kerb-crawled, averting their gaze from the crime they “hadn’t noticed”. Could they be so caught up in their own aims and objectives? They walked closer than usual to the shop-fronts, to distance themselves further from Jane. New York indeed. Glued still, Jane continued cradling her laptop, and slowly won back her breath. She was still rooted to the spot though. Looking around, searching for someone to confide in among the indifferent throng, she finally asked of the thin air around her, or was it of the fluffy and uncaring clouds in the sky “Aren’t there any guards around?”

A youngish bloke, who looked half familiar appeared, and enquired, considerately “Are you alright?”

“Yes – but are there any guards around?”, replied Jane in undisguised extreme exasperation. This was no time for disguise. No time for pretense. Everything was all out there.

“No.” he shrugged. Rushed with his own awfully important agenda, he nonetheless found 2 precious minutes to spare. “I just wanted to check, are you OK?”

“Listen thanks so much for stopping, I really appreciate it” Jane heard herself say, as if this was all happening in the third person, and it really wasn’t her who was the victim, yes the victim, an actual victim, of a mugging. Or was it an attempted mugging? Well, the little fecker did get one handle of the bag, so that complicates things. Technically-speaking, the dark fiend of Parnell Street did steal something. A bag handle.

But he gave something to her too – if she could see it.

Another young man approached now from the vicinity of North Great George’s Street. He spoke, in a reassuring Cork accent, and a mobile phone attached to his right ear.

“I saw the whole thing. I was sitting in my car. He was wearing a navy hoodie and tracksuit bottoms”.

Ah, a country fella, thought Jane. A friend. She let her guard down. Here was comfort-zone-man, in deepest, darkest Northside.

“Oh thanks, thanks”, she gushed, feeling she was definitely on safer ground now. “Well at least he didn’t get the laptop”, she confided, stupidly. “Thank God. Do you know where is the nearest police station?”

“Oh fair play to you, you hung onto it. I saw the whole thing. I wouldn’t bother going to the police if I were you, there’s no point”.

“There’s a station on the way to where I’m going, up by Croke Park, I’ll drop in there”. Her breathing pattern returning now to something resembling more normal rhythms Jane finally unstuck her feet from Parnell’s grip, and took her first step up the hill that is North Great George’s street.

At that precise moment – what time was it now? - dodgy guy with mobile phone and inner city Dublin accent appeared out of her blindspot, and announced in a voice that would give you concern for your safety:

“Fair play to you love, you hung on to your bag and didn’t let him get it. Is there a laptop in it?”

Joan glanced back at nice country fella, because he was still there, and smiled, as if she and he, both with their country roots, stranded together now in inner city Dublin were in cahoots together:

“No, I never carry my laptop in this bag”.

Wink wink. Country fella returned her smile, as, to Jane’s surprise, he slid, or was it a slither, into the passenger seat of a blingy sports car which was now being revved up by aforementioned dodgy looking inner city guy. Glancing back while quickening her pace up the hill, Jane thought she spotted a Northern registration plate. The penny dropped, my God, it is they who are in cahoots. This is an operation. She sped up, almost to a canter now. She didn’t write down the registration plate. After all she needed to survive to attempt her short story – if she could dream up a storyline after this traumatic assault. She shoved her ipod deeper into her pocket. What was she thinking, bringing it up here?

Warrior-like, fighting her way through dense jungle undergrowth (hippy-dippy Joni Mitchell was a thing of the past), Jane made her way up the fine, elegant, and absolutely shambolic Georgian streets, and squares, until she reached Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station. In she marched, still alive, and showed the remains of her bag to the garda on duty. His name was Declan (she asked him). Suspicious of everything now, she recounted the incident.

“See”, she demonstrated, “there were two handles on this bag, and now there is just one, and it’s hanging on by a thread”.

“He was probably a junkie looking for his fix”, diagnosed the young garda, knowingly, and took out his notepad. Yup, this was a crime alright. The statement-taking process was interrupted by a phone-call. A person of the same description (5 foot ten), navy hoodie, navy track-bottoms had just robbed a bag in the same area.

Despite the delay, Jane was still just on time to volunteer across the road in “Fighting Words”, just across from Croke Park. What was troubling her was the karma of this whole ordeal. Wasn’t this “inverse karma”? I mean, when you are going to volunteer, and help give transition year kids creative writing workshops (even if that is something you are struggling with yourself), isn’t that supposed to attract good karma, and, even, um, inspiration towards you? Not an attempted theft of your laptop.

Jane crossed the funky dunky new complex that is Behan Square, and walked in to the ground-floor centre, but not without looking over her shoulder with a brand new nervousness, and, I’m sorry to say it, what was turning into a deep distrust of the universe. It would be a long time before she listened to Joni Mitchell and her out-of-touch idealism again, and anyway, what the hell was she thinking strolling down Parnell Street dangling not just a laptop, but also an ipod?! Doh!

In her perambulation across the city, Jane had been re-born into a brand new world of threat, menace, and fiendish dark beings lurking behind pillars and in alleyways. Surveillance helicopters, spies. She believed it all now. Nope, nothing seemed too far-fetched or too paranoid. Not after today.

She progressed through the so-called “magic bookshelf”, found a chair, searched in her handbag for her notepad, and hung up her coat. Not necessarily in that order. Well, she wasn’t thinking straight. Oh yes, and she found a safe place for her laptop. Or at least she hoped it was safe. You could never be sure. She wrote her nametag. “Jane”. She could preface that with “Calamity”. Ah no, she couldn’t bring the negative energy of what had befallen her into this idealistic setting. It just wouldn’t be right to ruin the magic.

A multicultural transition year of girls in navy uniforms piled in like a Benetton ad for their third session on creative writing. Roddy Doyle was there presiding over the proceedings in a low-profile sort-of way. Yes, Roddy Doyle. Today they were talking about location, location, location. Where would they set their stories? How much detail could they include? Images were posted up on the big screen - Blanchardstown, and Phibsboro shopping centre, for example – for comments and observations from the floor. Then came – yes, of course, of course! – the actual scene of the crime. As if in answer to Jane’s query, there he was in all his glory – all-seeing, all-knowing Charles Stuart Parnell. “Pointing down towards Cineworld, like an advertisement”, pointed out another volunteer. Looking the other way, thought Jane. “What are the pedestrians and passersby doing?” asked another bright spark from the floor. “Is that someone getting into a car, or getting out of a car?” “What are the smells?”, asked Roddy. “How about the smell of chips from that chipper?” Such observations. One little girl pointed out the clouds, “lurking” behind the buildings. They weren’t just fluffy clouds. No, they were lurking clouds. And then Roddy said it. “It’s dangerous”. He threw it out there, just like that. How could Jane have missed that? It’s so bleedin’ obvious.

Mugged by reality, Jane sidled up beside 16 year-old Ida, from Chad, and helped her build on the story she’d been developing for two weeks now, about running away from home with her boyfriend, packing up her things, and then eventually (with a little encouragement from Jane), promising her mother she’d be back for dinner on Sunday. Her equally magnificent ebony friend Nana, whose white teeth and black gums had Jane transfixed whenever a smile broke out on her 17-year old face, worked with Natasha, freelance writer and TEFL teacher. Natasha had done a lot of travel writing, and knew a Ghanian in Dubin who was in a rock band. Jane couldn’t get into it as she had to split slightly early for her next appointment. The day was accelerating to its close.

Later, Jane dragged her heels again past all those duplicitous Georgian exteriors towards her shortstory writing class. Her laptop, which formerly had handles, was now tucked under her arm. She sure felt hard-done by. How could the universe be so mean to her? How could it not give her the karma she deserved? The karma she was working up, surely, by volunteering? What kind of logic was this? You call this justice? And what was she going to write about for her own short story? Once Upon a Time? Middle-aged love story? Dublin Philanderers? But it’s got to be fiction. Fiction. But Jane was O-Ding in a sea of non-fiction. Was that junkie fiend a metaphor? For what? But what she needed now was fiction. Fiction fiction fiction.

The unjust universe had just dumped this overwhelming experience on her, then spat her out unharmed and with her laptop intact. She had told that junkie where to go, and sent him scarpering on to the next, more victimly victim. No sooner had she stepped through the magic bookshelf, than the exact scene of the crime was presented to her, being drained for inspiration by Roddy Doyle himself. Now if that isn’t a pointer towards a happy ending, albeit a slightly warped one requiring a little creative visualisation to knock out the deep meaning of same, what is? Not that the narrator, the “I” of the previous sentence, the writer, and Jane are one and the same of course. Or can they be disentagled?

Technically speaking, does the fact that the narrator admits the resemblance of characters and incidents to real life, even if their names have been changed to protect their identity, disqualify it? Does that make it an obvious 3rd person operation, mugging reality in daylight, or worse again, a low-key philosophical treatise?

Clicking her laptop open, lovingly now, in deep appreciation of its sticking with her through thick and thin, Jane tapped out her first draft. It was turning into an ode to her loyal laptop:

“And the moral of my story, that came at a price (a handle, but it was worth it), is that happy endings are up to us, and us alone. We’ve got to wrestle them out of the hands of the shadowy, desperate fiend, who is after all God love him, just looking for his fix, while his evil dealers look on from a tacky parked sports car. It’s nothing personal. But that’s your laptop that you have to wrestle out of his desperate hands so it can survive to help you arm-wrestle down fiction out of reality. Make sense? At least that’s how it seems to me today.

P.S. I’m hanging on tight. Next time it’ll be real fiction. 100%. It’s just, in the meantime, ‘Miracle on Parnell Street’ had to get out.”