Throughout our lives things happen to us, good things, bad things, things. You always think that you, as an individual, have suffered more than most that is until you meet someone else and listen to their story. I found myself acting as a sort of letter writer for many of my neighbours, well; not a sort of letter writer but actually writing letters for them, creating CV’s, even completing various forms. One neighbour needed quite a comprehensive set of forms completing included in which was a brief summary of his life. I couldn’t believe how harrowing it had been and I knew that in reality, compared to this fellow, I should consider myself lucky. As he told me his story he did so with a smile on his face. Last night something terrible happened to our family, I’m finding it very difficult to smile at the moment.
It was one of those things where words will not suffice, just another blow, another wrinkle, another deep scar on the heart. Irene and I sat quietly with our own thoughts, text messages and telephone calls flashing between family members, making sure all were informed, trying to explain that these things happen, but never being able to say why they happen, but more importantly why they have to happen to us, and then you feel selfish, because what about my poor son James and his partner Angie and of course little Sienna Jae who none of us will now ever meet. Then Irene turned to me and told me to go and write my blog, because when the time was right it would be one of the things that would cheer Angie up.
I suppose this is where you look up from yourself and you see the rest of the world moving about and understand that life goes on. That no matter how pointless it all seems, life still goes on. And that is why I have not just been laughing at myself but encouraging others to laugh with me. For otherwise wouldn’t we all be mad. Sometimes events came along mob handed. As Freddie Starr was the newest and therefore client I was most focused on, the stories I had been told about the Liverpool docks were morphing into a fine tale indeed, something I was really looking forward to getting stuck in to. Then Freddie’s agent contacted Jeffrey and put the brakes on the project, Freddie Starr was depressed, weren’t we all. The book would have to be put on hold but when Freddie was feeling more up to it we could put the wheels back on.
No problem, I still had the Lily Savage deal, the Emmerdale deal and the Father Ted deal. There was also the Chris Eubank project which may have happened if I had pushed hard enough but truthfully I couldn’t be bothered with the man. The more I studied individual celebrities the more the mask fell away, the more ordinary and mundane they became. The first writer I studied was Anthony Burgess, who wrote A Clockwork Orange, his best known novel, although his greatest novel would have been Earthly Powers. Burgess was one of the best known English literary figures of the latter half of the twentieth century which is why I decided to study him and his work. Apart from churning out sixty plus novels he composed musical works and wished to be known as a composer rather than a writer. I began with his first novel and was going to work my way through all sixty plus of them, learning how he had progressed and improved as a writer over time. After book five I stopped as I found the only two themes that ran through his books were false teeth and haemorrhoids. If I could feel like this after only five books, how was this fellow so popular, why was he regarded as such a great writer? Surely there couldn’t be social workers employed in the publishing industry.
Similarly with Paul O Grady and his character Lily Savage I discovered that he was incapable of producing new material for his character which is why he allowed Lily Savage to die, claiming that she had been bricked up in the chimney of a French convent by the Mother Superior. With Chris Eubank, once you got past the pure buffoonery of his dandyish persona, was blank, empty, someone who might hit you if you didn’t agree with him. But one fellow I did admire, as did most of the people in Ireland, Dermot Morgan, the actor who played the central character of Father Ted, in the television series, died. He was only forty six years of age. Immediately the Father Ted book was put on hold, and understandably so. The project that would have had the most earning potential was the Manchester United project which was dead in the water, but I could not think of another football team that I could base the proposed project around. Well; there were plenty, but it would have been a heartless exercise, a pure money making scheme and I didn’t really fancy that.
The Emmerdale project was still hanging in there, well; I thought it was, until Jeffrey telephoned me and said that he had contacted the fellow at Yorkshire Television who had given my book such a good review. He had been replaced as Granada Television had bought a controlling stake in Yorkshire Television and the new person in charge had decided that the Dingle family, the family I had based the book around, were to be made more main stream, more drama and less comedy, so a comedy book would not fit the new direction they were taking the characters in. Good bye. Like with the events of last night you immediately realise that there is nothing you can do about them. It’s happened, suck it up, as we used to say in the armed forces, pain is just God’s little way of showing us we are alive.
I had managed to track down a new client, my heart wasn’t really in it, but I had been given permission to write twelve adventure books for characters from the television series Gladiators, an adaptation of the American format American Gladiators. London Weekend television owned the rights to the show and the characters so it was to be a simple fifty, fifty, split between London Weekend Television and myself. This was purely a financial exercise as the participants in the show were already proving that they had no moral standards with their outrageous sexual antics and drug taking. Everything was agreed so I telephoned Jeffrey and explained that I needed him to formalise the deal. Jeffrey like myself knew the participants were not on the ‘A list’ and actually said that he considered them too down market for me to write for.
As you can imagine there was only one course of action I could take and that was to sit down with a bottle of whisky and shout at the Lily Savage television show. I really didn’t want to watch it as I felt nothing but contempt for Murphy and O Grady. I was pouring either my third or fourth whisky when Jeffrey telephoned. He had noticed, as I had, that some of the material from my novels had made its way on to the television and so had some of my sketches, but low and behold only one person had been credited with writing the show. Paul O Grady was now stealing my work. First thing the following morning I was on the telephone to Well Bred Productions. Murphy claimed that O Grady had never seen the books or even the sketches; however I could actually prove that he had.
Paul O Grady, the housewives favourite, was actually a liar, a thief and a cheat. I knew that I could prove that he had actually read my work, but more importantly I had every telephone conversation on tape. I was really angry, but I was angry that Paul O Grady had stolen the food from my children’s mouths. I wasn’t interested in money, well I was, but it wasn’t the driving factor behind my reason to write. I wrote because I loved it and was good at it, to be able to provide a decent lifestyle for my wife and children would have been a secondary bonus, Paul O Grady had stolen that from me. My first course of action was to work out how long I had spent writing both of the novels and the television work and present Well Bred Productions with a bill. I actually billed them for just under forty thousand pounds, which was the going rate at that time.
According to Jeffrey all we could now do was sit back and wait for them to reply. Like myself Jeffrey didn’t expect them to pay up, this was going to have to get legal. But I knew that Savage would use the media to claim his innocence, it was his realm, but I could also try to use the media to destroy him. At the time there was a show business gossip columnist, sort of celebrity himself, Matthew Wright, who worked for the Daily Mirror newspaper. He now has his own daily topical discussion show which is almost as embarrassingly awful as the Jeremy Kyle show. I telephoned Matthew Wright and asked for his help. I didn’t expect to hear him moan about how everyone always wanted his help, I asked that if I could prove to him that Paul O Grady was a lying, thieving, cheat would he be interested. He said yes, but only if I could back it up with a barrister’s letter stating that I was one hundred per cent in the right. I could see that the big boys were getting their cheque books out; it was how they played the game. I could see that I would have to get myself a pretty decent team around me, so who did I know that were good at influencing people? Ah yes, people like Tim Lort and Grahame Duffield, and like barristers they had been called to a bar many, many, times over too.
You can all stand easy as, thankfully, last night was an insult and threat free zone. But it was as I found myself sat sitting there, oiling my shotgun that it occurred to me that any sane and normal person would probably regard their life as being blighted if they had to have any sort of connection with Clancey whereas Clancey had probably been put in to my life on purpose. Having to admit that I knew him was probably a test the double top secret cabal had put me through, and still put me through, because Clancey, like a bad smell, is very difficult to get rid of. I wonder how many others among you have been put in place for a specific reason.
I often wondered if Murphy had been put in place to just annoy me for he was doing a fine job of it. I actually managed to catch him on the telephone and have it out with him. Using language that would be more common among dockers or miners, I spoke very plainly and told him exactly what I thought of him. I actually seemed to get through and connect with him. He apologised for having messed me about so much, agreed that he had read the first two Lily Savage novels and that he approved them and that he would try to hurry the publishers up. I asked that he contact Jeffrey and give him the details of the publisher. Murphy again agreed and we finished the conversation with me feeling that I had actually managed to achieve something.
I had written all that had been requested of me and had sent it off to the producer at Tiger Aspect, for the Lily Savage television show. I was nervous as even though I had short stories broadcast on the radio this was my first serious foray into the big bad world of television. I had met a fellow through the local writer’s circle who was writing for Brookside, a television soap opera set in Liverpool. Whereas I had followed what I considered to be an established almost classic approach to becoming a writer he had won a competition. He told me that he had seen a writing competition advertised in a newspaper he was reading, on a train, on his way back to the university he was attending. An idea sprung into his mind for the writing competition the moment he saw the advert and he began writing when he got back to his rooms.
He won the competition, which got him an agent, who then got him a job as a scriptwriter on this soap opera. He said he liked to write in freehand and would have a motorcycle courier collect his finished script, drive them across Liverpool to his father, who would type them up on his word processor and then have them couriered back. Do you think they were trying to make me jealous? He had even been given two episodes of a new detective series to write. It was about two British, retired, detectives living on a boat in Spain. He told me that he got a telephone call, one Friday lunchtime, asking him to fly to Spain as there was a problem with his script. So by early evening he finds himself flying out to Spain from Manchester airport.
Once in Spain he is taken directly on to the set where the problem with the script is addressed. It was only one scene so, taking guidance from the director, he goes off and writes a new scene, but the director has written a scene and the two main actors have also written a scene. He tells me that the two actors then act out all three scenes and ‘quelle surprise,’ the scene that the two actors have written is considered to be the best, so is kept in the programme. This angered my friend for not only was he flown back to Manchester the following morning, the two actors were now given writing credits for the show that he had written ninety nine per cent of.
So I was aware that writing for television could be full of shenanigans, even when at Lumb Bank, John Harvey had recounted a tale where he had written a four part television script for one of his novels for a television company. The company now decided that they didn’t want to proceed with the project so it was shelved. John Harvey found another company but they wanted it in three parts not four, so he had to re write the whole thing only to be turned down again. I suppose I had already had my own experience of this with having to write the ghost stories for Frank Bruno three times before having the whole project scrapped. So although it was exciting I was well aware that nothing was really agreed or finalised until the money was in my bank account.
I saw that Lily Savage was appearing on a television show, a morning magazine show with a husband and wife team presenting it. If I wanted to be nasty I should say an alcoholic and a shop lifter presented the show, but I’m far too nice to swing a punch at such a fine pair of media professionals. I was still using the old double video recorder and waited with my thumb hovering over the record button for Savage to come on screen. He came on his usual self, joking and cracking away. He was certainly on form and I secretly hoped he might at least mention the books, but he didn’t. Instead he began to speak about his new television show. He then went on to say that he had fired all the writers connected with the television show as they were all Oxford and Cambridge types with their heads so far up their own arses they knew absolutely nothing about Liverpool, the working classes or humour. He was now going to write the television show himself.
I don’t think anyone in their right mind would describe me as an Oxford of Cambridge type, so I hoped that O Grady was treating me as a ghost writer, which I didn’t really want to be for television work. It’s the sort of medium where you need your name to be out and about so that people who like your work will ask you to do more. I telephoned Tiger Aspect and got a hold of the show’s producer, the fellow who had spent forty five minutes giving me detailed instruction of what he wanted. He couldn’t apologise enough, claiming that he thought he had contacted everyone involved, but yes it was true O Grady was claiming that he was going to write the whole series himself. It was certainly a bit of a blow as that sort of writing is quite demanding and difficult.
I telephoned Jeffrey and explained what had happened and he commiserated with me, in fact he said that it was a pity the two books I had already written for O Grady were so good as the pair of them, O Grady and Murphy, were certainly toxic. Jeffrey then suggested that as they had telephoned me and given me a specific writing task I should bill them for the work I had produced. It made sense so with the help of the Writers and Artists year book I was able to work out exactly how much I should have been paid for the television work and sent a bill off to Tiger Aspect. I know that I had pushed for a three book deal with Murphy and O Grady but I wasn’t in the mood for them at all, in fact I wanted nothing to do with them anymore. I felt bad that my work would help build his status as a comedian and like Jeffrey wished I had never had the idea in the first place. It was sickening watching him appear on television pretending that he was a lovely, harmless, homosexual, who wouldn’t harm a fly, when in fact he was proving himself, as was his boyfriend Murphy, to be quite a nasty piece of work.
Paul O Grady wasn’t the only person being an arse, Chris Eubank was proving that he had perhaps suffered too may blows to the head during his boxing career and was making all sorts of daft suggestions. He may have been the perfect showman and someone who could front a book but with the experience I was getting of other celebrities I knew that perhaps it was better to pull away from him early rather than drag the whole thing out to infinity. I had found a couple of new clients anyway so was busy researching and thinking up more crazy storylines. I had spent an enjoyable afternoon with one of Irene’s uncles who had been employed as a docker on Liverpool docks during its heyday. He told such great and funny stories about life on the docks, about stuff going missing, by the truckload sometimes, but what got me the most was the names they had for certain jobs. If a crate was being lifted off a ship then the man who was responsible for placing it on a truck or on the dock was known as The Landerman. And so an idea came about for a book for the Liverpool comedian, Freddie Starr, a rip roaring comedy set in the Liverpool docks and the title, yep, you’ve guessed it, The Landerman. All we needed now was for him to stop biting the heads off hamsters.
I actually thought that the threats of physical violence from Ed Mooney, the day before yesterday, would be the lowest point in the life of this blog. How wrong I was, for last night I was introduced to a new level of depravity, scorn, violence and abuse that would terrify a normal person. I shouldn’t really write about it and if any of you are presently eating I would strongly advise that you stop reading this and finish your meal unless you want to find the contents of your stomach covering whatever form of device you use to read this. I have decided that you should know the full horrific detail of what happened as I need to leave a permanent record of it and if I was to suddenly disappear, then at least the police will have something positive to direct them.
It was quite late, about nine o clock last night, late enough for decent God fearing people. The telephone rang, so I switched on the tape recorder. Placing the receiver against my ear I shuddered as I heard the menacing London accent growl, ‘Hello mate,’ at me. In a flash I knew who it was and I quite naturally checked for my escape routes and nearest weapon. “If you’re the King of Ireland then I wanna be a prince.” You can’t really sense the threatening tone of his voice from me writing here, but you can see that there was no pleasantries, no please or thank you, no hello how are you? Just the brutal demand in a voice similar to the one he probably used as an intimidating loan shark on the back streets of London as a youth, a world so removed from human decency that even Charles Dickens himself couldn’t have imagined it. I prayed that he was not standing outside my front door and hoped that he was locked up in a police cell somewhere pretending that he was calling a solicitor for advice.
I have to admit that the training the double top secret cabal had put me through found me, for once, sticking up to the international thug known to us all as John Sebastian Stanley Clancey. “With your propensity for wearing short leather skirts,” I said. “You would probably make a much better Queen!” My reposte seemed to catch him off guard, I doubt if he was used to people standing up to him and his brutish ways. “Oive been reading your blog,” he growled, indicating that he perhaps was not happy with the fact there were far too many ‘big words’ and not enough pictures in it. But on the other hand if he had actually read the blog, or had made someone read it to him, I could be in trouble. I could just imagine the scene, a prison cell full of shaved headed brutes, some giving others tattoos with the standard prison darning needle and bottle of Indian ink, while one fellow, the brains of the outfit, seated at the small table, trailing a finger under each word as he hesitantly pronounces it and waits for agreement on words with more than six letters. We all know that, despite it being a terrifying ordeal, dealing with a mindless thug is very similar to dealing with an innocent little puppy. They are easily distracted, so I would simply have to use the telephone equivalent of something sparkly and shiny to befuddle him.
Much to my surprise, rather than hear a torrent of foul, abusive, language Clancey actually spoke like a proper human being, well; as close to a proper human being as he could pretend. “Thanks for writing about my wedding,” he says, going on to explain that he had, at the time, been drunk for seven days straight and if it wasn’t for the photographs, that people had sent him, he probably wouldn’t have known he was married, he was so poor he couldn’t afford an official photographer. Of course what he didn’t realise is that the photographs were actually supporting claims for compensation for the damage many of us suffered to our personal possessions and clothing.
I think many of us actually felt sorry for Clancey, it wasn’t his fault that he had been born into such deprivation, most of us tried to support him and educate him, we tried to make him understand how morally wrong his life was, but people like Mick Hughes, a Welshman from Welsh Wales, behind our backs, encouraged Clancey, not just in drinking pints of red wine, but in continuing his life of crime, which of course, funded the drinking that now has the pair of them firmly in its grasp. Hughes of course apart from being a member of Clancey’s criminal gang and fellow alcoholic, was the commanding officer of the Bridgend Viet Taff. This was a most violent, red wine drinking, holiday home burning, group of Welsh terrorists, so feared that even today the Welsh authorities in Welsh Wales refuse to talk about them. In fact Hughes was so terrifyingly violent that he has been banned from ever entering Wales again in his life, he’s even not allowed to be buried there, so deep run the scars of his crimes. So you can imagine how God fearing decent people like myself and Tim and Rick felt when we saw Mick Hughes turn up at Clancey’s wedding without a police escort.
One embarrassing memory burned into my mind, like a red hot branding iron on the arse of a heifer, was as people gathered outside the small chapel of Kirk Maughold, Clancey was so drunk he was shouting, as someone, probably an undercover policeman, attempted to take a large group photograph, “Just take one shot and we can cut it up later.” For as we say in Ireland, even then, he had a fierce thirst on him. Rather than view my account of his wedding day and subsequent celebrations, as no more than a factual and historical account of how poor, uneducated, people conducted themselves in public, Clancey seemed to be proud that someone had actually written about a tiny piece of his life. Rather like the fellow in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid who carries around all the newspaper clippings about the gang’s criminal exploits.
“Talking about Queens,” he said, “You should have mentioned that Queen Elizabeth was over on the Island when I got married.” This of course was something that we all wanted to keep quiet. “You could have said she came to my wedding.” I could start to see the naked jealousy in the man surface; you could see that, with the little education he had received in Borstal, he was unable to express his jealousy at the fact that I was now a King. I doubt very much if a reigning monarch would ever lower themselves to attend such a drunken and boorish event as Clancey’s wedding, but I suppose with images of Diana, or Mother Theresa, caring for dying and diseased children in the slums of Africa and India the more educationally challenged amongst us can always dream of the impossible.
It was hard enough for me to drag myself to Clancey’s wedding and perhaps luckily at that time I knew nothing about my Royal lineage so in a way was not governed by diplomacy as I now find myself. I wondered if any of the other guys like Tim Lort or Rick Stocks would have received threatening telephone calls from Clancey as it was becoming clear, as he continued to speak, that he had been drinking alcohol. Clancey, who would never admit it, has a drinking problem, given the amount of time he has spent in prison, I’m sure you can imagine the awful prison tattoos, I am certain there is also an underlying drug problem which he is too embarrassed to talk about. He is probably not aware but most of us, connected to him at arm’s length I may add, understand that the drug issue is more of a survival thing.
It’s hard to feel sorry for such a beast but when I last spoke to Tim Lort, Tim agreed that Clancey’s predilection for wearing short leather skirts indicated that in prison he would have sold himself as female. The leather indicates, or suggests, that he gave off the signal that he ‘liked it rough.’ Most of us ex-military types know all about survival and I suppose we all know that to survive in a prison environment would be a tough old bean to crack. It is without a doubt that we all agree that Clancey uses the alcohol and drugs to suppress not only his erupting feminine side, but the dark memories of night times on the prison wing landing, moving from cell door to cell door, telling inmates to switch off their lights and then offering them a little something on the side.
By giving you sufficient background information about Clancey, his gang, his exploits and his perversions, I hope I have allowed each of you decent law abiding members of The Illuminati, to come to some understanding of how terrifyingly evil the man is and this will now allow me to continue with the telephone call and the depravity it sank into. Clancey continued to talk, dishing out insult after insult about people he would publicly claim were friends. I am certain that Peter Browne wouldn’t even understand some of the swear words that Clancey used about him. Tim Lort would, but then he is ex-Navy so foul language like that is quite common among sailors or so I am told. “What are you doing this weekend?” he asked. A simple and pleasant enough question, but as this was Clancey I knew it would be coming from a different direction than if a normal and decent person had asked it.
“I shall be watching the Irish rugby team trounce the Italian rugby team by about forty six points to seven.” I said. “Why, what are you up to?” This is where, if you have recently have had a meal, grab a brown paper bag or make sure that you are close to some suitable form of receptacle. “Sally’s away for the weekend,” he growled, with the most indecent amount of perverted suggestiveness in his voice. “I’m sitting here naked,” he wheezed. “Drinking red wine, watching the under twenties rugby, and scratching myself.” Now I ask you, should people like me have to put up with the likes of this telephoning me at all hours of the day and night? Abuse and threats of violence I can understand and handle but the gloating perversions of a drunken brute I would suggest is far beyond the pale. So please forgive me for once again diverting away from the main narrative, but some things, as I am sure you will agree with me, need to be said.
Originally posted on Tyrone Tribulations:
Hospital authorities across the county have issued a plea to Tyrone residents to ‘calm down a bit’ on the dancing, as a four-fold increase in ‘jiving-related injuries’ put hospital services at breaking point at the weekend.
I was going to start off today by suggesting that I would have to be much more careful about how I write. Having given the matter some thought I feel it might be better if I suggest that you lot, The Illuminati, begin reading a bit more carefully. As you all know there are about three thousand three hundred of you that read this blog every day and some of you are not paying attention. This results in a lot of unnecessary correspondence, most, I admit, being threats of the imposition of super injunctions from various legal teams on the Isle of Man. Now it would appear that we have moved up a gear from the standard barrage of legal threats and begging letters to threats of violence. So I now need you all to sit yourselves up straight and begin reading in a dignified and serious manner, take notes if you wish, and please get your elbows off the desk Patti, don’t slouch.
Apart from questioning the authority of a member of the O Neill Clan to be the rightful heir of the throne of Ireland, this fellow, Ed Mooney, a very professional photographer from the county of Kildare, ( http://edmooneyphoto.wordpress.com/ ) believes that he, as a member of the O’Maonaigh clan, who are descendants of Érimón the first High King of Ireland, could claim the right to be King of Ireland. I know that by now most of you will have blown huge holes in his argument, which he finished off in a most unprofessional manner by offering to meet me at Tara for fisticuffs. For those of you unaware of the ancient Irish game of fisticuffs this does not involve throwing dice or playing cards, but two fully grown men, stripped to the waist who then proceed to hammer lumps out of each other with their fists.
The last time I saw a game of fisticuffs was in Crossmaglen town square when the King of the Gypsies was defending his title. Two huge men, like shire horses, landing punches that I can still hear to this very day, steam rising from their naked torsos and the crowd, swirling around the pair of them like an ebbing tide, gasping with each blow that was given. First of all I am claiming nothing and I thought I made that clear. I am simply stating fact; I have been marked by God himself and that mark indicates that I am a candidate for the position of the High Chief of the Clan O Neill and therefore the King of Ulster. Of course when I say Ulster I mean all the nine counties of Ulster and not the six counties presently under British occupation that the geographically challenged wrongly refer to as Ulster. Until the people of Ireland decide whether or not they want each of the four provinces to have its own King then I will act as the one, true, single, King of Ireland, unless of course the O Neill Clan Council remove me.
Any Celt is a very proud person and I don’t mean that they strut about in a self-important sort of way; I mean that they are proud of their name and their lineage. Most Celts will be able to tell you the story and history of their family name and so it should be, it’s an important part of being associated with the land, of saying I am of this place, always have been and always will be. So when people like Ed Mooney offer me violence I do not take offence, in fact it makes me proud to see the deep and passionate love that a person has for his country being presented in such a bare and raw manner. Politicians can and will sit about, and as long as they keep getting paid, will talk rubbish about nothing for ever and ever, in fact in Ireland we say that they could talk the hind leg of a donkey.
So this situation has to be resolved quickly without detailed discussion and without any donkeys getting hurt. I expect objections to be raised and I expect all sorts of people to suggest that their lineage is more appropriate than mine. It doesn’t matter if you feel that you are directly descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages or if your family or Clan were mentioned in The Tain or were even stealing cattle over at Cooley. The time for debate is over; the time for action is now. Any academic involved with Irish history will tell you that on page four of Lebor Gabala Erenn, a history of Ireland from the creation of the world to the Middle Ages, in the third paragraph you will see the statement that God himself will choose the King of Ireland, where it says, “And he will maketh his choice clear for all by marking their left hand, not the right hand, but the left, so that all who see the divine mark will follow and the left hand will be the symbol, the leader and the light.”
So let’s have no more threats of violence of offers of fisticuffs, although to be fair to him I think Ed had second thoughts and agreed that perhaps we might forego his suggested early morning bout of pugilism and simply share a few beers together. It’s nice to see common sense take the lead although talking about pugilism allows me to take you all back to the main story, having dealt with Ed Mooney and his little diversion which no doubt will happen again and I will have to deal with the situation again, but, getting back to the main story and pugilism, I had started to contact Chris Eubank, another boxer.
Like football I have no interest whatsoever in boxing, in fact I think it is a brutal and disgusting spectacle, but Eubank seemed to fit my requirement. He was a retired boxer, so earning money would be important to him but more importantly he was a showman. He spoke with a lisp and in affected upper-class tones, thinking himself to be a bit of a dandy. He wore jodhpurs, a bowler hat, carried a silver tipped cane and wore riding boots and a monocle. You may think all that was mad enough but he also drove himself around in a huge American sixteen wheeled juggernaut. I think every person who saw him knew his body language was screaming, ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ It was clear that this was the sort of fellow who would have no problem fronting a book.
At the time Eubank was beginning to get involved in an anti-drug movement, claiming that he wanted to help young people stay clear of drugs. I decided to write a detective book for him to front, where the main character, the private detective, was a black man. He would hold two or three university degrees, be very good looking, like me, but would not be able to get an appropriate job in Britain because of the inherent racism. I knew that Eubank was keen on highlighting race issues as well as his line on drugs, so I thought both themes in a book would satisfy him. My only problem was that I wanted to create a fantastic book; I wanted a plot that was perfectly simple to read and understand but that was also intensely complex, where the key to the whole story is not given away to the very last line of the book. I wanted to write a proper book for him which of course might carry a little humour as well.
That wasn’t really my only problem; one huge problem was trying to contact Eubank. He seemed to be more slippery that a really slippery thing. I eventually managed to track him down and contact him through his tailor, I kid you not, I tracked him down to Cad and The Dandy, a Savile Row firm of tailors that sells overpriced clothes to stupid people. If I had thought Murphy and O Grady had been elusive I had another thing coming with Eubank. Although I have to admit I think I had worn Murphy down. He telephoned me to say that he had been approached by a publisher and asked to produce a coffee table book about Lily Savage. He was going to take the deal offered by the publisher but he had also agreed that after publishing this coffee table book they would publish my two Lily Savage novels. This, according to Murphy, was what the publisher wanted.
I may have been on the same court as the big boys but I certainly did not know all the rules, which I presume is what you have to know in order to start breaking them. Jeffrey blew a fuse, which is putting it mildly. Money had not been mentioned by Murphy so Jeffrey said to me this is what is going to happen. Murphy would call me and say that he had been offered an advance for all three books; Jeffrey suggested a figure of five thousand pounds. He will then say that the breakdown would be four and a half thousand for the coffee table book and five hundred for my two books. He’s trying to rip you off Peter. I was concerned that this was the second occasion that Murphy had blatantly tried to rip me off and as he claimed to be an Irishman, like Ed Mooney yesterday, there was one standard and accepted way we could sort this out with a nice little game of fisticuffs between Murphy and me. Seconds out.
I see that some of you are a little confused about my official standing for the position of King of Ireland. It is true that in the old days, there would have been a group, or a pool, of people all of whom would have carried the mark of God, being a small deformity on the left hand, and of course being an O Neill from the Tyrone clan of O Neill’s. Young Peter Browne over there in Saudi Arabia is moaning that, with my luck, being chosen from a group will be highly unlikely and he therefore will miss my investiture in Belfast cathedral. Forgive me for not giving you all the information, which is that at the moment I am only aware of two people who fit the criteria for High Chief Of the Clan O Neill and therefore able to be considered for election to the ultimate position of King of Ireland.
There’s me, myself, the one who has been through all the training from the double top secret cabal and then there is my eight year old niece. So you can make up your own minds who the council might choose. There may be one or two more elderly candidates knocking about but if someone is to sit on a throne then you know yourselves they better have the legs for it and we all know who has the most loveliest legs in Ireland. I’ll say no more on the subject. But I would also like to point out to young Browne that Belfast is not the capital city of Ireland, it’s Dublin. Although I have to say that I would prefer my investiture to be held at Clonmacnoise monastery, because of its ancient connection to the Kings of Tara. (By the way, for all you heathens out there, the Celtic Cross pictured on my WordPress account, that should appear alongside this blog, is actually at Clonmacnoise monastery.) And it’s a bit presumptuous, Mister Browne, to be thinking about investitures when we haven’t even worked out our secret handshake yet, never mind inviting Demi Moore, whoever he is. I will put his confusion down to the sunshine, perhaps when Noel Coward sang that only mad dogs and Englishmen went out in the mid-day sun, he should have added especially those eejits who drive around bombing ranges in the midday sun.
He even referred to ‘my luck’ which I would have thought all of you by now would understand does not exist. Everything that happens to me in my life has been planned to happen to me. What you might consider to be an episode of bad luck I would consider to be a lesson in humility or compassion. Well; I would now, perhaps not then when it was happening to me as I was unaware of the station in life that was my destiny. I don’t know how they did it but the double top secret cabal managed to stir up most of the footballers and football agents connected to Manchester United, the image of pigs at a trough springs to mind. The publishers decided that enough was enough and cancelled the deal. Thankfully I was not relying on the Manchester United deal, it would have been nice if it had moved through to fruition, but as Winston Churchill once said, shit happens.
For me the important thing was the ability to find a suitable client and then come up with an idea that matched that client. Yes, Manchester United were perhaps the most famous football club in the world, but I was sure that I could come up with another idea. There was usually a list of people that I felt could be utilised passing between Jeffrey and myself, I just didn’t sit there and pull people or ideas out of thin air, there was quite a lot of debate and research going in to each proposed project. Then I go and get a telephone call from a television producer. This guy worked for Tiger Aspect and was directing the new six part Lily Savage television series. It was just as well that I had the tape recorder going as he spoke to me for forty five minutes.
Three were to be six thirty minute programmes, each containing various comedy sketches. Because of the standard of the two books I had written for Lily Savage, I was now to be given four sketches for each show. I remember him asking me to write six sketches, one for each show, with Lily Savage and Vera Duckworth, a character from a popular television soap opera, where the two of them would pretend to be a sort of Cagney and Lacey duo running about Manchester attempting to solve crime. Another six sketches were to feature Lily, her mad sister, and confused daughter, thinking they had won the national lottery but then discovering they hadn’t. I was then encouraged to come up with a short sketch, thirty seconds or thereabouts, for each of the six shows and another sketch, again one for each show at about one and a half minutes each, but both of these were at my discretion.
In the novel writing world and short stories, even blogs, the word count as you will have noticed me mention before is the key measuring stick. Look at any short story competition and you will see it limited by the number of words, but in television and radio it is time that is the key factor and it is also how you are paid. So once again you would go to the Writers and Artists current yearbook and the range of up-to-date rates for radio and television would be stated. The only programmes where you are not paid by the minute are hour long dramas where you are paid per programme. It was nice to have a change of writing and my experience of the television studio at the local college would hopefully now pay off.
This work had come directly to me so it wasn’t going through Jeffrey, he didn’t even know about it. I wasn’t sure what to do about it until Murphy telephoned me and suggested that rather than have Jeffrey represent me why didn’t he, Murphy, represent me? Murphy knew nothing about my other projects and Jeffrey had been working pretty hard for me. I knew that Jeffrey was one of the leading literary agents in London and I knew nothing about Murphy. I am sure the double top secret cabal wanted to see how I would react to this situation, would I do the right thing or would I be greedy and stupid enough to try and squeeze a few hundred quid more out of the deal.
I decided to tell Jeffrey as if anything went wrong along the way I would have him in my corner, plus it was the right thing to do. If I wanted to disappear into the wilds of Ireland and spend the remainder of my life writing then I would need Jeffery and his dealing and contacts in London and I would need to know that we trusted each other implicitly. Jeffrey was not a happy bunny and declared that he would be taking legal action against Murphy as Murphy was attempting to steal his client, and therefore his income. I hadn’t viewed it like that but now that Jeffery had explained things to me, from his point of view, I could see just how underhand Murphy was being. Now Jeffrey is reluctant to deal with Murphy so I agree to talk to Murphy.
I really had had about enough of Murphy, the one thing that angered me most was that he claimed to be Irish and I could not abide the fact that one Irishman would try to con another. I telephoned him and explained that he was on, what the English call, ‘a sticky wicket,’ because Jeffrey now knew that he wanted to steal me away from him. I suppose I should have been happy that two men were fighting over me, although if the truth be told and with legs like mine, it wouldn’t have been the first time. Murphy seemed to take the fact on board that he would simply have to proceed with our original proposal and even though he knew that Jeffrey had a publisher lined up and ready, with a cheque sitting on the desk, he wanted to check around a few publishers himself.
I did get one very nice telephone call from Frank Bruno. Frank telephoned and apologised to me for messing up the whole deal. It was lovely of him to contact me and to tell you the truth, even though he was a wife beater and therefore the lowest form of life possible, I actually felt sorry for him. The whole situation appeared to have humbled him, which I am sure would still not be as bad as his poor wife would have felt every occasion the heavyweight champion of the world laid into her with his fists. Frank suggested that we leave the project for a year or two and then come back to it. I sort of knew that he would never recover from being shamed as a wife beater, every time he would appear in the media it would always be brought up, and perhaps rightly so. I’m not sure, I’m not a judge, just an ordinary fellow, with the loveliest legs in Ireland, the world’s leading Master Candle Maker, the High Chief of the Clan O Neill and therefore the true King of Ireland.
I have to admit that it does me a power of good when I discover fellow members of The Illuminati who what are involved in detailed scientific research like what I do. It just proves to me that The Illuminati are not, as often reported in the press, a bunch of power hungry business oligarchs but intelligent, considered, serious people who will be well placed when we achieve our objective of world domination. Yesterday when I was conducting an inspection of certain blogs I noticed that Professor Laurie Buchanan has actually produced a detailed scientific research paper concerning The Hurl Principle. This, and forgive me Professor Buchanan for attempting to explain such a detailed natural phenomenon in so few words, but basically any cat or dog who wishes to involuntarily regurgitate a meal they have just eaten, will, when given the choice, deposit their stomachs content on a carpet or rug, despite being surrounded by a sea of easy clean tiles or wooden floor surfaces.
I can see many of you are already reaching for your pens and slide rules as such an exciting project does indeed get the old creative juices flowing. My immediate thoughts were Newtonian, to say the least. In fact when I read Professor Buchanan’s paper I could think of nothing more than Newton’s third law which as you all know states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The reason I thought of Newton’s third law was because if I ever experienced a natural act, which I now know as The Hurl Principle, I would instinctively incur Newton’s third law with an opposing force which is more commonly known as a boot in the arse for the animal involved. So well done Professor Laurie Buchanan I’m sure we will see your name in lights soon if not at the Nobel prizes.
I of course cannot spend as much time as I would like involved in my own specific area of scientific research as I have the day job to contend with, which is basically trying to entertain you lot. This does involve me coming up with a succession of ideas which strangely enough can be fun rather than hard work. I would agree with the great American author John Steinbeck, who said that, ‘Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen.’ And so it was way back then when I was struggling to become the world’s greatest ghost writer, farming ideas for a living, like a rabbit farmer but without the protestors. It would have been nice to have some of the electronic goodies that are so prevalent these days to help me along. The ultimate in electronic help back then was the Apple Mac computer and the telephone, which still wasn’t very mobile.
The telephone was the main tool used for setting up business deals and chasing people to set up deals. Jeffrey was very good in keeping me informed on the progress of all our projects but I was still having to travel up and down to the local college to put my work onto disc and print manuscripts, as and when required. I do remember Jeffrey calling me once explaining that he had the magician Paul Daniels and his wife Debbie Magee sitting in front of him at his desk, would I be interested in writing a book for Paul Daniels? It was nice to see that the work could flow both ways, but I respectfully declined the offer. I knew that it wouldn’t be long before something would happen and then, especially with all the work that I had competed, there would be an avalanche. One of the things I used to do to entertain the children would be in the evenings, as they would be having their tea, I would replay them the tape recording of the ‘famous’ people I had been speaking to that day, the children were impressed, I think. One of the telephone calls I received, and that is still on tape, was from Frank Bruno, the heavyweight world champion boxer. Frank was quite excited and asked if I had heard the news. ‘What news?’ I asked. According to Frank, Jeffrey had managed to secure a publishing deal for our project and was presently out celebrating and discussing our deal with Frank’s accountant. Frank was over the moon and couldn’t thank me enough for approaching him, which I thought was a little over the top until he told me how much the advance was.
In the world of books and publishing when money is being discussed normally a small equation is worked out by those involved. You will no doubt have heard of authors advances, the really huge ones are sometimes nothing more than a gamble and a one off payment but normal advances, usually represent one third of what the publisher expects the book to earn. As they are experts in their field they are normally correct. So when Frank Bruno told me what our advance was I immediately multiplied by three, except I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Frank told me that we had been given a six hundred thousand pound advance. Frank couldn’t stop thanking me and praising me and wondering if, and how quickly, we could get another book out. With his enthusiasm and excitement I knew we had picked the correct candidate to front the project.
Of course six hundred thousand is quite a nice figure but please remember I would only get half of that so, that’s only three hundred thousand and then Jeffrey takes his ten per cent and then there’s the tax man. Well; the tax man would not be chasing me, for I was off to Ireland, as at that time in the Republic any money earned from the arts was allowed to be tax free. So to come from struggling to write two or three hundred words each and every day to actually being in a position where I could consider buying a house for cash all the hardship and knockbacks seemed to be worth it. It wasn’t long before Jeffrey telephoned me and explained the deal to me. Yes Frank Bruno had been correct and Jeffrey had secured a decent advance for us, all the publisher wanted was thirty thousand words, I could structure the book any way that I wanted.
I don’t know if there had been any influence from the report by Jeffery’s children’s literature expert but truthfully I didn’t care, I was on my way, all I had to do now was write the book, although I have to admit the size of the advance did put me under a little pressure as this was not about enjoying myself anymore but about producing professional work. I decided to write six, five thousand word long, ghost stories, it was me maintaining my simple approach. As Jeffrey had been trying to set up the deal I had spent most of my time reading and re reading children’s ghost stories and felt that I had read almost every classic ghost story ever written all I had to do now was produce six of my own. I seemed to fall in to a routine of producing one story every three days. It would only take one day to write a story but another two to edit and polish it.
I sent off the six completed stories and went and stood in a dark corner, for a lot was riding on them. Jeffrey read them, telephoned me and apart from saying how good he thought they were, wanted to know ‘how I did it.’ I hadn’t a clue, but like the teaching staff at my children’s school my thoughts were I don’t know what I am doing, but whatever it was, I was going to keep doing it. Jeffrey returned the stories to me with any suggestions or corrections, which as normal were minimal. I then sent the stories off to the publisher and once again waited. It was a few days later when the publisher telephoned me and said that they thought the stories were wonderful, that they were lovely, misty, classic Scottish type, ghost stories, but could I produce something more modern. They wanted modern ghost stories with computers and television and some of the electronic gadgets that were becoming more common.
I found myself back at the keyboard and rattling away again and again falling into a routine of one story every three days. Again after Jeffrey had inspected my work the stories went off to the publisher and we waited. They telephoned me again and complemented me on my work saying they were fantastic modern ghost stories but they felt that each story should contain Frank Bruno. So, could I get together with Frank, talk about his life, and then write six ghost stories that could have occurred to Frank during his life, implying that the stories had been experienced by Frank and were true. By now I had written thirteen stories but still sat down at the keyboard to produce another six, five thousand word long, ghost stories each claiming to have happened to Frank Bruno.
Once again I fell in to the three day per story routine and still managed to thump out six stories, but for some strange reason I came up with a seventh idea and it was for me anyway, quite exciting, I felt that it would be the best of all the recent batch of stories, so gave myself another three days to write and edit it. Being a generous fellow I send the seven stories off and waited to hear the outcome. So I had produced twenty ghost stories in all, but you have to admit, the pay day was worth it, especially with another two similar pay days to come. It was Jeffrey who telephoned me to give me the news. It was the sort of thing you only see on the television or in films. “Have you seen the news Peter?” asked Jeffery. “No,” I said, switching on the television. “What’s going on?” “Frank Bruno’s wife had just secured an injunction against him as he was constantly beating her up. The publishers don’t think that Frank is the sort of fellow who should be promoting children’s books, they’ve pulled out. We’ve lost the deal.” As I watched Frank Bruno walk out of the High Court in London, on my television set, I didn’t know whether I would invoke The Hurl Principle or Newton’s third law, but one, if not both of them, seemed an appropriate response.
Thank you all for your comments and support especially regarding my claim to the throne of Ireland which everyone has so far agreed is true and proper. If anyone requires more proof, should proof be needed, then the next time you meet me just ask to see my left hand. Don’t worry, I shall not take it as some slightly weird request, in fact we could probably turn it into a sort of formal greeting, where with a Bishop you kiss his ring, with me, you look at, or caress, my hand. We can turn it into our formalised greeting, even our secret handshake, like what the Masons claim they don’t have. I had always been told, and here is where like you I would start to question anything I had been told as a child, but I was always told that the best surgeon in Belfast removed my extra digit, so that I could blend in with normal folk. Me, normal?
I think the poor fellow must have suffered from some severe pillow abuse the night before when he operated on me as I still have a tiny stump, where the digit used to be. I think it would be more believable if I had been told that a nun had lopped it off with a pair of scissors in a cost cutting exercise, allowing me the same level of medical attention that the poor pregnant girls were getting. So I suppose having been told fantastical stories all my life would lead me in to telling some fantastical stories and that is where I found myself. O Grady and Murphy had been sent the first two Lily Savage books completed; with hindsight I really do think I was using the old Jack Parkinson school of selling technique. Jack had always told me that if someone kept saying no, I want to think about it, maybe in a month or two, or just basically kept coming up with excuse after excuse for not buying something, whether they wanted it or not, you should just present them with the form and say ‘sign here.’
This somewhat blunt approach, I feel, is what I was doing to Murphy, he was making all sorts of excuses and to my shame I have to admit that I had my very first artistic episode or hissy fit if you like. The opening scene of the second novel had Lily Savage lying in bed, she was thinking about how nice it was, first thing in the morning, to be lying in your comfortable warm bed, having something long and hard slide in and out. Before any of you preverts start writing letters to the Times, I was of course suggesting that she was lying there picking her nose. Savage or Murphy, one of them, perhaps both, demanded that I change this, it was crude. I refused, saying that in one of his videos he saunters across the stage talking about an action man figure hanging out of his bottom, so don’t talk to me about being crude.
Murphy said that there was a big difference between a book and a video, he said that the book would last forever and he could not allow Lily Savage to be portrayed in such a way. Eventually I had to change it, and; have Murphy approve the changes. So; as all this is going on the publisher involved with the Manchester United deal is still trying to see a way forward, but more football agents are getting involved and the money side of thing is starting to get ridiculous. If one agent thought that his player would, or should, or could, command a higher fee than another, then a bidding war was starting. Emmerdale was doing fine, Jeffrey had a publisher in mind and was just waiting for the nod of approval from Yorkshire television. The Frank Bruno deal was moving quite quickly and Jeffrey said he hoped to have a publisher for me within the week, I had to wait to find out what that publisher would require before I could start writing. Jeffrey was still telling me not to write anything unless I was getting paid for it, but you know me.
I found a new client, well; I found what I considered could be a new client and began to research and plan my approach. It was Father Ted, a very popular television programme in the United Kingdom about three Irish priests who lived together in a large rambling parochial house on a remote island and were looked after by a tea and sandwich mad housekeeper. Having lived for some time in the parochial house in Warrenpoint, with three priests and a housekeeper, I felt that I knew the atmosphere well and I was also a fan of the television show. It was a difficult journey finding out who owned the copyright for Father Ted but I eventually managed to find the person responsible and put my head together with Jeffrey to determine the best way to contact them.
This time we decided that Jeffrey would do the contacting while I would concentrate on the book. I knew that the writers of the television show had no intention of producing any more shows, so I felt that this would be something for the fan base. I decided that an ageing rock star had retired to Craggy Island and had donated his bands tour bus to the parish, so that the elderly and infirm could be taken to and from Lourdes in comfort. The bus was parked in a secure compound at the docks in Amsterdam so the three priests decide to fly to Amsterdam, collect the coach, take it on a test drive to Lourdes where they would pick up some existing parishioners and return them to the island. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters they pick up the wrong coach, they pick up a coach that has been impounded for drug smuggling and is still jam packed full of hard drugs.
They enter France with the Dutch drug squad and Interpol hot on their heels. Dougal, the stupid one, enters a French police station to ask for directions and finds himself joining the French Foreign Legion. Ted must now find the French Foreign Legion training base, in the South of France, and rescue Dougal. He manages to do this and now the French Foreign Legion join the various groups chasing them. They enter Monte Carlo where Ted breaks the bank at the casino. They move on to France where they pick up a beautiful woman who has been rescuing monkeys from Spanish beach photographers who want their monkeys back and now join the various groups chasing them. They collect their parishioners in Lourdes and to disguise the monkeys, dress them in spare clothes. I take it that by now you can see my job is fantastic for I spend most of it laughing my head off at a computer screen.
They actually make it back to England and when one monkey escapes, onto the roof of a passing lorry. They try to recover the monkey but as it is a Royal mail lorry, it is now thought that a robbery is in progress so the British police now join the chase. They end up in Wales and meet a Welsh Sergeant of Police who hates the British and agrees to help them return to Ireland. They steal an aeroplane and crash land on Craggy Island. Their Bishop is waiting for them at their parochial house and accuses them of leading this mad chase across Europe but of course Ted denies all knowledge of the escapade as the original coach, the one they had been donated, is still waiting for them in Amsterdam, so how could it possibly have been them. According to Ted some bad men would have dressed as priests in order to steal the coach with the drugs. It was nonsense to suggest that they had been running about Europe. Which leads nicely to the closing scene of Jack turning on the radio, which has the French National Anthem, ‘La Marseillaise,’ playing, and Dougal looking very surprised as he finds himself compelled to stand to attention and salute.
It was great fun researching and writing the book but I was really surprised when Jeffrey called me up to say that when I had them in Monte Carlo I had made one or two mistakes. I suppose I scoffed at Jeffrey wanting to know how he could be so sure, to be told that he had spent some time in Monte Carlo when he researched a book he was writing on poker and gambling. This time there was no hissy fit just another telling off from Jeffrey who was pleased with the finished article and knew it was a good piece of work but was angry that I once again had been writing my little heart out without getting paid up front.
I suppose the one lesson we all learn is that no matter what happens life, as Paul Robeson once sang about Old Man River, It just keeps rolling along. So I found myself back in England, a little bit confused, but aware that my life had to keep rolling along. There was no point in lying around dreaming about what might have happened, although I have to admit Irene and I were looking forward to the great adventure we might have had meeting all my brothers and sisters. Jeffrey had been working hard on my behalf so I had to clear my mind and get back to some serious work. I had completed the second book for O Grady and had sent it to Jeffrey. Jeffrey would read and edit my work and then return it to me. Normally he might suggest one or two punctuation corrections but usually nothing more.
He told me that he had found a decent publisher for the Lily Savage books and that the moment we could get Murphy to sign an agreement there was a cheque for ten thousand pounds sitting waiting for me. It was nice to learn that some decent money was about to start coming in. Jeffrey complained that he was finding it very difficult to catch Murphy or O Grady so I, possibly egged on by the promise of the cheque, agreed to try and nail the pair of them down. I do remember one day Jeffrey telephoning me and saying, ‘I’ve managed to find O Grady and Murphy, if you would like me to go and meet them I will, but you will have to pay my fare.’ I thought it strange that Jeffrey would ask me for a taxi fare across London until he told me that he had found them on the Orient Express. This was Jeffrey’s attempt at a joke.
Jeffrey and I had a standard agreement where he took ten percent of whatever I earned, so it was always in his interest to get the best deal possible for me and he too would benefit. One day he telephoned and asked me if I had fifty five thousand pounds to spare. I laughed at him and asked why. Jeffrey like myself knew nothing about football or footballers but he had been contacted by a footballers agent. The footballer was Ryan Giggs and his agent had caught wind of the book deal I was setting up. In order to try and keep things simple I had decided to always go for a fifty, fifty, split and this time I would split fifty, fifty, with Manchester United, the club. What I hadn’t realised or even thought about, was that the individual player owned the rights to their name, so in effect we would have to have a three way split.
I’m sure that it wasn’t the actual player who was demanding an upfront payment of fifty five thousand but his agent, who like mine would be out to get the best possible deal for those he represents. My heart sank as Jeffrey explained that if Giggs wanted fifty five thousand then so would all the others so as I computed eleven times, fifty five, I realised that I was a long way off having six hundred and five thousand pounds lying about and I doubted if the publisher would start forking out large sums like that. Jeffrey asked that I keep the faith, for stranger things have happened in the literary world. I wasn’t convinced and was sad that such a huge project could crash. I couldn’t think of any other club that I could move the project to, so mentally put the project on the back burner.
The Emmerdale project had moved on a pace. Here the fifty, fifty, split was with Yorkshire television who owned Emmerdale and the rights to the character names they used on the programme. As a writer you are always hoping to hear good things about your work, but even if someone says, ‘’Oh I liked that, that was good,’ that sometimes cannot be enough. I suppose we want a more comprehensive review of our work. If someone reads something of mine and says, ‘Oh I liked that,’ I will be saying what bit did you like, which of course allows for the other question of, which bit did you not like? The guy we were dealing with at Yorkshire television said that he had read my manuscript and that he really liked it. Standard sort of praise, that to the writer means nothing. But then he said he would compare it to Cold Comfort Farm, a novel by Stella Gibbons, published in the thirties in England. that was regarded as a ‘Classic’ novel. In fact the Sunday Times had reviewed Cold Comfort Farm as, ‘Possibly the funniest book ever written.’ For me this was so fantastic to have my work compared to a classic novel, for me it was praise indeed.
So, the Savage deal was moving forward albeit slowly, the Manchester United deal was looking suspect while the Emmerdale deal looked promising. It was time for me to fire up my next project which was to approach Frank Bruno, the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world. I spoke to Jeffrey about it and he wasn’t convinced, so I explained that as I was the one with the enthusiasm for the project I would approach Bruno and if I could get him to agree I would then bring the project to Jeffrey so that he could finalise and formalise the deal. I don’t really hold celebrities in very high esteem; I do recognise their earning potential however, so my approach as with most of my life was a simple one, I just telephoned them.
Frank Bruno was a much loved and popular entertainer, he was always trying to be funny and seemed to be a happy jolly fellow. Physically he was a giant of a man so my idea was to picture Frank reading ghost stories to children, a sort of big uncle who would scare the children for a laugh but always protect them. At the time his wife was his manager so I telephoned and spoke to her. She said she liked the idea but would like to think about it and speak to Frank about it. I telephoned her the following week and she explained that she hadn’t managed to sit down and talk to Frank about it, but assured me she was going to talk to him about it. The following week Frank Bruno telephoned me. It was a bit of a shock and I was glad that the tape recorder was going.
I remember calling him ‘Mister Bruno’ as we began to dance around the subject. Frank asked me not to call him Mister Bruno, but suggested that I should call him Frank or The Reverend, I think at the time he was performing as a sort of disc jockey, in night clubs, and The Reverend was his performing name. I said that as he was the former world champion respect was due so I would call him Mister Bruno, his retort was that he should be showing me respect Mister Irish writer, as I had shown courage calling him and speaking to him so directly. It was a pretty mad conversation but then we came to the nitty gritty business end of the call. I pitched the idea to him and couldn’t detect any feeling from him whatsoever so, as a sweetener, suggested that perhaps we could split the proceeds three ways giving one third to Frank, one third to me, and one third to a charity of his choice.
Frank then said that he was a charity, that he had a wife and children to support so how about we forget the charity aspect and split the deal fifty, fifty, between ourselves. Frank Bruno was turning in to my sort of celebrity. Frank agreed to the deal and I gave him Jeffrey’s contact details and I can assure you it really did feel good saying to Frank Bruno, ‘My agent will be in touch to formalise the deal.’ Jeffrey was pleased with the deal and took Bruno’s contact details assuring me that he would set the deal up and find a publisher, but then he started to question whether or not I could write a children’s ghost story. Jeffrey suggested that he could find an established children’s writer and have them write the book which would require an adjustment in the split of the money, but would keep the publishers happy. I think this was the first time Jeffrey heard me swear, but although he eventually agreed that it was my project and I would be doing the writing, he needed to know if I could write a children’s ghost story.
Jeffrey said that he had a colleague who taught English at Oxford University and who was an expert in children’s literature. Would I write a standard ghost story, which Jeffrey would send to his colleague and if the colleague, the children’s literary expert, thought I could produce ghost stories for children, it would give Jeffrey and prospective publishers the confidence to proceed. It was quite strange but I sat myself down and wrote a ghost story for children then sent it off to Jeffrey. It didn’t take long for the expert to reply, they said that the story was very good and that I was a beautiful writer. All very nice but they hadn’t answered the bloody question of could I write children’s ghost stories. Even Jeffrey questioned the reply but eventually agreed that I would be writing the project and he would go off and find a publisher for it. So now you know the best thing to do when a writer asks you what you think of their work, that’s right, run.
To discover in your mid-thirties that you not only have a mother and father, but that you have eleven brothers and sisters is quite something. It is exciting but at the same time scary. I didn’t have much information to go on, the address for my father on my birth certificate was in Dun Laoghaire, outside Dublin and I had no address for my mother. The only positive link I had with mother number two was the social worker who was actually keeping in regular contact with me and asking me to send photographs of myself and my family to her so she could pass them on to mother number two. Irene and myself had long talks about whether I should try to contact her, despite the best efforts of the social worker, who like most social workers would be going nowhere fast. From the social workers reports, concerning my birth, we could see that it was my maternal grandparents who were insisting that I should be left in Belfast with the nuns, so not my mother’s decision. In the end we decided that I would try to find my mother and basically say, ‘Hello, I’m here, if you need me or want to meet me.’
Pat was very helpful, along with her sisters, who used their connections to help me in my quest. I knew I was an O Neill, perhaps the most respected name in Ireland, so it was a good start. After a while I discovered the name of the village that my parents were living in, but more importantly it was in County Tyrone, the homeland of the O Neill’s. I was a member of the most famous branch of the O Neill clan. Suddenly I was no longer a deformed little boy that no one wanted to buy; I was a member of the leading clan in Ireland. As the social worker continued communicating with my mother I began to research the famous O Neill’s, I needed to know more.
This is where I discovered the link between the O Neill Clan and the mythical Irish figure Labraid Lamh Dheary, Labraid of the Red Hand, where the Red Hand symbol originated. This of course is now commonly held as the Red Hand of Ulster symbol used by many associations ranging from the crest of the GAA, the Gaelic Athletic Association, to the Red Hand Commando’s, a Loyalist murder gang. Although the symbol is also known as the Red Hand of O Neill, which brought about the war cry of the O Neill clan, ‘Lamh Dhearg Abu!’ meaning ‘Red Hand to victory.’ I began to look deeper into the history of the red hand and discovered that there are three main stories concerning its origin. The first story is perhaps the best known where it was said that each of the four provinces of Ireland was a Kingdom and the province of Ulster was without a King. A race was held and the first person to touch the shore of Ulster would be crowned King.
The story can vary from a King with three sons to different princes from elsewhere on the island, but basically it is always a race, with the first person to touch the shore, or touch the land of Ulster, to be crowned King. The race is held and one fellow sensing that he might not win cuts off his left hand and throws it over the finish line. He wins the race and is crowned King, there is also a suggestion that he was an O Neill. The only thing correct about this story is that the fellow cut off his left hand for the Red Hand symbol has always been of a left hand. There is much debate these days about whether the symbol should be a left hand or right hand; well let me set the record straight. The correct Red Hand symbol was, is and always shall be, of a left hand. When the British invaded Ireland they tried to convert the population from paganism to Christianity and so told people that it would be more Godly to have a right hand depicted, which is where the right Red Hand version came in to play.
The second most popular story about the origin of the Red Hand symbol is that the O Neill clan used to hire out their army to act as mercenaries. They would travel far and wide fighting for whoever paid the most, as all good mercenaries do. It is suggested that at the end of each battle the O Neill Clan would collect the left hands of the enemy dead, by the sack full, and would be paid per hand. This story makes no sense whatsoever, why would they choose to cut off someone’s left hand, why not their head? The only reason I could think of, for them to cut off the left hand of their dead enemies, is if they already had the red hand symbol as their clan coat of arms. There is another little story that floats about and falls in with the stories about the giant Finn Mac Cool that two giants were fighting, why I have no idea, but one giant cut the others hand off and this resulted in a red bloody hand print on a rock which in turn becomes the symbol we all know today. A six year old may believe this but as we all know, if you cut someone’s hand off, they are not very likely to leave any sort of handprint anywhere, a bloody stump mark from their wrist perhaps, but not a hand print.
And so we come to the third story concerning the origin of the Red Hand symbol and in particular the connection with the O Neill Clan and why the symbol on their shield it is known as the Red Hand of Ireland. Quite simply the Chief of the Clan O Neill, the King of Ireland was chosen by God. Now please remember that we are talking about an Irish King who would follow, maintain and uphold the Brehon laws. Nowadays when you mention King many people automatically associate that position with wealth, but in Ireland the King is a leader and more importantly is chosen by the clan council of O Neill’s. So it’s not a job for life, if you are no good the council can and will remove you and put another in your place. So there may be three or four people available from which the council can choose a new leader but to be one of the chosen few there are a couple of qualifying necessities. First of all you have to be an O Neill, born of the Tyrone O Neill’s and only those born with a deformity on their left hand, only those marked by God, can form the pool from which the High Chief of the Clan O Neill, the true King of Ireland is chosen.
So you can imagine the excitement when I was born in Belfast. Some people may suggest that no one wanted to buy a baby that was deformed, but I don’t think the nuns had put me up for sale, I think they had informed the double top secret cabal who from that moment organised my life so that when the time came I could step forward and make my rightful claim on the throne of Ireland. I really had been protected by a battle hardened snatch squad of Carmelite nuns who knew that I wasn’t some deformed little bastard but that in fact I was their future King. I am sorry to have given you all a history lesson today, but I did say that I would prove, without doubt, that I actually am the High Chief of the Clan O Neill and therefore the true King of Ireland. For those of you who quibble, or question my authority, please take it up with God, for wasn’t it he himself who chose me in the first place?
It will come as no surprise to you all to learn that I was now inundated with telephone calls asking me to appear on television in Northern Ireland. The BBC wanted me to fly into Belfast and while sitting on the Black Mountain, overlooking Belfast, wanted to interview me, with me looking all windswept and interesting. Unfortunately it wasn’t about me being King. I had been able to narrow down my search to my mother’s family, that’s mother number two. I had a handful of numbers and people that I could call so I did. The second person I spoke to would have been my cousin. I had to explain to her who I was and she explained that there was a rumour about me in the family, but that I had been a secretarial course. This would have been the excuse mother number two would have given for her absence from her village.
I now had the exact location of my mother and father; I even had their telephone number at my fingertips. It ripped my head apart wondering what to do, whether or not I should contact them. After all I wasn’t a threat, I just wanted them to know that I was all right and hoped they would be too. In the end I decided that I was making far too much of the situation, this was my mother we were talking about. I dialled the number and found myself speaking directly with mother number two. In the back ground I could hear children so I asked that if it was not a convenient time if she could give me a time that would be more convenient I would call again so that we could speak without interruption. To hear your own mother say that, yes it wasn’t convenient, but that it would never be convenient, was a little bit of a shock. But it wasn’t the first time I had a parent say to me, don’t ever contact me again, don’t phone, write or visit.
It took a week or two before a letter came through Maria, the social worker in Belfast, from mother number two stating that she wanted to have nothing to do with me and I was not to contact her again. I was still getting used to the idea that I had parents and brothers and sisters so to lose them all before I had even come to terms with finding them, put me in a little head spin, to say the least. And as for the BBC, well the social worker had gone to university with some BBC producer who now wanted to make a programme on people searching for their birth parents in Northern Ireland, now that the law had changed. They wanted one person who had found their parents and who was having a fantastic time catching up with them. There was another person who was still searching for their parents and who would describe their feelings and emotions as they went through the process. And then there was the third person, me, who had actually found and contacted their birth parents and who had been told to stay away.