My Mourne Refuge.

The old farm house on Kinnahalla Road near Spelga in the Mournes.

The old farm house on Kinnahalla Road

At the age of seventeen I began a love affair with a place. That place was off the Kinnahalla Road near the Spelga Dam in the heart of the Mourne Mountains, County Down, Northern Ireland. I had been coming to stay in a friend’s old rented cottage for a few months and wanted to find a place of my own. I asked in the local pub and heard about an old farmhouse that might be suitable. I was directed to the owner’s modern farm and asked about the old place.

He pointed across the valley to a group of farm buildings surrounding a two-storey house. “It needs a fair bit doing. It has nae electric nor any modern stuff but if yee want it I’ll take ten bob (Ten shillings or 50 pence) a month aff yee.”

 

The entrance to the old farm.

The entrance to the old farm.

The house as it is now.

The house as it is now.

Stove

The stove on which I did all my cooking.

 

I rode my little 50cc step-through scooter down the rough lane and explored the house. It had water running down one kitchen wall from missing roof tiles, rooks nesting in the chimneys and one downstairs room had no floorboards. Water was from a well and it gurgled out a few black, wiggling leeches when I tried the tap. The main room had a little cast iron range of the Aga type. A sofa and two armchairs sat beneath a blanket of dust. Upstairs there was a huge high-ended double bed in the main wood panelled bedroom. Another room had two singles. The mattress looked astonishingly clean to my eyes and that was as well, since carrying a new mattress on a scooter would have been a challenge.I spent three days hooking twigs out of the flue and chimney of the range. Rooks are very industrious birds – there must have been a whole tree’s worth of sticks dropped down that chimney to make their nest.

The fallen.

The fallen.

The bedroom and the living room got a coat of white paint. Three paraffin hurricane lamps were bought for lighting. A big old enamel coffee pot sat on the now lit range and was always hot while I was there. Eggshells were dropped in the fresh ground Kenyan blend in that pot, it was supposed to make the coffee shinny and thick and it did. When the pot was three-quarter full of grounds, it got emptied and a fresh pot started. I smoked Capstan Full Strength un-tipped cigarettes and drank very strong coffee!

This place, hereafter known as the house in the Mournes, became a bolthole and refuge for me for the next ten years. Every weekend after work I’d escape Belfast and my family. So important was it, I once walked the thirty-five miles from Belfast when I had no transport. I walked in the blackness of night and enjoyed every step.

The Shimna River

The Shimna River

My swimming pool.

My swimming pool.

I explored the mountains and swam in the beautiful pools of the Shimna River. Screamingly cold but sensually stimulating to a horny twenty-year old. I brought my first serious girlfriend to the house but she did not appreciate the simple romance of it all. Coming as she did from a farming family, an outside toilet in a rickety shed and a chamber-pot under the bed for the night, paraffin lights and no TV had no appeal for her. The big double bed collapsed under us one night during vigorous use. The cloud of dust that rose round us, showed my idea of clean and hers was rather different. She didn’t come back.

This past week I took the beloved Brigitte to see the old house that had meant so much to me. The roof had fallen in and it was completely derelict but the range was still there and I could smell the brewing coffee as I stood before it, transported back forty years to the time when this place saved me from the madness of the Troubles and my wildly dysfunctional family. Brigitte said she would have loved the hurricane lamps, ever-hot coffee pot and even the collapsing bed. If only we’d met then – but – she would have been thirteen years old jailbait to me then? But since when have facts mattered when to comes to memories and romance?

The Mournes and the wall.

The Mournes and the wall.

Once such memory relates to the Mourne Wall pictured here. My father told me about his own father walking the sixty miles there and back to the Mournes from his home in Belfast every day. He and many others built this dry stone wall to enclose the new water catchment area known as the Silent Valley. This was a kind of unemployment relief for men like my Granda who could find no work after the Ist World War. So much for a home fit for heroes! The history of the wall makes no mention of this but simply says it took from 1902 to 1922 to complete.

 

 

 

 

This is it… I think.

I am spoiled for choice about which image of the very beautiful Olivia to use for the new Lauren cover. I think I have found the version that I believe works best. I’ve had less feedback that I’d have liked so I’ve got to pick what I like best.

The final Lauren cover.

The final Lauren cover.

Willful neglect and social media overload.

noI have been engaged in an experiment of willful neglect. This blog and other social media have been little used this past nine months. I have, for a long time been deeply skeptical about the call to scream into the virtual void that is Social Media. It is accepted wisdom among the author/publisher community that one lives or dies by how often one screams in the void. It is said we should blog x number of times and tweet every day and give Face to the Book once a week at least. Then there is Goggle+ and Goodreads and Amazon forums and Linked-in and on and on. The list is near endless. This is how we make a brand. This is how we get sales and readers, expect— except it’s not. It’s just not.

There is only one way to sell books as an author/publisher – word of mouth. End of story.

How to start that momentum is tricky and one I’ve not fully resolved yet. But it starts with producing work that is as good or better than any mainstream publisher – I do that.

Then one needs to actually write – you know write books. Not blogs or tweets.

One needs to keep them coming so readers have a journey to make and that keeps them coming back. So one needs talent and persistence and a very good editor. Did I say how important that is? It’s vital and any Indi who thinks they can produce worthwhile books without a good editor is deluded.

Luck, yes luck. We all need a bit of that. Getting noticed by the right people is vital and impossible to predict or demand. No amount of tweets or FB or blogging will provide that. So has this willful neglect resulted in a drop off in my modest sales figures? NO.

I’ll repeat that – NO.

In fact, my sales are on a steady upward climb and what could be doing that? Readers speaking to readers. The age-old method that only a multi-million sales campaign can partially cheat.

Now I am clear about this and sure I’m right, I can get back to blogging about what I want, when I want and Tweet hardly at all and give Face only when I feel like it and not torture myself with guilt about not following the stampede to social media overload.

The new nest.

Bhaile Argid (Home Silver)This is our new home in North Tipperary called Bhaile Argid this is Irish for Home Silver or Silver Home. Named for the hills it sits below – the Silvermine Mountains.

David's workplace

The house is over 200 years old but has been modernized and restored beautifully. We struggled to fit all our stuff, this house is large but is smaller than the huge place we left. All our art and clutter was a challenge to find a place for. Teh result is the kind of comfortable eclectic considered mess we both rather like.

Fuel prepLivivng room

We are settling and I am finally getting back to writing after a three month lay off. The location is a tiny and pretty village and the house is the center of it. There is an old thatched pup near but the clients are nice well behaved local people – so far!

LocationThe village

New York Icon Stories

I intend this blog to be more personal now I have my website up for the books.

I have been putting off writing about our extended US visit to Virginia and New York City. Now I’ve had time to digest that trip, the next few post will be devoted to those visits. All posts will be brief from now on, as I try to resist my temptation to let the creative juices take control. I’m told blog readers have a very limited attention span for posts! I’m not sure I agree with this social media accepted wisdom – I read all of a post if it’s interesting and can’t believe my literary minded readers are any different, however I will be doing this as a series of short essays rather than a young novel.

 

New York Streets

New York Streets

New York, New York it’s an icon. All the English speaking world knows New York or they think they do. Since birth we have been presented with images both visual and literary of this city. In film, song, books and later, TV, the streetscape are familiar and often better known than our own capital cities so when Brigitte and I had the chance of a week there we were excited and looked forward to seeing , smelling and pounding the sidewalks of this iconic place. We found an apartment for short term rent just off 2nd Ave in the shadow of the UN building. Lets say nothing about that other than it was a great location. The apartment its self was tiny, dirty, ill-equipped and expensive but it served well as a base to explore, mainly on foot.

Our arrival from Newark by bus, left us near Grand Central and we had what I suspect was a typical bad tourist experience with a New York Cab – he ripped us off for a three block journey. I learned quickly that if a cabby says he has no change you say ‘Not my problem’ and do not make the mistake of handing over a twenty for an eight-buck fare! He was gone before I could do anything. On our return to the same bus stop on leaving, we walked or in my case staggered with a suitcase with broken wheels – I thought I’d die! That arrival and departure were the only low points in an otherwise packed week filled with delights and strained necks from all the looking up.

New York was a deluge; a flood of impressions, an overload of stimulation and it left us breathless and excited but at times uneasy. Not fearful, the unease was a philosophical thing. Big cities and the life of big cities with populations much greater than the whole of little Ireland, are a shock to the system. One question kept circulating: “Why do people choose to live here?” There are many possible answers and many of them are based on the income of the people you are considering. Those near the top of the scale can have escape from the hustle and speed and I guess some have bolt-holes elsewhere to go and slow down. But for those in the lower reaches – it seems a grind. A relentless grind to make ends meet and to climb a ladder that may or may not be there in reality.

All cities offer that promise – the promise of an income, a living that does not depend on the weather and the earth and the strength of your back. But all cities also grind up these seekers and trap them and use the big promise to keep them working and supporting the beast – the beast of consumerism that must be fed low income workers to survive. Why do so many people live in New York? I still don’t know the answer.

Next time – a food rant and first impressions of the cultural icons.

Win in draw.

The West Cork Trilogy

The West Cork Trilogy

All email subscribers to my new website at: http://davidrory.net/news.php  will be entered in a draw to be held on the 31st Oct ’14 to win three signed copies of my best selling West Cork Trilogy. (Or the omnibus edition for eBooks.)  I promise no spam or sharing, just an occasional news email about new books.

New site on-line

My new website is up at http://davidrory.net Do stop by and subscribe and let me know what you think of the site.

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