Category: Uncategorized

Anthology 2023 Book Launch

Declan Cosson

Hannah Doherty – Greene

Catriona Murphy

The Audience

The Usual Suspects

The Writers

Who are these guys?, they keep popping up

                                                                                                                                                            Excellence Award                                                                                                                                                                           

Catriona and Mary Oyerdiran

Broken Beyond Repair

Broken Beyond Repair: Brendan Palmer 2023

John (Jack) Sherwin had slept fitfully, his pillow and bedclothes damp with sweat from a combination of the thirty degree clammy heat, which was now almost the norm for late April in Dublin, Ireland, and his brain racing because of the company meeting he had been called to for ten o’clock the following morning.

By eight am he had showered, shaved and dressed in his best business suit, including a tie, something he hadn’t worn since his Debs ball fifteen years previously.

Before leaving the office the previous day, he had been advised that full business dress was  required as the meeting would include people from the top floor, people he would seldom see except occasionally through the glass wall of the executive canteen.

The written briefing he had been given instructed him to bring the report of the investigations he had conducted into the effect the latest statistics on climate change would have on the company’s business. A wave of stomach churning anxiety flowed over him, how would they receive the news? what would the consequences be once he told them?

Jack had worked for Metgrow for two years following his graduation with a PHD in agricultural molecular physics, a subject he had first become interested in while conducting a school, transition year, research experiment into global food production for the Irish Young Scientist exhibition.

Metgrow was the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds for almost all the worlds grain production, including wheat and rice. They were also the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified feed for animals.

While Jack had some reservations about their Corporate Social Responsibility record, the salary offered was twice the size of anything offered elsewhere, allowing him to just about afford to buy his small apartment on the twenty fifth floor of a shared living complex in the Dublin Docklands . He also believed that his input to improving the quality of global food production would outweigh any negative Corporate Social Responsibility issues. His expertise and dedication quickly propelled him to becoming the company’s head of global research.

Over the previous thirty years, as the world’s population had continued to soar, Metgrow had consolidated their position by buying up their competitors or using their enormous financial power to destroy those companies who refused to sell out.

Effectively, no Government in the world could make decisions regarding food production or crop management without the agreement of Metgrow. Most of the world’s leading politicians were beholden to them because of the huge amounts of money they contributed to election campaigns, and the even bigger amounts of money spent by Metgrow in political lobbying and the sponsorship of almost all official Governments academic research into food production.

At the company Head Office, he was met in the foyer by two huge, unfamiliar security personnel, neither of whom were wearing the uniforms of Metgrow’s usual security company. He suppressed a smile, noting that their SWS crests are almost identical to the British Army’s SAS emblem, they reminded him of caricature security guys from Bond movies.   Flanking him, one of them griped him painfully by the elbow and without a word, they escorted him directly to the executive lift that stopped only in the foyer and the top floor.

They almost filled the lift, crushing him between them and filling the air with their overpowering body odour.  He realised from the shape of the chest area of their uniforms that they were armed and he stomach churning anxiety turned to fear. He cursed himself because, when dressing that morning,he had forgotten to use deodorant and now, mingled with their body odour, he could also smell his own fear sweat.

The lift doors opened, and he was pushed forward into the centre of the office of Paul Wincanton, global head of Metgrow. The doors closed behind them and the security guys stepped back and stood impassively on either side

Paul Wincanton is the quintessential global male chief executive, tall, iron grey hair, immaculately dressed in an expensive Savile Row suit.  He stepped forward, hand outstretched, his handshake the firm, dry grip of a person used to being in charge.  “Let’s not waste any time Jack, we need you to fly to a meeting in Zurich to represent Metgrow at a G5 conference that has been called to discuss global warming and its effect on food production”

Wincanton turned to the two security guards “Mr Sherwin is travelling to our HQ in Zurich, you will accompany him and make sure he has a pleasant trip and arrives safely and refreshed” “Good luck Jack, we’re counting on you”. Another brief handshake and he turned his back and picked up a sheaf of papers from his desk. Unsure of himself Jack hesitated and then realised that he has been dismissed.

One of the security guys opened the lift door and held it open. The other one stepped aside, pointing at the lift, his arm wide in a gesture of deferential guidance saying “this way Mr. Sherwin, please”

The journey back to the ground floor was just as nasally overpowering as coming up but at least the two security guys displayed what he was sure they believed to be friendly faces.  They still reminded him of a couple of dangerous rottweilers but thought, “the difference now is that they’re my Rottweilers”.

Parked outside was a Mercedes S class with blacked out rear windows. One of his now personal security guys ran and opened the rear door while the other walked protectively behind him and they both joined him in the huge slightly stretched limo.  The trip to Dublin Airport introduced him to a world he had only read about in books or seen in movies on TV. The private parking for limousines at the airport, a dedicated security check-in and another limousine to drive them out onto the airport apron to where an executive Lear jet hummed in preparation for take-off.

He climbed the steps with a security guy in front and behind him, stepped into the cabin and was stunned by a layout that would put a five star hotel suite to shame and certainly made his one bed, shared living apartment look like a tenement hovel.

There was no conversation on the two hour flight to Zurich. The two security guys sat quietly at one end of the cabin that was set out like a luxury living room. Jack, seated in a two seater couch at the other end of the cabin, realised that in fact they were sitting beside the only two exit doors. He smiled at his shoes thinking, “do they think I might grab a parachute and jump out of the plane, or maybe the aging Daniel Craig will crash through the doors with a gun in his hand”

He read through the report again. He had gone over it at least fifty times in the previous month, checking and double checking his numbers and assumptions, which had stunned him the first time they had been produced by the Artificial Intelligence algorithm he had designed and then processed through the latest Qubit1000 quantum computer he had had installed the previous year.

He went over again in his mind the presentation he would make to the meeting in Zurich and decided that “data doesn’t lie”, he can only present what he had discovered and let those who are in power decide how to handle the consequences.

They landed at a private terminal at “Flughafen Zürich”. There was no security check or customs and they went straight to another blacked out windowed Mercedes. This time a Maybach limousine, one of the most exclusive cars in the world that whisked them through the Zurich traffic with a six strong police outrider motorcycle escort, complete with screaming sirens.

The Wincanton offices occupy one of the most prestigious buildings in the financial district. A fifty storey, copper glass edifice designed to reflect daylight from dawn to dusk and transform itself into a beacon of artificial light during the hours of darkness. Right now, the early afternoon sun has turned two sides of the diamond shaped building into an amazing one hundred and seventy-five metre copper obelisk.

Jack and his by now two shadows, took another lift to the top floor meeting room that looked out on a three hundred and sixty degree view of the Zurich skyline and is dominated by a large oval mahogany table, around which were sitting some of the most powerful people on the planet. At the top Margaret Martinez, The President of the United States of the Americas. “Have a seat Jack” she said, pointing to a vacant chair half way along the right hand side of the table.

The air crackled with tension as he sat down and a bead of sweat ran down the inside of his shirt. President Varadkar of the European Union dived straight in “We need you to tell us exactly what your recent studies have shown Jack, apparently some hard decisions will have to be made”

President Martinez held up her hand, “excuse me Mr President, let us introduce everyone before he makes his presentation. I think you know me Jack, I am the President of the United States of the Americas North and South, you also know President Varadkar of the sixty member States of EU and the Russian Federation.  To your right across the table is President Chiang of the Asia Pacific region of China, Japan, The United states of Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Directly across from you is President Ellen Makeba of the African Continent and to her right is President Naresh Turakhia of the Indian Continent. You can see that you will be presenting your findings to the five people who have the power to implement any recommendations you may make to us and we look forward to your observations.”

He picked up a plastic bottle of water from the cluster of individual sized plastic bottles of water in the centre of the table, a testament to the failure of a young girl, Greta Thunberg, who, in 2023 had almost lost her life trying to convince the world to stop polluting the oceans with single use plastics. He opened the bottle, ignoring the “plastic glass” tumbler on the table in front of him and took a long drink, gathering his thoughts while easing his dry throat.

Holding his notes in shaking hands, he pushed his chair back, stood up slowly, looked around the table, pausing slightly as he looked at each of the G5 leaders, the “shoot the messenger” concept at the front of his mind, and began.

“From my investigations and the latest figures from our AI quantum computer extrapolations, there is nothing good I can tell you people, you need to prepare for chaos because, no matter how we parse or recalculate the data, the global environment is now broken beyond repair and it is unlikely that there will be enough food produced on the planet two years from now to feed one million people, never mind the nine billion people currently struggling to cope with food shortages. We should have addressed this issue thirty years ago in 2020.”

He placed his notes on the table and sat down to a stunned, silent room.

The Complete Stultification Reader by Stephen Brady

It was the big grey book that first gave her the idea.

Maura had been working part-time in Paragraphs Bookstore for just over a month. She was deep into first year Drama Studies, and she adored the place. The long sentinel stacks of volumes, the heady musk of the Second Hand section, the afternoon sunlight that filtered weakly through the dust-shrouded windows, the eccentrics who came in every day to wander among the displays. She loved it all.

After two weeks, Maura had been put on the Orders desk. There she had been shown the ropes by Donal. Donal was a balding, heavyset man who wore a permanent air of existential disappointment. Everything he said, even the announcement he was going on his break, was laden with doom. He wore T shirts that bore humorous slogans, but to Maura the fact that Donal was wearing them extracted any humour that might have been inherent in the words.

One afternoon she was going through the new orders when she spotted something odd.

“Donal…?”

He sighed. “Yeah?”

“There’s a typo here.”

“A typo?”

“Yes, look. Right here.”

“Where?”

“It says this customer’s name is Stanley Stanley.”

He eyed her wearily. “That’s his name.”

“We have a customer called Stanley Stanley?”

“Yeah. He’s a regular.” Donal glanced around, and indicated a book on the table behind her. “That’s for him. Check it, if you want.”

Maura was curious to know what kind of book a customer named Stanley Stanley might have ordered. She leaned over to inspect it.

It was a whopper, one of the biggest books she’d ever seen. The cover was a plain dull grey, like the hull of a submarine. Its title:

“A Comprehensive History Of The… File Index Card?”

Maura was nonplussed, for three reasons. First, that the book should exist. Second, that it was so enormous. And thirdly, that anyone, even someone called Stanley Stanley, should have ordered it. And according to the docket, it hadn’t been cheap.

“Excuse me…?”

A customer was standing at the desk. A squat young man with bad skin and sort of pudding-bowl haircut. He was wearing a beige sweater stained with what looked like egg yolk.

She was visited by a flash of intuition.

“Are you Mr Stanley?”

“Yuh! I believe yous have a book for me?”

“Yes. Just a moment…”

Maura struggled to lift the immense tome. By God, it weighed a ton! She passed it across and he took it with both hands. He gazed at the grey cover, face aglow.

“Tenth edition! Complete glossary and footnotes. Can’t wait to get stuck into this baby!” And with that, Stanley Stanley turned and shuffled away, the giant book clasped lovingly to his bosom.

Maura watched him go, chewing her lip. Something was happening here that she could not quite grasp. And she was determined to get to the bottom of it.

That afternoon, she went back through the recent orders list to see what other titles the singular Mr Stanley had requested. The results of her search only served to deepen the mystery.

Apart from the grimoire on the file index card, Stan Stanley had also ordered:

The Double-Plate Telescope Lens: In Theory and Practice

Paint Classifications: The Definitive Guide

1,001 Carpet Samples

The Evolution of the Bevel-Edged Chisel (Incorporating the Belgian Short-Handle Controversy)

Reading this list engendered in Maura a feeling for which she had no name. To imagine those volumes, what they must have looked like, felt like in the hand, and above all, what the experience of reading them must have been like, made her feel subtly oppressed. A crushing, breathless sensation, such as she had felt once in a stalled elevator in Chicago, began to take hold of her. She wasn’t especially claustrophobic, but imagining a bookshelf somewhere groaning under the weight of such works, and others of their ilk, awoke in her the symptoms a low-grade panic attack.

When Donal returned, she said: “Hey. You know that guy…”

“What guy?”

“Stanley Stanley.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Has he been getting books here long?”

Donal pondered. “Few years, anyway.”

“How often does he come in?”

“Every week. Clockwork.”

“Well, it’s just…”

“What…?”

“I’ve been looking at the back orders. And I just can’t believe anybody reads books like that.”

“Well, he does. Simon, who used to do the orders? He told me that one time Stan Stanley was looking for something on the history of the shoelace. He said he wanted it ‘as detailed as possible.'” He nodded sagely. “Make of that what you will.”

“But..!” She was becoming agitated. Like in rehearsals, when she didn’t have the lines. “Why does he read that stuff?”

“Beats me.” Donal sat, and drew out his phone. “Who cares?”

“I do!”

“Well why don’t you ask him?”

“Maybe I will…”

The following Monday, Stan Stanley’s next order was emailed in. Donal printed it off and handed it to Maura.

“Early Non-Patterned Ceramics of the Upper Volga: The Complete Catalogue of the Pottery Department at the University of Vorbinsk. Non-Illustrated Edition.”

“There now,” he announced. “He’s consistent, I’ll give him that.”

“Let me get it,” said Maura. “I’ll give it to him. And I’ll get to the bottom of this.”

“Whatever.”

She found the book, at a specialist academic press in Poland. It was eye-wateringly expensive. And when it arrived, she was no longer surprised at its size or heft. She carefully wrote the customer’s name on the sticker, and kept the giant volume close at hand. All week she worked diligently, buzzing through the store, mop of curls held back by a man’s silk tie. She even skipped lectures, to ensure she didn’t miss him. And her eyes kept returning to the plain, shrink-wrapped doorstop on the desk, which held the key to the mystery.

When Friday came, her anticipation had reached fever pitch. She swapped shelving duties with Donal, so she could stay on the desk. As the time ticked by she bobbed and boogied, craning for a view of the entrance. And finally, just before lunchtime, he appeared.

Maura moved to the counter, dragging the book into position. Stanley Stanley trundled over, and favoured her with a crooked grin.

“Eh, hello. I ordered-”

“Yes, Mr Stanley. I have it here.” She pushed the massive tome across the counter.

“Great!” His eyes shone. “I been lookin forward to this one, so I have. Can’t wait ta dive in!” He put his stubby fingers on the book, but Maura held it firm.

“Mr Stanley. I wondered if I could ask you something?”

“Eh… whut?”

“Well, I’ve been doing the orders for a while now, and I’ve noticed that all the books you order are of a certain… type?”

“Yuh?”

“And I wondered if I could ask you…”

“Whut?”

“… do you not find all these books a bit… you know…”

“A bit whut?”

“Boring.”

He grinned, revealing rows of crooked yellow tombstones. “Boring?”

“Yes, boring.”

He hooted. “Ooooh, yuh! They’re boring, alright! Stul-ti-fy-ing! By Jeez, they’re dull!” His grin vanished. “‘Cept there was one. A history of the Mid-Napoleonic Shoe Buckle. I hadta stop readin that one. It was racy.”

As he spoke, he was trying to draw the book towards him. But Maura wasn’t letting go. “Then why do you read them?”

“Why…?”

“Yes. I don’t mean to be, like, intrusive. But I’d really like to know.”

He leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. She had to move closer to hear, and endure the twin trials of breath and body odour.

“Time.”

“… Did you say ‘time’?”

“Yeah.” He nodded confidentially. “Time is elastic, so it is. When ye’re entertained, time speeds up. When ye’re bored, time slows down. Ye know?”

“That’s not real, though. That’s just, like, perception.”

“I know that,” he said equably. “But the perception of time is totally elastic. So I spent last week readin’ that book about the file index card. An’ that week felt like a year, believe me. I read that book all day, every day. An’ it was like a year passed, but I didn’t age. Y’see? Einstein was wrong, an’ HG Wells. It’s nothin’ to do wi’ physics. Boredom is time travel!” His voice had risen to a zealous pitch, and people were looking.

“So that’s why you read those books?”

“Yuh! I get the biggest, dullest books I can find, an’ I read them one after another. All day every day. It’s great, so it is. By the time I die, I’ll feel like I lived for a thousand years!”

Maura released the book. Her hand left ghostly sweat-marks on the plastic. Stanley Stanley drew the non-illustrated ceramics catalogue to him and folded it in the protective embrace with which she was by now familiar.

“Be back next week,” he chirped. “I’ve me eye on somethin’ about drains. In the meantime, try it yerself!”

And off he went.

Maura stood there a while, staring out the window. She felt none the wiser for that exchange. Or perhaps she did, and she simply didn’t want to formulate it.

On the street the lunchtime rush had started. People darted ceaselessly back and forth.  Almost all were buried in their phones.

She thought about her own phone, nestled in her handbag. No doubt full of angry messages from college. But that wasn’t what concerned her. She was thinking about what Stanley Stanley had said. And about all the times she’d glanced up from the screen, to discover that an hour of her life had passed.

“Hey.” It was Donal. He’d been lounging at the end of the counter, and had no doubt caught the whole exchange. “Listen. We just got a new one in. Lesser-known garden implements of pre-Revolutionary France.” A strange, sad smile creased the hangdog features. “I’ll go and get it for you, if you like.”

A Proclamation: Harry Browne

Proclamation from the Office of An Taoiseach

Given the unprecedented, grotesque, and unusual circumstances provoked by the recent “Emergency” in Ukraine (Most people think it’s a war but in Ireland we don’t do wars. We do emergencies) We find ourselves faced with a set of dire circumstances with the onset of Winter.

There is an upcoming shortage of fuel, particularly gas to warm our homes and drive our electricity turbines. We are facing the loss of our older citizens and our babies as we won’t be able to heat our homes due to hypothermia.

Mr Harry Browne, citizen of this State has come up with a solution to this extreme catastrophe.

To put it at its simplest, we are ignoring a huge waste of a precious resource, generated in vast quantities here in Ireland and allowing it to escape into the environment, causing untold troubles. METHANE.

For the duration of this emergency all sources of this precious gas will be harvested and distributed at need through the National Gas Grid.

This means, of course that all domestic animals will have to be fitted with a reclamation nappy so that any emissions will be gathered and fed into the grid.

All citizens will also be expected to contribute their emissions to the central grid and pending the construction of a nationwide system of collection each individual will be expected to deliver his or her own sealed bag of emissions to a central, district collection point on a weekly basis.

The release of our emissions into the environment, otherwise known as farting, will be considered a crime against society, and punished most severely. The old slogan is most appropriate here:

Save Energy, Fart in a Can

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