I had some short stories, poems and photographs to share ... and so here I am

A Pause For A Poem

I'm off to Paris this weekend to see a few old friends, including my journalist chum Laurence - a perfect time to share with you another one of his poems!


I am as a dolphin born
Into a concrete pool,
Who has known nothing better,
Yet pines for open sea

Perhaps a seabird's feather
Once landed on my pool,
And instinct knew the odour
Of the place where I should be

By Laurence Frost.

© Copyright, 2007. Laurence Frost.

By the way, the picture of the dolphins is not mine; it comes from a website that offers free screensavers! www.3d-screensaver-downloads.com

The Diva, The Piano Player And Abba !

Thanks to everyone who's asked; yes, the play is going really well. I have seen it three times now and there is great feedback! Here are some pictures, which you can click to enlarge.

Am I the only one who thinks she looks like the blonde Abba singer?
I was very happy with how my music came across and how the actors sang the songs I wrote. It was strange to sit back and see it all come together, to hear the piano music I recorded become an integral part of the comedy.

I wrote three main songs for the show, which is about an old star who wants to make a comeback with the help of her former pianist/songwriter. I also recorded a series of transition pieces for the scene changes. There are many funny moments when the pair attempt to reinvent the diva's banal life for a biography. The performance from the actors is superb. They have to act, dance and sing, and they make it look so easy!

For those who are interested, I will be filming one of the last performances of the show this week and I plan to put together a little video with some of the highlights of the songs.

So, yes, it's been a great experience and I look forward to doing some more stuff with my music in the future. Speaking of the theatre, I have actually written a play (without music), which has been translated into French and which I hope will make it to the stage. But that's another story ...

The Cleaners Who Almost Botched Up The Birth Of Europe !


Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, the document that founded what we now call the European Union. Among all the reports and stories being published and broadcast to mark the event - yes, I've been a busy boy - there is one that is priceless!

One of my colleagues discovered a little-known fact about the event during an interview: an eager team of cleaners accidently threw out the hundreds of pages of the treaty just days before the signing ceremony! A little bit of astonishing trickery, which I will come to later, ended up saving the day.

The cleaners are said to have come in after weeks of marathon typing to tidy up the venue before the arrival of the heads of state. (Six nations agreed on the treaty, which established the European Economic Community.) Pages and pages of the text, translated into numerous languages, were left out on tables. Stencils and Roneo duplicators, which apparently produced a mess of ink and imperfect copies, were everywhere. The cleaners apparently thought the "mess" was no longer needed and so tossed the whole lot - treaty included - in the rubbish. It was taken to the Rome dump, never to be seen again.

You can imagine the horror the next morning! One of the men who was overseeing the ceremony describes how there was absolute panic, with an SOS to Brussels: quickly send a team of typists, we have no treaty! It was just three days before the official signing, however, and the diplomats knew there was no time. Some students were employed to come in and make an attempt at fixing things. It was hopeless, however. Things couldn't be rectified so quickly.

So, what did they do? It's been revealed that officials actually typed up just the first and last few pages of the treaty and put them in a nice leather folder - and then a big pile of BLANK pages were inserted in the middle! The day had been saved! No one had any way of knowing that the treaty passed around the important signatories was actually completely blank in the middle! Assistants just smiled nervously as they passed around the big pile of paper, which was opened up at the page the leaders had to sign!

In some ways, this is a lesson for us writers. Never let anyone else - not even a computer cleaning programme - go near your files to tidy things up! Never leave your rough handwritten copies of prose lying around the place! All of those precious, important pages - your very own Treaty of Rome - could disappear in a flash. And I'm not sure you would get away with using just the first and last few pages of your book at the signing ceremonies!

Take Me Out Tonight !

This is a very exciting week on the creative level! On Thursday a theatre production opens here in Lyon, featuring songs and music written and performed by yours truly. (To enlarge the following images from the flyer, simply click on them).

I don't suppose any of you fellow bloggers are going to be able to make it. But Verilion? Didn't you say you were coming to Lyon the weekend after next? I was so thrilled to be able to do something like this, especially a production that is totally in French. I have close ties with the theatre company and jumped at the chance to create some music. I have played the piano in shows before, in New Zealand and in Britain, but this is my first time in France and the first time my own music is being used.

I recorded the piano music for this, to avoid having to play every night during the two weeks of performances. I haven't seen anything at all of the show yet (I'll get my first peek at the dress rehearsal on Wednesday night) and I have to admit that I'm a bit nervous. How will the music come across? How is it being used? How will the songs be sung? I will let you know. I will also put up a video later with some highlights.

Meanwhile, check out these publicity shots that I took for the play. It's a comedy about an old music star, La Divine, who attempts a comeback with the help of her former pianist/songwriter, Elliot Franklin.

A Pause For A Poem


the pleasure of small sorries

the phrases cling on so firmly
like hot tar on our foreheads
so heavily spread across reason
no quick peeling or washing off
only a familiar, smarting pain

for now we attempt to stay low
so the light seeks out no one
time alone for magical cleaning
our warm, gentle miracle water
the pleasure of small sorries

this snapping dog in our lives
chewing on the best of things
then howling a wretched truth
awaiting that familiar return
our old hunger for surrenders

cosy love has landed so easily
territories delicately marked
absent now the master's voice
calm after the midnight feast
the pleasure of small sorries

© Copyright, 2007. Seamus Kearney.

Mushrooms And Pistols !


How do you say "gun held to stomach" in French?

When I left the BBC in 1997 my concerned bosses told me they thought I was truly mad. You are going to France but don't speak French? You are giving up a decent job to do what? I tried to explain that I had left New Zealand three years earlier to learn another language and live on the continent, not speak English and settle down as an Englishman. However, after just one week on the Côte d'Azur, I almost flew straight back into their arms!

I was greeted at Nice airport by a lovely friend, a bubbly French-Spanish woman who'd tried in vain to teach me the basics of French when she lived in England the year before. I had lodgings, at least for a week; she and her boyfriend were in the process of moving to Marseille, but I had breathing space to find somewhere to live. I enrolled in a language course at Alliance Française. I soaked up the sun. I tortured impatient shopkeepers with my terrible French. Life in Nice seemed to be fun and carefree. I turned down an invitation from my friends to join them on their move to Marseille, a city they thought might suit me better. No, Nice seemed like a good, "relaxed" place to learn a language. I also wanted to be independent.

I took a room advertised on a university noticeboard; it was cheap and there was a piano. The landlady and her daughter spoke little English. Perfect for my French. After bidding farewell to my two friends, helping them load up their van for Marseille, I spent my first hour in my new room, feeling lonely, wondering how my new "family" was going to communicate with me. We just smiled and pointed at things. I thought it would be good to go out, to get away from the silence. I would go and do some shopping. It was about eight at night.
The supermarket, called Champion, was due to close, but I had time to grab a few things. Just inside the entrance, however, I was distracted by a noticeboard, where people advertised all kinds of things. Perfect, I thought, I will put up an ad for English lessons. There was a card provided to fill in. It was the start of my new life in France! I was happy. As I wrote out my advert - leçon d'anglais avec journaliste - I thought to myself that I would celebrate my first night in my new abode by later choosing a decent bottle of French wine.

As I struggled to work out how much I was going to charge for the hopeless lessons I was planning to give, I was shocked to find someone elbowing me in the side. How rude! The bloody French are so impatient! Someone waiting to use the pen? To put up their own advert? I elbowed right back! When I turned to see who was being so obnoxious, I saw someone wearing a motorcycle helmet. The person elbowed me again, only this time with more force, which caused me to stumble. I was just on the verge of thinking about pushing back, when I noticed a pistol in the man's hand. He came closer and pushed it into my stomach. I didn't understand the words at the time, but they would've been something along the lines of "get out of the f***ing way". He certainly hadn't asked for the time! I remember seeing a little bird tattooed on his hand. I also remember noticing that he wore a mask under his helmet, and all that were visible were his mean black eyes. I honestly thought I was going to be a dead man.

Needless to say I didn't fight back. I froze. My blood stopped. My whole system shut down. I didn't breathe. Yes, I kept my cowardly elbows at my side! I then realised why I had been pushed out of the way so brutally: I had been writing on the part of a counter that lifted up, which allowed access to a small office in front of us. The man went ahead and appeared to take bags of money out of a safe. I noticed there were seven other people wearing helmets, brandishing pistols and guns, cleaning out the cash registers. It was all so quiet. No one had yelled. There was no fuss. In fact, many people just carried on shopping. People queued up at the checkout, unaware that we were in the middle of an armed robbery. Some people did click and slowly moved to the back of the store. The managers, I later learned, were the first to head out the back doors. One girl at the checkout started crying because she couldn't get her till to open. The gun was quietly held to her head.

I don't know why I didn't move away from the office counter. I stayed there frozen. There were a good few minutes when the man was filling his bag with money, when I could've slowly moved off to the back of the supermarket. My legs wouldn't move though. I could still see the pistol in the man's hand, the same hand that clumsily held open what looked like an old bread bag. It then entered my head that I was a gonner. I had seen the gun. I had seen the colour of his eyes. I had heard his voice. I had seen the tiny bird on his hand. Oh my goodness, he will shoot me as he leaves. I still couldn't move though. My head told me to run, as my heart raced, but my legs just wouldn't budge. I was a gonner. My first week in France. Flown home in a box.

There was a funny moment - I can look back now and see it as funny. An elderly woman, who was totally unaware of what was going on, came up to the counter with a bottle of sauce. I didn't understand what she was rambling on about but she obviously had some burning question about the sauce. She must've thought I was funny-looking: pale and standing as still as a statue. She banged the sauce on the counter when the young man in the office - bent down and with his back to her - didn't respond to her enquiries. I stared at her hard, with wide eyes, hoping she would understand what was going on. She eventually mumbled something and then shuffled off, back down the aisle to put the sauce back. Thank goodness! When it was all over she probably quietly walked home, clueless about what had happened, vowing never to shop there again; they were so rude and no one would answer her questions!

If you're reading this it's because the man in the helmet didn't shoot me as he left. He took his bag of money, rounded up the others - he appeared to tell off the robber who didn't get one of the tills open - and they all sped off on motorcycles. The police came after a very very long wait. The managers slinked back in and shrugged when I asked if there had been any cameras on. I was questioned at length, by a bored officer who spoke terrible English. They wanted to know why I had no shopping. What was I doing by the office? Where was my passport? What kind of bird did the man have on his hand? Yeah right, I was really focused on trying to work out what kind of bird the man had in mind when he got his cheap tattoo done. I was ordered to go to the police headquarters a few days later to speak with a translator - this never happened, by the way, I just repeated my statement in bad French to a bored inspector.

The real fun was on my return to the house I'd just moved into. It was now close to midnight and I was supposed to have popped out for "30 minutes" to do some shopping - that much we had managed to communicate earlier. My nervous landlady answered the door to see me pale, stressed and stuttering. She tried to ask what had happened. I could only say the words "champignon" (mushrooms) - this is what I thought the supermarket was called - and pistolet. Bang bang! I imitated a police siren as well. My landlady just stepped away from me, looking at me sideways. Mushrooms. Pistols. Police. She tried to quickly smile politely but couldn't hide her fear. We all awkwardly retired to our rooms.

All these years later and we are still friends. She laughs about how she thought I had been eating some funny mushrooms and got into some bother with the police. She said she'd locked her bedroom door that night and vowed that I would be asked to leave the next day. Lucikly, the day after the robbery, my teacher at the Alliance Française gave me a copy of the morning paper, which had a report on the drama I had just told the class about (in English). There were long and relieved sighs from my ladylady when I took the paper home to explain my adventure.

I did almost fly back to Britain or New Zealand; I had been left so shaken by the whole experience. My romantic vision of France and the exciting road I had taken suddenly seemed dangerous and bleak. However, I spoke to a friend in the UK about what happened and she talked me out of it. Just think of how many robberies take place in the UK, she offered. Yes, it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The week after the robbery my teacher showed me the paper again: a gang of robbers on motorcycles had shot and killed a shopkeeper in Cannes. I put my head back into my grammar books - one of the few times I ever did - and tried to blot out the information. I also promised that I would never again shop at "Champion/Champignon"! Luckily, I have never again seen a gun and my shopping trips in France nowadays tend to be uneventful.

Crazy Kiwis !


I thought it was about time I showed you some more art! This is not mine; it's my better half 's painting, produced during a year we spent in New Zealand from 2002-2003. I just love the colours and forms here. Can you see why it's called Crazy Kiwis? (Don't forget you can click on the photo to enlarge it!)

The Lions Of Lyon (27)

And who said there were only lions? No one said they had to be alone! This one brings up so many different feelings! (Click on the photos to enlarge them).

For those who have loyally followed The Lions Of Lyon over the past year, there is some good news: deep in the vaults beneath the Shameless castle I have discovered there are about 20 more of these beauties yet to come out into the light.

For those who haven't been following my series, and who couldn't give a horse's nostril about the lions, too bad! They are coming. They are glorious. The competition to find the best one will just have to jolly well wait until ALL of the entrants have had a fair chance at exposure.

* * *

Also, I was very chuffed yesterday to get an email from a university teacher in China who says her/his students enjoyed two of my poems. She/he said they came across my blog through a friend in London. The poems were read out to a class and the students discussed them. Now, how is that for the power of the Internet! I have written back asking for more information: is it a state university? SXP, I hope you like the lions too. Which poems? I hear you all asking. These two:

a bench by the lake

beneath branches with wide knuckles, where leaves would normally chatter, a breath comes over the green of the lake, calming the pulse of a modern man

a wooden bench to rest on is chosen randomly, to claim a pause from the fury of the world, to watch the stillness that beckons those who just can’t focus

with his own story he stays alone, a dialogue of millennium nonsense, his thoughts skimming across the water, beneath the eyes of a church on the hill

a rumbling from beneath seems to stir the past, inviting old footsteps and shadows to make themselves known, long forgotten moments eager to flicker

room is made for a soldier and his weeping bride, for a mother welcoming home an errant daughter, and for a young lad looking forward to 1900

a homeless woman

it’s not exactly the most fetching plait, one in which an ebony pin would shine, but at least it has some form, a sign that somewhere in the rough morning a hand reached back to say i’m still in this life, not everything is abandoned

her windows are clear with a spirit to connect, her palms move forward with vigour, and behind the dirt one can see grace and gold, the queen of a tiny and manageable kingdom, where there is not one reason to think about leaving

they come in white vans, offering warmth and food, called by citizens who think of their own mothers and grandmothers, but she doesn’t remember the sunday roast or the trips to the seaside or her daughters’ holy communions

she keeps moving from coffee to coffee, from doorway to doorway, from one donated bun to another, but every now and then she looks at herself in the shine of a metal receptacle, remembering when she was attractive and so in love

© Copyright, 2007. Seamus Kearney.

The Kid Sparrow

She was one of the reasons why I wanted to learn French, why I ended up coming here to live: Edith Piaf, the Queen of voice and song!

I have just seen La Môme, the new film about Edith Piaf's life by Olivier Dahan. It is superb! Marion Cotillard plays Edith brilliantly, in a moving and convincing way that left me shivering. The tragedy of her life was captured so well, but there was also colour and humour.

Here is a poem I wrote about Edith Piaf:

the kid sparrow

last night I dreamt that our Edith was still with us
no, not the hair salon Edith, I mean tragic eah-deet
that’s right, je ne regrette rien and the hymn to love
la môme piaf is what they called her: the kid sparrow
dead at 47, looking more like some frail, elderly lady

she was in the middle of a duo with our gorgeous Elton
a right scream, up on stage at Caesars Palace in Vegas
a new romance with the Americans with songs in English
her man, Marcel, now a survivor of that terrible crash
the shock that clearly killed her miraculously erased

oh, she looked so well: no stoop, glorious hair flowing
repeating her prayer to the heavens, raving about Paris
she sang Mon Dieu, but that had already been answered,
no more losses, battles for sleep or memories to hide
she reached new high notes with la joie and la passion!

I love many songs, but Edith Piaf's hymn to love or L'Hymne à l'Amour has got to be one of my top favourites. Click twice on the play button to escape somewhere else for a few minutes! (Merci, Pilou8888!)

Here are the words of the song in French, followed by two English versions - not direct translations!

Le ciel bleu sur nous peut s'effondrer
Et la terre peut bien s'écrouler
Peu m'importe si tu m'aimes
Je me fous du monde entier
Tant qu'l'amour inondera mes matins
Tant que mon corps frémira sous tes mains
Peu m'importent les problèmes
Mon amour puisque tu m'aimes

J'irais jusqu'au bout du monde
Je me ferais teindre en blonde
Si tu me le demandais
J'irais décrocher la lune
J'irais voler la fortune
Si tu me le demandais

Je renierais ma patrie
Je renierais mes amis
Si tu me le demandais
On peut bien rire de moi
Je ferais n'importe quoi
Si tu me le demandais

Si un jour la vie t'arrache à moi
Si tu meurs que tu sois loin de moi
Peu m'importe si tu m'aimes
Car moi je mourrai aussi
Nous aurons pour nous l'éternité
Dans le bleu de toute l'immensité
Dans le ciel plus de problèmes
Mon amour crois-tu qu'on s'aime?
Dieu réunit ceux qui s'aiment

* * *

If the sun should tumble from the sky
If the sea should suddenly run dry
If you love me, really love me
Let it happen darling, I don't care

Shall I catch a shooting star
Shall I bring it where you are
If you want me to, I will.
You can set me any task
I'll do anything you ask
If you'll only love me still

When at last, our life on earth is through
I will spend eternity with you
If you love me, really love me
Let it happen darling, I won't care

* * *

If the sky should fall into the sea
And the stars fade all around me
All the times that we have known here
I will sing a hymn to love

We have lived and dreamed we two alone
In a world that's been our very own
With it's memories ever grateful
Just for you I sing a hymn to love

I remember each embrace
The smile that lights your face
And my heart begins to sing
Your eyes have never lied
And my heart begins to sing
And my heart begins to sing

If one day you should ever disappear
Always remember these words
If one day we had to say goodbye
And our love should fade away and die
In my heart you will remain here
And I'II sing a hymn to love

O for love, we live eternally
In the blue we'll roll this harmony
With every day we are in heaven
As for you, I'll sing a hymn to love

Don't you ever worry, dear
And the stars shall fade from the sky
All the times that we have known here
I will sing a hymn to our love
Oh darling,
Just for you I sing
A hymn to love

The poem "the kid sparrow" © Copyright, 2007. Seamus Kearney

And Then What Happened ?


I am going to put my head on the block here and say that I like epilogues. I am a sucker for a novel that has a real ending, with loose ends tied up (cleverly) and a satisfying conclusion by the author. Sometimes I don't want to have to guess what happens next. It is sometimes too painful to have to close the book and not know la suite. I have lost count of the number of times that I have been utterly frustrated to read a book that ends on a big pause, an invitation to the reader to imagine how things are concluded or how the story continues.

I bring this up because I have had conversations recently with book-loving people who say there seems to be a trend nowadays towards open-ended novels. Apparently, it is seen as contrived by some to have a story wrapped up for the reader. Is it really something agents and publishers are now demanding? Who decided that this was now the best way to end novels? The endings of some long novels have often left me with the feeling that the author didn't have the guts to make a decision about the conclusion. Is it also because there is less risk with an open-ending? Something neutral, which upsets no one, makes more commercial sense?

I have an epilogue in the novel I am trying to sell, which comes in the form of a letter, making it clear what our main characters go on to after the final scene. I felt it was important to let the reader know how things turned out. I wrote it as I would like to read it. I've tried to make it subtle, which is why it comes in the form of a letter. However, having already had one agent in the past voice doubts about whether it is necessary, I am in two minds. I am going with it because I believe it works, but I am not completely confident about it. Of course, I would be more decisive if I already had a publishing deal, or if I was already an "established" author.

I certainly hope that an agent or publisher who reads the manuscript is not going to reject the novel because of the epilogue. I almost wanted to type the word "optional" underneath the word epilogue. But I decided it wouldn't look good to come across as indecisive. It goes without saying that I will let you know how I get on ... or maybe I want! Maybe I'll just leave you hanging! Did he or did he not get the publishing deal in the end?

A Musical Poem

I have taken another one of my poems - The Captured Rainbow - and set it to some original piano music and images I filmed in New Zealand. Put your feet up, turn up the volume, and click twice on the play button! It's only 2.5 minutes long! I hope you enjoy it. (NB: It's normal that the music doesn't play straight away!)

If you like this, please feel free to link to it or embed it on your own blog.