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What if the dead could apologise for leaving you? "The first thing you have to take in – if you're fairly young, that is – what you have to try to imagine is a world where people never heard anything from anyone among the departed. There was no message, not of any type … So, from a world in which there was no such communication, to one in which sooner or later just about everyone would get word. When the phone calls started it was amazing…"
Home to Roost and Other Stories
JD Mac Namara
A collection of almost true stories concerning the doings, nefarious and otherwise, of the unique people of Erris, where the next parish west is America and where nothing is quite as one might expect... "Erris is a land on the edge of northern Europe and one of its least inhabited regions. It is regarded as a mysterious land alive with legends; legends which have been preserved and embellished through the centuries by its uniquely independent people. In his book ‘A tour in Ireland 1775’ Richard Twiss wrote’ I did not visit Erris since it is inhabited by some form of savage native and there are no roads.’ The people are far from savage and these days Erris has a few roads. Erris has vast stretches of unspoilt bog land, golden beaches and coves, secluded bays, crystal clear streams and lakes magical landscapes and spectacular cliffs. Gaelic dialect is spoken by some as their first language but when strangers are around the craic is in an English which can be pure poetry. Erris is a land of turf smoke, good strong tea, Guinness, Whiskey, both legal and illegal, soda bread, warm hospitality and a great welcome for strangers lucky enough to visit what used to be known as the back of beyond. The back of beyond it is no more, Knock has an international airport and even Belmullet has a death defying airstrip for bold pilots. The main highway has improved thanks to the European Union and there is even a fine golf links and a luxury hotel in Belmullet. But most of all, Erris is the sum of its people. Long may they thrive..."
The War Hero the Film Star and the Footman and Another Story
"When Frederick came home from work one day there was a strange bike leaning against the porch. He cussed; the last thing he wanted was having to be polite to visitors after a hard day in the fields. "As his eyes became accustomed to the gloom of the kitchen he found himself being stared at by a middle aged man. He was wearing a better suit than normally seen in the village and the best china was out. ""They said you were a beanpole and they didn't lie." the main said approvingly."
It's Hallowe'en and the residents of Sexton Way gather for a street party. At the other end of the street the rusty gate to the graveyard remained padlocked, but failed to keep out the ghost hunters who, despite video cameras with night vision, caught nothing of the inhabitants as their spirits rose to join the party.'
Brindley Hallam Dennis
Morning walks, an irrational fear, and a story of past, lethal transgression revealed. "A few years ago I took a cottage in West Cumbria for a week to get some peace and quiet while I worked my way through a large number of documents. I'd been called in as a specialist by the legal team of a multi-national that was defending itself against a negligence claim. Finding the smallest shred of evidence to suggest that the so-called victims have contributed to the disaster can save you thousands in damages, tens of thousands, millions even, if it's a class action. The cottage was one of three old quarrymen's cottages sitting on a hillside beyond Rowrah in the back of end of nowhere, where the remains of old railway lines wind their way between the rounded foothills of the English Lake District. I worked long hours that week, breaking off for a sandwich at lunchtime, and driving down to the local pub for supper, and then doing another couple of hours before I turned in. One treat I allowed myself was a brisk walk in the mornings, after dawn, but before the sun had crested the curved summit of the hill behind the cottage..."
"I killed my little brother. When he was two, and I was six, I crept into his bedroom and suffocated him with a pillow while he slept. ‘No you didn’t, Nadine,’ said my mother, ‘It’s a dream.’ ‘It’s a dream about guilt,’ my psychiatrist said, patting me on the knee. ‘You mustn’t blame yourself, my dear, it wasn’t your fault.’ On Tuesdays, I go to the Community Clinic for my weekly meeting with parents who are thought to present a risk to their children. Publicly, it’s called a ‘parents’ support group’ so they have a cover story when they come into reception. But these mums and dads are under no illusions; they watch me scribbling notes and know my risk assessment will dictate their future. If they give the right response, the courts may grant them a family life; the wrong answers and they won’t see their children again; something in between and they could get one afternoon a fortnight at a contact centre where, corralled by cuddly toys, they will try to engage their little strangers in a parody of play, under the watchful eye and busy pen of a social worker. While this process grinds slowly forward, the children who are being protected will metamorphose into sullen teenagers with unmet needs who will probably follow the pattern of their parents, having children of their own who will be in need of protection; and the cycle will start again..."
During her anniversary holiday in Egypt, Judy decides that one honeymoon is one too many, and it's time for a change... "Muttering under her breath, each angry phrase driving her forward, she marched through the lobby and out of the door. What an anniversary. Call this a second honeymoon? After just a few steps, her forehead started throbbing and a wave of nausea pressed against the back of her teeth. Behind her, the door swished open and the cool breeze of air conditioning hit her legs. The concierge called, ‘Taxi, madame?’ Swallowing the nausea, shaking her head, she kept walking across the hotel forecourt. Ahead, the tops of the Pyramids were just visible above the line of stationary traffic. The stench of diesel burned her nostrils. Perspiration trickled between her breasts and her sunglasses slipped down her nose. A wizened man in a galabeya blocked her way. ‘Carriage, lady?’ She followed the reins, held in one hand, to an emaciated horse. She stepped around him. ‘No, thank you.’ ‘Pyramid? Sphinx? Special fix price.’ He walked beside her, yanking the horse along behind him. She stepped off the pavement, weaving between vehicles, losing his voice in the cacophony of revving engines, blaring horns and shouting. It felt so different to the first time, their real honeymoon. Everything had changed. Or perhaps not. Maybe it was her memory that had changed the original, coloured it in with a rosy tint, like touching up an old photograph. Whatever made her think a second honeymoon could save this marriage? The belly dancing outfit was the final straw. It was over. Time to call time. At the thought of calling time, she pictured Kevin as she had left him, slumped and scowling, in the balcony bar. The whole thing had been a mistake..."
Dan has persuaded Amanda to accompany him on a cruise of the Faro Islands, to see the eclipse. But are they being followed? In this chilling tale, we find Dan must make hard decisions, in order to safeguard his marriage. "It’s our first night on board so we dress for the occasion: me in my best bib and tucker, and Amanda wearing her plungiest neckline with the white gold pendant I bought her for Christmas. We’ve barely sat down to dinner when I hear, ‘I don’t believe it!’ which makes me think of that character on TV, but the chap bouncing towards us looks too young to remember the sitcom. He stops in front of our table and smiles at Amanda. When she doesn’t speak I look at her and see she’s staring down at the table. The skin on her neck is a mottled pink. Perhaps she’s seasick; but we’ve barely left Newcastle and the North Sea is like a millpond. Thinking this must be an acquaintance of hers, I stand up and hold out my hand. He grabs at it with a sort of damp, two fingered slide, saying, ‘Felix, you must be Dan,’ while his eyes slip over me and back to Amanda..."