Posted on February 5, 2021
⭐⭐⭐Rating: 3 out of 5.
Meet the Gogartys; cantankerous gran Millie (whose eccentricities include a penchant for petty-theft and reckless driving); bitter downtrodden son Kevin (erstwhile journalist whose stay-at-home parenting is pushing him to the brink); and habitually moody, disaffected teenage daughter Aideen.
When Gran’s arrested yet again for shoplifting, Aideen’s rebelliousness has reached new heights and Kevin’s still not found work, he realises he needs to take action. With the appointment of a home carer for his mother, his daughter sent away to boarding school to focus on her studies and more time for him to reboot his job-hunt, surely everything will work out just fine. But as the story unfolds nothing goes according to plan and as the calm starts to descend into chaos we’re taken on a hilarious multiple-perspective roller-coaster ride that is as relatable as it is far-fetched.
More of a curate’s egg than Good Eggs, really. Rebecca Hardiman has peopled her debut novel with whimsical stock Irish characters – the granny, a bit of a kleptomaniac; the guy having a midlife crisis; the stroppy misunderstood teenager etc. She writes cleanly and the story flows along quite steadily. The problem, for me, was that I’ve read it all before and in stories that were livelier and that captured my imagination. I couldn’t work up any sympathy or liking for the Gogartys and, at times, just longed for the over-written granny to calm it down a bit.
I’d rate Good Eggs as a potboiler, a quick easy read to pass an afternoon but, sadly, lacking the depth and charisma I look for in Irish based novels.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Posted on January 18, 2021
Up, Up and Away was one of those whimsical pictures that ‘just appears’. I was keen to do something lighthearted and with a bit of colour, as a lot of my pictures can be, shall we say, a bit on the sombre side. Vicky May, the model and a talented actress who has appeared in the West End of London, had brought along this patterned dress and the umbrella was leaning on the wall in the corner of the studio. Along with Vicky’s hairstyle and shoes, the whole thing was taking on a decidedly upbeat and quirky feel.
I felt a ‘Mary Poppins’ coming on and dug the red ribbon out of my props box, quickly shooting the dangling foot.
It wasn’t until I was assembling the whole thing a bit later that I remembered the squawking gulls (a little bit of faffing required on their beaks) and so they were added in, looking suitably shocked at this strange creature floating in their air space.
The only thing left to do was add a cheerful sky and there it was – one of the quickest composites I’ve ever done and it still makes me smile.
Posted on January 16, 2021
Billy lived alone in a corridor and wore blue silk drawers. On wash day, Mammy closed the curtains on our kitchen window so she couldn’t see them on Billy’s clothes line. He had a matching vest, a bit frayed at the edges, but without the faint brown stain on the drawers.
He was a Roman Catholic and we were Protestants, but Mammy did her duty and sent me round to Billy’s house every Sunday with a bowl of stew. I had to go out of the front door, which opened directly on to the street, because what was the point in doing a good deed if nobody knew about it?
It was only a few steps to Billy’s front door, just enough time to shove a couple of spoonfuls of stew into my mouth and return the spoon to the bowl. Sometimes, he was waiting behind the net curtain and opened the door before I could kick it.
“Hurry up, get in. I can see Ma McCracken’s curtains twitching.”
“Mammy said can you wash the bowl before you give it back.”
She didn’t, but I never missed a chance to practice my dumb insolence.
“Off you go, out the back way.”
I liked going through Billy’s long, narrow house, surely some kind of architect’s mistake. The narrow living room, barely wide enough to accommodate the front door and the window, led into the bedroom. A glowing Sacred Heart adorned one wall, above a dresser with dusty vials of Holy Water.
Billy was going to Hell, but I wasn’t quite sure why, only that it was something to do with the Pope. His window always got smashed on the Twelfth of July, but he never told the police. No point. My Da fixed it for him and Billy slipped him a bottle of whiskey when Mammy wasn’t looking.
A tiny scullery beyond the bedroom opened on to the communal garden. A quick hop over the dividing wall and I was home again, job done for another week.
One Sunday in November, after taking Billy’s dinner to him, I overheard a conversation between Mammy and my older sister, Frances, who was getting married in a few weeks. Frances could whinge for Ireland.
“Do we have to invite Billy to the wedding, Mammy?”
“Yes, we do. What would the neighbours think if we didn’t ask him?”
“But he’s – you know –”
“I know, but maybe he won’t come.”
But Billy did come, in spite of being “you know –”. His hair was freshly permed and his overcoat had a velvet collar, which proved to be quite the talking point. I watched him like a hawk all day, but couldn’t work out what “you know –” could possibly mean.
January blew in with sleet and snow. Mammy stepped up Billy’s dinners to twice a week. Well, it was the Christian thing to do. The snow was too deep for me to walk a mile to school, so I was left alone in the empty house while Mammy and Da went to work.
The letterbox thumped and a handful of letters shot through on to the floor. I picked them up and had a quick shuffle. We didn’t get many letters as such, usually just bills, but today there was a lavender-perfumed envelope addressed to Mr. W. McParland of number 22a, Reilly Street.
Well, this was interesting.
We were number 22 and, for the briefest of seconds, I considered walking next door and poppng it through the letterbox. But, lavender perfume? Maybe it was a love letter. Maybe it had stuff in it about ‘you know –’.
No sooner had the thought crossed my mind than I had the envelope ripped open. The writing was flamboyant and written in purple ink with lots of curlicues. I could hardly contain myself, even as I struggled to read it.
My dearest William,
It seems so long since I last saw you, when we ran naked through the grass together.
Boy, this was good.
Unfortunately, that was the best bit. The rest was just a lot of boring arrangements to meet, so I skimmed over it until I got to the bottom of the page.
Yours, in loving friendship,
Harold? That wasn’t a lady’s name. Why would a man write that stuff to another man?
I was so engrossed in this conundrum that I didn’t hear Mammy come home.
“What’s that you’re looking at?”
She held out her hand “Let’s see nothing, then.”
I didn’t have to wait long for a reaction.
“Where did you get this filth?”
Unseen, I stuffed the envelope into my pocket.
“Uh, it was in the dustbin. It was on top when I took the rubbish out.”
Without further ado, Mammy turned on her heel and stormed out into the street, hammering on Billy’s door and shouting for him to come out.
He opened his door and, before he could speak, Mammy was in his face.
“You bloody pervert! You’re not fit to live near decent people! And leaving your filth where a child can see it, you’re evil.”
Billy stood open-mouthed, without a clue what she was talking about.
An interested crowd of neighbours were unashamedly gawking at the spectacle, which lent fuel to Mammy’s ire.
“Yes, you can all look! You don’t know what he’s been up to. Things with men!”
Things? What things? Running in the grass?
She caught sight of me, taking everything in and dying to know more.
“And you, get back inside. You’ve seen enough for one day.”
Back to Billy, now ashen-faced and trying to get his hands on the letter.
“Oh, no. This is going to the priest, he’ll know what to do about it.”
There was much, much more as the neighbours felt it was only right that they had a say in the matter. But I didn’t hear it, as the door closed behind me.
After that, there were no more dinners for Billy.
Posted on January 9, 2021
Heaven, Saturday morning
Angel number 4501 is summoned to His Presence, or HP, as he likes to be called.
“I have an important job for you, 4501. There’s a music festival tomorrow in Everyman’s Park.”
HP’s magnificent voice rolls out, setting clouds, cherubim and seraphim a-tremble. A few feathers shiver and fall off 4501’s wings.
“I was very upset at the amount of sin that went on at the last one – drugs, blasphemy and …” HP lowers his voice and the Heavens still. “… you know, s-e-x that went on.”
4501’s heart leapt in anticipation.
The celestial voice rumbles on. “It will be your mission to point out the error of their ways to these young people, put their feet on a new and better path.”
OK. So it’s Mission Impossible, but I’m going to a music festival.
“Of course, HP. An honour to be chosen. In what guise shall I descend?”
A rock star? A Hell’s Angel? Oh please, not a groupie.
“You will temporarily take over the body of an ice cream salesman called Kevin.”
HP taps his foot and watches as 4501 plummets to earth, his heavenly raiment already changing to jeans and a Nirvana tee-shirt.
Hell, Saturday morning
His Satanic Highness kneels on the backs of two recently arrived politicians, his backside bare and pulsating with inner evil. A ring of hellfire encircles them, holding back a legion of imps and fiends with singed hair and blistered skin.
“Kiss my arse!” roars HSH. “A day back on earth for whoever braves the flames and kisses my royal arse.”
None are brave enough to risk self imolation until Black Bart steps forward. Seven feet tall, once a grave robber and now an upper level demon, he’s been a thorn in HSH’s side ever since he fell into an open grave and drowned in the seepage.
One almighty leap and he’s through the hellfire, skin smouldering and bubbling, smoke seeping from all his orifices.
Bending at the knee, he kisses the putrefying buttocks before him.
Beelzebub, as he likes to be called when dealing with the Damned, rears up and points upwards, searing a hole through the charcoal-blackened vaults.
“Go, Lulu, enjoy your day.”
Black Bart only has time to say, “Lulu? What the f–” before he vanishes in a swirl of silk and Chanel No 5.
His Presence watches the materialisation of the ravishing young woman, her modesty barely covered in wisps of green silk.
“You’ve outdone yourself this week, Lucifer.” He prefers the old names to all this high-falutin’ Royal Highness stuff.
The Devil laughs. “Kevin the ice cream seller won’t stand a chance. Shall I make the first move?”
The two deities settle down to their weekly game of Celestial Chess.
Lulu basks under the hot sun and a thought pops into her mind.
I’d kill for an ice cream.