What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

Believe it or not, I’m very popular with hotel receptionists and it all comes from one simple thing – my name.  This doesn’t apply in Ireland, only when I go abroad. The sex is irrelevant, (how often do people say that, I wonder?) and to be honest the men are more impressed by me than the women.  Now given that I travel a lot and I’m partial to a cheeky upgrade, I do try to use what little charm God gave me, to get a better night’s sleep by asking for a better room.  I’ll use any excuse.  My name – yeah if it’s working- why not?

Now before you get misled, it is not that people go … “Oh my God it’s the famous writer!” Far from it.  However – and this came as a surprise to me at first – The minute I hit mainland Europe, the name Power tends to get some people a little excited.  To be fair it’s not just hotel receptionists, but they are the ones I am most likely to disclose my name to, as in “I have a reservation in the name of Power.”

You would want to hear the utter scutter that comes out of their mouths. “Oh Mr. Power (as their eyes light up) we have been expecting you.” Now, try saying that with a coy and excited German accent and you’ll get the gist of it.  This is usually accompanied by a smile and sometimes a wink, and that’s just the men. But they don’t leave it there.

“What a great name you have.  I wish I had such a great name.”  In fairness that came from an Austrian whose name was Kitzbitchler, so maybe I understood the preference for a change of name in his case – No offence to any Kitzbitchler’s out there.

Then you get the “But we were expecting someone…” then the awkward pause as they realise they are about to offend me, but they are committed to finishing the sentence and with limited English, they fall into the trap of   “… a little taller.”

I don’t mind, if anything – being insulted by someone who is embarrassed for insulting you, makes it easier to get an upgrade. Hell I encourage it.  I am just back from a trip where the guy immediately launched into a speech about how great my name is when I checked in.   I led him along the path as far as I could…

“Why do you like the name so much?” I enquired.  Now this question floors your average receptionist because quite frankly, they haven’t really thought about it beyond a vague, ethereal, fondness for the word Power being attached to them. They seem to instantly create a fantasy, whereby they possess the name and it sounds more than a little cool in their mind’s eye.  Again, it doesn’t apply in Ireland where you’d be tripping over Power’s, especially if you get lost in Waterford, but the Europeans, especially the Northern ones, do get almost inappropriately excited about the name.

“”I don’t know.” They openly admit this failing and almost scratch their heads before defending their fondness for my name. “But it must be cooool to have such a name.”  Then they let it slip, especially the German hoteliers “It must be like…you have Power… you know…you are Powerful…it’s …it’s… just cool you know?”

 I don’t know to be fair.  I hadn’t thought about it much until the world outside of Ireland started to comment on it. I do know that people used to sing that bloody stupid Cliff Richard Eurovision song to me in school when I was about ten. Once they heard my name was Power, they’d sing “Power to all our friends.”  It got very old very fast I can tell you. 

Still, I am a believer of making hay and so on, so it is around about this point, while the receptionist is still distracted by his or her secret fantasy to have such a “cool” name, that I chance my arm.

“It is a great name to have.” It’s a lie but now I’m reinforcing their positive feeling for me.  I look at their name badge. “Andreas…mmm… Yeah that would work for you…Andreas Power… Can you imagine.”  I watch their eyes lift as they picture it. As soon a smile starts to creep across their mouths, I go for the kill.

“Now you know what tends to happen when you have a name like this don’t you Andreas?”

They rarely answer, perhaps just a quizzical raised eyebrow as they are still trying to imaging what their children would be called if they only had such a wonderful surname.  I don’t wait.

“Smart, ambitious, (you can see the additional positive reinforcing can’t you) young hotel staff like you, generally give me a complimentary upgrade.”  Then I smile.  You have to smile; it’s all part of the deal.

Now here is where you sort the wheat from the chaff. I said earlier that the sex is irrelevant but to be fair, the women are much shrewder than the men.   Maybe if I was twenty years younger and a whole lot cuter, the ladies might fall for it more, but I find the men are bigger suckers for an ego boost. That’s not to say the girls don’t occasionally think “Cheeky bas**rd” and give me an upgrade anyway, but the lads are definitely easier.

You have to know how and when to play to your audience.  I do best with older ladies and young gay men for some reason.  Luckily there are not a lot of older men on reception in most hotels, they just scowl at me. For the young female receptionist I have to use humour to get an upgrade.  I think they see me like a father or even a grandad so that sometimes gives them a soft spot.  For the older girls a nice obviously over cooked compliment that makes them give me a wry smile as if to say “heard it all before” but if delivered with a touch of polish, I do well in getting the upgrade here.  As for gay men, why wouldn’t they fall for my charms?  

Importantly, I am always polite, I never overstep the mark and they all ultimately know what I am doing. That being said, I seem to wangle the occasional upgrade despite or perhaps because of my obviousness. You know what they say, if you don’t ask…

To be fair, I will try to get a free upgrade given a hint of an opportunity.  I once walked into a room that was already occupied by a colleague of mine as it turns out. I went back to reception and plaumaused the bejaysus out of the receptionist with a load of auld guff until she put me into a suite.   Now I laid it on a bit thick, so much so that at one point she said, “You can stop now, I’ve already allocated the room.”

Ah yes… It always feels like a little victory when you get something for free.   On my most recent trip, between two of us we got room upgrades, free cakes and an extra driver for free on our hire car and all it cost, was a little bit of time spend talkin’ sh**e.  They say where there’s muck there’s brass, but do you know what, where there’s guff there’s free stuff.   Go on, next time you’re travelling, give it a bash, or failing that, change your name to Power...

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

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Nothing a good kick in the arse wouldn’t sort out…

Nothing a good kick in the arse wouldn’t sort out…

Turns out I’m getting old. Well old-er. I still haven’t quite got the grasp of falling into a stereotype for my age. Probably because I’m a bit of a bol**x when it comes to doing what I’m supposed to do.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly James Dean or anything –no.  Jaysus you’d want to see me driving! Speed limits, yellow boxes and disabled parking spaces are there for a reason. But I’m a bit selective. There always has to be an exception and those rows of empty family parking spaces outside Tesco especially  on a Tuesday morning in the shagging rain?  Well like I say -I break the rules – sometimes… a bit… Especially on Tuesday morning outside Tesco when it’s pelting down.

Its nearly my birthday.  Woo-Hoo!  Not quite, still a couple of days to go.  One of the things about getting older, is that birthdays lose their impact.  I tend to remind people so they will at least acknowledge it… go on feel free… see I’m doing it here. But the point is that I think the more you start running out of them, the less you look forward to them.  Maybe that turns around again when they really start getting scarce?  

In a couple of days from now, I literally get a year older.  Now when I was seven, I was never seven.  I was seven and a half or seven and three quarters.  There was a rush to be older.  Funny how that changes isn’t it?  Now me being me, my impending birthday got me thinking of some, mostly irrelevant things  about my life.   Like for instance, I worked out that I have driven over one million Kilometres in my life.  If I strip that back to hours I was awake during the time since I first learned to drive, this means I have spent an astonishing 11.5% of my waking hours  in a car since I learned to drive!  Bizarrely I’ve never been in a serious car accident, although a small boy once ran out in front of me and went over the top of my car.  He was uninjured as he was small, bouncy, and most of the momentum came from him running into me.  I was driving very slowly in heavy traffic in Wicklow town at the time. That scared the living bejaysus out of me I can tell you, but fortunately he was unhurt.

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I’ve travelled the globe and I couldn’t possible count my air miles throughout my life as apart from holidays, I have always travelled several times a year for work. My carbon footprint must look like a feckin’ Yeti’s.

Importantly when taking stock, the good stuff is nearly taken for granted and the loves of my life, my children and my darling Jo, are always going to make a constant and welcome impact on my soul as I deal with all the crazy.  But for the purpose of this thought process, I will leave out this part of my life, for it represents all that is good about me, and I’m kinda going off on a ‘where did I leave mucky paw prints’ rant, as opposed to a ‘how lucky am I’ one.

I’ve eaten a lot of cheese.  Not sure how that fits in the grand scheme of things but it surely has some significance and while I can’t work this out in kilos, I’m confident it is sufficient to have sustained at least one person in permanent employment.  I’d say the same for chocolate, red wine and coffee.  So you could say, I am vital to the Irish if not global economy in some small way.  What else have I done?

I’ve…and for those of a sensitive disposition, pardon me now… I’ve broken my fair share of wind over the years.  I wouldn’t in anyway like to suggest I have contributed inordinately to global warming or anything, but I’m sure if it were measureable, I would be surprised by just how much gas has been produced by this otherwise generally pleasant carcass of mine..  Truth be told, as we don’t produce methane I’m not even sure if our emission of hydrogen, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide, actually impact the ozone layer at all, then again – I’m no expert.  But it has to have had some impact. 

Purely for scientific reasons of course and partly because I couldn’t resist looking it up, I did some calculations based on average human emissions, and It would appear that I would need close to 60,000 empty milk bottles to store what has basically leaked out of this slowly rotting carcass of mine over the years.  It might be all the cheese. To be fair, I have denied responsibility for at least 40,000 of these.

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I ran a lot, mostly in the early part of my life, so I’ve covered a fair bit of ground including one memorable Bicentennial Dublin City Marathon n 1988. I have scored goals, trys and countless baskets in pursuit of sporting joy but again, it’s been a while.   I was always fairly healthy until my heart one day  decided it had had enough, took its ball, and walked off the pitch as if to say “I’m not playing anymore” albeit temporarily.

Lord knows how many miles I’ve walked, especially with the three mutts we have now and I’ve even managed to swim in a few different oceans, one unwittingly in the company of sharks late one night, but that’s another story.

Apart from the cheese, I have eaten a very wide variety of food and never shirked when someone told me I was eating snake or octopus.  When I lived in Australia for a bit, I lived near and worked in the heart of Melbourne. That was great because, there were literally restaurants specialising in cuisine from the four corners of the globe.  Back then Dublin was much more monocultural, so I hadn’t had the same exposure to such a  wide variety of international cuisine. Now of course times have changed.  Even in our own little home town, you can get Thai food, Indian, Chinese, Argentinian, Italian, French and on it goes.  My – we have all become so global.

I come from a time when Spaghetti was exotic and curry was rumoured to be a flavour that foreigners used, to cover up the taste of spoiled meat!  God be with the days we were ignorant of anything that didn’t exist outside of a ten mile radius.

I’ve seen a lot.  The first man on the moon, the first Irish woman president, Dolphins rising in a pod against an azure sea, Ireland beating England in the Euro’s in 1988, the Irish Rugby team beating the All Blacks in Chicago. I have born witness to many incredible moments.  I was there to see my beautiful children take their first breaths, my father sadly take his last, and all that has transpired before and since.  I have looked into the eyes of the girl I truly love and I have seen the most spectacular sight of all.  I see it every day and count myself lucky indeed.

Bad things have happened and I won’t list the disasters that have befallen us Irish or the rest of the world, but of course these are not unique to me.  Over the years I have accomplished many things, most notably, learning to eat, crawl, walk and talk, none of which I recall but all of which are probably far more significant than anything I have done since.

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The problem of course, is that there is that there is still hopefully such a long way to go.  A problem you say!  Yes – a problem.   You see while the auld noggin is willing, the auld flesh is complaining more and more as each number gets added to my age.  If there is a bit of me that doesn’t at least occasionally creak, I have yet to discover it.  Back when I was a scrawny, skinny arsed youngfella, it was grand. I could jump off sheds, get tripped and fall repeatedly playing sports, run more miles than I should and still be fine the next day.

Nowadays if I paint ten metres of coving, I need at least a week to recover before I can move on to the next room. This whole spirit is willing thing is a load of horseshite.  So I have had to adapt and adopt. I’m hardly on my last legs or anything, but I have had to learn to slow the feck down.  I still haven’t quite got the hang of it, but I’m getting there.

My adaptations are creeping in.  Saying no sometimes helps.  I used to be a ‘I’ll do that’ type of volunteer, now I’m more of a ‘ Here Mick- you spend your day in the Gym, lift that over there for me will ya’ type of guy.  I have adapted to recognise that just because I can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean I should do something.  The heart attack helped bring me around on that one.

But like I say, there are lots of miles left on the clock and I’m really looking back at work done as opposed to, things to do here. Like the rest of you, we recognise certain milestones.  We openly celebrate big marker dates like 18th birthdays, 21st birthdays and then they spread out. We start to celebrate decades.  You hit 30 and 40 and 50 and we reserve special celebrations for these.   This year my birthday will not have a zero at the end, so it will pass relatively unmarked.

I find it a little bit sad, because while I hate fuss, I still feel about ten years old inside and I still love the anticipation of surprise presents and all the build-up that used to happen when I was a nipper. It seems silly now, but I guess it doesn’t matter how old I get, I will always be a little boy in many ways.

Maybe it’s because I still hold perhaps one of the few fond memories about myself from my childhood, very close to my heart.  Back in the day, I spent a few years where basically the best thing Santa could bring me, was a cowboy suit or a new set of guns and a holster. I asked Santa early one year for a very particular reason. I wanted a new set of pearl handled colt 45’s.

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As my birthday falls exactly one month before Christmas, I asked for a Winchester rifle so I would have a complete new set of guns come Christmas morning. Back then asking for both from Santa would have been greedy, so I strategically asked for one thing on my birthday and the rest from Santa.  Up there for dancin’ as they say.

My Mam and Dad gave me the most spectacular toy rifle for my birthday,  It was a Winchester repeating rifle with a white handle and the stock was shiny silver.  It came in a box covered in imagery from the Wild West.  I could have cried.  It is a story I have used before in my writing as it evokes such a fond memory, but for the uninitiated, I kept the rifle, still in its box, untouched until Christmas day, so it would be in perfect condition, just like the pistols that Santa was going to bring.  I engaged in an emotional month long, exercise in delayed gratification, that I doubt any other child could have managed.

Looking back I still cannot believe that the tiny excited little pony that I was, could maintain such discipline and it is one of the few moments in my life where I look back and feel so very impressed with my tiny little self.  But it does make me feel sad because, I remember so much more about that time and my big old heart becomes truly that of a child once more when I think of those times.  I guess I miss my little self.

But enough nostalgia, they say it’s not what it used to be.  Onwards and upwards I say. I’m nursing a few wrinkles until I get them just right, and doing my best to avoid turning into a grumpy old man in the coming years, so that’s enough to be getting on with for now. I will undoubtedly start to act my age one of these days, something I am trying hard to avoid. So if you see that happening at any point, do us a favour will you?  Give us a kick in the arse… 

 

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

all 5

 

 

The tick-tock in my clock…

The tick-tock in my clock…

Like a disgruntled old goat, I sometimes have to shake a metaphorical fist at myself when I sense the shine wear off my smile. Under the weight of shambolic modern day advice, it could be easy to fall for the notion that I should share my negative moments, or at least put them out there to release the angsty mess that gathers up at my corners, as the winds of trouble swirl about me on bad weather days. But I know better.

There is nothing like a little repression to save the rest of the world from your bullshit. Lord knows, I have to listen to myself enough without imposing any of my own troubles on the world. And so it is. Forevermore, I shall endeavour to maintain my inner demons, doubts, worries and concerns, to avoid boring the arse of the rest of you.  No doubt there will be plenty who advise against such a notion, but unlike the so called experts, I know me.  I’ve lived with me for a long time now and I completely get me… well mostly. I’m not sure the rest of the world should have any hand, act or part in working me out.

Having declared my penchant for repressive self-analysis, I will share something with you. This is less an inner demon than and outward projection and a puzzle. As any regular visitors to my blog will know, I have had an occasional visitor to my nights over the past two years. As if to add fuel to the flame of my nocturnal dark stalker, we have had increased unexplained activity about the place. Now I named my dark friend Mr. Squiggles to ease the sense of fear that he brings.  I thought by giving him such a childish name, he might disappear.  It was not to be. He first came to me in my hospital bed as I recovered from heart surgery and has frequented my bedroom at precisely 3:35 on the rare occasion he appears.  I thought him a function of my condition, a psychological trauma if you will, brought on by dying – if only for a minute, but I still attach that traumatic event to his appearance.  It seems however he followed me home.

Now other strange and unexplained things have begun to happen and not just to me.  We increasingly hear people who are not actually there, in other rooms in our house. Just yesterday there was someone in the ensuite bathroom in the room next to ours. The thing is, there was no one else there.

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As the grand master of sceptics, I have explained most things away, even my Mr. Squiggles who if I am honest, I merely dismiss or repress out of my inability to technically explain him away. Three nights ago, or should I say early that morning, at my usual personal witching hour, I lay awake and sensed a presence.  It was akin to how I feel when ‘he’ is about and I opened my eyes and checked the time.  It was indeed 3.35 in the morning.   I listened and heard nothing, but Mr. Squiggles makes no noise.  He is pure stealth, a creature with hidden malevolence waiting to be revealed.

The first time he came to me, I watched his dark shadowy form creep about the outer walls of the courtyard, just outside my hospital window.  He disappeared and reappeared many times, as he dipped in and out of other hospital ward windows, as if looking for something.  His movements were quick and it was very disconcerting, for I have a mind to believe only what can be seen, touched and what I know to be real.  This was something else. 

There are lots of logical reasons why my Mr. Squiggles could have appeared. My mind playing tricks on me is the obvious one, although, I do not normally suffer from such strange delusions and while I was physically very ill at the time of his first appearance, my mind was crystal clear.  I am no longer quite so ill and yet he comes. As he only appears at a set time of night, this perhaps adds to some notion of personal confusion or even a trick of the light.  Despite my very strong personal scepticism, I cannot accept either as a reason for his existence, so I am still trying to resolve his presence in my life.  I do know that real or not, he waits for the right time to appear.  He watches me.  I feel him like an impatient Grim Reaper, who slips in my window, when he senses the exact moment when I am l physically struggling. 

But I digress. It wasn’t Mr. Squiggles that came creeping through my window on Tuesday night. Our bedroom is quite dark, but the window is illuminated slightly from the outside world and it was there that I watched the strangest of sights unfold before my very eyes.

Again it would be easy to believe that my eyes or my mind were playing tricks on me and I would prefer to choose that it were indeed so, but alas, it was not. What I saw set my hair on end. It was very much like the evening last month when someone walked across the kitchen in front of me, someone who wasn’t there.  Last night it began with a shadow and I immediately suspected my usual dark companion had come to check on me. I was wrong.

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As I lay there, a black bubbling mass began to gather at the centre of the window. It was even blacker than the darkness framed outside the edge of the window and while it started off as an uneven ball of blackness, it slowly grew until it filled at least half the space where the feint light gave it a silhouette.

I knew what it was and I looked away for a moment. There was no doubt in my mind what I had seen, but I could not quite get my head around it. I looked back but it was still there, only moving even more than before.

Fear is a peculiar thing and I tend not to allow it in, so I cannot say I was afraid but I was certainly startled and my skin gave a good impression, but the goose bumps and risen hair were involuntary. I lay there and squeezed my eyelids tight together before opening them again.  I wanted to dismiss what I saw as an optical illusion but this was crystal clear to me.  I was wide awake. I looked about the room and fluffed the duvet as if my physical action might shake my madness, by  eliminating the strange vision in the night.

Now you just want me to tell you what I saw, right? Don’t worry I’ll not keep it a secret, but I have to explain that in telling you the truth of the matter, I can never express the depth of the darkness that it represents to me. This is something real and unreal, something unexplained.

One black inky hand, as clear as my own only in shadow form, grew out past the black wrist that followed it, only to be pulled back by another identical hand and then there was another, and another.  The hands that reached out were as real as my own, fully formed, three dimensional, clawing from a dark central mass, as the numbers of desperate clawing grasping hands grew. They were not trying to grab hold of me, they were too far away for that and I could see they were hands filled with an expression of fear if that can possibly make sense. 

They were trying to escape but other hands pulled them back. So it was a black, almost undefined mass of hands that I saw and I could sense something even darker behind them. Then it was there, in the background.  It was my old friend Mr. Squiggles. I didn’t see him, but he was there alright and unlike the hands that were real to me, he was imagined because he was sitting out of sight on the window ledge, waiting as he always does.  

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So here I am crossing already blurred lines, talking of real, grasping, terrified, desperate hands appearing to me in the night, hands that anyone reading this will put down to some illusion or dream. On the other hand I use the word imagined when talking of Mr. Squiggles, but I only say imagined in the sense that what was imagined, was  precisely how might be sitting on my window ledge, not that he was there, for he surely was.

I have a tick tock in my clock these days. Ever since the unimaginable happened and I crossed the line of life and death only to return, the second hand has become so much more of a presence in my life. I am finite it seems and it was something I had chosen to ignore for most of my life, as no doubt we all do.

But has my infinity crash caused a lapse in my sanity, opened a window on a madness that I have begun to see as normal, or is there some other explanation.  Let’s be clear. I don’t believe in ghosts. I do have a vivid imagination, I am a writer after all, but I am not inclined towards such flights of fancy, that would explain away  the strange visits that are becoming all too frequent for me.

A logical man, I demand an explanation and in its absence I have a default position which is; that which I don’t understand, can only be explained as something outside my sphere of understanding. There still exists a logical explanation; I just have yet to discover it.  I spent two bloody days this week working out a series of connected excel formulas that seemed impossible to resolve.  Just because I couldn’t find a solution, nor could anyone be found who did, no matter which source I went to, didn’t mean there wasn’t one.  I finally worked it out yesterday.  Not knowing, meant only that I lacked sufficient  knowledge at the time, not that it was impossible and perhaps it is so with Mr. Squiggles.

Today as part of my work,  I took a new 4 wheel drive Mercedes Pick-up through its paces off road.  I drove up and down 43 degree slopes, through a river and sideways on a slope that promised to tip me over, but it didn’t.  It was incredible fun, but there was a moment where I was climbing up a hill so steep that I could only see sky, when I had to totally put my trust in the vehicle.  I could see nothing but I made it through because I backed myself and what I had been taught about the vehicle.  It reminded me of how I am when my nocturnal watcher appears.

I have no idea of what is about to happen, but I somehow trust that it will work out.  I can’t see where I’m going, but I have no fear of what lies behind the horizon. Maybe I am foolish. I hope not.  Tonight I will go to bed without fear or trepidation, knowing I may have to face him again or maybe he will not appear for weeks.  It makes no difference. He will eventually come back to haunt me.

I was recently whispered the date of my death, I doubt it will come true.  But the real secret, is that I have already been there to that place and it holds no fear for me anymore.  So what fear I Mr. Squiggles?  Maybe someday he will reveal his true nature and purpose and then of course, I will share it with you.  But in the meantime believe what you will, I know there is a reason for everything as I listen to the tick tock of my clock and wait to see what comes next…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

all 5

When Fecky-the-ninth starred as Jesus…

When Fecky-the-ninth starred as Jesus…

Boys are idiots. I should know I was one. A friend of mine once ate a church candle to impress a girl, I kid you not.   We were twelve years old and rehearsing for the Easter play in the local church. For us it was a great doss and we took every opportunity to dodge genuine school work when it came along.

“Who wants to be in the Easter play?” Ah yes Brother Donard, you knew that every hand in the class would go up, but not because we loved or admired you –  unholy, sadistic Bas**rd that you were, no, it was to get the hell out of Dodge for a couple of hours rehearsal every week. Ah the freedom.

It didn’t matter whether you were a narrator, a cruel Roman Centurion whipping the lard out of Jesus as he crossed the altar, or the big man himself, all that mattered was you were free from school for a bit. The context of what you were doing mattered little.

Now my friend Barry was a show off. He talked the talk and told us about stuff he did that he hadn’t of course, but we chose to believe him because that made life more interesting. But he was an awful twat sometimes. The biggest problem we had for that particular performance was not our diction or acting skills.  They didn’t really present a problem.  We were twelve year old boys; all we did was mess and act the eejit anyway.  Dragging a huge wooden cross across the altar on Easter Sunday, dressed in a sheet draped over you in what was the most unauthentic representation of the Crucifixion you could imagine, really only presented a challenge in not laughing. Like I said, we were just a bunch of messers.

The biggest problem was that they were letting us ‘work’ with girls from the Dominican convent! I say ‘girls’ as though it was an unimportant word, but we were  generally kept away from them as much as possible, so we only knew one way to act in their company – like complete morons.

At twelve it was awkward.  We had the auld bit-of-a-notion and a hint of something stirring, but we weren’t exactly au fait with the whole purpose or mechanics of anything we were feeling or thinking. Back in the seventies in Dublin, none of us Christian Brother educated boys had a clue about sex.  Girls were for marrying at some point and the rest was a feckin’ mystery.

One fella, a story I know I’ve recounted before, explained to us in great detail how impregnating a girl involved a substance obtained from a lad’s ear.  I won’t go into any greater detail except to say, there were fingers and belly buttons involved and fortunately it turned out that he had got that one completely wrong.

We’d all kissed a youngwan at some point of course, but any of the boys who said it hadn’t involved spinning a bottle was a damned liar. Kissing was still mentioned in a laddish way, but often accompanied by a slight sound of disgust. The exception, was when a top class fibber went off on how he had ‘got off’ with so-and-so at the back of the sheds late one night. In truth, we all knew he would have been tucked up in his bed at the time he suggested that he was out sewing some wild oats we didn’t fully understand anyway.  Still we listened to such tales with fascination, perhaps in the hope that we might gleam some valuable insight into the world of girls and kissing, but I can’t recall a single useful nugget from those times.

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The candle eating incident occurred behind the altar. Strictly speaking there are differing definitions for an altar depending on ones persuasion, but from our perspective, the altar was the entire space around the altar table where mass was performed. Hidden from view, there was a door to the sacristy and we all had to wait there at some point during rehearsals.  There were about a dozen of us boys and girls involved with various speaking and acting parts and it was deemed inappropriate for a bunch of naredowells like us, to be lounging about on the altar unless we had a specific function, so this is where we waited in the wings so to speak.

During rehearsals, we had a nun in charge.  She was generally on the altar at all times, making sure we pretty much genuflected at every conceivable moment.  She struggled with the logistics of the whole thing.  The trouble with the performance was that in her world, one had to genuflect in the presence of the blessed sacrament which on mass days, would be present whether in the tabernacle or on the altar, or  in the priests hands at some stage.  As our ‘’Homage’ to the great occasion was not structured in a single flowing presentation, but rather as small broken segments to be performed throughout the mass, the poor auld sister had to work out when and where the blessed sacrament might be at any given point, and where we might be in relation to it. As far as she was concerned, you had to genuflect each and every time you crossed the altar. Had it been one of the Brothers, they would have handled it differently.  They frightened the hell out of us and I knew they could do what they wanted.  Nuns were different, altogether more holy and reverential somehow.  This one certainly was.

I swear to God it wrecked her frazzled little head. Worse still, she was one of those very holy types, who wasn’t happy with a casual, quick knee-bend as a genuflection, oh no.  For her, it had to be thoughtful, unhurried and not careless.  But there was more.  Typically she would have made a sign of the cross, but the guy playing Jesus (yes that was me, I was the star of the show – how ironic) had to at all times drag a big heavy cross across the front of the Altar – no free hands to bless ones-self. The worst part for me was that the cross was made of solid wood!  I don’t know where they got it from, but I was a skinny arsed ,undernourished, twelve year old boy.  The feckin’ thing nearly broke me.

She just about coped with not signing the cross, but the genuflection was a deal breaker. I cheekily told her that you only needed to genuflect once as you passed or approached the altar, but she pretty much damned me to hell as a Godforsaken heathen for even breathing  with a thought like that in my head.

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Her solution was to work every movement in the proceedings so that with one or two absolute impossible exceptions, no one crossed the front of the altar, thus avoiding the need to genuflect.  But then Fr. Cleary came in to watch rehearsals one day and he stopped us in our tracks.

“Why is Jesus doubling back?  He’ll have to go all the way around to get to Calvary on the far side.”

She started to very deferentially and softly explain that she was thinking… but he cut her off by shouting rather loudly and ignoring what she was trying to say.

“Hey you … Fecky-the-ninth.”  I was shocked at the curse in his mouth, but he was talking to me so I followed his instruction, all the time watching the poor sister unravel beneath her habit. Not only was he about to override her instructions, but he had just called Jesus, Fecky-the-ninth!

“Keep goin’…and you… Head-the-ball,” (he was referring to my centurion, whose sole job was to demonstrate how cruel the Romans were to Jesus by whipping me as I walked) “put a bit of wellie into it.  You’re supposed to be lashing him out of it, not tickling him.”

He buggared off for a smoke, leaving our holy sister wholly disheveled, but perhaps secretly relieved at having been absolved of her responsibility to police rigorous genuflection by the interjection of a higher power.

But I digress. Backstage as it were, while one of the narrators practiced,myself and Barry were chatting away when we saw one of the Dominican girls approach.  She was a rather pretty blonde, a wisp of a thing, full of a sense of her own importance.  She had told me at a previous rehearsal that she wished she had been born rich rather than beautiful, without a hint of sarcasm I might add!   

We watched her swish towards us, all hair and smelling of some freshness we boys were largely unfamiliar with. She swung her yet to appear hips and her very much below the knee skirt ,swirled about her as she sashayed towards us.  Barry gave me a knowing wink. He had this.  He was going to do or say something so cool that she would be bowled over, I just knew it. He called to her as she approached.

 

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“Hey gorgeous…” My god I thought, the nerve of him, the shear confidence to call a girl gorgeous. For a moment I was in awe of his flair… “wanna see something deadly?”  She tried not to break a smile as he reached back and from behind him, produced a long, thin white candle.  He raised it to his mouth and took a chunk off the top, biting through at least four inches and started chewing as though he was eating something delicious.

My jaw dropped. What the… He winked at her as she passed and began talking to her with his mouth full of candle wax.  I say talking but all he said was, “Huh…Huh…” as if to ask, ‘Well what do ya think darlin’ ? Impressed? – Good eh?”

“Spa!”

She chose the commonest insult from our childhood lexicon and while highly offensive and today very much incorrect, back in the seventies it was the insult of choice among us school boys.  It was a single cutting word that she flicked at him as she passed without even looking in his direction and I would have been devastated.

I looked at Barry as he continued to chew.  We didn’t speak for a couple of minutes as he for some reason unbeknown to me, chose to continue to eat the wax in his mouth rather than spit it out, even though she was long gone.  He swallowed with a loud gulping noise and winked at me.

“I’m in there!”

Boys are idiots, need I say more…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

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The shiver he squiggled down my tiny little spine…

The shiver he squiggled down my tiny little spine…

As it is Hallowe’en I thought I might share the true story of the killer at the door.  He rings the bell twice on Hallowe’en and those who answer are never seen again.  The only evidence of him at all is his calling card, a bloody fingerprint of his previous victim on the doorbell.  But before I share his story, I need to lead in with another true story of Hallowe’en.

There was an old lad who used to call to our house with two fresh eggs every morning without fail, when I was just a young boy.  We called him John but for some reason I always suspected he was the possessor of a far more interesting name, for he certainly looked like a man deserving of a less plain name.  He frightened me a little.

John you see was the overseer, the guardian, the protector as it were of a small orchard at the back of a very big old house, directly across the road from our humble little abode. He was more than that of course, but as he spent much of his time chasing kids out of the orchard, that was how we perceived him.  The house is long gone now, but in its time it was rather grand to our innocent little eyes.

But if you took a closer look, if you peered beyond the rusting high gates that gave only a partial glimpse of the old place, it was clear that the decrepit old building had seen much better days.  The same could be said of old John.

There were many stories about the man and none of them cast him in a favourable light. I chose to ignore the fact that for reasons unknown to me, he dropped eggs to our house daily, nor did I question this.  Despite his daily visits we never spoke and my mother always took the eggs in. The shiver he squiggled down my tiny little spine meant I tried not to think about him too much.

John was a tall, skinny drink of dour melancholy and menace. Everything about him was out of place. As far as I could tell, he wore the same raggedy old work trousers, every extra day the God seemed to allow his ancient, furrowed brow to borrow. Likewise he always wore a dirty old Paddy cap and a tweed jacket that may once have cost money, but was wearing thin on the fabric by the time I first encountered it. His nails were broken and dirty, and his boots tied like his trousers, with string.  He had the look of man that was somewhere between a farmer and a tramp, yet he carried with him a dignity and authority that none of us would challenge.

The man was always ready with the tip of his cap to my mother and father, and a scowl for any potential orchard thieving little scut like me, despite the fact that I was way too sweet to dare commit such a crime on my own doorstep. But I did have cause to cross his path when I was still a little boy and by a stroke of fate, it happened at Hallowe’en.

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I was never allowed out late, my mother would sooner scalp my arse for no reason, than assume I could be trusted on the streets after sunset.  You’d swear there were vampires about, although mind you, among us little ones, there were rumours. I never wholly dismissed such fantasy, just in case there might be an inkling of truth therein.  In fairness Catholicism had prepped me for playing the ‘just in case’ card. I went to mass without really understanding why and said my prayers at bedtime; largely because there was a threat that hell was waiting if I didn’t.  It was not even veiled, as I went to a Christian Brothers school and they made it pretty clear what awaited little wispy scutterlings like me, were I to even think of doing something vaguely sinful. In short, I was quite susceptible to suggestion when it came to things like vampires, ghosts,  Banshees or anything that might possibly, but most likely didn’t exist.  I denied my belief out of bravado, but crossed my fingers, said my prayers and hid under the blankets in the dark – just in case.  But on Hallowe’en night, the curfew was allowed an exception, as every other little squiddler was out roaming the streets collecting for the night that was in it.

There were caveats of course.  I couldn’t leave our road and I could not go beyond a certain house number.  I had to be back in a designated time frame and if it got back that I even smelled the smoke from a firework, my mother would have my guts for garters. Of course I agreed to everything despite the excessive restriction.  What she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her right?

The problem was that my route was too restrictive. There were only houses on one side of our road, as the big old walled house was on the opposite side of the road.  So I skipped about the place dressed as a ghost.  I didn’t need a sheet, because I was such a waif and because my mother probably couldn’t afford to spare a sheet just so I could cut holes in it for one night.  I wore a very well adapted old pillow case instead. I’m sure I looked fabulous.  I certainly thought so. I wrapped up in about fifteen minutes, running out of houses on the overly restrictive Mam list and besides, I had more than enough monkey nuts and apples after house number three.

As was my tendency back then, I got distracted. The old house caught my eye and I wandered over to peek through the gates. It was Hallowe’en after all and perhaps, there might be some ghoulish goings on inside those high walls. There was a heavily overgrown, winding path to the front of the house and all I could see was a dim light through one of the windows. I squinted.  It looked like an old storm lantern.  I’d seen it before. For some reason there were never any lights on at night in the big old house.  Rumours were that the old man that owned the place, the man we never saw who old John worked for, was too mean to use his electricity.

Someone pushed me between my shoulder blades and I had to drop my bag of goodies to put my hands up so my face didn’t slam into the bars. By the time I turned around ‘Feno’ had grabbed my goody bag and tossed it over the gate. Feno was bigger than me, was always accompanied by at least two other mini-thugs and he pushed everyone around. He laughed but he had picked on the wrong little ghost. I kicked him in the nuts the way my brother had shown me and he started crying like a baby. He ran off with his dopey henchmen swearing to tell his Ma.  I didn’t care.  My only concern was the bag and how I’d explain its loss to my mother.  She’d kill me and I would have no goodies when I got back.  I didn’t hesitate, despite my fear of the place. My mam scared me more once she was crossed.

Like a baby monkey I scaled the gate and hit the ground running into the dark in the direction of the house, with only one thought. Grab the bag and leg it.  It was so dark.  I must have looked like a real ghost I thought, as I bent to collect my bag.  But there was a sound behind me as I gathered it in my arms, a sound that made me freeze mid movement.  I wasn’t alone in the dark of that place. Something else had been there all along, watching me peep through the gate in my little ghostly costume, waiting as I scaled the gates, and patient enough to hold its nerve until I had come too far… There was no escape… Hang on.. That’s the doorbell, there’s someone at the door…wait – there it goes again, I’ll have to get it, hold your whisht, … Wait there folks, I’ll be back…

 

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Happy Hallowe’en

 

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

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…this one is impatient… Something else for Hallowe’en

…this one is impatient… Something else for Hallowe’en

People shouldn’t be allowed to die on days that are marked by celebration or festivity. My mother died 23 years ago at Hallowe’en and it has changed the time of year for me without a doubt. In truth the day on which a loved one dies, doesn’t matter in terms of how you remember them, but when that day has some specific significance, it changes the day for you forever.

Now if you have already read any of my books you’ll know what I can do with a sprinkle of darkness. I have always enjoyed Hallowe’en and I have fond memories from my childhood of our rather meagre celebrations compared to the celebrations of today. Costumes were hand made, we didn’t trick or treat, we visited neighbours to look for help with the ‘Hallowe’en party.’ It is funny how American movies have transformed a tradition that began on this side of the world.

So I was reflecting today on loss, on ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night and I thought I’d share some of the more recent dark additions to my life. Regular readers of my blog, will be familiar with my occasional dark, shadow-man.  I call him Mr. Squiggles, to soften the fear he infects me with whenever he calls. I still cannot explain him away, much as I’d like to.  He has stalked me ever since I crossed back through the light, two years ago.

Perhaps some might believe that I brought him back with me from the other side. I don’t see that. He only comes when I least expect him and he has the feel of something portentous.  Mr. Squiggles is nothing if not punctual and he always turns up at precisely 03.35, my personal witching hour. But of course I don’t believe in ghosts.  I need an explanation and even in the absence of one, I still disbelieve what I see and experience, instead choosing to believe that I just don’t have the tools to answer the question. But an answer must exist.

 

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I have always been visited by strangers in the dark.  As a child an old woman with long hair and a little boy watched me and I never felt they were benevolent. Some things you keep to yourself and I feared what would happen if they became real by my speaking about them.  But that was my little frightened boy’s mind. I am long past boyhood now and sometimes I wonder if such darkness comes from a different place.

Our new house has had some oddities since we arrived.  We hear footsteps when no one is there and even our three dogs get alerted to the sounds.  Sometimes, we hear the front door close when there is nobody there and it is a heavy, double locked beast that makes an unmistakable sound.

This week things have moved around by themselves. They are small, but significant items whose movement carries no explanation.  To be fair, even though I cannot attribute specific logic to these events, there is the potential that there are logical, physical reasons behind these events.  Floor boards stretching with heat and cold, wind blowing other doors closed that may sound like the front door, our forgetfulness or absentmindedness, leading us to mistakenly believe things may have moved when they haven’t.  Yes it is easy to dismiss one thing or maybe two, but as the frequency and variety grows, one might begin to think that there is something else at play here. But then there has been another thing.  Something far more sinister and disturbing, and while I have to repeat my scepticism, I have no explanation to satisfy the new change.

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There has been the sense that someone is there or watching us, someone other than Mr. Squiggles.  We’ve both had our visitors but I  can only speak to mine. The latest was something new and while I didn’t recognise him, I felt him and he frightened me.  Now I don’t scare easily but this creature of the night  walked across my eye-line and paused to look through me for just a moment.  It was long enough for me to know him and know he meant me harm.

The night is setting in now, darkness is bedding down and soon the souls of All Hallow’s eve’ will skit about the place looking for a place to settle.  Amateur ghouls will knock on doors carrying bags to be filled with goodies and finally all will go quiet on this very  dark night.

My thoughts will go to my Mam. I miss her very much.  I chose not to talk of her this weekend and  instead I kept the sadness of her sudden departure  from my life to myself.  I will never really get past that loss.  I thought I had but I think perhaps not.  I don’t believe in ghosts nor am I religious but when she died, I prayed that her ghost might visit me but my prayers were unanswered.  How can there be ghosts when the ones we love and need the most abandon us?

I don’t believe in ghosts but I know something is happening here. Something has shifted and my Mr. Squiggles has gone quiet of late.  Perhaps he is busy elsewhere, maybe it’s not yet my time to go with him and he only tends to visit when I am at my weakest. But it’s not Mr. Squiggles  I am worried about. There is a new dark shadow man in town, and this one feels more impatient… Happy Hallowe’en everyone …

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

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The clink in the glass of my soul…

The clink in the glass of my soul…

I don’t know what it is that makes me who I am. I have had so many influences in my life and not all of those were good. If some of those influences were reflected from me I don’t think I would be the type of person that I would really like. Most people who know me will joke that I love myself, but in reality that notion couldn’t be further from the truth.

The best of me I think, is a reflection of the marks that the best of others have left upon me. I write about love even in my darkest books, perhaps because it is the most important thing. As a child I loved my mother dearly. As a grown man, my love for my own children shaped me in many ways. But there has been one love that goes to the heart of me and her reflection in me is something rather special.

I somehow found a woman stronger than me. She gives me the dreams I already have and sprinkles them with meaning. Playing with the fire of death gives one perspective. There are no darker places one can go, than to the brightness of the light that draws you in. My journey to that place could well have been different at another juncture in my life. Perhaps I might have continued on that journey with little to draw me back.  I never let go because of my children and because of the very special girl, whose love I daren’t deserve.  She has always been a slip of a thing to me, a delight in her charm and loveliness, a beauty undeserved for a dark soul like mine.

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Of all the things I write about, I rarely write about the woman who is always there when it matters and always there when it doesn’t.  Make no mistake I would probably be a disaster alone. I possess way too much melancholy to live a happy life and yet I do.  I have her to thank for the clink in the glass of my soul.

The darkness when if settles is always very loud. It drowns out the logic of all that is good and it calcifies, clinging on to make sure one is left with the memory, the scar, and of those I have many. I’ve been writing something dark again and as is my want, as is my need, I dip into the darkness to make it real.  I test the murkiness fingers first, then my wrist slides below the black pool of fear  and on until I am elbow deep, feeling every breath of anticipation and terror, knowing something is lurking beneath.

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It gives my belly fire, stoked up to drive the darkness out and onto the page.  The trouble is that I must feel it first and I really don’t know that I have the strength. If I cannot feel it, I cannot write it, or is it the other way around? But where else would it go if not to the page and how else would I find it, if not through its exploration? I must close my eyes to wonder and listen to the darkness to feel the fear, to tell my best story. It is a risk, a gamble that I am addicted to. My bleeding mind to bleeding page, may well be what readers like about my style I don’t really know for sure, but it is a mighty price to pay sometimes. I could get lost in the silence…But then I go back to her.

Tonight I will open the door to the home we have made together and the first thing that will greet me will be our three dogs.  They are always eager and fast and hungry to reunite with me.  We have three now, somehow growing from our original puppy love for Daisy, through our sorrowful boy Hokee who needed love the most, and on to our poor little lost boy Kevin. Their love is unbridled and a gift that always makes me smile.

Behind their wagging tails my eyes will fall to the girl I love and my smile will broaden. I am lucky to have someone in my life whose splendour I can aspire to only partly emulate. Keeping the company of fools will bring you down; living with wonder, will sent you flying with a lightness to lift you from the darkness. What did I want to be as a boy? A cowboy. A pilot. An astronaut. A writer.  All of the above, but I am a man now. What do I want to be as I go forward in life? Perhaps the answer is simply, to be better.

LI

My darling Jo inspires me through all that she is and all that she does. Inspiration is a special thing to have and maybe I’m just lucky to enjoy the feeling it gives me and so I am always looking up both physically and emotionally.

It’s all too one sided of course. She gets me on the other side of that equation and despite my obvious charms (of which you all know there are many) it is hard to imagine that I could ever light the darkness for her, the way that her light shines and guides me. There is no doubt that  I am a lucky man, for I have come to love someone better than I will ever be.

I never step outside without looking to the sky. I am in awe of the starlit heavens and the splendour of simple cloud formations in the day.  It may sound silly, but a dark soul needs the light, be it even the tiniest dimple from a far distant star in the night sky.  My emotional light comes from many sources; especially my children and I have been blessed. Other people, friends and family all shine their light and I am grateful. Even our three little dogs (one especially – my personal guardian-angel Hokee) help me look up and pull my arm safely from the mire, protecting me from what I might find in its depths.

But the girl who makes me dream the dreams I already have, the splendour in my life, is the girl I share my life with. I say girl, for the mighty woman that she is, makes me feel young at heart and as I grow ever older, it’s nice to feel such lightness in my life. It is not often that I dedicate a piece to one person, but I could never say enough about the wonder that she is, the splendour in my life so maybe just this once eh…

LII

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower
https://maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com
fhttp://facebook.com/maxpowerbooks
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood
http://getbook.at/Darkly-Wood-II
http://getbook.at/Little-Big-Boy
http://getbook.at/Larry-Flynn
http://getbook.at/Bad-Blood

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