Post 78 – ‘Oh yes … total chaos everywhere!’

There were helicopters over the Hudson and Central Park with police sirens wailing all the way down from Harlem. It could all have been just a bad dream. But the phone was ringing beside my bed, and my news agency assistant editor was hysterical. ‘There have been explosions in Brooklyn and Manhattan,’ he yelled. ‘And there are people protesting all over the place … can you get out there now, Rudi, and see what’s happening … and Jed called to say he wants to see you when he gets in this morning.’

            Sure – no problem. I was curious as I got out of bed and looked along the Hudson from one of my apartment windows. I could see a police helicopter hovering, and sirens were still wailing on the streets. ‘We’ve had enough of white cops shooting and assaulting us for no reason,’ a black guy said when I spoke with him earlier at a ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest rally in Brooklyn. It all seemed to be rather serious, and my wife was staring at me from a picture in our once shared living room. But she wasn’t around now, and the last time we spoke she said we should maybe get a divorce. 

            I stopped a cab on the corner of 100th Street – only I didn’t think the driver wanted to go to Central Park or any further down into Manhattan. ‘It is crazy all around the tourist streets,’ he said. ‘And blacks are throwing rocks at the cops.’ He was a Hungarian migrant he told me when I said I’d make the trip worth his while. ‘Always I wanted to come here,’ he told me. ‘In East Europe we think the US life is good – but now I not sure any more … these black people are out of control – and you must be careful if you see any.’

            There was a woman’s voice on the cab radio speaking with horror about an explosion in Times Square. ‘We have reports that our Governor has called in the National Guard,’ she said, ‘and the Mayor has requested that people stay inside their homes and business premises until it is safe to go out onto the streets.’

            There were large crowds facing lines of cops around Central Park. ‘This is totally fucking weird,’ a young guy said when I got out of my cab. He was a student at Harvard who had come to New York for a family birthday celebration. I cautiously showed my news agency ID to a cop who was prepared to talk provided we retreated from the jeering crowd in front of us. ‘These people have no legitimate grievances,’ he told me. ‘They’re just taking any opportunity to fuck it all up … and it’s been like this since our new President took over in the White House.’

            The cops, however, were holding back on firing into the demonstrators or going for them with truncheons. But it was something I had never witnessed before in New York, and the Mexican cab driver who took me down to Times Square was baffled by what was happening. ‘If this continues,’ he said, ‘I will go back to Cancun, where at least it’s peaceful. Because this is not what I expected when I crossed your border into Texas.’

            The entrance to an apartment block had been shattered by the explosion in Times Square and several people had been killed, with at least a dozen others injured. ‘I’ve never seen anything like this,’ an elderly Chinese guy said, ‘and I’ve lived with my family here in New York for almost half a century.’

            I wanted to see what had happened in Brooklyn where a cafe had apparently been blown up with several casualties. But the bridge was closed and my news agency editor, Jed, was calling from Washington Square. ‘Come over here now, Rudi,’ he said, ‘and make it quick, because the National Guard is being deployed, and they may cut off a lot of Manhattan.’ On the way down I was diverted from the entrance to our President’s Trump Tower, which had cops with automatic weapons all around the fifty story building. I was nervous about walking any further, but the streets were unusually clear for what would normally be a busy working day, and I got to Washington Square without any problems.

            ‘So what’s happening out there?’ the Puerto Rican doorman asked when he had checked my ID, which he didn’t normally do. ‘I think a lot of people are unhappy,’ I said. I had never seen it as bad as this before anywhere in the States – although our new President did get some folk agitated when he first took office.

            ‘If this happened in Puerto Rico, the military would be out in force,’ the doorman told me. ‘And if anyone looked the wrong way at a soldier, they would be shot – with no questions afterwards.’

            I hadn’t been to my doorman’s country, but I did appreciate that Latinos could get excited if there was any trouble and the troops had bullets for their guns. I wasn’t sure what to expect on the eighth floor of our building, but the newsroom was full, and one of our reporters had a head injury from when a protestor hit him in Brooklyn as our guy tried to get a shot of him waving a flag picture of our President with a swastika above his head.

            My editor Jed’s tie was loose and he hadn’t shaved. But our executive chairman gave me a welcoming grin as Jed escorted two of my colleagues out of his office. ‘What’s happening here is serious,’ he said when he returned, and our chairman nodded in agreement. ‘There is a spontaneity that’s difficult to explain,’ Jed said. ‘But there are indications of similar tendencies all around Europe and our board members feel we need to reflect this in the bulletins we send out to our clients.’

            ‘It is indeed very unusual, Rudi,’ my chairman said. ‘But the agitation in Europe does seem to be filtering into what we’re now starting to experience in the States – and particularly so over the past twenty-four hours. We feel we need someone over there now who can report back to us on what’s happening – and we reckon you’re the right person for this, Rudi.’

            OK – I’m a little puzzled, but I nod like I’m on board, which gets me a grin from our chairman. His migrant relatives came originally from Sardinia where they were being threatened by the local mafia. But it’s now down to Jed to tell me where I’ve got to go to and what I need to concentrate on. He was focusing on my face and his mouth was opening when the phone rang on his desk. He seemed nervous as he respectfully took the call, during which he said ‘yes’ several times and concluded with ‘sure – we’re here right now, and we look forward to seeing you both shortly.’

            ‘It’s those people from Washington,’ he said to our Chairman as he replaced the phone receiver. ‘They’re on their way in from the airport just now … with a military escort.’

            Our Chairman nodded and then took control. ‘We have been asked to assist our State Department in Washington,’ he said to me. ‘And we have of course agreed. The people on their way in from the airport both work for the Government, and they will give you a clear indication of what they’ll want you to do while you’re working overseas for us, Rudi.’

*************

            Jed fastened up his tie and ran a comb through his hair as we waited – and within minutes a pot of coffee had arrived with a generous plate of fresh croissants. I wanted to probe a little, but our Chairman had ushered me towards a chair where I stayed until a smiling secretary arrived with two guys in suits.

            ‘Gentlemen – it’s good to see you again,’ our Chairman said. ‘And this is Rudi Flynn, who we are happy to send to Europe and beyond on your behalf.’

            ‘Hi Rudi,’ one of them said, offering his hand as he approached. ‘I’m Jim McQuaid, and this is Frank Bracken. We both work for our Government’s State Department in Washington, and we are concerned about the way it’s going just now in various parts of the world. We need someone like yourself, who works as a journalist, to go out and see what’s happening – initially in Europe, but perhaps later in some other countries.’

            Jed and our Chairman were both looking at me encouragingly, and I needed to be careful. I was simply a youngish Irish American with quite a good job. I wasn’t a spy or a member of the Washington Government, and I wasn’t sure what McQuaid and Bracken were actually after.

            ‘I would of course wish to do whatever I could to assist the State Department,’ I said cautiously. ‘But I have to say I’m not really sure about what you actually want me to do in Europe or elsewhere.’

            ‘It’s not a problem, and we’ll go through the brief with you,’ McQuaid said with a friendly smile. ‘But first off, I’d really like to try one of those croissants and maybe some coffee.’

            The agreeable secretary was outside, and she returned with a smile as soon as Jed called her. The croissants she served us with were delicious and very welcome, as indeed was the coffee. But when we had all sampled this improvised breakfast, McQuaid and Bracken drew up a couple of chairs so that they could focus on myself, Jed and our Chairman.

            ‘We got news of what was happening here in New York as we left Washington,’ McQuaid said and Bracken nodded. ‘It is certainly unusual, but we have recently had similarly unsettling incidents in other parts of our country, which give us cause for concern.’

            Our new President had certainly rocked the boat on a number of occasions since coming to office. But I wanted to know what these two State Department guys were after in Europe.

            ‘We are concerned about the political situation in France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Eastern Europe, Britain and Ireland,’ McQuaid said pre-emptively. ‘With the possible exception of Ireland, there are anti-Islamic and serious rightist movements that are gaining support in all of these countries just now, Rudi … and this is primarily what we would like you to check out initially, starting perhaps with Southern Ireland where nationalists have been burning Union Jacks outside the once Protestant university at Trinity College in Dublin. There has also been some Islamist activity in Ireland, along with threats to the Protestant community in West Cork from Republicans who may or may not have links with the IRA.’

            My father had a farm up near Yosemite in the US, and all I had ever heard from him about Ireland was to do with the mid-nineteenth century potato famine that had virtually halved the population and driven many of my Irish ancestors to the US.   

            OK – I didn’t have any problems about going over to Ireland and then progressing to other countries in Europe. But who should I report to and would I still do some journalism?

            ‘Yes, of course,’ Bracken said with a slight lisp. ‘You are already reasonably well known as a journalist, so we would expect you to still file reports on whatever you discover. Jed will continue to be your main contact, and if we want you to go for anything specifically, we will place the request through your office here. But if at any stage you have problems while you are abroad, we would expect you to go straight to the nearest US embassy and just give them your name. They will then do whatever they can to assist you. Also, because of the nature of your work for us, the State Department will enhance your salary, which will continue to be paid by your agency here, along with any expenses you may incur on our behalf.’

            And that was it. There were parting handshakes all round, along with reassuring smiles from the two State Department guys, who were then taken back downstairs by our obliging secretary. When they were gone, Jed, our Chairman and I looked out of the window to see if we could spot our visitors military escorts. But they were nowhere to be seen, and our Chairman was already taking a full bottle of Irish whisky from his brief case.

            ‘In the five years you’ve been with us, Rudi,’ he said, ‘you’ve done some excellent work. But now that you are about to serve your country, I think it would be appropriate for us to wish you well with a good luck toast.’

            Jed had already found some glasses, which our Chairman filled with generous measures of whisky, and when we had toasted each other I took my first swig of the Jameson’s.

            ‘Your intuition is first rate, Rudi,’ Jed said before our next glass. ‘You quickly get a feel for what’s happening, wherever you are … and that’s all you’ll need for this assignment. Just go in and work out what’s going on. Take initiatives if you feel they’re appropriate … then let us know what you find, and what you think may happen next.’ \

Post 77 #My Worst Date – and I thought I loved her … but!!

Glory be to God – but it’s Gloria I’m writing about, and it’s a little scary! We first met at Universal City, where Gloria had a bit-part in a film and I was hoping to interview a feisty English actress for a US magazine. I was very taken by Gloria when I first saw her. She had a great figure with incredible legs and dark eyes that drew you to her in the hope that one might discover a little more about this amazing woman.

“I was wondering if perhaps you might like to have lunch with me tomorrow?” I asked tentatively. “There’s a place not far from here that looks down on Toluca Lake,” I suggested. “We could meet here and I’d drive us up to the restaurant – what do you think?”

She stared at me for a while with a mischievous twinkle in her enticing eyes. “Yes – sure, why not,” she eventually answered. “But now I’ve got to go, Phil. We have this absolute bastard who’s directing the movie I’m presently contracted for, and if I’m late when he starts there’s a chance I may get fired and escorted to the gates here at Universal City … so take care, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I was shaking slightly as she left the canteen where we had been chatting over coffee. I kept fantasising about the glorious Gloria as I drove down to Los Angeles. She was a very attractive woman, and I was captivated by her smiley good looks. I should perhaps have spent a little time going back over some of my more impulsive interactions with attractive women. Several of these had been disastrous – including marriage to my wife, who was indeed a beautiful woman. But after a few months of our being together in New York, where I was based, I discovered that my lovely bride was in conjugal congress with one of my friends. I then discovered that she had also been romantically involved with some other woman. So after we split up, I vowed to try and be more careful with romantic liaisons in the future.

I had been on my own for several months now, however, and I found that I was constantly yearning for some sort of emotional attachment and physical interactions with an appealing woman. I showered with enthusiasm the next morning and then took a light breakfast at my downtown LA hotel. I was careful as I drove my hire car back up towards Universal City. I didn’t want to get distracted or involved in any sort of traffic altercation that might hold me up. But the sun was shining and I was in good form when I finally got to the studio at Universal City where Gloria was working for the morning on her espionage movie.

“So you’re here to see Miss Johnston?” a doorman asked and I nodded. “They normally finish about now,” he said. “And she’s certainly a very attractive woman,” he added with what I thought was a smirk. He then took a call, but when he returned the smirk was still there. “Well I guess us guys have been taking a bit of a battering lately from the #MeToo brigade around here in Hollywood. I mean from what I read in the papers and see on TV you’d think that any guys linked in with the movie business just wanted to squeeze women’s butts or breasts. And frankly, I think a lot of this stuff is ridiculous. If you find yourself with a beautiful woman, why wouldn’t one wish to squeeze her knee – or maybe even suggest that you might like to take a shower with her. I mean, it’s not all that different really from what most of us do with our girlfriends – and it’s just a bit of fun!”

I didn’t want to listen to too much more of this, but fortunately the doorman was once again called to the phone, and I could see Gloria approaching before he returned to the reception counter. “So Rudi – it’s good to see you,” she said, looking disdainfully towards the doorman who was still on the phone. “That guy’s an unpleasant fucking bastard,” she confided as we left the studio. “And I can’t help thinking that maybe he’s been colluding with some of our producers and directors who’ve been touching up unsuspecting women here in Hollywood for some time now … I don’t want to sound too harsh about it, Rudi, but I fully support our #MeToo women, and if the opportunity ever arose, I can tell you I would happily give that guy on our studio door – and any other lecherous gropers – a good hard kick in the crutch!”

I was a little concerned about this, but as we got into my hired car, Gloria laid a friendly hand just above my left knee. “So tell me?” she asked. “Have you recently been seriously involved with another woman?”

Yes – I had been, but I was keen to give my lovely Gloria the impression it was now finished, and that I was looking forward to whatever the future might bring in the way of romantic interludes that touched my heart and had me in a state of constant excitement.

Toluca Lake was a joy to behold from our patio table at the restaurant where we finally stopped. “You might like perhaps to try one of our cocktails?” a charming Mexican waiter asked. “Oh yes, please,” Gloria answered with a winning smile. “And I’m sure you might like to join me, Rudi – yes?”

Of course – I would normally start with a gin and tonic, but Gloria was already making choices for each of us. “So – what about you?” I asked with interest as our waiter departed. “You are a stunner, Gloria – and I’d say you’ve had guys in a frenzy for quite a while now.” She smiled at this and then gave a little nod. “To some extent, I guess, Rudi. But to be honest, I’ve reached the stage where what I most want is a good, loving relationship with the right person … and I think that’s where most of us end up. I’m forty next month, so maybe soon I’ll be too old to have kids, but right now I think what I want more than anything else is a good guy that I can love and be loved by.”

I think that as our cocktails and then some food arrived I was seriously falling for Gloria. She kept smiling and mesmerising me as we talked of some places we had each visited and where I had worked recently as a journalist. “I love France, Spain and Italy,” she confided. “And I think I could happily settle in the warmer parts of any of these countries. But I was wondering if perhaps when we’ve finished here, Rudi, you could possibly take me down to LA?” Of course – it would be a pleasure, and if any opportunity arose I wanted to arrange another date with her.

When we reached downtown LA, Gloria asked if I would like to take a coffee with her at her apartment? Oh yes – I would love to. So she directed me towards an underground car park, and when we eventually got to some lifts she linked into my arm and then blew me a playful kiss.

“Perhaps we could have another drink,” she suggested. “What do you think?” I was certainly up for it, and when we reached Gloria’s top floor apartment, she took off her light silk coat and asked if I would like to give her my jacket. I had a wallet in the inside pocket with a few hundred dollars, but I had no qualms about taking off my jacket and handing it to Gloria. “So now,” she said when we went into her nicely furnished sitting room. “Let me get you that drink.”

The views around us were mainly of other buildings. But there was some good light coming through the windows, and when she had poured me a decent gin and tonic, Gloria took my hand and pouted her lovely lips.

“I would like you to kiss me,” she said, which had my free hand shaking as I looked for a table on which to rest my gin and tonic. We then embraced properly as our lips touched and I felt that I was in heaven. Her generous breasts pressed appealingly against my chest, and when we finally parted Gloria led me into her bedroom with a quiet smile. “I think now, Rudi, we should take off our clothes and see what happens next.”

Was I dreaming, or was this really happening? I almost fell over as I tried to get a leg out of my trousers. But when we were both naked Gloria came to embrace me, and I was excited as her nipples touched my chest. We then lay down on the bed, and I sensed that there was moisture around her clitoris and vagina. This had to be a perfect Hollywood epic, where I was encouraged gently through each phase until Gloria finally withdrew her lips and said “I think now is the time, Rudi, for us to make love.”

She was indeed welcoming as we joined together and then said: “Hard and fast until I scream – and if my nails cut into your back it’s because I’m a passionate woman and I want to come with you, just as the sperm comes out of your penis.”

A good rhythm soon evolved between us: slowly at first, and then faster with more excitement. She squealed slightly when I couldn’t hold back for any longer, and in a matter of moments, we were excitedly coming together. I hadn’t felt so good since the first time I made love to my now divorced wife, and Gloria also seemed to have enjoyed the experience as we finally lay exhausted but properly pleasured in each other’s arms.

“I think maybe now is the time for tea,” she said eventually. “And could you then give me a lift to a place just a few blocks from here? I’ve got to see someone about another movie in Mexico – and you could maybe pop up to Universal City tomorrow where we might have lunch together in the park surrounding the studios?”

Of course – I would be delighted to go along with what she was proposing. I would have liked a longer after-play session with Gloria, but I accepted the fact that she had to go and follow up on her next movie contract. When we were dressed, we nudged closely together as we took tea with biscuits on her living-room sofa. She then went and got my jacket from a coatrack in the hall just before we left the apartment and took a lift down to the underground car park. I followed her directions along the street outside and around a couple of corners to where she said she would get out.

We kissed lightly before parting. “And I look forward to seeing you for lunch at Universal City tomorrow,” Gloria said as she left the car and then turned to wave towards me with a smile. I felt it had been a truly exciting dating experience, with a lot of enjoyable passion.

For a while I thought I really was living in another world, and I loved it. I did, however, need to call my editor in New York. But first I felt I should have a drink in the bar of my downtown LA hotel. So I ordered a large gin and tonic, and when it arrived I took out my wallet to pay … but my cash wasn’t there. I knew I had over three hundred dollars for working expenses when I paid for our lunch overlooking Toluca Lake. But now the cash was gone, and I was totally thrown.

Was there maybe someone else in the apartment when Gloria took my jacket and hung it up in the hallway? It was possible, but I thought unlikely. So what had happened to my money? My credit and debit cards were still in my wallet, but the dollars were gone. Should I go back to her apartment to ask Gloria what might have happened? I could do that, but as we were due to meet for lunch the next day at Universal City, it was possibly best for me to leave it until then.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a contact number for Gloria, so I paid for my first and second drinks at the bar of my hotel with a debit card. I then called my editor in New York and asked if I might return in a couple of days, as I didn’t really have much else to say about Los Angeles – other than that I was quite disappointed by what had happened.

I typed up a local feature story on my computer in the morning and then drove a little reluctantly to Universal City to see Gloria. “I’m sorry, sir,” the guy at the studio door said with yet another smirk. “She finished here yesterday, and my understanding is that she was due to get a flight down to Mexico City this morning … why sir, what has happened? Do I take it that the lovely Miss Johnston has – shall we say – taken you for a little ride on your first date together? Well – I know it may not help much, sir … but this would not be the first time this has happened. You may also not be aware of the fact that our lovely Gloria frequently charges admirers who wish to have intimate indulgences with her … in fact, sir, the lady is a whore!”

I was furious but helpless – yes, it was true: I had been taken for a costly ride by the lovely Gloria on our first date. But I guess these things happen sometimes. So in the future I’d need to be more careful with my dates – and it might be for the best if I didn’t carry too much cash in my wallet … but there you go!
End.

Post 76 – Happy days in my Land of the Green Harp

It started in Limerick, where my grandfather Timothy was the Mayor and made toffees on the side. His lovely wife Fanny was a wino who persuaded their gardener to pop out occasionally to buy whiskey, which she hid under the bed. We moved later to County Clare, where my grandma Mary Rose had once carried secret messages for the local Fenian rebels. This was fine until one night the Scottish Black and Tans – most of whom had been released from jail as British and Irish soldiers fought on the front line in France – surrounded  my grandma’s house at Stamor Park and were about to set it alight when a sympathetic Irish cop with rank arrived and stopped the murderous auxiliaries.

I enjoyed school holidays in the beautiful Burren country that gave us weeks of rural bliss each summer – although there were also seaside visits to Lahinch and Kilkee, where girls might smile invitingly as lads blushed on the seafront. One day, I visited an old cemetery outside the town of Ennis, where my uncle was buried. He had worked as a bank clerk in Ennis, where he fancied an attractive young woman. But she had fallen instead for a more robust footballer, so my uncle migrated in despair and joined the wartime British Air Force. He kept in touch with the family in County Clare, but as he returned one morning from a bombing mission over occupied France, the Germans targeted his plane and downed it in the English Channel. His body was brought back by some RAF friends in civilian clothes and buried discreetly in the old Ennis cemetery.

There were difficult school years later with the Holy Ghost Fathers, where rugby dominated, and if you couldn’t play with aplomb, you’d be allocated to substitute or touch line duties. But I got on well with a nun who ran the infirmary, and I was occasionally sent to collect prescriptions for the holy sister. This gave me a chance to sit in central Dublin cafes and watch as interesting ladies passed by – with occasional smiles. I progressed to study medicine, but I soon tired of examining the skins of tomatoes and cutting up fish as we progressed through a pre-med year of physics, chemistry, botany and zoology.

The Archbishop was not happy about my then switching over, with my good mother’s permission, to the still mainly Protestant Trinity College, which was where my life really started. We had students from Northern Ireland, England, the US, Africa and Asia. But it was young women crossing the cobblestones on our Front Square who really caught my attention. As a Catholic lad, it was perhaps a little unusual for me to chat with Doreen, a delightful Protestant girl from County Antrim, whose father commanded a British Navy frigate in the Mediterranean. And then there was Caitlin, a London socialite, who insisted that one should always tend more towards being a little adventurous with romantic interludes. I fell in love many times as I wrote short stories for small college magazines and occasionally drank too much when surrounded by excited student actors from our Players Theatre. This usually led to more adventurous excursions to the pubs off Grafton Street – and in particular to the one where actors, writers and poets congregated.

I fell quickly for a young Abbey actress who lived in a room above a newsagent’s not far from a pricey hotel on St Stevens Green. When she wasn’t acting on stage, she did bit parts for movies at the Ardmore Studios, and she quickly had me enrolled as an extra on a Somerset Maugham film where Kim Novak had a lead role. All that was required was for me to fasten up a newly positioned top button on a tweed jacket, which gave an Edwardian appearance of sorts, and got me a grin with a nod from the Hollywood director Henry Hathaway.

I eventually began to take trips out of Dublin and headed first for West Cork where a friend’s family lived in the once almost exclusively Protestant Castletownshend. The rural life from Kinsale to Skibbereen and in between had great appeal, along with warm winds from the nearby Gulf Stream. But it was in the Castletownsend pub that I met a whole new group of expat writers, most of whom had been attracted by Ireland’s generous tax allowances for people who tapped into their imagination to write stories – some of which rewarded the scribblers with decent pay cheques. ‘And you’ll have another Guinness maybe?’ one of them generously suggested when I had tried my first half pint of the enticing stout.

Could I perhaps write stories and live tax free on the proceeds in Ireland? It was indeed a tempting thought, but after a brief gap year job on the Athens Daily Post, I was recruited as a junior leader-writer on a London tabloid, which required that I should occasionally mock the Germans in sixty words while praising the virtues of British farmers in one hundred and twenty. I missed my lovely Land of the Green Harp, although I was still able to return occasionally for holidays that usually started in the pubs off Grafton Street and then progressed to the enchanting Burren country in County Clare, followed by maybe a brief trip down to see a tax-exempted expat writer or two in West Cork.

The Amazon Author Page for all of my books is on   There are also #FREE chapter #extract links to my other stories + pieces of sometimes disgraceful (and occasionally sleezy/erotic!) journalism on ‘contents’ above or on  http://bit.ly/1a4d4bt

Post 75 – Holocaust memories are grim … but what awaits us in the future?

I walked from my hotel in Prague along by the Vltava river until I reached the old Jewish cemetery at Josefov. It was quite small and did not in any way give an indication of how many Czech Jews were sent first to the local detention camp at Terezin and then on to the German extermination camps of Auschwitz and Treblinka in occupied Poland.

I thought briefly of my family members who had fought with the British Air Force and the US Army to defeat the barbaric Germans. We were lucky I guess to survive. For if Hitler’s troops had reached the United Kingdom and Ireland our lives, and those of our children, would have been very different.

I was pleased to make a small contribution in Euros towards the upkeep of Prague’s old Jewish Cemetery. But I could hear an ancient clock tower bell announcing that it was now mid-morning – so I hurried through narrow little streets until I reached the Old Town Square. The cafe I needed was nearby, and I could see an attractive young woman sitting at a table on the terrace. She smiled as I approached, and I was reassured by her recognition.

‘Phil,’ she said, extending a delicately manicured hand. ‘You do resemble the last photograph I saw of you in New York.’

It is not always a good idea for journalists to be photographed with pieces they’ve written. But Bella Samirov was a joy to meet, and my hands shook slightly as I sat opposite her and a waiter appeared.

‘For me, I think orange juice,’ she said – ‘and you Phil?’

A large Irish whiskey would have been very welcome, but I thought it best to hold off and went for coffee.

‘It is a pleasure to meet with you,’ I told Bella, ‘and I really do appreciate your agreeing to see me here in Prague.’

‘There are many memories, Phil, which for me are frightening. I was born in London and grew up in the States … but my grandmother escaped from here on a Kindertransport train in 1940 while she was still a girl. All of my relatives who remained were deported to the camp at Terezin, which the Germans referred to as Theresienstadt. They were then taken to Auschwitz or Treblinka in occupied Poland, where they were exterminated.’

I had read about this, but it was a little surreal to be sitting here in Prague with this beautiful young woman – most of whose Czech Jewish family had been murdered by the Nazis.

‘Did your grandmother speak to you about what it had been like here in Czechoslovakia before the Germans arrived?’ I asked, and she nodded slowly.

‘It depended on where you were,’ she said after a moment. ‘The Czechs were anti-semitic – especially amongst the Catholics. But we were also hated in the Sudetenland and in Slovakia. The Slovaks actively assisted the Germans in deporting us to the concentration camps – and it was much the same in Bohemia and Monrovia. In all we lost almost a quarter of a million of our people, although many more Polish and Russian Jews were eliminated by the Nazis … but today there are less than four thousand Jews in what was Czechoslovakia.’

My hands were shaking again beneath the table when our waiter returned with a smile and a tray with coffee and orange juice.

‘Later, I will take you for lunch, Phil, with some Jewish people I know whose family survived the Holocaust here in Prague. It is maybe good for you to meet them … I mean, I am essentially just an actress in the States with a few scary memories … but I would like you to tell me about how you see the future now for all of us in the West.’

In other circumstances, I could have chatted amicably for hours with the beautiful Bella Samirov. Right now though, I needed to try and focus on the world we lived in so that I might be able to answer her question.

‘It is difficult,’ I said after a while. But her gorgeous pale blue eyes were still waiting for a response. So I whizzed my thoughts discreetly around ISIS lunatics with nukes; the awful possibility of Donald Trump being elected as our next US President; Putin going completely mad in the Crimea and the very real possibility of the rightist Front National taking over in France – with the even more scary Pegida neo-Nazis toppling the saintly Mrs Merkel in Germany. Eventually, however, I came back to the heroic US and UK pilots, sailors and soldiers who had seventy years previously saved us from the awful Adolf and an army of Japanese maniacs.

‘Bella,’ I said as steadily as I could. ‘It goes up and down all the time wherever we are … but I think that what is good and what we value usually survives and triumphs in the end. I’m afraid I haven’t been to church for a while … but I do believe that we have a lot to celebrate in the West … and if we continue to make progress together, I’m sure the world will be a better place for all of us.’

For a moment I thought I might have lost her, but gradually her lovely blue eyes brightened again into a smile.

‘Phil,’ she said, moving her delicate hand across the table. I wasn’t quite sure about how I should respond, but I moved mine from my knee to the table, where Bella touched it lightly.

‘You are right,’ she said quietly. ‘I strive to feel like that when I am occasionally overwhelmed by what happened here in the late nineteen thirties and early forties … but now I want to take you for a walk around this fine old square … with perhaps a visit to the church we all love.’

The Amazon Author Page for all of my books is on   There are also #FREE chapter #extract links for my stories on ‘contents’ above or on  http://bit.ly/1a4d4bt

Post 74 – Looking back at 2016 … OMG – no!!

So what happened in the year just passed? A nice enough – but not very effective – lawyer President Obama prepared for retirement as the weird-haired Trump emerged with a popular snarl – ‘we’re gonna screw you Muslim bastards – an’ for starters, you’re not welcome here in the US of A … so go fuck yourselves in the deserts … or maybe just drown as your rubber boats sink off the Greek coast!!’

Angela of the once Nazi Germany said: ‘Our borders are open, so come you saintly Muslim refugees and enjoy life here in our thriving West.’ A nice thought – only the rightist Pegida voters in Germany said ‘no – and if you continue with this Mrs Merkel – we will send you to the equivalent of a political Auschwitz – ya!!

There was a lot of talk around transgender issues with Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn. ‘I am a woman now’ she declared. ‘So look at my legs, boobs and hair … and think of what we might get up to together … only I’m not quite finished down below my waist yet!!’

Here in her gracious Majesty’s still occasionally United Kingdom a chunky Sunday Times columnist posed provocatively in a bathrobe while clutching assertively at a bottle of fizz. She was not entirely enticing, but she gave us an ostensibly lurid taste of what we might expect – with red toe-nails and a bespectackled smile (of sorts).

We have a rather large underclass in Britain that costs us around £30b a year – they don’t work and they are mainly into drugs, alcohol and mental health issues. There is a black guy in our Stoke Newington council car park who sidles up to hapless women as they leave their cars and implies that he has mental health deficiencies as he requests monetary contributions. The scared women usually respond with pound coins – or fivers at Christmas – after which, the ostensibly loony black beggar goes to the nearest betting shop, where he frequently wins!

We are a bit soft and overly liberal in Stokey, where the delightful US WholeFoods is a winning target for thieves. They wander into the store with a smile, snatch whatever they can get away with, and then sell it on in nearby pubs. Our cops are aware of this, but right now they are more preoccupied with terrorism and what might happen if black robbers are seen to be targets for police with guns who feel that they must fire if it is necessary.

Along with ISIS and encounters with beggars, robbers and addicts seeking methadone at local chemists, there have also been reports of assertive gay cruising, late night parties and copulation on the gravestones in our once sacred and lovely old Abney Park cemetery. But right now we are more concerned about the lure of ISIS for our migrant Pakistani and Asian youngsters. Previously, frustrated Islamic fundamentalist teenagers spent their time slashing the tyres of Hassidic Jewish residents in London’s Stamford Hill. Now, however, their focus has changed and they are heading for ISIS enclaves in the Middle East and North Africa.

A semi-literate British Islamic boy recently posted an image of the severed heads of opponents impaled on railings in Syria. He referred to them as street decorations for the Muslim festival of Eid. He then went on to describe Jews as ‘parasites’ and called for them to be ‘put back into the gas chambers’.

Let us hope that 2017 is a bit better all round!!

The Amazon Author Page for all of my books is on   There are also #FREE chapter #extract links for my stories on ‘contents’ above or on  http://bit.ly/1a4d4bt

Post 73 – Mary Rose and the Rebels

In February 1916 there was snow over the Burren country in Ireland’s west Clare. People in the towns and villages were wrapped in warm coats with wool blankets for the old folk and children. In Ennis, Mary Rose Casey made sure that groceries had been delivered to her Stamor Park home and that the youngest of her children was happy with her nanny. She then walked from her house past the old Friary and up the street to Slattery’s.

People in the bar nodded and smiled towards her, for she was a popular woman. A barman gestured discreetly towards a curtained corridor as she passed and then paused outside a large oak door. Inside, six men sat with tea around a table. They all looked up as Mary Rose entered, and she was warmly greeted by Michael McMahon.

‘You may not have met Mary,’ he said to the others, ‘but she has been doing great work for the Fenians, and we hope she will join us in Dublin for our Easter Rising.’

Mary Rose smiled at this and took a free seat at one end of the table.

‘Do you have any news for us, Mary?’ McMahon asked.

She kept her head down as she composed herself and then looked up to quietly take in each of the Fenian Volunteers.

‘The Black and Tans are coming here tomorrow,’ she said slowly. ‘We think they are going for Brian Fogerty – so we need to warn him to get his family out of the house by midday … and he should go too, because if he doesn’t, he may be shot … and whatever happens they will burn his house to the ground.’

The Volunteers shook their heads and then clenched their fists in anger, for they knew that Fogerty was not an active Republican, although he clearly sympathised with their cause.

‘This is only going to get worse,’ McMahon told the Volunteers. ‘These Scottish bastards have been sent over here to intimidate us … but we’ll be ready for them when they attack us … and we’ll need all of you.’

An ambush might account for six or eight of the hated Scottish Black and Tans. But their murderous activities against peaceful Irish folk were escalating, and a gesture of defiance was surely needed.

‘We’ll stop these Scottish bastards tomorrow,’ McMahon said, ‘and we’ll find a safe house for Fogerty and his family. But the rising has been confirmed in Dublin for Easter, and we’ll need all of you there, along with as many more as we can get from around the country to raise our flag.’

For now, there wasn’t anything else to say, other than for each of the Volunteers to shake hands with their leader and nod respectfully towards Mary Rose Casey.

‘We’ll meet here again in the morning,’ McMahon said, ‘and your guns will be in the cellar as usual … so god speed and good luck to you all.’

When the men left, Mary Rose got up and walked over towards McMahon with a warm smile.

‘You’re doing a fine job, Michael,’ she said, which caused him to blush slightly, for he felt the same about her.

‘We don’t know how it will go tomorrow, or indeed with the Rising, Mary,’ he said quietly. ‘But the time has come now for us to make a stand against the British … and we must do all we can to stop these evil Scottish criminals they’ve sent over to bully us into submission.’

For now though, their families needed them. But before they parted, McMahon took Mary Rose’s delicate hand. ‘You’re a grand woman,’ he said. ‘And if the King’s criminals go back to England, I’ll want our first Irish President to give you a gold medal with a harp on it.’

There was more to say, but they each had pressing commitments. so they just gave each other a smile and allowed their eyes to linger briefly on each other before they parted.

The Amazon Author Page for all of my books is on   There are also #FREE chapter #extract links for my stories on ‘contents’ above or on  http://bit.ly/1a4d4bt

Post 72 – Political chaos in the UK … but my editor is getting hysterical about missiles & bombs!!

The gracious Queen Elizabeth is now Britain’s longest serving monarch – and she’s in great form. At Westminster, however, Members of Parliament are confused and concerned. For the ludicrous Labour lefty candidate Jeremy Corbyn has just emerged as the party’s next leader.

I am invited for lunch at the House of Commons by a Ministerial Advisor, and his hands are shaking with excitement as we take a drink on the terrace.

‘You realise, Phil, that this could give our Conservatives another ten years in power,’ he says.

Oh yes – I can see where he’s coming from. No sane Brits are going to vote for Labour if it is led by a lefty loony who wants to squeeze the reasonably well off while shaking hands with Islamic State sympathisers in the Middle East and North Africa.

OK – so if Labour is finished for now, what exactly are the Tories going to do over the next decade or so?

‘It’s pretty clear, Phil,’ my man suggests. ‘We’ll revive the economy, so that everyone benefits … and Britain will once again be great – literally!’

So we’ll have happy days ahead – but what about those nasty Islamists who are getting into mustard gas and may soon move on to missiles with nukes? There are drunken Labour MPs crowding us out on the House of Commons terrace, so we must go inside for lunch.

‘The thing is, Phil,’ my Ministerial Advisor contact says when we’re settled at a quiet table with a bottle of Prosecco. ‘We have to finally take on these bastards and deal with them. There are no other options – and I think the Americans would agree with us on that.’

I’m thinking of drones fired by RAF or US Air Force pilots on the ISIS strongholds in Syria, Iraq and North Africa. But I seem to be slightly out of the loop on this.

‘The drones are fine for individual targets,’ my man says. ‘But we’re now seriously looking once again at boots on the ground – and it will be a fight to the end.’

Well – it’s an interesting prospect. But when will this new strategy be implemented, and in the meanwhile what about the hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants who are pouring into Europe and streaming towards Germany.

‘Merkel’s people need some migrants,’ my contact says in a low voice. ‘The Germans are ageing and their birth rate is rather low.’

OK – but what happens when some of these nice Muslim migrants wake up to the fact that maybe our values in Europe are different to theirs? We’re quite into materialism; we like to make money and improve our lifestyles, and we’re not altogether in love with Mohammad and his followers.

‘Whatever, Phil,’ my Ministerial Advisor contact says resignedly. ‘We can’t keep these people out at the moment … so we just have to hope that they will join us and settle in.’

Right … only I’m thinking of 9/11 in the States and 7/7 here in the UK. Hundreds died and there were more to follow. A US Army Muslim Major woke up one morning and felt Allah was suggesting that he should murder some of his troops, which he did. Then there was the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris and there have been countless other incidents where Muslim migrants in the west have suddenly decided that they want to kill us.

‘How do you respond,’ I ask my Ministerial Advisor contact, ‘if voters feel you’re so far off what they’re after that they start voting for the extreme right?’

We’re pretty tolerant in the UK – but if pushed, we could well end up voting for UKIP or the English Defence League neo-fascists who want to deport all Muslim migrants from Britain.

‘This won’t happen, Phil,’ my now slightly rattled Ministerial Advisor contact says after a second glass of Parliamentary Prosecco. ‘We can embrace these people and ensure that they integrate peacefully with us … we have a lot to offer that is greatly appreciated.’

Another bottle of pricey Prosecco has arrived, but our phones are ringing.

‘Phil!’ my editor shouts. ‘Downing Street has been hit by a missile … and we have reports of explosions at Buckingham Palace and in the City. We don’t know what the fuck is happening … but can you check out whatever you can get … and if you see any Muslims with beards take pictures of them on your phone. I mean, this is serious man … it could be the end of what we’ve come to accept as our way of life here in the UK … and Christ – maybe everywhere!!’

@WriterRowan   #IAN Author Page:  http://bit.ly/1CapXQX 

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Post 71 – Comedy icons Lena & Amy fool around with guys & girls … but there are scary Islamic omens for sexy infidels!!

‘I’m not fat – just a little tubby,’ tattooed Lena tells the boys as she wanders around wearing a g-string and bra. There is some talk of work and places to live followed by eye-catching silences as faces come closer and mouths connect. The sex is frantic as passion surges, but next day the partners move around and chatterbox virgin Shoshanna squeaks ecstatically as she’s deflowered.

Lena Dunham is bright and popular and she’s moving up rapidly in the comedy world. Recently, in rural France with no internet or TV we watched some episodes of Girls on a computer – interspersed as weeks passed with Mad Men and Peaky Blinders. I couldn’t take more than two episodes of Girls at a time, and I kept wondering just who the cafe owner Alex might end up with as he engaged traumatically with Hannah, Marnie and Jessa. Adam, the carpenter/actor kept bundling Lena/Hanna across furniture and onto carpets before rag-dolling her with consummation in bed; but he seemed  to have difficulty in speaking + some psychologically challenging problems. While Marnie, a singer in the making, sought meaningful love while coping with disastrous liaisons.

Back in the UK, I discovered Amy Schumer, and I’m still reeling from what I’ve seen of her ‘Talking Dirty’ and ‘Trainwreck’. UK Sunday Times film critic Camilla Long says she’s ‘vulgar, dirty, drunk, trashy and frightening,’ and goes beyond all known boundaries. At the Fillmore Theatre in San Francisco she’s tall and blonde with great legs and a raunchy but knowing smile. In ‘Talking Dirty’ Amy starts by telling us that she doesn’t like guys coming on her face, thighs or stomach. She then moves on to ‘ass play’ which starts with a finger and is followed with allusions to uncircumcised members with ominously grey ‘hoods’.

She tells us of a condom getting stuck in her cervix  and there’s no question but that she can say the filthiest things in the sweetest manner. We hear of sex being too athletic with her former professional wrestler boy-friend Dolph Ziggler. “The first time I was like, ‘oh this is cool. Nobody ever rag-dolled me’ … But soon he was spinning me like a Globetrotter.”

Many of her fans applaud everything she says and want more – but there are exceptions, like in Lyfyette, Louisiana, where an agitated gunman opened fire during Amy’s ‘Trainwreck’ movie. He killed two women in the cinema audience and wounded nine others.

There has been talk of girls on girls with Lena and Amy – but Amy seems to be more into guys, with nostalgia for an incident where there was just one erect member, but no balls (or grandparents!). I guess it’s good to have a couple of sharp, sexually oriented female comedians, but one wonders – just a little – where it’s all going.

Perhaps if Allah’s Islamists go nuclear over our perceived decadence, we may be comforted in our radiation shelters with re-plays of Lena and Amy indulging our frail but now wilting fantasies. When we hit Muslims with the Crusades almost a thousand years ago, they faltered and collapsed. Now, however, these guys are back with a vengeance. They want to nuke us in the West, but why? Well … it’s complicated … but Allah’s extremists claim that we’ve passed beyond redemption with our overly indulgent lifestyles and sexually obscene pleasures … so Lena and Amy – we love you … but maybe you need to pull back – just a little!!

@WriterRowan   #IAN Author Page:  http://bit.ly/1CapXQX 

Post 70 – Transgender Challenges!

‘A British Army General has proposed that transgender soldiers should be permitted to fight on the front line. Up to now, women who were once men and men who had gone for being women were not permitted to go into military combat. OK – so Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox might – well just possibly – have made it as combat troops in the US or UK armies. But what happens if transgender recruitment seriously escalates and the new troops are posted to Islamist territories in North Africa or the Middle East? Wow – it’s too awful to imagine.

Let us consider a scenario where six male and female transgender troops are on a bombing raid in Iraq, Syria or Libya. They are being trained by straight sergeants, but something happens to the engine of their plane and they have to make an abrupt parachute exit. They land safely in the desert, but as they try to call their base, they are suddenly surrounded by ominously black Islamist flags. A few shots are fired, but the new arrivals are soon overpowered.

They are then led blindfolded and manacled to an ISIS enclave where they are separated. But within minutes ISIS guys are yelling and dragging naked and ostensibly male and female Western soldiers out into what was once an impoverished town square. The male captives appear to be women below the belt area and the women are definitely guys in the same parts. Unfortunately, none of the transgender military captives have had sex re-assignment or alteration surgery, which can be pricey, and certainly more than the cost of growing or cutting one’s hair.

The Islamists, however, are going berserk with shouts about infidels and abominably decadent Westerners. One refrains from thinking about or describing how the captivity of these unfortunate transgender soldier prisoners may end – but it doesn’t seem too promising. And at the very least one assumes that our military top brass may have to reconsider future assignments for our male or female transgender soldiers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What might or might not happen to decent transgender male or female troops if they were captured by Islamists in North Africa or the Middle East is perhaps just speculation. So maybe it is best to withdraw from current military combat zones and take a break in our liberal and much loved California.

I wanted to check out a rumour about a Mormon cattle bandit in Nevada, so I motored up from Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I left late so I had to stop off in Las Vegas, which is a very unusual and interesting place. The hotel I found was on the Strip, and it was a popular gambling haunt with smoking permitted at the tables. When I entered the building I saw a couple of guys who seemed to be walking in a way I associated with women. But what the hell, maybe they were just a little on the camp side, which is normal enough on occasions.

Over dinner, however, I saw some people who looked like women. I mean, they had breasts, dresses and high-heeled shoes. But without exception, they walked in an assertively male way with their shoulders swinging backwards and forwards. Maybe I was just confused, so I had another wine and a brandy with my coffee. I then wandered around the hotel and quickly became aware of the fact that many of the people I saw who looked like women were in fact guys wearing female clothes, and many of the guys dressed as men had a distinctly female aura about them. So what exactly was happening in this quaint hotel on the Las Vegas Strip? ‘It’s a transgender convention,’ a baggage handler told me discreetly at the bar. ‘They come here because we’re pretty tolerant, and they feel OK about walking around on the Strip.’

I was so confused by what I had experienced on my first night in Las Vegas that I couldn’t sleep. Lesbians and gays were pretty normal within my limited experience – I had good friends in both gender categories … so no problems. But what about these guy/girls and girl/guys who seemed to have booked most of the rooms in my hotel. How would I cope if I had rear view mirror eye contact with a rather macho guy/girl in an Uber cab? Should I grin and say what a lovely day it was, or get involved in a transgender debate? And likewise with the girl/guys – a bit of neutral banter perhaps?

My most pressing concern, however, was to do with what might happen if good transgender Brit or US troops got captured by ISIS. It wasn’t something I wanted to delve too deeply into. So I took off the next morning for Nevada. Well – whatever way you looked at it – Mormon cattle rustling bandits were a bit more straightforward than lovely transgender persons who might instigate Islamist caliphate lunatics towards a second crusade … albeit almost five centuries after the first one, which the West fortunately won!

@WriterRowan   #IAN Author Page:  http://bit.ly/1CapXQX 

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Post 69 – Is this weird woman lusting after Adolf?

My flight to Athens is diverted to Munich and we’re told that we’ll need to enjoy a twenty-four hour stop-over. Well that’s maybe good news if you’ve got some time to spare, which I haven’t. But the cab driver is an affable fellow and before we reach my stop-over hotel he tells me that we’re in the city’s main square at Marienplatz, ‘and that Mein Herr is our famous Glockenspiel. So I glance up at the crazy bunch of miniature figures that dance occasionally. The centre of Munich is indeed impressive, but I need some fresh air, so when I’ve checked into my hotel I go to look at the English Gardens. Already, there are groups of Germans in lederhosen quaffing massive glasses of beer in the rather agreeable green space, so I get myself a sample ale and sit at a small wooden table beside a flower bed. I’m reading a European edition of the New York Times when an attractive woman stops by with her coffee.

‘You are English?’ she asks.

More Irish American, ma’am, I guess. But I just nod with a smile.

‘So – if I may join you … yes?’

Of course – we might be able to talk about the state of the world, or Munich.

‘Hitler liked this city,’ she tells me. ‘And especially here in what we call the English beer Garden.’

Really – well, I’m not sure if I want to talk too much about Adolf or the Holocaust or the experiences of brave survivors like Primo Levi.

‘I am Brigitta,’ she tells me, and I guess she’s somewhere in her thirties. So I say I’m Phil, which gets me a welcoming smile.

‘And you know Phil that these are not good times for us just now?’

OK – Greece is imploding and Putin’s getting ready to topple the Ukranians, while Islamists work on how they might nuke the rest of us in the West. But I guess it has been worse.

‘Of course it has,’ Brigitta retorts sharply. ‘And we dealt with it, Phil.’

Oh my God … is she saluting Adolf here in the Munich Beer Gardens?

‘You think that because we are Germans we are somehow an evil nation that must be destroyed … yes?’

No – absolutely not. Angela Merkel is a decent woman, surely … and whatever about the past … well – it was seventy years ago.

‘I tell you something, Phil,’ Brigitta says, and I’m freezing because she’s leaning towards me and one of her neatly manicured hands is resting and then squeezing on the back of mine. ‘Our world is not good now,’ she says again. ‘There are people out there who need to be brought into line … and I think maybe quite ruthlessly … because otherwise we are doomed.’

This is one tough fraulein cookie I’m dealing with, and I’m trying to work out how I might slip my feet from under our table and perhaps make a run for it. But suddenly Brigitta is smiling and one of her hands is gently stroking my trembling wrist.

‘I have a penthouse studio near here,’ she tells me. ‘It has good views over Munich and you might like to see my paintings?’ Suddenly, Adolf seems to be fading away but I’m in a difficult situation. For if I reject Brigitta’s invitation  she may become belligerent and shout at me. What might my war-time hero Primo Levi have done, I’m wondering ? But my mobile is ringing, so I improvise a conversation. ‘OK …’ I tell my editor in New York. ‘I’m leaving now … and I should be back at the airport again in an hour … yes, of course, sir … absolutely!’

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