Kindle launch means free preview…

With today’s launch of the e-Book version of ‘Pins and Needles’ on Amazon, there’s now a preview available that you can read immediately before deciding if it’s for you. The link is below. I also want to send out a huge thank you to all of you who have bought the eBook or paperback and I really appreciate the feedback from those who have finished it. Thanks for passing it on too. The more readers the merrier 🙂


Mother launches acting career at 81…

If those suited people in glass offices are having trouble ‘thinking outside the box’ all they need to do is spend a while with my Mum. I awoke, this morning, at her house where I was taking a turn in looking after her (my siblings and I do 24 hour shifts) to find that the e-Book version of ‘Pins and Needles’ had been launched and, already, pre-orders had been electronically zapped to waiting Kindle devices. As I helped Mum get ready for her Alzheimers day club, half my mind was on the productive morning I’d put in arranging some local press attention before picking her up in the afternoon.

“Just a minute,” Mum said at the front door as we were leaving. She disappeared upstairs and returned, a few minutes later, with a handful of books.

“I’ll bring these,” she said.

We were half way through the 20 minute drive when she gave a little, somewhat contrived cough.

“You’ll go in, won’t you?” she said.

“Of course.”

I was unperturbed. Last week Mum had insisted that I brought a copy of my book to give to the staff and she had asked me to come inside with her to present it in person.

We pulled up on the tarmac outside the club. Mum produced another little cough.

“Now, you bring them in,” she said, offering me the books she’d brought.

“Aren’t you coming?”

“I’ve got a cough. Tell them I can’t go.”

As we headed to the shops the cough was forgotten.

“What do you do at the club?” I asked.

“Nothing. Everybody sits around and stares at a fish tank, counting the fish.”

She paused a moment before adding: “… and  some of them are a bit…”

She tapped her head.

“… not all there.”



800 years of the Irish in Santiago

Hundreds of scallop shells, each hung there by a passing pilgrim and each one with a personal message. So many stories…

Since at least the year 1220 there have been Irish people leaving St James Gate – home, now, to Guinness – and heading by sea and land to Santiago de Compostela. Of course St James is the English name for San Tiago. I’d left St James’ Hospital a little dejected at having been told that post concussion dizziness and fatigue take on average 43 days to pass if you completely rest the brain or, on average, 100 days if you use your brain (that’s me, I fear, as I don’t know how to switch my brain off), when I saw the sign, pictured below, outside St James’ Church on St James’ Street.

There is an office, there, in the church, staffed by volunteers, giving information and documentation for those intending to walk the Camino de Santiago. I decided to drop in and see if any of them wanted to come to the book launch next month (date to be confirmed). A friendly chap there told me that, when excavating to build the Dublin City Council head office on the banks of the River Liffey they found thousands of scallop shells, such as those above that I photographed on the Portuguese way while researching Pins and Needles. According to the guy, it was customary for pilgrims arriving back in Dublin by boat from their Camino to Santiago to throw the shell that they’d carried for the entire trip overboard and this is what led to the huge number of them on what would have been the riverbed. I’d been surprised, when first arriving in Santiago, to find that Galicia is a Celtic culture and that the people there see themselves as being connected to us here in Ireland. It seems that our connection does, indeed, go back through the centuries.

St James Church
To the left hand side of this church front on James Street is the Camino Ireland Office, staffed by volunteers and providing a wealth of information for anyone considering walking the Camino.

The agonies of letting go… and thanks!

inside paper comparison
I’ve been agonising over paper choice for the bookstore versions of Pins and Needles. The white sample is from a printer and the other is the Amazon paperbacks copy.

I’ve spent the week with my head in a spin about paper types, paper colours, fonts, font sizes, cover thicknesses and other such technical considerations as Pins and Needles was prepared for the printers. It’s available on Amazon in print-on-demand format where it will also be released in e-book on September 1. That bit was quite painless. If something wrong is noticed I can still make changes. With thousands of copies rolling off a printing press it’s a different story. Whatever decisions I make or errors that go unnoticed are unchangeable once that machine starts spitting copies out.

To get some inspiration I popped along to the launch of lifestyle youtuber Melanie Murphy’s new book Fully Functioning Human (Almost): Living in an Online/Offline World at Eason on O’Connell Street. It proved to be a master class in how a book launch should go. Melanie’s speech was informal, honest and, it appeared, effortless. A chair and table had been set up for signings but, instead, Melanie mingled, chatted and laughed with friends, fans and family, making everyone feel special by somehow finding the time to talk to each person. The book is a real beauty – and, having been living in ‘book publishing preparation mode’ myself, I know what I’m talking about. The production quality is top class and the layout of the book very clever. It’s sectioned off by theme and has quirky illustrations which make it visually engaging. I came home, the proud owner of a signed copy, and began making mental notes of the things that I liked about it. One was the off-white paper that Melanie had used. One printer had sent me a copy of Pins and Needles on the paper that they recommended I should use. It’s the whiter one in the accompanying photograph. The other copy, with the creamish finish, is the print on demand finish from Amazon. To me, that off-white looks more like the real thing. I hope you agree – it’s what I’m going for.

Finally I want to acknowledge all of those who reacted with such support and care to my last post about the accident and my steps to recovery. It was truly heart warming and made it quite impossible to feel sorry for myself. Thank you!

A life-changing ‘trip’…


Two weeks ago I tripped at the top of a flight of concrete stairs and ended up unconscious and bleeding from a head wound with my dislocated arm twisted under me. Having just seen the last of the medical specialists I’m ready to talk about it.

The head trauma has left me with no memory of the event. Thankfully some members of my amazing family were at hand and they were the ones who went through the worry and long hours of waiting in an overcrowded hospital while I remained unconscious and unaware of the head scans and insertion of 17 stitches. I was discharged but ended up back in hospital a few days when it became obvious that my release had been premature.

Further investigation found that nerves had been severed in my forehead. Now, try as I might, my eyebrow doesn’t move. The plastic surgeons operated – re-opening the head wound under general anesthetic and trying to find the ends of the severed nerves to reconnect them. This task was made more difficult due to the passage of several days. They’ve reconnected something and lifted the eyebrow so that it’s more in line with the other but it’s a waiting game now to see if it’ll ever work again.  As you’ll see from the picture, when I try to raise my eyes in surprise I end up with a sardonic look instead, as if I’m attempting a Carlo Ancelotti impression.

The good news was that the wound was re-stitched by plastic surgeons. When I got the stitches removed a few days ago the nurse oohed and aahed at the neat job they’d done. There’ll be 18 months of healing and then I’m stuck with what remains but, as you’ll notice from the photo, the scar is already a damned sight better.

Attention then turned to my arm which hadn’t been looked at initially due, I suppose, to the focus on my potentially life-threatening head wound. I’ve just returned from the consultant, sporting the nice blue cast you can see in the picture to match my jeans. The consultant struggled for a simile to explain what the xrays had revealed.

“You’ve done a real job on it,” he began. “Do you know those china teapots that you see in antique stores that are fractured into a huge number of little sections but are somehow staying in one piece?”

I raised the one eyebrow that I could inquisitively.

“Well, that’s what your wrist is like,” he said.

It turns out that I’ve pretty much shattered a number of bones – too many to operate on in an attempt to stick them back together with metal pins. What they’ve decided to do, instead, is to let it all set in the cast and then xray it again to see what is healing and what isn’t. With a bit of luck the remaining damage will be manageable.

In all my online posts I’ve not spoken about my accident until now as I was waiting to find out the full extent of the damage. Unable to do much, I’ve concentrated on my new book ‘Pins and Needles’ which I had published just days before everything changed. That has been such a welcome distraction and I’ve been so heartened by the great response from family, friends and strangers. The reason that I’m now ‘going public’ about my recent mishap is to send out a huge thanks to the family and friends who have been there for me since the accident. The head trauma has left me with a tiredness like jet lag and moments of dizziness. I’m typing this slowly and awkwardly with my one good hand but I feel great. I feel so lucky to be alive and even more lucky to be surrounded with people who have proven that they care. Thank you all.

Birth of a character captured…

I was archiving old video footage and came across the clip below from walking the Camino De Santiago while researching my book ‘Pins and Needles’. It’s the moment when I decide that I need a character who will be able to help the Spanish speaking vagabundo and the priest to communicate. The rest is history. You’ll now find the character Álvaro in the book…

To chose ‘the road less travelled’

The pilgrim passport or ‘credencial’ in which you collect stamps from places you stay or eat along the way. This is your proof that you’ve done the walk so that you can get  your certificate or ‘compostela’.

When people say they have walked or wish to walk ‘the Camino De Santiago’, they usually mean the French route from St Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago De Compostela in the Spanish province of Galicia – a journey of about 800km or 500 miles. The fact is, though, that ‘the Camino’ is a network of routes that converge at the Cathedral of St James in Santiago. My book, ‘Pins and Needles’, is set on the less popular Portuguese way which starts in Lisbon. Actually, my book is set on just the last 100 kilometres or so. One hundred kilometres is the minimum distance that you must walk abefore you can claim your certificate or ‘compostela’, as they’re called. It’s also an ideal distance to cover if you have a week to get there, do the walk, check out the city of Santiago and get home. I’ve done the final 100km of both the popular French route from Sarria and the Portuguese route from Valença or Tui neighbouring towns across the River Minho – which forms the Spanish/Portuguese border – from each other. For me, the Portuguese way is ideal for this short Camino. I’ve listened to many walkers who have hit the this last stretch of the French way and moaned about the sense of tourism that they are suddenly faced with after weeks of an experience that they found much less commercial. I could see what they meant. The little engraved plates on the milestones that tell you how far you must still walk have pretty much all been stolen by souvenir hunters on the final few days of the French way. Instead, the Portuguese route – which I walked over 10 times in researching ‘Pins and Needles’ – still feels genuine. The signs are still in place. You meet other peregrinos but not in such vast numbers.

I’m putting the finishing touches to a free downloadable guide to this ‘one week on the Portuguese way’ that gives general tips on walking the Camino as well as how I recommend the trip to be broken down into five stages. If you subscribe to or keep an eye on this site I expect to have it available within the next couple of weeks. If you want me to send it to you when it’s done, drop me a mail at mail @ or leave a comment to let me know.

By the way, may I add that ‘travelled’, with a double ‘l’ isn’t, as my spellcheck insists, incorrectly spelt. Unlike in the USA, it’s how we spell the word in Ireland and Britain.