Thursday 18 April 2013


Here is the beginning of my novel, A Year's Midnight, as main characters 
George and Barbara arrive in Italy for a year of self-development, away from it all.

George stood in the bar of the Autostrada Servizio, irritably puzzled 
as to why he was not being served. He was being ignored yet again. 
This was the story of his life. Furthermore, he didn’t understand what 
was going on. Was there, or was there not, a queue? 
Barbara understood that there was a queue, but that it wasn’t an 
orderly queue. Or that there was an order, but it didn’t take the form of 
a queue. She didn’t subscribe to George’s theory of cosmic conspiracy. 
It had been a tiring day. They had named it the Day of the Hun- 
dred Tunnels, driving from Provence through Ventimiglia on the Italian 
border, past Genoa, and they had just veered inland towards Florence. 
There was farther to go, a couple of hours more to the town, and then 
they had to find the remote farmhouse. But they felt they should stop for 
a while, chiefly because of Alan, who was hungry and whingey in the 
back seat. Besides, it was hot – for them, that is: a beautiful afternoon in 
early September, a mere thirty-three degrees. 
The bar was crowded. The queue that was not a queue had several 
tails. A large woman up at the front was arguing with an impassive bar 
attendant. Brandishing a lottery ticket, she turned frequently to shout at 
other customers in the same accusatory tone with which she addressed 
the mask of a face on the other side of the counter, arguing her point to 
everyone present, to the nation and to the world. 
Purple-faced, George turned to Barbara, raising his eyes, mouth- 
ing an obscenity. 
‘Welcome to Italy, George,’ she said. 
‘Welcome to bloody chaos, you mean.’ 
‘Don’t worry, it’ll be quieter where we’re going. Much quieter.’ 

Ciaran O'Driscoll, A Year's Midnight, Pighog Press (2012)

Available from and, in print and on Kindle.

Wednesday 10 April 2013


The taximan drove in silence, and George certainly didn’t feel like small talk. They kept to minor roads, and were very shortly out of George’s familiar surroundings and driving through villages and small settlements, up and down mountains, hugging forested precipices and sudden clear drops where a river flashed in the depths. If he had been in a receptive mood, the passenger would have enjoyed the scenery: the blue-grey Appenines, furred by forestry, the folds like flesh-folds of huge animals, the fur still flecked with snow. But on this particular trip, the animal appearance of the mountains only fuelled his baleful fantasies.
Time passed, and they were down on the level again, on a windswept plain. On one side of the road deserted villages clung to slopes of rocks, ghostly white walls with eyeless dark of windows, decayed buildings, abandoned homes, villages of the dead, of vampires, of werewolves. The mountains now lay like huge animals in folds of flesh on the other side of the plain. The car was shaken and buffeted by the wind, the roaring wind that blew in this huge, desolate space.
‘Where you from?’ the driver barked suddenly, shaking George out of his melancholy. When he looked for some sign of engagement, however, the taximan was eyeing the road intently as if he was driving through fog, as if he had never spoken.
‘I said where you from? Why you not answer?’
‘I’m from Ireland,’ George volunteered meekly. ‘But I have been living in…’
‘Why you come here?’
‘I needed a break.’
‘You need a brek? Why you come here if you need a brek? Why you need this brek?’
‘From writing.’
The driver took his eyes off the road, looked at his passenger for the first time since the journey began. ‘You is writer. You need a brek. And you come here.’ He emitted a dry, cracked laugh.
‘I’m sorry now that I ever came.’
‘Is too late.’
There was a long silence. They were beginning to ascend again, and now the driver had good reason to squint intently at the road, because the sun, about to go under, was glaring blindingly down from the rim of a mountain. It was dark by the time he spoke again.
‘There was a writer, inglese, I knowed him. He come here. He go fucking crazy.’ The driver touched his temple with a middle finger. ‘He go fucking crazy, like you.’
‘I’m not crazy.’
‘Yes you is. You is fucking crazy. Why you come here if you not crazy? Why you want a brek? What is problem? Problem is you is crazy, then you come here, you is more crazy.’
‘That’s about the size of it,’ murmured George. ‘Professor Piero could not have put it better,’ he added, to himself rather than to the driver.
‘Professor Piero,’ the taximan said with a tone of resigned contempt.
‘You know him?’
‘Yes, I know him. He also crazy.’ Finger to the forehead again. ‘He serious crazy. He dangerous. Now I see why you is crazy. You go to Professor Piero. Why you go to Professor Piero?’
They were speeding downwards. The tyres ratcheted sickeningly against the rim of the road. George caught a glimpse in the headlights of a yawning drop.
‘Will you slow down?’ he shouted, his anger spurting through at last. ‘Who the hell are you, anyway? Why are you asking me all these questions? It’s really none of your fucking business.’
‘You want me slow down? I slow down. Is all right. We nearly there. Calmo, calmo. But why you go to Professor Piero?’
‘The dogs brought me to him. Maybe you know the dogs, too, since you seem to know everything. And maybe you know Tessa. And Rogero and Mathilde. And maybe you know that I was sexually abused as a child, by my uncle.’
‘Yes, I know everything. They all crazy. Rogero, Tessa, Mathilde, Professor Piero. They all serious pazzi. You bet they is crazy. Like you. Maybe the dogs not crazy – it not matter. You uncle, maybe he crazy, but he not fucking you. No sesso. Is all in you head, because you crazy. Is so simple. Why you blame you uncle because you is fucking crazy? But we here.’
The car screeched to a halt. George could see nothing in the headlights but a grass margin and trees.
‘I leave you here,’ said the taxi driver. ‘Is maybe two, three kilometers on sentiero, liddle road. It go up, up, up. Soon you see fire. Follow fire.’
‘I can’t see anything.’
The driver slapped his forehead in frustration, started the engine, reversed furiously, lurched forward and stopped again. A narrow path between the trees appeared in the headlights.
‘Get out, please.’  
George got out, suddenly changed his mind, lunged at the taxi driver, grabbing him by the lapels of his jacket and bringing his face up close to his own.
‘Who are you?’ he demanded. ‘You better tell me, because I’ve had enough shit from you in a few hours to last a lifetime. Who are you?’
The taximan placed a hand on one of George’s tightly gripping knuckles. He recoiled at the touch, as if electrified.
‘It not matter,’ the taximan said, adjusting his jacket. ‘I bring you where you need to be, is all. Now I go. Now you go on liddle road. Up, up, up. Soon you see fire. Follow fire. You crazy. Soon maybe you is more crazy, or maybe you not crazy any more. In bocca al lupo, best of lucks.’
George watched the headlights of the car until they disappeared. As if on cue, a crescent moon came out from behind the clouds and gave him enough light to begin his ascent.

From A Year's Midnight, Ciaran O'Driscoll, Pighog Press 2012

Friday 5 April 2013



If fate ever happens to take you on the N63 between Roscommon Town and Galway City, or in the opposite direction, and you find yourself in need of refreshment, do drop in to the Treat Café in Lackagh, Co Galway, near Turloughmore. The café is situated in a roadside complex of various businesses including a DIY store, a supermarket, a beauty salon, a hairdresser’s, a car wash, a pub, a pharmacy and medical centre. Services include a post office and ATM, and there is a spacious car park. The whole complex is redolent of a modern version of feudalism, designed to meet most of the needs of the locals, and is the creation of one family, the Flynns, whose provenance in this location goes back to 1842, when they opened a bar and grocery store. The current lord and lady of the manor are Julien and Emma Flynn.

The Treat Café in Lackagh is a people-friendly space, without the musak so characteristic of modern pubs and eating places, blaring so that you can hardly hear yourself or your table companions. The staff, too, were cheerful, prompt and friendly. The decor was interesting: the mauve, red and yellowy green on the walls and lampshades were echoed in the varied upholstery of the chairs, and yet the face of an ancient clock, with Roman numerals and filigreed hands, peers down from a wall. Perhaps the clock is a reminder of the long history of Flynns of Lackagh , hanging there in the middle of a more contemporary, faintly funky decor.

Our coffee was excellent. My wife declared that her slice of carrot cake was the best she had ever tasted. My rock bun, unlike most rock buns I have recently encountered, did not disintegrate into crumbs at the first touch of a knife, and the inner part was soft and consistent in texture. It was crowned with a glacé cherry. I enjoyed it. (I should say here that more substantial fare may be had at the café.)

All in all, a most satisfactory and refreshing break as we drove back from a music festival in Strokestown, Co Roscommon, to Limerick City.