Music Stories

Paddy’s Mandocaster

I must show you something, said Wrinkly Paddy and leapt up from his chair.

Look at this! he exclaimed, pulling something out of a bag. I got it last week.

I reached out and took it. It’s a guitar, I told him. A very small electric guitar. A child’s electric guitar, in fact.

With that, I handed it back to him, grinning smugly.

Look again, said Paddy, holding the instrument out to me.

On closer inspection, though it certainly seemed to be an unfeasibly small electric guitar, I noticed something not often found on guitars: it had four pairs of strings.

Good God, man! I ejaculated. Is it – ? It’s not a – ?

It is indeed, my good fellow, replied Wrinkly Paddy. What you hold in your hand is none other than an electric mandolin.

Well, I said. Fuck me sideways if it ain’t.

Indeed, said Paddy, and no ordinary electric mandolin either.


No, he confirmed. What you’re looking at here, my friend, is a Mandocaster.

Really? I was astonished.

Yes, really, he nodded. And do you know who used to own it?

Eh, no, I had to confess.

I thought not, said Wrinkly Paddy. The previous owner of this here Mandocaster was none other than a man by the name of Hendrix.

You’re joking!

Would I jest about someting like this? Hendrix was playing this very instrument when the bikers attacked the crowd at the music festival.

Yeah, I said. Altamont. The Hell’s Angels. Sonny Barger. But I thought that was the Stones?

Paddy stared at me like I was mad. What?

Altamont, I said. ‘Sixty-nine?

Lisdoonvarna, he said. Seventy-eight.

Jimi Hendrix? I said.

Seamus Hendrix, he replied. Look. You can still see the burn-marks.

Crime Stories

Friends of the Earth

I was sitting out the back with my neighbour Jimbo the other night, relaxing by the light from a pile of old tyres we were burning.

Jesus, said Jimbo, this is the life.

Indeed it is, I agreed. Slosh another gallon of diesel on that fire there.

Right, says Jimbo. I’ll just throw on some of the plastic guttering we took off that old lady’s house.

Good idea, said I. And while you’re at it, make a start on that big pile of electric cable. Fling it on the fire there. Good man.

We sat back again, relaxing in the quiet of the evening as the flames roared above our heads. The huge plume of oily smoke spread out across the town like a beautiful black communion dress and I was suddenly struck by the sheer wonder of Nature.

Jimbo!, I ejaculated.


Jimbo, isn’t it a shame we can’t do this in the daytime any more? The people should see that lovely cloud.

Ah no, said Jimbo. All the old ways are gone now. Well do I remember our traditions from my father’s time, and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his father before him and his fa –

All right!!, I screamed wistfully.

Ah, they were great days, Jimbo went on. When we needed to get rid of a big pile of stuff, all the men of the village would get together, and they’d load it all up on the back of a wagon. Or ten wagons. Or thirteen. Or seventeen. Or thirty-four. Or a hundred and eighty-two or –

Well, by God, I muttered.

It’s true, he went on.

I remember it well, I said.

And do you remember, Jimbo said, his face brightening, becoming younger before my eyes as he delved fondly back in time, do you remember the way we’d go down to the canal?

Indeed I do.

And we’d fuck the whole lot in!

Ah, great days, I agreed.

Jimbo went quiet for a long time. He seemed to have something in his eye. Without speaking , he reached for an old television and threw it on the fire, sending a golden plume of beautiful sparks singing into the night sky.


Yes Jimbo?

Bock, do you remember my old Dad?

Old Billy the Aardvark? Of course I do.

Yeah. Billy the Aardvark. Of course we never called him that. To us he was always Dad.

Jimbo, why did they call him the Aardvark?

Because he used to eat ant-hills, but that’s a different story. Oh, how well I remember Dad as he stood on the banks of the canal, and by Jesus could that man work! He could do the work of five men. It was wonderful to watch him as he threw cookers, washing machines, old couches, mattresses into the canal. As fast as we threw them off the wagons, he’d catch them and toss them into the water.

He was a craftsman, I said.

An artist, agreed Jimbo. And all the time talking to us kids. There was thirty seven of us in the family.

Really? Talking as he worked?

Jimbo nodded. Yeah. He’d be down there among the reeds, knee-deep in canal water. Dad! we’d shout down to him. Are you all right there? And Dad’s voice would answer from the darkness, It’s like a jungle. Sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under. Huh?, we’d say. U-Huh! he’d answer. U-Huh? U-Huh!

By Jesus, I said. And all the time, heaving furniture into the canal?

Non-fucking-stop, said Jimbo. But he was careful, my old man. He didn’t want to fall in cos he couldn’t swim, so when we all crowded around him, he’d he’d make us stand back. Don’t push me, he’d shout, cos I’m close to the edge. I’m tryin’ not to lose my head! Uh-Huh!

Uh-Huh, we’d reply.

Ah, I said. The old ways. All lost now.

True, said Jimbo. We took care of the environment by cleaning up after ourselves. These days? Like my old man used to say, these days, broken glass everywhere. People pissing on the stairs, you know they just don’t care.



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Favourites Religion Stories

Saint Bock’s Gospel


Another shell slid into the breech of the Roman-built MkXIII Praetor assault cannon.

KLANKK! The noise echoed off the cold stone walls of the cave.

Too loud.

Goddamn ! Jesus bit hard on his cigar as he squinted through the crack where the huge round stone blocked the cave’s entrance. Behind him, his hijacked Roman flat-bed Quadriga jeep rumbled menacingly. Jesus had had to take out three elite legionaries to get this baby. It had a rapid-fire, gas-powered, self-loading, recoilless ballista mounted in the back and a pair of forward-aimed high-output Scorpio machine-crossbows above the headlights. The powerful engine (a full CDXXX cubic unciae swept volume) could out-pull a well-fed mule train or an African elephant.

Outside, the Roman motorised cavalry revved their engines, ready to move out, their job done. Or so they thought, Jesus told himself with a wry smile.

His hands and feet ached like hell and he had a gash at least VI unciae long, but apart from that he was in good shape. He hefted the Praetor and looked along the sights, lining it up with the big red-faced centurion in the lead wagon. Jesus recognised him: this was the guy who’d laughed as he stuck him with the spear three days ago. Long Johnnius, the troops called him.

I could blow you away right now, motherfucker, thought Jesus, but that wasn’t the plan. Later, there would be time for pleasure, but this was strictly business.

The Centurion raised his arm and the column began to move. OK, Jesus muttered. Show-time!

He jumped behind the Quadriga’s wheel and gunned the engine. The stone moved a little, and then a little more. He risked another push and the gap opened to a couple of pedes. OK. Enough. The Roman column rolled by, truck after truck, their pennants fluttering in the warm Springtime breeze, and Jesus counted them down. X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV! Go go go! The Quadriga’s engine screamed as Jesus slammed his jeep straight against the huge stone, rolling it into the road right in the path of the last truck. The Roman driver swerved to avoid it and slewed to a halt in front of the cave, but it was to be his last move. Three heavily-armed apostles appeared as if from nowhere and with a deft stroke, the big bearded one killed the soldier where he sat.

Rocky! laughed Jesus. You didn’t let me down.

Christ, no, Boss, boomed Rocky. You ok?

Jesus shrugged. I’ve been worse. What the hell went wrong?

Don’t know what the fuck. It all looked ok. That night in the bar? When you told us the plan?

Jesus nodded. I told you, get me inside and I’ll do the rest. I’ll capture Pilate, blow the communications and we’ll be out again in an hour.

Well, Rocky went on, all the boys knew their jobs. Everyone done it right. Judas was great – had ’em believin’ you was unarmed. That guy, he oughtta get an Oscar. So what the fuck happened? That’s what I wanna know. I get my hands on whoever blew it? He’s dead.

OK, Jesus said. What’s the point? It’s done. Here we go: Plan B. How many guys we got left?

Hard to tell, Boss. XV, maybe XX tops.

Jesus grunted. It’ll have to do. Come on, let’s get this ammo-wagon back on the road.


Pontius Pilate was in good spirits. The Prefect of Judaea had put to death the leader of the Jewish uprising and he was looking forward to rich rewards from his Roman masters.

Hey, see you Jimmy? he shouted at his Nubian slave. Gie’s that there bunch o’ grapes there, Son. Och, look, just go an’ peel ’em for us there, ya lazy fucker. Aye. Right enough. And while you’re at it, pour us another wee dram o’ that Judaean whiskey. Nae bother.

As he reached for the goblet, a gigantic explosion blasted a hole in the palace wall and when the dust cleared, it revealed a figure silhouetted against the fires in the atrium. Outside, more explosions echoed, punctuated by the heavy klakka-klakka noise of the Scorpios and the deeper resounding thud as the ballista demolished Pilate’s fortress.

Who the fuck are you, Jimmy? Pilate started, but as Jesus stepped through the opening and into the room, a grimace of pure fear spread across the Prefect’s face.

Wha’ aboot ye, Jesus? he greeted. Ye’re lookin’ well for a deceased punter. A thought ye were deid.

Somewhere at the back of the room, a door flew open and someone cursed.

What the fuck – ?

Without a word, Jesus whirled, drawing his short-bladed gladius in one smooth movement and driving it into the chest of the attacking red-faced centurion, Long Johnnius. Jesus smiled grimly. Well, motherfucker, he spat, how does it feel?

Pilate flattened himself against the wall. Ah for fuck’s sake, Jesus. If ye cannae tak a joke, what’s the world comin’ tae? Surely we can work somethin’ out? I mean, you’re probably pissed off, what wi’ bein’ crucified an’ all, but –


Pilate’s words were cut short as another shell slid into the breech of the Praetor assault cannon.

Jesus studied the whimpering Prefect of Judaea for a moment, then spat.

Crucify this!  Motherfucker!



Working dogs

I opened the fridge to get something for the dinner and it was – well, you know the way fridges get when you haven’t cleared them out in about six months. To be truthful, it was fucking minging. There was a smell out of it that would make a shark retch.

Shit, I said, I’d better clean this thing out.

Now, the best way to do this is to be methodical, so I started clearing the shelves one by one, carefully examining each item before deciding what to do with it.

I have a simple enough system:



Growing stuff.


It’s quick and it works. I was down to the bottom shelf within minutes, with a fetid pile of offal in the bin, another stinking quivering heap of crap in the fire and the hairy stuff waiting to be separated into possibles and probables. After this all I’d need to do was scrape the dried up food particles and the congealed gravy off the shelves. That was when I knocked over a bowl of old soup that spilled all down the front of my shirt and fell with a big splat of gunk all over the floor.

Fuck!! I snarled, reasonably. Fuck Fuck Fuck!!

I turned to reach for the mop when, suddenly a thought came to me.

Why am I doing this? Why am I mopping up a big pool of soup when I have two perfectly good dogs to clean up the kitchen floor?

Satan! I called. Dermot!

As one dog, they were upon me and as one they hoovered up all the foul-smelling gunk.

Great, I thought, when the floor was completely clean, for the first time in about a year. What a great idea. Now fuck off, dogs!

But then, I thought,

Hold on a minute! If they can clean up the floor then why not . . .?

So that’s where they are now. Cleaning up the fridge. I’ll let them out in a minute.


Happy Birthday to Me

Jesus, I’ve just realised. Bock is a year old today.

I was exhausted from all the vigorous blogging I do on your behalf, so I took the night off and wandered into town for a drink at my pub of choice. It wasn’t a peaceful journey. As a responsible citizen, I take the bus when I go for a drink, and so I strolled down to the bus stop in plenty of time, but there was no bus. And then there wasn’t another bus when there should have been. And eventually I looked like a one-man convention of the Tourette Society, standing at the bus stop, gesturing at passing cars and barking abuse. Fuck you!! Fuckin bus bastards!! Fuck!! People nudged each other and pointed their elbows in my direction. People stood back. Fuck!! Fuck you, fuckin stupid bus fuckers!!

That’s how it goes when you’re pissed off with erratic bus services. God, how I miss the days when you could drive while out of your mind on liquor and mescaline. They were great times.

Anyway, I bumped into The Interrogator, and he said Bock!

Very observant, I replied sourly. Did you ever get into town after a trying journey and then realise you just want to be home in bed, asleep? That’s how I felt tonight.

Bock, he insisted. It’s your birthday.

‘Tisn’t, I told him. I’ll have a Guinness, please.

No, he continued. You’re in the ether a full year today.

You serious? I demanded.

Deadly, he nodded.

Fuck, I ejaculated. Gimme fourteen tequila slammers and some peyote. Send up an old Indian to get us through this, and then stand back.

Fuck. A year old, eh? Christ, I might take tomorrow off as well.

popular culture Stories


I went to a funeral tonight. Well, actually, I went to the removal.

It always surprises me how many people from outside Ireland visit here, so perhaps I should explain. We have a custom where a person who has died lies in state at the undertaker’s premises, and all his friends, and the friends of the family, come to commiserate with the bereaved. Usually, what happens is that you walk into the place, and the departed is laid out in the coffin, and all the relatives are there, the men standing up and the women sitting down, and you file past them shaking hands with them. This is called the removal, because when everybody is finished shaking hands, the deceased is removed to the church for a brief religious ceremony, to be followed by another ceremony tomorrow, followed by a burial. (Unless you’re having a cremation, when you just send the deceased off in a taxi, and everybody goes straight to the pub).

Now, I have always had a problem with this hand-shaking business. I don’t like shaking hands with teenagers I’ve never met in my life. You don’t know where their hands have been, or actually, you do. Sorry for your troubles? Most of my life is given over to screaming at teenagers. Put that thing fukken down!! It’ll go into someone’s eye!!!

I also don’t like commiserating with the idiot brothers-in-law who never liked the deceased but are standing there anyway, and you have to walk up to them and shake their fucking hand and tell them you’re sorry for their troubles. Troubles? What troubles? They hated the fucker. In reality, all you want to do is walk over, knee them in the crotch, head-butt them as they collapse and say That’s for behaving like a prick at the christening, ya cunt. Not that you can do that at a funeral, you understand, but you’d like to.

So no. I don’t really like the hand-shaking thing at removals.

A few years ago I came up with an alternative. When I walk in, I approach the first teenager, and I say Well? Did you see the match? With any luck, the teenager recoils in horror, along with his cousins, and I move on to the seated women. Ah, Jaysus, Nuala, is it yourself? I might remark to the grieving widow. Christ, you’re gone very old-lookin’. That gets me past the women without too much trouble, even if it does provoke a fresh outbreak of crying.

The standing men can be a problem if you don’t handle it right.

I used to say Well, that about wraps it up. Your man is dead. Pint?

But that earned me a flattened nose and a slight limp, so now what I do is this. I negotiated a deal with a local lap-dancing club. I simply hand out a card to each of the lads: Post-funeral special offer. Very sympathetic Latvian hookers.

Call up there after the burial, I tell them. Great place. Take your mind off the whole thing.

It’s great, and I collect a commission as well, so everyone’s a winner.

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The Unanswerable Question

I summoned my chief research scientist to my study.

Now see here, von Heiligenacht, I told him. I’m determined to solve the toilet seat mystery. We’ll get to the bottom of this if it costs me my entire fortune.

Heiligenacht is not a man of many words, and he simply clicked his heels as he bowed slightly, one eyebrow raised almost imperceptibly.

This is the – how is it one says in your country? The well-grown-up purchasing list?

You mean a tall order, von Heiligenacht. A tough assignment. Yes. It is a tough job, but you’re the man to do it. You may be an insolent swine, but you’re the best damned research scientist in Europe.

True, agreed von Heiligenacht. There is, of course, the small matter of the moneys?

No limit, I assured him. Hire the finest minds. Go out there and buy one of every kind of toilet seat in the world. Study them. Examine them. Analyse them. I want your report within the month.

He nodded, swivelled on his heel and was gone.

Every day for the next month, I paced the galleries on the cave walls above my laboratories, looking anxiously down at the legions of scientists as they examined, dissected and sifted through truckloads of toilet seats that arrived at the Bockschloss by the hour. Specialists came. Ballistics experts. Astronomers. Cosmologists. Nuclear engineers. Theoretical sub-atomic speculationists. String theorists. Musicians. Philosophers. Stephen Hawking.

Four weeks passed and I sat again in my study, completing a small monograph on the identification of beer stains, when a sharp, Teutonic rap came at my door.

Herein! I barked and von Heiligenacht stepped inside.

Well? I demanded.

We have studied the problem, he began. We have made the great analysing of all facets, and the mock-ups we have constructed. The destructive testing and the not-so-destructive we have carried out. The guinea pigs we have poisoned just to be on the safe side and also the rattle-snakes we have injected with bad things. We the mathematical modelling have done, und the dynamic examinations have made.

Yes, yes, I interrupted. But the results, man. The answers. Have you got to the heart of the problem?

von Heiligenacht looked down at his highly-polished riding boots. Herr Direktor, he murmured, I regret to tell you that we have failed.

You mean – I started.

Ja – I mean yes. The toilet seat, we have discovered, is a very simple mechanism, and there is only one mode of operation. For it to go up, you make the UP! movement with the hand. For down it to go, you simply the DOWN! movement make, like so without mystery and none of the magic about it and it all very simple is.

So, I said. Why then? Why can’t women work out how to put the toilet seat down?

Herr Direktor, he replied wistfully, this has defeated me.



Bock Nearly Killed

Imagine it. Almost dead. Gone. No fucking Bock. The end.


Oh, it was nothing really. You see, I have this habit of doing things. I just can’t help it. I have this ability where I’m actually able to do things, you know? I have this man-type thing which involves being actually able to hang up that shelf, or install that actual boiler, and it will work. I think I got it from my father, a man of very few words, but much activity.

Yeah. Some of my friends hate me for this and have attempted to kill me in consequence.


It’s not as if I chose this. It isn’t as though I selected this destiny. I never besought some DIY deity : make me good at shelves!!!

It just kinda seeped into me, from my Uber-skillful father, whose favourite term of appeasement to me, his small son, was One min now an I’ll show ya but he never did, thus proving that it’s all genetic.

It didn’t prevent me knowing how to wire a two-way switch, or how to fit a Belfast sink.

It didn’t, likewise, help me when my fucking ladder slipped from beneath me this afternoon, shattering my very nice cafetiere and almost dislocating my wrist trying to prevent myself from being killed.

Shit. No more hero stories for a while.


Bock Storytime Number 1

That’s Amore

They’re calling time when Tommy elbows me Hey, there’s Jack. You know him?

I know him: Big M’s kid brother. He’s singing along to Dino with a beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other. I’m surprised to see him: I heard he was a gigolo in Palm Beach, or got married to an old heiress, something like that.

It must be a year since Big M hooked up with Shagalita.

I needed the room back and to be fair, his sister finally took his things away, except the old Chinese meals under the bed. When he recited William Blake, my grandmother always answered lonely, I’m very lonely.

These days he phones late at night and and talks about watercolours but we all forgive him this, as we’ve forgiven worse, because he’s our friend and we still care.

Jack’s in company. He eyes me up and down as if he can’t quite place me.

He says Whose brother am I?

We’re all brothers, I tell him, and he relaxes.

You’re making the right sounds,
he says. Sit down and join us.

That’s when the cute Spanish girl passes, sees me, hugs me hello.

I turn to introduce her to Jack but, quick as a matador, he’s already in, pushing between us, pressing me away.

He encircles her, his teeth bared in a smile, seducing quietly in slow Spanish. I stand there for a few minutes, looking at his back, waiting, but all his attention is on the girl now.

As I walk away, I slap a hand on his shoulder and say to him

Suddenly, I remember whose brother you are.


It’s a Client’s World

I bumped into my lawyer, Gonad the Ballbearian, today.

Well Gonad, I said. What are you doing to celebrate International Women’s Day?

Doing? he replied, What am I doing? If you have to ask, there’s no point, is there?

Eh? What’s that you say, Gonad?

You shouldn’t need to ask!

What the fuck are you on about? I said.

Oh, that’s lovely, he said. That’s a nice way to talk to me.

I was baffled. What’s wrong with you?

Nothing! he whispered, brushing away a tear and pushing his hair back.

Gonad, I said. This isn’t like you.

He rounded on me with his eyes flashing fire. What the hell would you know about me? I might as well be fucking invisible. All you care about is me slaving away in my office, issuing writs and suing the ass off media moguls for you. But you never see the real me. The real Gonad behind this suit. I’m just another piece of brief to you, aren’t I? Admit it.

I was staggered. Good Lord, Gonad. I had no idea.

No, he spat. You didn’t, did you? No idea what I go through. Oh, it’s all right for you. You don’t have to get up in the morning and wonder if last night’s wig and gown will still fit you. You’re not seized by sudden inexplicable mood swings. Oh no. Not you. Typical client. Fucking clients are all the same. I’m finished with them. Fucking clients!

Gonad, I said.

There was a long silence as he stared into the distance, a small tear running down his cheek, his lip trembling.

Gonad, I repeated.

He sniffled. What?

Look, Gonad. Let’s go someplace warm where we can talk this over.

He sniffled again and nodded.

Tell you what, I suggested breezily. Why don’t we go to that new Café, what’s it called?

A little smile crept across Gonad’s tear-stained face.

Planet Chocolate, he said.

That’s right, I said. Let’s go to Planet Chocolate and we can get an extra-large choco-choc-chocburger with chocolate topping and a chocolate-sauce frappachocaccino.

That’ll be grand, said Gonad. And then we’ll have a few pints. Did you see the match?