Feb 16th

youth of nowadays

By kinzo4real33

Kicking the habit on National Youth Tobacco Free Days

Young people all around Australia are being asked to quit smoking today, on National Youth Tobacco Free Day. Smoking habits can start in the early teens, so refusing to take up the habit before it develops is the key.

"Tobacco smoking is responsible for the premature death of about 19,000 Australians each year. Today is your chance to decide you don't want to become a statistic," said Dr Kelly Seach, RACGP Registrar Representative.

"Much better than quitting smoking, is to stay away from it all together. Lung cancer is not the only risk associated with cigarettes - smoking can literally steal your youth. It can have an impact on your eyesight, your small intestine, cause premature facial wrinkling and even impotence.

"For young people who smoke, today is all about giving you the support you need to quit. It is not easy but there are many support resources that can help you to breathe easier. One of the best supports is your local GP.

"In the battle to beat cigarettes, GPs and members of our practice teams, provide much more than simple advice. Research shows that advising smokers to quit is not enough to get them over the finish line.

"GPs can support patients to move to alternate sources of nicotine, such as patches or gum, to help to manage cravings. Evidence shows all forms of nicotine replacement therapy, including patches, nasal sprays, inhalers, lozenges, sublingual tablets and gum are effective in helping smokers to quit. We know these therapies nearly double the rate of quitting after 12 months compared with placebos.

"Quitting can deliver real health benefits very quickly. Within 12 hours, all the nicotine will metabolise, and after 24 hours blood carbon monoxide levels will drop significantly. After five days, your sense of smell and taste will improve, and after six weeks, the risk of wound infection after surgery is reduced.

"The benefits continue after one year when the risk of coronary heart disease is halved compared with continuing smokers, and after 10 years the risk of lung cancer is also half that of continuing smokers. After 10 to 15 years, the all-cause mortality in former smokers is at the same level as people who have never smoked. There is also an immediate benefit for people with respiratory disease in the rate of loss of functioning lung tissue.

"Kicking the habit today is the best way to ensure that you stay healthy - not only on youth, but for the rest of your life."


Tobacco smoking is the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in Australia.

Cigarette smoking can do terrible damage to your health:
· There are at least 25 diseases for which tobacco is a known or probable cause.
· Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease, and a range of cancers and other diseases and conditions.
· Smoking is also associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other chronic respiratory diseases, as well as higher rates of wound infection following surgery.

Smoking causes:
· more than 19,000 deaths each year
· 80 percent of all drug-related deaths
· around 11 times the number of road crash fatalities.
· one in eight new cancers, and one in five cancer deaths.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is responsible for maintaining standards for quality clinical practice, education and training, and research in Australian general practice. The RACGP has the largest general practitioner membership of any medical organisation in Australia, with the majority of Australia's general practitioners belonging to their professional college. Over 23,000 general practitioners participate in the RACGP Continuing Professional Development Program. The RACGP National Rural Faculty, representing more than 5,000 members, has the largest rural general practitioner membership of any medical organisation in
Feb 4th

Oh Where Is The Agent Who Is Meant For Me?

By Mumble
Somewhere, somewhere, deep in the heart of Britain, perhaps slumbering sweetly, perhaps smelling flowers by a newly mown meadow, perhaps striding purposely through an urban car park, perhaps sitting at desk looking at an empty client list, somewhere, somewhere exits the agent who is meant for me.

Why so reticent?  Why so shy? Why don't you take me on?

I have been published in magazines.  I have written poetry. I am the only person I know who has had a story published in Time Out! I had a poem in Swift when I was seven. (It referred to my tortoise nibbling my sock , which was a lie but I prefer to think of it as creativity.) Beryl Bainbridge once said she admired the intensity of my characterisation. (True) Laurie Lee (yes, it was indeed he) once called one of my stories, 'somewhat sub Lawrence but nevertheless effective in its way', which I think was a compliment.  It certainly seemed like one at a time.

 I am now on my second novel.  Surely there is an agent, a dear little agent, a smart and infinitely wise agent, who will actually read my first novel and take a little interest.

I am not a nasty person.  I will not pester an agent with ridiculous queries.  I will revise and revise,within reason.  I will be kind.

Somewhere, I believe. in this tired old world there is that very person, that courageous and insightful person, that wild and wonderful person who will be the agent who is meant for me.  Call to me and I will come.
Dec 7th


By Talla
Let's talk about art and writing and how to promote our websites and blogspots.
Nov 23rd

about me

By Metal Image

ive beeen published twice and dont want to stop... looking for any help, editing and so forth to get myself off the ground..


Oct 14th

The wick end of candles at the close of long night

By ianmitchell
They say you never forget your first. Well, Eammon was my first. He broke my duck. Got me off the mark. And here thirty years later, almost to the day, I’m taking time to remember him.

Jim came later and Christine in rapid succession. And after that, well, after that there were more – I think anyone whose early adulthood was spent back then in Belfast would have a significant list – but as I say, it’s the first time that leaves the impression. It’s the first time that sears your soul.

I noticed his fingers first. He’d had some kind of accident with fire years back, and they were all melted around the tips like the wick end of candles at the close of a long night. It’s funny how skin can do that, I always thought, trying to avert my gaze. And of course there was the ubiquitous blue curl of Gitane smoke drifting up from his left hand. Back then there was nothing so cool.

We used to sit up in the second floor snack bar. Queens University Student Union. Early nineteen seventies. And somehow in there, if you sat at the best tables, you could feel the gradual deconstruction of who you’d been; experience the blurring of the tight lines that your upbringing had drawn around you. It was a dangerous place. Sitting in the fug of the smoke, only some of it legal, joining in the conversations, wrapping your head around the life experiences of others – it was like every week brought a new mental challenge. A new frontier to cross. An old place to leave behind.

It was a strange place Belfast, back then. It still is, I guess. A hard place to call home. Home for me has always been someplace where you could grow safely. Where you could try on ideas, experiment with identity and beliefs. Get it wrong nine times out of ten, and it still wouldn’t matter because you’d still be loved. Belfast was nothing like that. You have to be right in Belfast.

And walk on the right streets.

At one of the tables near ours the “Christian Fundamentalists” used to sit. Ironic name now, given how the world’s gone. There was no smoke curling upwards from their fingers. One of their favourite games was to send a message to the porter’s office.  Would any member of Gay Rights come to the nearest black phone?  Then, when they heard it come over the tannoy, they’d watch the phone in question like hawks. Noting the identity of anyone brave enough to respond they would target that person for months with bible verses and visions of burning hell. Seriously.

I remember one time the Fundamentalists burned the Rag magazine on the steps of the Student Union. Apparently they didn’t get the jokes. Anyway, they sang a few hymns, mumbled some prayers, and lit the match. A historic moment for Ulster, I believe they said. Some of those guys are big wheels in politics now. Trying to Doctor the Agreement.

Anyway, back to Eammon and me.

I didn’t know back then how differently the city treated its children. I had grown up around the edges of suburbia in a succession of attractive middle class houses, had attended the schools of privilege and had lived totally untouched by the unfolding tragedy that was nineteen seventies Belfast. I’d even been born into the ascendant tribe. I did not know that there were children whose play patterns were constructed around the intrusion of plastic bullets fired in indiscriminate rounds through their letter boxes. I did not know that a front door was no protection from the outside world if that world appeared in combat garb carrying a battering ram. I had never visited the darkest corners of fear. I’d never met a Roman Catholic.

Until I sat, a Philosophy student seeking a context for thinking, at a table in the Student Union snack bar. Trying to make sense both of what I was reading, and of the world in which I was reading it. Jean Paul Sartre, welcome to Belfast. Kinda makes me smile now.

And that was where Eammon came in. He was one of six of us who formed a study group. At once the most unlike me and the most accessible. He’d come from a place of which I’d never heard. About three miles from where I’d once lived. Like the inhabitant of a secret room in those rambling old homes so beloved of second rate children’s novelists, where the door’s always locked and there’s a conspiracy denying the very existence of the dysfunctional brother kept inside, Eammon had grown up in a world whose existence had been denied by the keepers of the gates to my own world. My own Belfast. You’d have had to live there to understand it’s depths of denial.

He could talk a good game too could Eammon, though there was no aggression in the passion with which he opened up the life he knew outside the university. He brought me out of my ghetto and into the world in which I now live. Argued with me until I understood truth. Told me how it was in the place where he came from. And when those of a less understanding temperament would question my place at the table and would show deep frustration at the slowness with which I seemed to grasp issues, Eammon would smile that smile of his and wave one melted finger in the air. Give him time, he’d say, give him time. All the while, that Gitane smoke curling up towards the ceiling. And me, working it all out.

And so it was that over months, years maybe, I was able to come to understand that the city we called home was, in fact, a different place for each of its inhabitants. That none of us saw it through the same eyes. Or knew it painted in the same colours. I came to see how one man’s villian might be another man’s hero. One man’s crime be another man’s act of glory. That the price of privilege is always paid by the unprivileged. And that there would always be outsiders. I don’t think that Eammon ever said any of that straight out to me, he just chipped away at my pre-programmed shell, and smiled when I got the point.

It seems strange now to think of the me before Eammon. The me who was so tribally contained. Whose friends all came from the same mindset. Whose ethics and politics were all bunched on such a small wave band on the spectrum of what could be. Who had never been touched with the beauty of diversity. Never encountered the possibility or passion of another way. Didn’t know the music in the songs.

And then in February seventy five he broke my duck. In February seventy five I crossed a rubicon.

It was the Belfast Telegraph that broke the news. No friend of mine had ever been on the front page before. And certainly not the main headline. For just a moment I was excited. It’s Eammon. What’s he doing to warrant this?
He had been walking on the Antrim Road it said. Near where my grandmother had lived when I was young. Where I’d lived with her for six long years. Just down the road from the house I’d called home. The information, even now, makes stark reading. The only entry he has in the record books reads -

Eammon  _____ :  Status: Civilian (Civ), Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot while walking along Antrim Road, near Camberwell Terrace, Belfast.

Of course I immediately wrote him a song, I mean that’s what we did back in seventy five. It wasn’t even a good one. It was finger pointing and crass, and the tune was appaling. The rhymes were weakly contrived. There were too many verses. It wasn’t how he would have put it at all.

And then as I say, within six months there was Jim. Gunned down beside his firm’s minibus near Bessbrook on his way home from work. And then Christine, shot dead outside her church one sunny Sunday evening (a tit for tat thing apparently). But re-runs never have the impact of your first time, do they? Don’t ever leave you just as numb. And anyway, I had no more songs to write. They were all wrung out of me.

It’s thirty years this month since Eammon made the front page of the Belfast Telegraph, and here I am, for some reasoon, thinking about the times back then. Thinking about the route my life took since those long ago days. Thinking about how all of our times got stranded.

Everybody has their tragic stories I imagine. Even today there’s a note in the paper about somebody’s brother. Shot dead in Belfast. Bullets don’t have a sell by date it seems. I guess everybody knows somebody who meant something to them and touched their soul for a moment. Who blazed across their sky and left a glow for cradling secret, deep in some hidden cavern, before the light flicked out.  Everybody has their Eammon.

And all of us, I think, keep some kind of inner space as sacred. No matter what or who it is that we believe in. All of us have a place inside us where we face up to the darkness, when the lights have all gone out. Where we remember and re-state to ourselves who it is we are. Open the jar and let the memories all come tumbling out. Face up to our worst fears. And we’re always alone when we go there. Always alone. With the wick end of candles at the end of a long night.
Oct 6th


By ianmitchell
The car’s stopped at a red light. I’m in the passenger seat and you’re lying in my arms all wrapped up in a tiny blue blanket. It must be five hours since you last breathed. Why is it that I’m still pretending?

It crosses my mind that for all of my life I will remember this journey. Feel this sharp pain in my ribs, taste these tears that are stinging my eyes and dripping off my nose onto my mouth. Still hear the silence.

And sitting here I search for strands of you, relive long ago moments that might help me know the you that is with me in this car. But in doing so I seem to lose the edges of you. You are no longer finite. I can no longer differentiate between the you lying in my arms and those parts of you who I knew before you ever became. Those pre-you’s whose love became you. On this journey it all becomes you. Like tributaries coming together to make a river. After this journey the river will be gone.

It’s 1971 and I’m doing an impromptu gig. Not many people there, but she’s sitting at my feet. Your mother. Long black hair.  Gorgeous body. Interesting looking. Sensuous. The most attractive woman in the room. I’m really nervous, having just arrived in this place. The place that would change my life for ever. The place that would break down what I thought were the boundaries of me and ask me to cross some kind of rubicon. That, of course, is what coming here is all about, and I suspect that somewhere in my subconscious I understand this. Am prepared for this. Hence the nervousness.

She on the other hand looks relaxed. At home. Though much later I learned that she was more nervous than I. Much more. Some people protect what they do not know they have. Become who they think they cannot be. Perhaps even then she understood serenity. Or maybe she didn’t know about rubicons.

This journey should only last for twenty minutes but I think it’s ageing me by twenty years. Journeys are not supposed to do that. On journeys you are supposed to engage in light conversation. Lose your way. Ask directions. But there is no one here to ask where this journey is going, though all of us here have lost our way. And you have lost much more than that.

When I awoke this morning I was a normal twenty seven year old man. I was meant to be playing football before lunch. Your father was meant to be playing with me. He is really good. Juggles the ball on one foot in a way I can only dream of. But you will never play football. You will never know how good you might have been at juggling that ball.

When I woke up this morning I had not intended to confront human frailty. Did not expect to hear the strangled sound of weeping. Nor witness the sight of a human body bent double gulping for air, clutching at emptiness, all dignity stripped and all hope shattered. Especially a human being I once loved. I was meant to play football.

In three hours I am having lunch with my wife and three year old daughter. We have a son on the way. I am supposed to go shopping this afternoon. You will never go shopping. You will never have lunch.

Saturday is not a day for metaphysics. Or for uncovering the pain of being. There is no space in Saturday for the breaking of the spirit. Saturday is for shopping. Saturday is for football. Saturday is for celebrating children. Not for this. This is for Mondays. At a pinch Tuesdays. But no, not Saturdays. You should not even do this on Sundays.

And so I confront my own ageing. I examine my own spiritual constructs. I keep looking at your eyes to search out some tiny flutter. I convince myself you’re still breathing. That it’s quite normal to only need one breath every five hours. The car does not feel like a suitable venue for this confrontation. It is no place for the shattering of innocence. No place for such violence.

I am suspending belief. I am refusing to allow. I am building an emotional cocoon for my own future use. I know that it will be years before I can permit myself to revisit this journey.

1973 and I think I love her. Love the woman who will become your mother. Of course, for me back then love is a transitory three month at best encounter most of which is taken up with my planning my way into hearts. Into affections. Into pants. But we were close. Emotionally close. Friends even. I remember our week in Connemara that summer. Together in the wilderness losing ourselves in the conversations. I remember too the walks on Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crags. Remember the taste of her mouth. The softness in her eyes as we talked.  The exploration of the edges of intimacy. The building of trust. Trust that led me to this car. To this journey. Led me to today. Actually for what it’s worth, she was my last three month encounter. Because later in 1973 I redefined love. Made it an open ended thing. Committed.

But we did have our moments, she and I. We dismantled a few barricades and peered into each others’ eyes. We both thought, maybe not at the same time and maybe not in the same context, but we did both think that there was something worth touching and holding onto in each others’ being. That maybe this would be a redefining relationship. And I guess, today, that in a way it is because today she gave me a part of herself to carry on this journey. Gave me the most precious part of her life. The most intimate love of her soul. Today she asked me to cradle you in my hands and mind you on your journey.

And I find myself here in this car wanting to tell you this. Wanting to let you know that this hardly known man holding you tightly in this strange car cared for the woman who brought you into the world. For the woman who became you. Maybe not that deeply. Maybe not for ever. But cared.

And so I remember her on this journey. Remember her then. Remember her laughing. Remember her beauty. Remember her serenity. Remember her this morning. Remember her bent double gasping for oxygen. Remember the deadly silence as I finally carried you out the door. Remember the leaving. I will always remember the leaving.

I look across the car at the driver. I’ve known him since I was thirteen. He was always the life and soul of every party we ever went to. I wish you’d known him. I really wish you’d known him.

Inside I’m back in Boston. Christmas 1972. Bunch of us over here seeing the sights. Six in all, and we’re looking for Santa Claus. The snow’s falling on Copley Street thicker than Lagan fog, and there he was - a big twenty year old in grey shorts and school cap with a satchel on his back. Making us laugh and attracting attention. It’s funny the things that stick in your head on a journey like this. I wonder what’s sticking in his head this morning. He doesn’t speak a word. Then again, neither do I. He just drives. I just sit here numb, holding you tightly. It’s moments like this that make up a life it seems. His life. My life. You have no life left.

We’ve used his car before, he and I. Many time, way back in those days before we grew up. Did we ever really grow up? We used to go out from Ulsterville Avenue together in 1974 – he would drive. Then at around 2am I’d hear his loud stage whisper coming through the ground floor window of the University Hall of Residence – “My Boy!” – he always called me that back then. The chauffeur had completed his own nocturnal activity and had come to terminate mine. It’s more than just your nocturnal activity that’s been terminated today.

We also used his car to drive me to my wedding. Just him and me. I trusted him to get me there on time. I trusted him to mind me that day. To ensure that there’d be no accidents. No hold-ups. No break downs. Today I am trusting him to mind me again. To mind you. To mind all of us.

1974 and a crowd of us are spending a year in Belfast. Big terraced house just off Ulsterville Avenue. You lived there too – well the man who became your father did. The tributary that flowed into you. Ten of us. All men. Rats in the skirting boards. Rotten food in the fridge. Couple of bare wire sockets. We’re having parties every other night. We’re having the year of our lives. Everybody should have a year in Ulsterville Avenue. You will never know what a year is.

I’m searching my life for one story to tell you of the man I knew in that year. Of the part of you that I knew. Of your Dad. I’m gouging my depths for one memory that I can whisper to the you that is now. To the you that is lying in my arms. To the you that is not breathing. I’m trying to dredge up one glimpse of his soul in you that might give you some idea of how it might have been. How it should have been. How you would have been,

I’ve got it now. Remembered. My mind stumbles for a moment, recollecting it all. Pulling together the truth for you.

I’m in bed one night and wake up at 3am violently ill. (Later I am diagnosed as having severe food poisoning.) My room is in the attic. The bathroom is three floors down. I won’t make it. In fact I throw up over my bed. Over my floor. What a night. I am too ill to care.

Except that he comes up the stairs and shows no disgust. The man who became your Dad. He gives me his own bed. He insists. Then he cleans my room himself and uses it as his own for two days until I am better. He minds me. That’s him. That’s you. That’s who you are. Who you could have been. Who you should have been. I just wanted you to know.

There are more stories I am sure. More glimpses I should be able to give you. More insights I could share. But my mind is numb. There is no place that I can visit inside myself where I can find any comfort.

The journey’s almost over. We’re nearly there. I never want it to end. I can’t wait to get it over. I’m still scrabbling around in my soul to find something to tell you. Something good. Something we can all hold onto. Something that you can always treasure as being unique to you. The driver’s no good to me here. He’s lost in his own memories. IN his own struggle to believe – it’s written all over his face. Maybe he’ll find something to whisper to you too, but that’s between you and him.

I dig deeper into myself. Making myself articulate something. In the end all that I can say is this.

Every second of your waking life will be forever remembered
There is not enough of you to create spaces
There are no moments that will be consigned to the unknown
And nothing will be uncelebrated
Your being can be measured in months not years
Days really
But your reality is in these memories and time cannot take them away.

It’s twenty four years later and I sat at my desk today and thought of you. Remembered that journey. Until today I have never been able to go back. Not once. I’ve mentioned it in passing. But I’ve never gone back. But you deserve more than that. Everyone deserves more that that.

I do not know this in the car, but we will lose touch – your parents, those parts of you that are left, and I. For us there were too many pulses for counting. Perhaps there were too many moments for us to treasure. Maybe something like this explodes too fiercely into the delicately blown glass that is friendship. Maybe the best we can ever do is to avoid being cut on the shards. I’m not sure. I do know that somehow those strands that made you managed to pick up the pieces and re-invent themselves. The space you left was pulled back behind curtains and made private. And though in future we will write Christmas letters describing our triumphs we will never mention this journey again. Everything else is a postscript.

Perhaps the size of the moment was too huge to allow for discussion. To allow for continued existence. Maybe the whole part of my friendship with them was to come to this journey.

We arrive at the morgue. I hand you over, wrapped in your tiny blue blanket. I cannot speak. I have no more tears to cry. I am old inside. You are gone today and a light has gone with you.
May 5th

Hard to get noticed

By flyman
I wonder why I do the things I do, sometimes. Like writing a book when I thought it was a good idea at the time. I've never written a book before and I never did pass my English 'O' level because I was severly handicapped by my late learning; I started learning English when I came to England to join my family when I was ten. So English isn't my first language. I am glad my English is much better and I work as a scientist on fruit flies; hence I am the lord of the flies...

I have just spent months after my daytime work reading and re-reading my book to iron out mistakes etc only to be disappointed by rejection after rejections from these publishing agents many of whom are not taking new clients. I realised from reading the Writer's Workshop that it is extremely difficult to get any interest from these agents and is it a wonder why? If you go into book shops the shelves are taken over by these so called biographies from celebrities; I thought biographies are supposed to reflect a lifetime of stories, not what happened from age nought  to twenty five years old when they scored the winning goal for a football team or they've become so gorgeous with their latest implants that magazines flock to pay them for their stories or just make up the stories for them.

Anyway, I shall endeavour to get myself noticed and I suppose I am glad that I  do not depend on my job as a writer. If anyone out there likes to read a few chapters of my book, I'll be glad to send you it and perhaps have some feed back?