Category: Excerpts and Fun Stuff

The Book: Amy Meets Darren the Trackie-Wearing Lothario

This excerpt is a flashback piece where Amy recounts her first meeting with boyfriend Darren. I think she’s slightly embarrassed by the circumstances—they met at the circus; he was on a stag, she was trying to recapture a bit of childhood magic with her best friend Claire.

Although he’s very good looking Darren isn’t really Amy’s type. He’s big and sporty and the kind of chap who would say something like: “I only ever cried twice, once when me baby was born and once when Cavan won the All-Ireland”. However, because he is so attractive, when he asks her out her insecurity compels her to say yes, even though she doesn’t fancy him. She’s like: ‘Oh my God, someone as good looking as him likes ME. Must. Say. Yes.’ Maybe it’s harking back to when she was in school, desperately trying to get the attention of the sporty, popular lads.

Here, her friend Claire has run out with the candyfloss in a huff after one of Darren’s loutish friends insulted her. Amy is left to the less than tender mercies of the serving girl who wants her “Three eura plee-ase”. Enter stage right is Darren, who sees his chance…

AMY MEETS DARREN

Suddenly my panicked fumbling was interrupted by a deep voice.

“What do you need? Here, hold up, I’ve got change.”

It was the gorgeous guy. It was Darren.

Now I never normally accepted money from strangers—well actually, hold on, I hadn’t tested that theory before, strangers didn’t generally go around offering me cash. It was drinks I never normally accepted. I was too afraid it would be seen as an unspoken contract for a hand-job in the jacks or the like.

But I was so desperate to get the hell out of there that to my shame I nearly bit the hand off him for the three euro. “Thanks so much,” I said gratefully, grabbing the money. I gestured to the exit helplessly. “She just ran out and I’ve only got my card and when I tried to pay she said it wasn’t Harvey Nichols, it’s a van. Which I understand but I bought a 99 with my Visa card from the Popeye van last week and I just assumed it would be fine. I thought we had moved with times, I mean these days who doesn’t deal in electronic funds? Sorry, sorry I’m babbling like a lunatic.”

At this the woman at the counter rolled her eyes again. “Three eura plee-ase,” she said holding her hand out a tad aggressively.

I handed her the money with relief.

“Thanks again, thanks so much, I really appreciate it,” I said to my benefactor. “Erm… I’ll see you so, I must go out to my friend.” I pointed to the exit again. “Er… bye now.”

He looked at me for a second, nonplussed. “Oh, right so, see ya.”

I began to walk briskly towards the exit, afraid I had signed some bartering contract without knowing it. What was the going exchange for candyfloss? A toe-suck? A four-minute tongue sandwich. Doing a hem on his best pair of trousers?

Feck sake, I swore, if after all this hassle there was none of that candyfloss left I was going to choke Claire.

“Sorry, sorry, wait up!”

Shite, I thought, it’s Shylock, demanding his pound of flesh. I dithered dumbly for a few seconds before turning around and looking at him guardedly.

“Hi. I… eh… I just want to apologise for me friend there again. It’s no way to treat ladies like yourselves.”

“Ah no, that’s okay,” I said, relieved he hadn’t asked me to help whitewash his parents villa in the Algarve or something. “He was just drunk. Don’t worry about it. Besides you more than made up for it paying for the candyfloss. Thanks again. I thought she was going to deck me.”

We smiled at each other conspiratorially.

“Jesus yeah, she was a bit of a mad yoke. She’d ate ya without salt as me Granny would say.”

“My Nan says that too!”

He laughed broadly. “Auld wans, eh… they’re all mad.” He stuck out his hand. “I’m Darren by the way.”

Immensely grateful he didn’t finish by saying: “… but my friends call me Daz” I took his hand and shook it.

“Amy.”

We smiled at each other and suddenly I felt extremely awkward. Hastily, I pulled my hand away and turned to go.

“No wait! Wait sorry!” he said again, walking closer to me.  “Listen I really came after ya because I was wondering would ya… ahm… I was wondering would ya give me your number?” The last bit came out in a tumble.

I blushed madly. I wasn’t used to men asking me out in the cold light of day. This wasn’t Paris. This wasn’t New York. This wasn’t… Seville. All right, I supposed we’d moved on from calling sex ‘relations’ and having said relations with the lights off wearing rolled-up-to-the-waist winceyette nightgowns, but this was still Ireland, a country where people only got together past eight o’clock—ten in the summer just so it’s nice and dark—and with drink taken.

“Here, I’m not a weirdo I swear, I just think you’re a stunnin’ lookin’ girl… and I’ve had a jar or two,” he said, winking.

“I… er… ”

I should have ran. God knows I should have ran. I knew him for all of five minutes and had already flagged ten reasons it was a bad idea.

Let’s recap shall we?

  1. He used the phrase ‘ a stunnin’ lookin’ girl’
  2. He used the word ‘jar’
  3. He was wearing a pair of baggy Kappa ‘gone out with the floods’ tracksuit bottoms
  4. He was at the circus
  5. He was on a stag
  6. He was on a stag at the circus.
  7. His friends were idiots
  8. He winked at me
  9. Someone had shouted “Nice diddies!” at the trapeze artist and for all I know it could have been him
  10. He looked sporty, and I hate sports so much I can’t even watch sport films unless you count The Mighty Ducks and The Mighty Ducks D2

All the signs were there for me to leg it. God above himself couldn’t have given me any more signs had I got down on my knees and cried to the heavens.

So why didn’t I? Why didn’t I say thanks but no thanks and run out to Claire so we could laugh our heads off about it? Why did I look dumbly at him, this tall, handsome, terribly dressed Lothario, and find myself squeaking doubtfully, my face burning with embarrassment: “Okay so?”

So that was that. I got picked up at the circus at twenty-seven years of age by a drunk lad at a stag in a pair of shiny tracksuit pants. Not exactly Pride and Prejudice but there you go.

The Book: So What Happened to Amy? Major Exclusive Gawk at the PROLOGUE

Goujon.jpg.Sixteen months ago, when I started to write this book (Mother of Christos, was it that long ago?) I did a bold thing. I started with the prologue. Armed with a simple idea, (one’s life taking a trip down the toilet) I decided one little page of writing was to be my guide, my push, the fulcrum to build a rich, funny story around—and funnily enough, despite my incessant editing and the story growing arms and legs I never could have imagined, this one chapter has more or less remained the same.

Over the past year or so I’ve shared book excerpts on Facebook and sometimes chunks of chapters with family or friends, but never a whole chapter! Oh no! Like a primary school child aggressively covering her notebook in case Martha Ryan copies her top notch work on Ancient Egypt, I’ve been holding on to them for dear life. It stops now! It’s time to give away a bit more…

Behold… the Prologue! In Amy’s own words.

PROLOGUE

They say bad things come in threes.

Hanson.

Blind mice.

Unplanned triplets when the cost of creches has gone through the roof and you’re only after getting your figure back after little Isaiah.

Stuff like that.

Well on the day I got fired from my job and then dumped by my boyfriend all I was waiting on was losing an eye or getting a whack off a bus or finding a grey hair.

Fate, Karma, or whoever you are that has it in for me, I cried silently, (Derek? Attracta? Eros?) I’ll be over here, leaning against this wall and panting while you decide how best to finish the job.

I know in films you see dramatic life-altering stuff happening all the time in the space of twenty-four hours. For example you might meet the love of your life on the train (real soulmate-meeting hotbeds, trains, if Hollywood is anything to go by) or you could find out you’re the queen of a small but proud principality off the coast of Aruba renowned for honey-roasted ham, you know, those sort of things:  random and irrevocably life-changing.

That’s in films though. Not real life.

In real life, when you both reach for the last box of chicken goujons on special offer in the supermarket you don’t fall into the kind of mad passionate love where you’re so busy staring into each others eyes you don’t notice your blackened frostbitten fingers have fallen in with the peas. The only frisson of passion you feel is deep despair that there’s a good chance you won’t be having goujons and chips for dinner. In fact the man you brush fingertips with doesn’t even know what a frisson isbut if you were to put him under pressure and ask him he’d take a wild guess at “a poncey way to cook a chop”.

And so, having a fairly serviceable grasp of the distinction between film and reality I could never have imagined that in the space of a day my life could go from normal and perfectly acceptable to one resembling the stuff that comes out when you unblock the drain.

But just like the Irish weather, or goitre, you can’t plan for these things, because that’s exactly what did happen.

And to tell you the truth I hadn’t the foggiest idea what the upshot of it all would be past the initial feelings of failure and eating my weight in crisps and then eating the extra weight I gained from all the initial crisps in even more crisps.

In fact this story may very well have ended prematurely in a Kettle Chip bloated tragedy followed by a straight-to-telly true life movie shown on a Monday night at four o’clock in the morning.

But seriously, all joking aside though (well, sort of joking; let’s not get too hasty and underestimate the power of crisps here) what I was fairly certain about was that I couldn’t trundle along anymore and hope for the best.

Because for some reason after it all happened I realised I was going to have to finally face my fears and do all those horribly terrifying things they tell you to do in those mad books like ‘reassess where I’m going’ and ‘look inside myself’ and ‘figure out who I am’ and maybe, just maybe, as the great Heather Smalls of M People would say in such a predicament ‘search for the hero inside myself’.

Heather, I said at the time, I don’t know if I can.

The Book: The Novel, a Tragic Comedy About the Search for Meaning by a Girl Who Thinks She’s an Eejit

The book (working title “Not a Notion”) was inspired by the (scary) question: ‘If we’re defined our job, what happens when we can’t figure out what we should be doing?’ And anyway, is that even fair? Is it right? Should we be defined by the work we do? What about all the other stuff like being nice to our Nan or pulling off floral headbands with élan?

The novel is a tragic comedy about Amy, a 28 year old who is looking for some meaning in life, for her place in the world. She has spent the five years since she graduated floating, going through the motions, unsure of who she is or where the hell her life is going.  Well, that is until two events force her to take control of her life and find out what she’s made of.  DUN DUN DUN…

She needs all the support she can get but with her Mam living in Turkey with her boyfriend Hassan, her activist best friend Clare too busy designing ‘merch’ for her many causes and her ‘people’s champion’ Nan setting up a Citizen’s Advice Bureau in her sitting room, (there’s even a play area for the kids by the telly—no Lego though, not since little Terry O’ Shea nearly choked to death on a bit) she might just have to, as the great Heather Smalls of M People would say, ‘search for the hero inside herself’.

But will she be able to drag herself away from lying on the sofa and watching Jeremy Kyle and Philip Schofield (he’s very soothing) and repeats of Little House of the Prairie? Will she learn to look at herself in the mirror without thinking ‘you big fecking eejit’?  Will she find… peace? And for all that is good and holy will she ever have a wash and take off that manky dressing gown, the one that doesn’t close over her boobs?

The story is set in post-recession Dublin where Amy lives in a house she can’t afford (although on the bright side she has her own bathroom so the odds of other people’s pubes between her toes in the shower are vastly reduced) with snobby princess Carol, no nonsense Garda Nancy, vicious-tongued Rasheed and silky-haired smug git Oisin (why won’t he tell her what conditioner he uses?)

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