This woman had a room for rent and a policy of no shoes. I had one shoe off when she asked: ‘Are you parking there, like that?’
I said yeah, and she said no. That won’t do. It’s dangerous for her car when she’s trying to pull out and she might hit mine and could I park it up the top there instead.
I put the off shoe back on and got back in the car and started backing back, back towards the trees and the empty pond, and the horseshoe groove that kept cars safe and undinged. It was a calm blue evening, leafy suburb, Newstalk on the radio, banging out ads about famine and starvation. Not too sure where the Peugeot came from. One second I was about to lock to the left and then there was the pokey eyes of reverse lights coming in the gate. We did a bit of gush, and push, and awkward acting the bollix, and ended up stuck beside each other in the driveway. Now there was two cars parked badly and no way out the gate. Our lady, Breda, yelped from the doorway. “Michael! Michael!”
‘Let that man in.’
The guy was Polish, Latvian, Hungarian, something. Double chin and smig and big belly behind the wheel. He shrugged, said: ‘I’ll only be 10 minutes anyway.’
A fourth character appeared; stairs left. Previously unseen, unnamed, unheard of and unexpected. Shorts, blonde hair, pale green eyes and an agitated voice. She stood beside Breda, bare feet, squinted at the two of us, tried to assess what was happening, then asked: ‘Are ye delivering my Chinese?’
Come in, said Breda, just come in.
We both walked towards the door. Crunch of stones, caffeinated blood from a long day on the road. Thoughts like haunted ghosts flitting round black tormented rooms. Coming, going, living dying, breaking through, electric saw blades on concrete.
Shoes again, please, said Breda.
Got the two of them off this time. Good job I bought decent socks in Dealz last week. Your man’s name was Justin. Breda was excited because he was the best handyman around and didn’t often come unless you were a valued customer. Even at that, his time was precious. More precious than the bad parking tenant and the girl looking for her Chicken Szechwan. He was going changing a plug, and the plug was broke for a long time, and we couldn’t let him go now or we wouldn’t see him again for weeks. I took the chance to escape up to the room. Small, functional, towel, window. Unpacked, got ready to chill, embrace silence, do fuck all. Then I heard: Michael….? You can move your car back now. Justin is gone.
Shoes on. Parked. Shoes off.
And did I know anything about broadband. There was a lad here at the door last week and he sold it to her and it was pure shite. And now Eir were going taking money out of her account and she had to ring them. And isn’t it awful, and the doorbell rang, and who’s this now, must be the Chinese, have you seen the beach yet? You should go down for a walk. It’s lovely.
Parked at the Lilac Centre. No point fucking around with all that weird on street parking shit. Always that feeling that there’s some fat clamper hiding behind a tree waiting for you to park one inch too far across his imaginary line, and he won’t let you go for any less than a month’s rent. Did a fast u-turn at the Dealz and spun towards the car park fast. Stopped to let a blind man cross at the entrance and then got the ticket and drove up two flights and parked between a Range Rover and a Merc. Good company for the 1.4 Petrol from Mayo, with the Galway registration and 300 thousand miles on her 15 year old engine. Went for the lifts, burnt the floor number into my head, floor one, floor one, cos I knew I’d forget it later and spend half the day wandering around the wrong level suspecting car theft and awkward phone calls to guards and a haype of forms to fill out and no way home.
Emerged at Cassidy travel, people everywhere, souls purgatorial drifting through the commercial river. There was a place selling a can of coke and a pizza for 6 something but I kept going. Out onto Parnell Street, passed Chapters and around by O’Connell Street. People like lost stars in the cosmos, floating around, waiting for buses, people, something. Spotted an all you can eat buffet for 12.99 and made a mental note to attack it later. Passed out the GPO where Liam Neeson tried to blow it up one time and decided to go to Easons. Haven’t darkened their door for about 20 years. They take over 52% from the price of a book just to stock it on their walls so I was in a sorta boycott mode. Then again, I could be missing something crucial, some access to great literature unavailable anywhere else. I had an image of a warm shop, with some kind of government chairs where you could read, research, enjoy the smell of papyrus and dear coffee from an overpriced machine.
There was a woman smoking on the steps on the way in, white shirt, black leather pants, curly raven hair, maybe some picture of a film she saw one time and here she is now living it out in the big city. The doors came back with a cheap whoosh and I was in, underwhelmed and confused. Where’s all the big shtuff ambience? Isn’t this the flagship store? More like just another newsagent that sold books in fancy shelves. Not too sure where the 52% was going. Asked the security guard was I in the right one. He told me there was two more. One on Nasaau Street and another on St. Stephen’s Green. “But this is the biggest one…”
Gave it another whirl around and said fuck this. Back to the Chinese. It was busy with gluttons trying to look fancy, like they had culinary taste and experience, but they really just wanted the brown shlop with a fistful of chips and the ignorant fried rice. I paid your wan and got a plate and stocked up.Not sure what kinda mongrels they were cooking but twas dire stuff and I ate anyway. Nearly time to get the car now aswell. What floor did I say again…1 or 2…..?
Set in Athlone, the heart of the Irish midlands, The Naked Flame is a story of love, loss, betrayal, and passion. John joe is engaged but doesn’t want to get married. He’s not sure how to break this to Karen. Then it’s time for the stag party in Madrid. There he meets Marilyn. They spend the night together and everything changes. Now the wedding is cancelled, the police want to talk to him about a double murder and the phone is ringing with mysterious requests to come to London. John joe suddenly finds himself in a surreal world, full of unusual characters and extreme danger, with no obvious way out. Met with impossible choices he can only trust the alluring woman that offers all the answers – but at what cost?
Mick Donnellan’s fourth novel is rich in comedy, tragedy, hints of the absurd and undertones of a man in existential crisis. The story thunders along with unexpected twists and ominous turns that culminate in a devastating climax. A unique tale, it strikes an emotional note, and is guaranteed to supply an entertaining read.
Poetry in the Park is a community event, open to all ages and nationalities. It is held on the first Sunday of every month at 2pm. This month’s event will take place in Athlone Castle and will feature many local writers, musicians, and poets. As usual, all artists will have a chance to showcase their work and add to the cultural ambience of the occasion. The group have been kind enough to offer Mick Donnellan the opportunity to launch his new novel – The Naked Flameon the day. It also promises to be a very exciting and creative time around Athlone as the All-Ireland Drama Festival and Fringe Festival will be in full swing. All are welcome and urged to attend and the invite is open to all artists, families and anyone else looking for day out with a creative difference.
The Naked Flame was completed during a retreat at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in late 2021.
When not writing fiction he works as a successful Playwright and Screenwriter. Film credits include Tiger Raid (2016) adapted from Mick’s Play Radio Luxembourg. He has recently received the Agility Award through the Arts Council of Ireland and the Mayo Theatre Bursary through Mayo Arts Office.
His most recent Play Nally was supported by Westmeath Arts Office and aired in May 2021 as a Zoom/Youtube performance. It was attended by over two thousand viewers on the night and many more since.
In May 2020 Mick had a monologue (The Crucified Silence) chosen as part of the Scripts Ireland Play festival. After a week of intensive workshops with Playwright Eugene O’Brien, the monologue was directed by Jim Culleton (Fishamble) and performed by Aaron Monaghan.
Mick Donnellan completed the MA in Writing at NUIG in 2004. Since then, he has worked as a novelist, travel writer, teacher and Playwright. He completed his first novel, El Niño, in 2004 and immediately secured a literary agent. He left Ireland soon after and went on to live in Spain, Australia, and Canada. While traveling he worked as a journalist and co-founded the Arts Paper – Urban Pie – in Vancouver. Upon returning to Ireland he went on to work with Druid (2009) and RTE (2010) and El Niño was published in 2012 with excellent reviews.
Later, Mick established his own theatre company, Truman Town Theatre. All Truman Town Plays are written, directed, and produced by Mick. The company exploded on to the theatrical circuit in 2011 with their hit Play – Sunday Morning Coming Down. Following a national tour, they went on to produce (and tour) two more hugely successful Plays Shortcut to Hallelujah and Gun Metal Grey. These dramas eventually became known as the “Ballinrobe Trilogy.”
Moving slightly from rural settings but not themes, the theatre company toured a fourth Play, Velvet Revolution. Set in a stark urban landscape, it created interest in Mick’s work among the film industry. He followed Velvet Revolution with his fifth Play – Radio Luxembourg – and it was immediately optioned by London Film Company Dixon/Baxi/Evans and adapted for the screen.
While the film was in development, Mick’s second novel – Fisherman’s Blues – was published. As it rose up the ranks, and enjoyed positive reviews, Mick was taken on board as screenwriter on the Radio Luxembourg project. After some months commuting to and from London, the script was complete, and a shoot was organised in the Jordanian desert. Titled Tiger Raid and Starring Brian Gleeson, Damian Molony and Sofia Boutella, it was accepted into the Tribeca film festival (New York) and was also seen at Cannes and Edinburgh. The Irish Premiere was screened at the Galway Film Fleadh. You can read more about Tiger Raid and watch the trailer here:
Other exciting projects include the screen adaptation of Shortcut to Hallelujah with Florence Films. The screenplay is titled Sam and is based around the gypsy curse supposedly set on the Mayo Football team as they returned home as All Ireland Champions in 1951. Set in the present day, Sam is drenched in Irish lyricism and modern-day dark humour. The script has been met with keen interest by film producers and actors throughout the industry.
Mick has lectured part-time in writing at the AIT (Athlone Institute of Technology) in County Westmeath. The course has enjoyed an exponential increase in numbers since its inception in September 2017. April 2019 saw the release of the well-received Tales from the Heart which is a collection of creative work from the students. It was launched at the college by bestselling author and esteemed politician Mary O’Rourke.
Mick has worked as a writing lecturer at NUI Galway.