Early Summer 2013 Schedule [09June2013]

8fm

I’ve been pretty quiet on here recently due to pressure of outside work commitments, but I’m still keeping up my regular schedule of radio presenting on both 8Radio.com in Dublin, and Radio Caroline internationally.

Mondays 6-9pm Radio Caroline, via www.radiocaroline.co.uk

Saturdays 11pm-2am on 8Radio.com, online and via FM 94.3 (Dublin), 106.7 (Cork) and 105.5 (Limerick)

I’m also still a regular reader at the Last Wednesday writers open-mic in Dublin, 7pm at The Twisted Pepper in Abbey Street on the last Wednesday of every month, where you can hear me read new short stories as well as extracts from my forthcoming book Running Away From The Circus – Eeverything I Know About Radio I Learned By Screwing It Up.

I’m insanely busy due to other commitments at the moment, but hope to get back to a more regular update schedule here soon!

Steve


The Melting (short story)

In addition to the new books I am working on, I have written and continue to write a number of short stories which are based around my own life experiences or things I find interesting.

This story was written in June 2012, and had its debut at the Last Wednesday Series writers open-mic in Dublin on the 27th of that month. I’m presenting it here for your enjoyment, and hope to include it in a collection of my shorter work later in the year.

I’m not sure if you would classify this story as biography or fantasy, but it’s certainly a real-life account of how my mind was working on two perfectly ordinary days . . .

the fall of an empire

THE MELTING

by Steve Conway

It’s freezing cold, and it’ll be several long minutes before the car begins to heat up, and the window de-ices enough for me to move, but I don’t mind really. I am too busy watching the collapse of an empire.

As an introvert, I live a rich inner life, and as a writer, perhaps even more so. It could be that the introspective nature and the gra for writing are linked in some way, but whatever the reason, I find it amazingly easy to tune out of the everyday world around me and retreat into a rich and colourful inner fantasy life.

Or maybe I’m not retreating from the world at all, but just looking at it with other eyes.

The iced over car windscreen is, you see, not a windscreen, but an overview of a fantasy land somewhere beyond reach, it’s people ground down and subjugated in an icy totalitarian regime, frozen in its leaders cruel idology.

Like all such tyrannies its must be resisted and overthrown, but choice of how to do so carry consequences. Oh, I could send in the shock troops – the windscreen wipers or the plastic ice scraper –  to hack away ineffectively at the frozen landscape, but think of the casualties of such brutal action. There is death and destruction in the rasp of wiper-blade over still-frozen window.

No, I prefer the revolution to happen from the grass roots, as the whispered idea of freedom issuing forth from my heater blower, slowly infiltrates and changes minds, causing the tyrant to lose his grip, one ice crystal at a time, as his empire crumbles.

At first there is no change, and then, gradually the dark stain of change creeps upwards from the bottom of the windscreen.  The initial defences are down, the lands in the far south unfrozen, and soon whole chunks of ice start detaching from the mass and sliding down the screen accelerating their fall towards the heat, like defecting troops fleeing their routed armies.

And that tight knot of extra hard ice in the middle of the window? That is the seat of government and it is besieged and falling, and the ruler and his minions are fleeing north to that part of the top of the land still in the grip of winter, but there will be no escape, for my warm ideology will waft its way to there too, by and by.

And while all this is flashing through my head, I am far too busy and entranced in my own imaginings to mind the cold of the morning, or the delay to my journey, and by the time the last castle falls the car is warm and I’m ready to be on my way.

dusty road to nowhere

Another time, a different place.

It is baking hot, and I am walking down a dry dusty road, and straight into a 1950s movie.  The dust road is arid, it runs through the desert alongside a railroad, and my destination is a forgotton, tumbleweed-infested station where no one ever gets on or off.

In my mind I have wandered into the world of the 1955 Western Noir classic A Bad Day At Black Rock, one of Spencer Tracey’s finest, in which, for the first time in twenty years, the train stops in the eponymous town, a stranger alights and trouble ensues.  Maybe I’m the stranger, maybe I’m the secret he’s searching for, but I’m certainly in the middle of a dusty wilderness.

Actually, in real life, I am in South Dublin, walking alongside the Green LUAS line extension to Cherrywood, at a place where it runs for a mile or so through a semi-razed wilderness, a bulldozed land now returning to nature, a site of several hundred acres where a vast new town was planned, but which never got under way before the boom ended. The LUAS trams go whizzing by every few minutes, and I’m getting close to the ghost station of Laughanstown, where the trams stop, but no one ever gets on or off. There is nothing at Laughanstown but a tiny country lane and a single house, and the tram stop built in anticipation of the vast new development rarely gets any custom. There isn’t actually any tumbleweed blowing past, but it wouldn’t look out of place if it did.

Next stop – nowhere

Normally on my lunchtime walks when I exit the high tech office building where I earn my bread I stick to the nearby roads, and wander through a local park, lush and green. But I spy an opening in the fence that has previously sealed off the dirt road through the abandoned wilderness and I am onto it like a shot, wanting to explore pastures new, and silent.

The sun is baking, the rubble-strewn track is rough beneath my feet,I am sweating copiously, but I’m in the bliss of absolute solitude. No one ever comes this way because there is nothing to come for, who in their right mind would walk through this rubble on a scorching day, heading alongside the LUAS line for a ghost station that no one uses? And as I walk I seal myself into the world of the western, the 1955 film keeping me mentally far away from the work-day reality  I’ll have to return to in an hours time.

And then, shimmering in haze ahead of me on the dusty track, there is a flash of brilliant pink.

For a moment it is impossible to define any form or purpose, but eventually it solidifies into a feminine form, far in the distance, coming towards me as I am coming towards her. The heat haze makes her seem to float, and immediately I am in a different space in my head, the film gone, I’m now living in the lyrics of the Talking Heads song “And She Was” watching this mirage-like woman as she seems to glide this way and that over the ground without really touching it at all.

I wonder idly if there is a song playing in her head as she sees me moving inexorably towards her . Perhaps she hears an indie  beat from The Automatic asking her what kind of monster is cresting the hill ahead of her.

More than likely, of course, she doesn’t notice me at all.

She is so vividly pink, the two of us alone in this desolate landscape are such utterly opposite magnetic poles as we come towards each other, that surely there must be some sort of explosion if we touch.

She is female, young, brightly clad and long of hair, blonde, I am male, older, dressed in black and grey, hair short and greying.

But we pass without any chemical reactions or explosions, and after a while she is swallowed up into the landscape behind me.

There is nowhere she can possibly be going. If she was heading to any destination the LUAS would have been quicker, and this track was not usually accessible. She was walking into that wilderness for the sheer joy of it, and as we passed I could see through her smiled greeting the same dreamy look in her eyes as I must have had, and I loved her for it.

I am not the only loner in the desert today. And that, somehow, just the seeing of her, and the realisation that she is there for the same reasons as me, reconnects me with humanity, and makes a difficult work day more bearable, and all this without a single word spoken.

A bad day at Black Rock.

But a good day at Laughanstown.

 


2nd Drafting

Shiprocked at Chapters bookstore in Dublin, found in the music section between Coldplay and Ian Dury.

I’ve been a little quiet of late on this blog.

The reason for this is that over the last 4 weeks I completed the first draft of my next book, due out sometime towards the end of this year or early 2012. (My first book, Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline, was published in 2009)

I am currently going back over it to add in a few bits and pieces to create a second draft, which has to go to the publisher for editing at the end of this week.

I’m keeping the title and content under wraps for now (other than at selected live readings – the next is Last Wednesday at the Twisted Pepper in Abbey Street, Dublin, on Wednesday 31st August doors open 7pm).

However I can tell you that I am really pleased with the finished content so far, and in fact feeling even better about this one than I did when I was at the similar stage with Shiprocked.

Once the 2nd draft is finished, I’ll be back here more regularly, with lots of stuff to talk about.

All the best

Steve


Up Next: Book 2 Preview

Exciting news: a publication date for my second book will be announced shortly, and it looks like it will be towards the end of this year.

If you’d like a preview of my new writing, as well as a taste of my recent short stories as well as something from my first book Shiprocked, I’ll be giving a special reading in Dublin on Saturday 16th July.

3pm downstairs at The Twisted Pepper, Abbey Street.

Steve

20110712-145859.jpg


New Work At Last Wednesday Tonight

Just a reminder that I’ll be reading tonight at the monthly Last Wednesday writers open mic in Dublin, brought to you by Seven Towers at the Twisted Pepper in Abbey Street.

As well as new material from my second-book-in-progress, I will also read something I wrote 28 years ago, long before my radio days.

The Last Wednesday readings feature a wide variety of poetry, prose and sometimes comedy from new and established Irish writers, it’s free in, and a great evenings entertainment.

Door open 7pm.

Steve



You Always Remember Your First . .

A collection of some of the milestones in my life, some important, some quirky!

First memory . . in a cot in my parents room, playing cars by driving my fingers around the blanket . . into transport and machinery even before I could walk!

First (earliest) memory that I can specifically date: the night before my third birthday, travelling down to Mitchelstown in our old Ford 100E sitting on my mother’s lap. The alternator/dynamo was failing and the car lights were dimming . . I remember being carried up the boreen to my great grandfathers farmhouse at midnight after we had broken down just short of our destination. Then I remember my third birthday itself, and my Great Uncle Billy telling me I was a “big boy” and giving me a toy tractor to play with.

First book read. .  Can’t remember what was first, but I was an avid reader. I was really into Greek mythology as a child, and had read the Illiad and Odyssey by the age of 8.

First girlfriend . . When I was only about 6 I had a thing for Laura from down the road. Start as you mean to go on!

First time on TV . . There exists in the RTE Archives some footage of a nine-year-old me wandering through a field in Kerry picking blackberries, as part of a “Landmark” special on farmhouse holidays.

First record bought . . Jeff Wayne “Forever Autumn” from War of the Worlds, in 1978.

First Kiss . . Maggie from New Cross, where are you?

First dance . . some very kind Co. Clare woman took pity on me when I was all alone at the disco on our school trip to The Burren, and whisked me around the floor to the envy of my classmates. I can still remember the smell of her hair . .

First proper job . . (excluding working in the family business), my first actual job was a week as a door to door salesman in 1982. I must have have knocked on half the doors in Dublin, and made only £13 in commission before giving it up.

First car . . A lovely Fiat 500 passed down from my mother. If cars could talk, it would have a tale or two to tell!

First heartbreak . . Yes, it’s Maggie from New Cross again. If you want to know what went wrong, see pages 11/12 of Shiprocked, Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline.  It’s true, I really was that innocent!

First record I played on the radio . . Joan Jett – “Bad Reputation”  (on South East Sound, July 1985)

First record I played on Radio Caroline . . Percy Sledge – “When A Man Loves A Woman”

First time abroad . . England for the 1966 World Cup. (actually it was my Dad who went for the football, I was just a toddler).

First words written to start writing the book (that became Shiprocked) . . “The call came at the worst possible time . .”  (Later I realised that I needed more background about what had happened leading up to my joining Caroline, so that first line written is now many pages into the finished version).

First Draft (of Shiprocked) . . 225,000 words. Redrafted on my own account to 176,000 words to tighten up. But then cut down to 90,000 words for publication . . that was tough!

First (of many!) rejection letters . . 1993 from an agent in London. It would be another 15 years and many more rejections before I came across Seven Towers Agency, who have been utterly brilliant in supporting me, and in refusing to take no for an answer.

First interview as a published author . . The day Shiprocked was published, I was interviewed by Sinead Ni Mhordha on Phantom’s Access All Areas show. I was used to hearing Sinead interview great rock bands, and was just blown away that she was interviewing me. Forget TV3 forget The irish Times, it was sitting across the desk from Sinead that I really felt like I’d arrived!

First show on Phantom . . November 2000, the breakfast show. I started with a news bulletin, so my very first words on air were to inform the world that George W Bush had just been confirmed president following the final court hearing into vote counts. My first record was Greenday – “Minority” – as good a musicical start as any!

That’s it for now – let’s hope I have many more “firsts” still to come.

Steve


Liffey Sound Archive

The interview and reading on Liffey Sound 96.4 went very well today – Niamh, a writer herself, knows how to get the best out of her literary interviewees, and encouraged me to think and talk about lots of ideas behind my writing.

I read a couple of extracts from Shiprocked, and two of my short stories “Of Little Consequence” and “Schrodinger’s Bus“.

The full show (an hours long) is available on an archive at http://www.mediafire.com/?3zyhykmndzj

I intended to get a shot of myself and Niamh in the station, but was enjoying myself so much that I forgot!

Steve


Liffey Sound with Niamh on Sunday

This Sunday I’ll be interviewed on a radio show with a difference – the very interesting “Sunday Scrapbook” on Liffey Sound FM hosted by Niamh Bagnell.

Niamh is interesting in her own right (see her blog, ‘Various Cushions‘) and I’ve bumped into her at a couple of readings around Dublin. Her radio show is great for anyone who likes writing or reading, as each week she devotes an hour to really getting under the skin of a Dublin based writer, be they poets, novellists, or mixed bags like myself.

On the show I’ll be reading a couple of short stories, including my first ever piece of fiction, as well as some extracts from Shiprocked, and Niamh will be giving me a thorough grilling.

That’s 4-5pm on Sunday 21st March 2010, Liffey Sound, 96.4fm in West Dublin, or online at www.liffeysoundfm.ie

Steve


Two events this week

I’m taking part in two readings this week, one of which is very special for me.

On Wednesday 25th November Seven Towers will be holding their usual “Last Wednesday” open-mic at Cassidys of Westmoreland Street, with poets and authors including Oran Ryan, Ross Hathaway, Eamon Lynsky and Bob Shakeshaft.

I’ll be reading a newly-written short story, my first real piece of fiction.

Doors open 7pm, admission free.

On Thursday 26th I will be going back to my roots, with a special reading at Dundrum Public Library, at 6.30pm.  I’ll be reading excerpts from SHIPROCKED – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline.

Dundrum Library is where, at the age of 5, I was taken by my mother for my first introduction to the world of books, over the years I borrowed hundreds of titles there as I was growing up, so to return as a published author is a special treat for me.

Again, admission free, and signed copies of the book will be available.

Steve

 


Shiprocked: Dublin Launch pictures

The official Irish launch of SHIPROCKED – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline took place on April 15th, attended by a good crowd including many from the world of radio in Ireland.

The book is now available in all major bookstores, including Easons, Hughes & Hughes, Chapters, Hodges Figgis, as well as through the major online retailers.

The evening launch was preceeded by a lunchtime reading at Chapters bookstore in Parnell Street

The evening launch was preceeded by a lunchtime reading at Chapters bookstore in Parnell Street

Declan Meehan was one of a number of old pirate faces who attended the launch party

Declan Meehan was one of a number of old pirate faces who attended the launch party

Shiprocked launch at Cassidy's Bar

Shiprocked launch at Cassidy's Bar

Caroline and Ross Revenge posters were displayed throughout the venue

Caroline and Ross Revenge posters were displayed throughout the venue

The radio t-shirt line-up with Phantom 105.2 staff (left to right) Ger Roe, Fiona Scally, Steve Conway, Anne Marie (in Radio Jackie t-shirt!), Sinister Pete and Pearl

The radio t-shirt line-up with Phantom 105.2 staff (left to right) Ger Roe, Fiona Scally, Steve Conway, Anne Marie (in Radio Jackie t-shirt!), Sinister Pete and Pearl


Bits

The “Love & Chocolate” reading in Tralee went very well, and made for an enjoyable afternoon, even if I am shattered after the 600km return drive.

In addition to my normal Sunday evening show on Phantom, I will be interviewed on NEAR FM in Dublin tomorrow, Monday 16th Feb 2009, sometime between 12 and 1.

Very close to the final proof of the book now, just writing the acknowledgements!

Steve


Readings: tonight and Saturday

Tonight (Wednesday 28th Jan 2009) I’ll be at the regular Last Wednesday writers open mic hosted by Seven Towers, along with a huge selection of poets and prose writers. I’ll be reading a newly written short story “Of Little Consequence”.

Last Wednesday takes place every last Wednesday at 7.30pm, in Cassidy’s of Westmorland Street – more details at www.seventowers.ie

Last Wednesday Series Reading and Open Mic
January 28, 2009 (7:30 pm – 9:30 pm)
(Open Mic Night) First Seven Towers event of 2009. 7.30 in Cassidy’s of Westmoreland St. Our regular reading and open mic with Steve Conway, Ross Hattaway, Eamon Lynskey, Donal Moloney, Noel O Briain, Oran Ryan among others!

On Saturday 31st Jan I’ll be taking part in a special day of fundraising for the RNLI, with a reading at the Pavillion in Dun Laoghaire at 3pm, featuring the grounding/rescue story from my forthcoming book Shiprocked.

Also reading will be the poet Ross Hathaway.


This is the year . .

Every New Year for the last several years, I’ve made the resolution to get the book finished, to get representation, and said to myself ‘maybe this will be the year when I finally get it published”.

But this new year is different – thanks to a huge number of things that happened in 2008,not least the sterling efforts Seven Towers Literary Agency, I start 2009 knowing that this IS the year in which my tale of life at sea with Radio Caroline will finally see the light of day.

Publication by Liberties Press is due at the end of March or early April (firm date to be announced soon).

Even knowing this, I was still amazed to find myself listed in the Irish Times today, in a feature on books that we can look forward to in 2009.

I know I should be all calm, and professionally detached, but really, I just want to say: Woo Hoo!

Steve


Finally, the Book Deal!

comingsoon

Finally, after several nail-biting weeks of discussions which I couldn’t mention here, the deal is done, and  I can tell you that the book I wrote about my time with Radio Caroline in its final years at sea is to be published by Liberties Press.

The book will be out at the end of March 2009, priced €14.99, (or £12.99 in the UK).

More details here over the next little while.

Steve


Winter Chill (reading)

Along with my agent at Seven Towers, I’m continuing to work towards getting a publication deal for my book, which covers my involvment with Radio Caroline’s final years at sea in the late 1980s. I can’t comment on these discussions right now, but would hope to be able to announce some positive news in the near future.

Meanwhile tonight (Thursday 13th November 2008) I will be reading from the book at a Seven Towers event in Dublin city centre – details below. The theme is “Winter Chill” so I will be reading a short storm sequence.

Steve

Thursday 13th November, 6.30 Chapters of Parnell St, Dublin 1

Themed reading – ‘Winter Chill’

Kildare poet Liam Aungier; Dublin writer and Phantom FM DJ Steve Conway; Dublin poet Catherine Ann Cullen; poet Alan Garvey; New Zealand poet Ross Hattaway; Dublin poet Anne Morgan; Kerry born, Wexford based poet, playwright, director and producer Noel Ó Briain; North Carolina poet Doog Wood.

Friday 14th November 1.15 Chapters of Parnell St, Dublin 1

Armagh born, Dundalk based essayist and poet Barbara Smith
Novelist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, Oran Ryan reads from the work of Ray Pospisil

Barbara Smith holds a BA Hons. Literature just completed, 2007; and will continue with Queen’s University Belfast, with a MA in Creative Writing. Her debut collection of poetry, Kairos, is just published by Doghouse Books. She has poetry and essays published widely and lives in Dundalk, with her partner and six children. Other publications include Poetic Stage (1998).Barbara blogs at http://intendednot2b.blogspot.com/


YouTube clips from Caroline days

The interview on WLR FM to promo the book went well, Geoff Harris was a very relaxing interviewer, and it was an enjoyable experience.

During the conversation Geoff mentioned that a couple of my TV interviews from the Caroline days are up on Youtube, which reminded me that I should link them from here.

The first is the BBC Daytime Live interview from March 1989, the behind the scenes story of which is told in the book. It’s a lovely piece, it nicely blends the history of the station from the 60s and 70s with our (then) current day operations in the late 80s, and features some lovely shots of the ship at sea. Watch it here.

The next one is one of the many news reports from the day in 1991 when the offshore dream ended, as the Ross Revenge ran aground on the Goodwin Sands and we all had to be rescued by helicopter.

In the interview, we are all wearing RAF flying suits, as the clothes we escaped in were sodden. Watch it here.

I’ll collect these together with other clips and pics on a page in due course.

Steve


Word Weary

I have spent the last 10 days in intensive editing mode, working with Sarah at Seven Towers Agency to get the book completely ready for submission to potential publishers. (to recap – this is non-fiction, my account of my experiences working for the offshore pirate Radio Caroline at the end of the 1980s).

I’ve gone over every inch of the 170,000 or so words, several times, until it’s got to the stage where I hardly know if I am living in 2008 or 1987. So much have I been reliving the Caroline days while editing and re-editing every chapter, page and incident, that I very nearly ID’ed Phantom as Phantom 558 last Sunday!!

But it’s done now, the manuscript is as ready as it will ever be for scrutiny by would-be publishers, and I’m in the lap of the gods (or the hands of my agent) for the next few months as she tests the waters to see what interest there is in it.

Back to the real world so.

Steve


Last Wednesday Tomorrow Night (reading)

Wednesday 27th August sees the regular “Last Wednesday” writers open-mic night at Cassidys of Westmorland Street, in Dublin city centre.

The event includes readings from Seven Towers featured writers Donal Moloney, Ross Hattaway, Noel Ó Briain,  Oran Ryan, and myself. Guest readers are very welcome on the night – maximum reading 10 minutes (no minimum).

The Last Wednesday readings attract a diverse spectrum of readings including poetry, short stories and non-fiction. 

Donal Moloney is a Waterford born, Dublin based poet and writer.
Ross Hattaway comes back for his first reading in Dublin in several months – as he has been winging his way around the world and reading in Lithuania and Sydney, Australia. Ross was born in Wellington New Zealand, but has lived in Ireland since 1990. He has had many varied jobs and currently works as a civil servant. His first collection of poetry, The Gentle Art of Rotting was published by Seven Towers in 2006. This will be Ross’ first reading in Dublin, after touring Lithuania as part of the Poetry Spring Festival 2008 and seeing his work translated into Lithuanian.

Noel Ó Briain was born in Tralee in Kerry, grew up in Dublin and now resides in Camolin, Co Wexford. He has worked as an actor, director, producer and designer and was head of drama in RTE for a period up to 1988. His first collection of poetry Scattering Day, 21 Sonnets and Other Poems was published by Seven Towers in 2007.

Oran Ryan is a novelist, poet and playwright from Dublin. He has had poems, short stories and literary critical articles published in various magazines. His first two novels, The Death of Finn and Ten Short Novels by Arthur Kruger were published by Seven Towers in 2006. He is currently working on his fifth novel and had three plays and two screenplays in pre-production. Oran won a 2008 Arts Council Bursary Award.

I will be reading more from my forthcoming book Somewhere Down The Crazy River – Life on the Waves with Radio Caroline.

It’s always a fun evening, so do drop in if you are in the area.

Steve


16/17 August weekend

An extra slot for me this weekend on Phantom 105.2.

I’m filling in for Cathal Funge on Saturday morning 0800-1100, and will be on as usual on Sunday evening 1900-2100 with Random Access.

Busy otherwise with edits on the book flying back and forwards to my agent, currently working on the middle third, and the bleak winter of 1987/8.

Spring 88 was better, and gave Kylie to the world, though in those days she was a run-of-the-mill SAW artist, and didn’t look destined for mega-stardom. I’m so deep in the edits, and it’s taking up so much of my spare time, that I’m starting to dream Caroline again . .

Steve


Dead Cool

(Note: this piece was originally written back in 2008 when I was still working on the final edits ofthe book which was originally published as Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline.  It is referred to here by my earlier intended title, and the excerpt quoted in fact never made it into the published version for reasons for space).

I’m back from my week long retreat down the southwest, where I spent my time lazing, writing, and thinking (in pretty much that order). Back presenting Random Access on Phantom 105.2. And counting myself lucky to be alive.

Not because of anything that happened to me during the week, but because, like a good writer, I was trying to please my editor, and ended up stirring up some sleeping dogs from the recesses of memory.

When I say editor, Sarah (from the wonderful Seven Towers Agency) is actually my agent, but she is going through an editing process with me on the book, Somewhere Down The Crazy River, as part of the preparation for marketing it to potentially interested publishers. It’s an interesting process for me, having someone with no detailed background knowledge of offshore pirate radio reading the text, and giving me the thoughts and comments that hopefully future readers would raise with the current version. Some minor typos corrected, comments on the flow and occasional suggestions for rearrangement of paragraphs, and gentle prods to include background information when certain sections rely too much on my own instinctive knowledge of how it was back then.

Amongst the material I had to examine or rewrite while on holiday was a section which takes place in high summer, on board the Radio Caroline ship Ross Revenge in 1987. Sarah had inserted a note asking what we were doing in our off-air free time, stuck out on a ship in International Waters, on the hottest days of the year.

I’d written a lot about surviving the storms of winter, and about the many mays of keeping amused on stormy nights, and the various crisis, adventures, friendships and rows that made life at sea spark. But the hot days of June . . . racking my brains I thought about the sunbathing – not all that interesting – and then it came to me, something I had totally forgotten over the years: the swimming!

This far out at sea there would be no room for mistakes, and swimming sessions were strictly a group rather than a solitary activity, with two people watching over the side, and safety buoys deployed and attached to the ship by ropes. Tidal streams in the Knock Deep were strong, and we had no rescue craft to go after anyone who was swept away, so swimming was restricted to about half an hour either side of the turn of the tide, when the current was slack. Swimmers stayed close to the ship at all times, never further away than we could throw a life buoy. Mostly we would swim up and down along the side of the ship, the more adventurous going as far forward as the anchor, or occasionally doing a complete circuit of the ship if they were strong swimmers. The watchers on deck would move around to stay with the swimmers at all times.

The first time I ever ventured into the water was both an exhilarating, and profoundly scary experience. The water was cold, and there was nothing underfoot – no bottom to touch, as we were in about 30-40 foot of water in the middle of the Knock Deep. The ship beside me was my only safety, and had precious few things to grip onto at the waterline anyway. There was nothing else in sight as far as the eye could see. Even in calm conditions, gentle swells would lift me up and down unexpectedly. At first I just clung to the side of the ship and enjoyed the feeling of being in the water with the safety of still being attached, but after a while I became more adventurous and was able to let go, and start swimming forwards, careful not to stray more than a few yards distant as I swam alongside. Going forwards, I had a pleasant surprise when I came level to the part of the ship where the generator room was located, as the cooling water outlet was discharging lovely warm water into the sea at that point (the generators used sea water cooling, drawing in cold sea water on the port side of the ship, running it through the cooling system to discharge hot on the starboard side).

The swimming sessions were enormous fun, and always seemed too short, though it was always with a sense of relief that I would climb the rope ladder and find myself safely back on board again.

View from the Ross Revenge - an empty sea

View from the Ross Revenge – an empty sea

Sigh.

Radio Caroline was a wonderful time in my life, the broadcasting was fun, the life exciting, and in general we were very responsible citizens, observing shipping regulations and responsible technical standards of operation for the radio station, but there were times too when we tempted fate, jumping from ship to ship as supply boats came alongside, climbing masts for repairs – and getting off our ship, miles out at sea, and swimming happily despite the fact that there was no rescue if we got into difficulties.

Maybe I’m older and less adventurous now, perhaps I’ve lost the spark, but I like to think that I’m simply a little wiser. Some of the things I have written about in the book, done without a second thought twenty years ago make my hair stand on end now.

Amazing also that I had so completely forgotten this activity – that’s the purpose of a good editor when you are writing – they don’t ever write a word for you, but they push and they prod and they question to bring more colour and depth (in this case literally) to the writing.

Steve


Random Access Oxegen

I have a rare Sunday evening off this weekend, as Random Access will be presented live from the Oxegen festival by Sinead Ni Mhorda, as part of Phantom’s Road to Oxegen weekend.

I’m closeted away down in the southwest with a laptop and a whole bunch of edits to do on the book, plus an unrelated short story knocking inside of my head to be let out.

So, an intensive weekend of writing, and I have to deny myself the pleasure of listening to Phantom’s Oxegen coverage over the net, as it would be just too distracting.

I’ll be back on air next weekend, batteries recharged, and editor suitably impressed (hopefully!).

Some excellent news – a kind soul (hello Hans!) reading this blog has passed my contact details on to Richard Jackson (see below) and we’ve just made contact for the first time in years. He’s still based in Bangkok, running a thriving audio business, and still remembering Caroline as fondly as I do.

Steve


Two Seven Towers events this week

This Wednesday 25th June 2008 sees the regular “Last Wednesday” open-mic event for writers, hosted by Seven Towers, the Dublin-based small publisher and writers agency who are representing me for my book.

Last Wednesday is always great fun, there is a huge amount of really great new writing featured, including poetry, short stories, and ongoing fiction readings.

Regular readers include Oran Ryan, Noel Ó Briain, & Donal Moloney and there are always many other readers, including some first time readers.

I will be there as usual, reading some excerpts from my own recently completed and as yet unpublished book “Somewhere Down The Crazy River” (non-fiction – my true life account of the last years at sea of Radio Caroline at the end of the 1980s).

Last Wednesday takes place at Cassidys pub in Westmorland Street in Dublin city centre, event starts at 7.30pm.

Later this week, there is another Seven Towers event, “From International Waters”, a series of readings of pieces which explore national and international boundaries and travel, with readers with readers Quincy R Lehr (USA), Roslyn Fuller (Canada), Noel Ó Briain (Ireland), Anamaria Crowe Serrano (Ireland) and others to be confirmed.

This takes place on Sunday 29th June, at 3.30pm in Cassidys.

No entry fee, all welcome.

Steve