Andrew Furlong returned in 2003 to live in Dalkey, where he had grown up. He joined Dalkey Writers Workshop in 2005. Andrew says he enjoys being in the group, and appreciates the other members’ support for his writing as well as their creative insights and constructive criticisms. He says he is often amazed at the quality of work presented to the group by the members.
A poem and a short story of his are included in the Dalkey Writers Workshop second anthology Catching the Light, published in 2007. Another story of his is in the Dalkey Writers Workshop third anthology Circle Time, published in 2011. Andrew says he finds that he is constantly learning more and more about the craft and skills required for writing in differing genres and styles. Andrew is now working on a re-write of a novel he first began in 2003. His memoir "Tried for heresy: A 21st Century Journey of Faith", was published in 2003. He also has a website which promotes human rights and discusses theological concerns www.andrewfurlong.org
Below is written work by Andrew in a few different styles, first is an entertaining dialogue along with his photography.
‘The room was suddenly in an uproar – everyone speaking at once.’
‘See if you can catch him,’ shouted Mary.
‘No, that would be too dangerous,’ screamed Peter, ‘he’s armed.’
‘Who has their phone number?’ Charlotte bellowed out, ‘We must call the police.’
‘Yes, call the police,’ said George, ‘but surely we must warn Julie and the children, and tell them to leave the house and get away to somewhere safe.’
‘To think it’s my brother,’ sobbed Deidre, ‘he’s going to murder his wife and maybe his children.’
‘Let’s be calm, everyone,’ called out Bernadette. ‘We all need to think. Supposing he changes his mind and comes back here; should we not all get out of here? Come to my house. Michael will be at home. Stanley won’t dare follow us there.’
‘And to think it’s all because he believes his wife is having an affair with the builder, whom most of us know,’ said Mary.
‘Surely Stanley knows that Tom and his plumber friend are both gay. Tom would never go near Julie in a month of Sundays, though she’s extremely attractive,’ said Peter.
‘Has anyone got Julie’s number?’ Bella called out. ‘If so, I’ll ring her.’
‘Let me do it,’ said Moira, ‘I know her better than any of you. You call the police Bella. Tell them Julie lives at 21 Circular Park. Here’s her number, it’s 087 2224242; tell the police the number. It’s 087 2224242’
‘That’s the doorbell,’ shouted Bill sounding very alarmed. ‘It could be Stanley coming back. He’s had far too much to drink. We won’t be able to reason with him.’
‘I’ll hide behind the door and hit him with the frying pan,’ said Sheila. ‘Give me a minute while I get it.’
‘No, Sheila, you could kill him; we can’t do that,’ said Bertie.
‘Thank you all,’ said Henry, ‘that was brilliant. We’ll rehearse Scene Two next week. Make sure you’ve learned your lines.’
A little sketch of a neighbour
‘He made the money disappear,’ said five year old Hughie. The penny, held under a handkerchief, and then dropped into the glass of water, to his amazement wasn’t there.
Most people don’t have a ninety five year old man as a neighbour, or if they do, he’s unlikely to be all that Derek was. For, as well as being a conjurer who loved showing his tricks to children, he worked in the accounts departments of the Great Northern Railways and of CIE; he was a water diviner, photographer, carpenter, artist, chess player, gardener, diarist, canoeist, collector, bookkeeper, poet, swimmer, reader, and traveller. He was an adored uncle, husband for over sixty years to Mary, the oldest CIE pensioner, devout Christian, good friend and neighbour. In a red dressing gown, with his blue eyes, white hair and beard, he was a Father Christmas.
Long ago, Derek and Mary turned a small bedroom into an upstairs living room. There they sat each evening, content in each other’s company. If you could turn the clock back, you’d see that while she is reading, he’s writing up his diary for the day or filling in the week’s expenditure into his accounts book. She passes over the Irish Times for him to cut out Brendan McWilliams’ weather report. He keeps each one neatly stored since the first ‘Weather Eye’ column appeared in 1988, then nearly twenty years later he presents them all to Brendan’s widow.
Mary died in 2005 and Derek missed her company sorely. He began playing postal chess against his neighbours – Gordon Snell and his wife Maeve Binchy. If Mary had been still alive, he would have often told her ‘It’s checkmate’, but no longer with the proud glimmer in his eye, which she’d seen when he came home from the chess club in Dublin. They never beat him!
Though he missed his wife, he was still glad to wake up each morning. The days were not long enough for all he wanted to do. If only he wasn’t so unsteady on his feet. He’d broken a hip when he fell while dismounting his bicycle down at the church. Sometime later, when sweeping up the leaves after cutting his front hedge, he tripped over his ladder and landed himself back in hospital for several months with another broken hip. He was so pleased that thereafter a neighbour kept the hedge beautifully for him. Over recent years, there have been people whose help he couldn’t do without, which led him to value even more the freedom and independence he still enjoyed. On fine summer days, he took his battery operated scooter out of the shed and set off for the Dalkey harbours and the coast. He didn’t forget to bring his camera. He’d painted all the local scenes and made his own picture frames in his studio at the bottom of his garden.
When in hospital, nurses loved to sit by his bedside for ten minutes or so as he sketched a remarkable likeness of them, which they’d treasure for the rest of their lives. It had always been a sign that he was on the road to recovery when he’d started doing these portraits.
He loved to talk and chat, he never got breathless; and with one big puff last summer he extinguished the candles on the cake baked to celebrate his ninety-fifth birthday. Since then he’s had some tough months. He’s told some of his visitors that he thought that he was finished. They felt so sad. A young hospital doctor asked him, a few years’ ago, did he want to die. He’d been too ill to reply, but several weeks later he’d started on his sketches. Some of the staff in the nursing home where he was over Christmas, only barely still alive, asked would he find the energy to sketch them. After all, somehow he’d managed to sign twenty Christmas cards in his neat clear handwriting. Would they see their faces being birthed on paper and be awestruck by the extraordinary artistry of this aged devotee?
On 2nd January 2014, he answered those questions when he closed his eyes for evermore. The people to whom he has meant so much will keep their loving gaze on him. A former neighbour wrote and sent a picture of Derek on his scooter ready to embark on his next adventure. She said it was how she will remember him. Perhaps he and Mary, his beloved soul mate, are rejoicing now, as he believed that, some day, they would.
In the Wild
We arrived about four o’clock at the game reserve on the banks of the Zambezi after a long hot journey.
‘No room in the camp site tonight, guys, but you can book for tomorrow and the next day; but then we’re full up for the weekend I’m afraid,’ said the Park Ranger in the office.
‘We’ll book now,’ said Larry, ‘Do you think we’ll see the big five?’
‘At this time of year leopard or cheetah unlikely, but you should see the others and certainly the elephants,’ said the Ranger. ‘I suggest you go to the motel this evening near Customs, it has a camping site.’
‘Great,’ Larry said, ‘we will.’
On arriving at the motel, we first ordered some beers. Larry persuaded me that it wasn’t worth going to the trouble of putting up our tent, seeing it was only for one night and that anyway it would be fun to sleep under an African sky. Though I was reluctant at first, I agreed – that was after my second beer. We found an empty space close to a large marula tree, some forty feet high. We sat outside the bar as darkness fell quickly after sunset.
After our meal, we drank more beers and chatted and relaxed in the warm evening air with a full moon beaming down on us. We were in bed about eleven. For a while I gazed up at the African star-filled sky, wondering would Larry’s snoring keep me awake.
‘What a sight, so many stars,’ I thought, as I closed my eyes and turned over on my side.
I was still trying to get to sleep when a noise startled me. It was an elephant stripping the marula tree of its fruit which hung like large sausages from the branches. It was tearing leaves and small branches off the tree as well as the juicy fruit. Looking up at it from ground level it appeared massive, I was both shocked and scared, and very worried that Larry would wake up and let out a loud curse. That could frighten the elephant and maybe make it attack us. I reached over and shook him gently till he woke up, whispering to him about our visitor. I knew that one swish of the elephant’s trunk or its foot on our rib cages would be fatal. We watched in silence. I was amazed at how high the elephant could reach with its trunk. Fortunately, after a few minutes it ambled off.
‘Wow,’ said Larry in a tense voice ‘that could have been nasty,’ He sounded more subdued than usual.
‘He knew we were lying at his feet,’ I said.
‘Yea, maybe, but supposing he’d reckoned we were in his way. He might have swished us to one side with his trunk. And broken God knows how many bones in our bodies; that’s if he didn’t kill us outright.’
‘The locals would have known not to sleep under a marula tree,’ I said. ‘We should have checked out with the waiters whether we’d picked a good place to sleep.’
Larry grunted and turned over on his side, yawning loudly.
‘I don’t know if I’ll get back to sleep again. Should we sleep in the car or find some chairs inside the motel?’ I asked him.
‘It won’t be much different tomorrow night, there’s no fence around the camp site,’ he replied.
I thought of Sally, my girlfriend back in the UK, who’d be worried sick if she knew what risks we were taking.