Getting Into Valentino’s

I referred to this before, in a previous post about getting my drunk friends safely home in the snow, but I thought it was also worth its own place on the blog. I’m talking about the memories attached to getting into Valentino’s and how they may serve as a useful metaphor for where I am today.

Valentino’s was a nightclub which appeared in our town when I was about fourteen or fifteen years old. As with most nightclubs in small towns, it was really just the dancehall of some local hotel jazzed up with some Saturday night disco lights and a fancy name. 

Such nightclubs came and went. ‘Maxims’, ‘Xanadu’, ‘Barbarellas’, the names all invariably evoked a sort of other-worldly sexytime which they all invariably failed to deliver on.

As with so many other things in life, the latest one was always the one to go to. So it was with ‘Valentino’s’. It sprung up one Saturday night in early 1978 and, for a time, everybody wanted to be there. It was located at the large first floor function room down the back of The Silver Swan Hotel which is now the rather prominent Glasshouse in Sligo.

In common with most young men of my age group, I badly wanted to go to Valentino’s and, also in common with this group, I had a problem. I was way too young. The rule was ’Over 21’s only’ and I was 15 at best. I had my work cut out for me if I wanted to get in and, actually, it’s misleading to say that. It implies that, through some devilish scheme, I would counter all of the odds and get myself into Valentino’s. Somehow, some way, I would overcome.


I wasn’t getting in. No way. No How. I was fifteen and I looked fourteen. I was small and puny and duffel-coated and Valentino’s had all the custom it needed. It didn’t need me. It didn’t want me. It wasn’t letting me in.

That hurt. For two reasons. 

Firstly it hurt because all my friends were getting in. Being fairly smart I always tended to be one of the youngest in my class but my mates weren’t all that much older than me. They just seemed to have a little more… I don’t know, ‘Bulk’, ‘Gravitas’ ‘Facial Hair’? Whatever it was, it meant that they breezed in past the gauntlet of bouncers while I was always halted by a burly arm across the chest and a suggestion that I go home and come back in a few years.

That was the first reason that it hurt.

The second reason hurt more though.

There was a girl inside. I liked her. And I knew that, if I could only get inside and buck up the courage to ask her for one slow dance then she would be mine. That was all I needed to make it happen. To get into Valentino’s. And I couldn’t. 

I tried every single week. I would arrive up the concrete steps with my friends. I would have my money ready and I would avoid all eye-contact and sometimes I would get so close to the box office window that I could smell the darkened interior beyond. Then, invariably, I would be drawn back, grinned at and get told to push off home sonny, come back in a – yeah, yeah, I know, in a few years.

Why didn’t I just ask the girl out somewhere else? Go up to her on the street and do the deed? Well, you didn’t, did you? There was a ritual, not written on any wall or in any book but rigorous nonetheless. If something was going to ever start, it had to start with a late dance, a request to ‘stay on’ for the last few dances, a walk home and, if all went well, a subsequent movie-date arranged. There was no other way.

If I wanted to get her, I had to get in to Valentino’s. It was as simple as that.

And I simply could not get in.

I remember trudging home one evening after being turned away yet again, everyone else safe inside, and meeting some of the older guys from my street. They were on their way to Valentino’s. “Come with us,” they exhorted, “we’ll get you in with us.” I went back with them. They concealed me in their midst and trooped up the steps in a formation which was weirdly echoed in the film ‘300’ many years later. We got quite a long way before I was spotted. My elder defenders faded away from me gently like ninjas in the night until it was only me and the dinner-jacketed bouncer. 

“Give up son,” he gently suggested, “you’ll never get in here.”

I went home.

But he was wrong. He was dead wrong. I did get in, eventually.

It was like in ‘The War of the Worlds’. It was no great and clever solution that got me in. It was the tiny thing that did it or, rather, a number of tiny things. It was a brand-new nightclub opening, customer weariness, falling attendance numbers. There simply came a time when Valentino’s was glad to have my fiver. One week, they simply stood aside and let me in and, after I got in once, I was never-ever stopped again.

I remember it so well. It was just a dance floor and people, that’s all. But the lights, the tables around the side, the drinks, the music, the friends, the fun, the dancing, the fights. It was a great place and a great time. I was glad I kept at it, I was glad I finally got in.

That’s it for this week, see you next w_


I’m forgetting something, you say?

Oh, the Girl. I’m forgetting to tell you about the Girl.

Yes, well, as I said at the start, all I had to do was get in the door and she was mine. It was written in the stars from the moment I first saw her.

Of course, you know the script all too well.  She didn’t want me. She never really knew I existed, I reckon. It was never to be.

And here, finally, we come to what the memory of Valentino’s leaves me with today. A rather neat metaphor for my writing career. You see, I always felt much the same way about my writing as I did about that Girl in Valentino’s. I thought that all I would ever had to do was get through the door and then everything I wanted would be mine. Sure, I would have to keep trying and keep trying, suffer disappointment and rejection, humiliation and shame but when I got in, oh when I got in, everything would be fine.

What a neat metaphor Valentino's is, in some ways at least. I tried and tried, eventually (to some small extent) I got in. But, like the Girl, writing has never ever really known that I exist. It was always been about me and the writing rather than about the writing and me, if you see what I mean.

This could be a rather dismal idea, if I let it, but, as I usually do, I keep on pushing the metaphor until it takes me to something I can live with. I don’t have to push too far with this one.

I may not have found what I thought I would in Valentino’s in the seventies but there were other subsequent nightclubs, in subsequent towns, in subsequent worlds and there, without really expecting anything, I sometimes found the best of things, the best of opportunities, enough perhaps to last me a lifetime.

So it may yet prove to be with writing. Someday I may yet get to come inside. 

And, in the meantime, all that I can really do is keep on creeping up those hard concrete steps, fiver in hand, and hope that, someday, somehow, that dinner-jacketed man will smile, step aside, and allow me to come inside and dance a while. 

The Doubles Partner – A Short Theatre Play - Two Females, One Male

What I’m planning to do is to write a little piece about each of my theatre plays. I’ll aim to do this midweek so it doesn’t really get in the way of my weekly blog post.  The theory is that my quite-good Google indexing might enable someone hunting for a particular type of play to find one of mine via internet search.

It’s really just a wee experiment.

This first post is about my most recent play 'The Doubles Partner' which we put on most recently in The Linenhall Theatre last Saturday. It’s only twelve minutes long and it needs a cast of two women and one man. It only requires the most minimal of set and lighting to carry it off. 

The play opens with John and Mary in their living room. John is struggling with his crossword puzzle and Mary, despite her best efforts, is really no help at all.  When Mary suggests that John seems very interested in his watch, he confesses that somebody is coming around to visit. That somebody is Louise, John’s new Doubles Partner. Louise’s arrival sends the play off in all kinds of unexpected directions with quite a few twists and turns along the way.

The audience reaction to this one has been exceptionally good. The play packs about 45 minutes worth of stuff into the 12 minutes and leaves the audience a bit shocked and breathless.

The play won first prize in the 2013 Claremorris Fringe Festival, for which it was written. It’s a funny little play with a black black heart and I am quite proud of how it came out.

If the play sound like something you might like to produce with your group, leave me a comment here and I will get a copy of the script to you. If it suits your purposes, we can work out something reasonable regarding royalties and I would be glad to tell you what I’ve learned about staging the play, having directed it myself.

Thanks for reading.


You can now watch the play on Vimeo if you like

The Doubles Partner from Frame Productions on Vimeo.

Come back for more information on my other plays over the next few weeks.

Three Opinions You Can Feel Free to Hate Me For

I think it’s important to stick my head above the parapet from time to time. Not too often, it can be hard work. It’s rewarding though, to stand up for things you feel. It’s even more rewarding (and even harder work) when you stand up for things you feel that other people will probably vehemently disagree with.

Most of all, though, it’s rewarding to stand up for things you feel which others will disagree with, when that things in question and utterly trivial and completely pointless.  That’s the most fun of all.

So let’s have some of that kind of fun.

Here are three trivial unimportant things that I feel which you may well disagree with and even think me a fool for not agreeing with you. Because it is in my nature to like stuff, my ‘three things’ for today all concern things I quite like that I reckon many of you will probably dislike.

Let’s see…
Love Actually
I like Richard Curtis. I think he does ‘funny’ and ‘sweet’ really well. I liked ‘Four Weddings’ very much and I’ve stuck with him since. Trish and I went to see this when it first came out, close to whatever Christmas that was, and I found it funny and touching and it put me in the mood for the holiday. It’s on telly loads and loads but I would watch it if I was sitting and it came on. I would show it to my son and say, “Here, this is quite good.” I get why people wouldn’t like it (I think) but I do. So there.

Ever since he marched along that rain-swept beach in the video for ‘Yellow’, I’ve liked Coldplay. I don’t run out and buy their albums but then I don’t run out and buy albums generally. I don’t seek them out to listen to either but, when they come on the radio or telly, I find the music bright and smart and good. I saw them in concert on telly, from Glastonbury, I think, and I thought they put on a great show.

Okay, I’ve saved the big guns for last.

(Deep Breath)

Dan Brown
I’ve read all of Dan Brown’s books. Some are better than others. ‘The Da Vinci Code’ won me over though. I had to go to Dublin on the train one day, a three hour journey each way. I took along ‘DVC’ and opened it as the train pulled out. I finished it that evening as the train pulled back into my home station It was a complete hoot. 

It belted along from scene to scene, had just enough quasi-historical hoohah to work and it made my train journey vanish into a world of running, racing and clue-solving. What more could I want? I’m a writer but I don’t get snagged on Dan’s famous style or his ways with description and metaphor. He made the train go away. That’s why I’ll read his new one too, sometime, no rush. I’m not saying that Dan doesn’t write dodgy sentences or constantly hark back to similar scenarios in his various stories. It just doesn’t bother me. I don’t look for savoury undertones in a Magnum choc ice. I look elsewhere. 

I think people mostly knock Dan because it’s fun. The character of the superstar writer who doesn’t write very well is a comical enduring one and it’s fun to riff on, particularly when there’s obviously some truth in it. But I’ve enjoyed a bit of Dan in my time so I think it’s good for my soul not to jump on that particular wagon. I’m not saying he’s brilliant, I’m just saying I enjoyed reading some of his stuff. If I feel it, why not say it?
So there’s my three things for today.

Like I said at the start, you may well disagree. You may think me an idiot and a tasteless cretin of the highest order. That’s fine and good. As a matter of fact, it’s great. My belief is that our hope for the future lies largely in our continuing expressions of disagreement.

It’s too easy to surf along on the gentle wave of the general view of things. We’re better than that. We have to stand up for what we believe and, before that, we have to educate ourselves on what we choose to believe, just to make sure that it’s right.

We have to stand up.

And we can practise here, on these silly little things that don’t really matter at all.

Then, maybe, we’ll be better prepared when the big stuff finally comes along.

Hard to Keep Up

I find it increasingly hard to keep up with stuff.

I’m not talking about anything important here. I’m mostly just thinking about the ‘entertainment’ stuff. Books and movies and television, that sort of thing. Suddenly, there seems to be so much of it all, it’s very hard to keep up.

It seemed easier years ago. There’s at least two good reasons for that, I reckon. Firstly there really wasn’t so much stuff around. In the Seventies, we had just four or five channels of telly and they all closed down at midnight (we were lucky, we picked up BBC and UTV from our north-westerly location, others had only one channel to choose from). There seemed to be less books too, less movies. Less everything.

Secondly there was so much more time or at least there seemed to be. Whatever you didn’t get to see/read/hear/eat/smell could be caught up with a little way on down the line. No worries. Plenty of time.

There isn’t plenty of time now, not for me anyway. ‘Fifty, this year, tick-tock, tick-tock. There’s no practical deferring of stuff too far into the future. If you don’t see/hear/smell it now, it’s most likely you never will see/hear/smell it at all.

My Sky Plus box is the physical manifestation of this situation. It is the concept of deferred consumption and unfulfilled desire made flesh. I think I’ll use my Sky Plus box to illustrate my point. It’s the exact same situation with books and music and… God knows what else but the Sky Plus Box sits there and tells it clearly. When I sit down and push my Sky Plus box button and I inspect the long list of TV treats I have stored and deferred for later consumption, it is almost like a taunt, a confirmation of how little time there really is and how I really should be using it better.

It’s not easy though. Our TV has demands on it far beyond my own. The kids have things they need to see, as does Patricia. I often only get to my own things late in the evening when the house is ticking peacefully into the night. Then what happens? Of course. I fall asleep in front of some desperate catch-up exercise. Wake up, scratch, stumble off to bed. Another programme deferred back to the list.

As a writer, I should be seeing more of these telly programmes. I should be understanding the latest trends and movements in the world of popular entertainment. I really should be keeping up.

But it’s hard. It’s so hard to keep up.

I mean-


Read back, Ken.

I’ve read this piece back now and I’m shaking my head.

The point I seem to have made, somewhere in the middle of all this, is that I should be using my time better by watching more television. What a lot of twaddle that is. I do things, I’m busy, life is full. The last thing I need is more telly.

I should be looking at the Sky Plus box another way. Perhaps it isn’t a taunt after all. Perhaps it isn’t a record of my failure. Perhaps it’s more a record of success. A measure of all the good times spent away from the dormant glare of the tellybox. Sure I might have missed a few good shows along the way but I’m living, aren’t I? Isn’t that a better thing, all in all?

Besides, failing some technological bump, my Sky Plus box will continue to curate all my missed telly for me and, maybe someday, some fine day, I will take a week off from life and watch it all. Maybe then I will feast on my ‘Borgen’ (Series One), my ‘Game of Thrones’ (Series One), my ‘Killing 3’, my ‘Punch Drunk Love’, my ‘A Prophet’… the list isn’t endless but it is long.

Will I hell! I’ll pick them off, here and there, when I can and continue the dance that is Real Life.

That’s for the best, I think.

Why Let the Weather Touch You So?

The rain will rain
The wind will blow
Why let the weather
Touch you so?

Your life will come
Your life will go
Why let the weather
Touch you so?

One day good
Three days bad
The world will turn and turn
And still the seasons make you sad
It is a lesson you should learn

Take what comes
Take what goes
Why let the weather
Touch you so?