Two Lessons in Perspective at Castlebar Station

Whenever I have to meet someone off the train - and it’s usually one or the other of my sons - I always try to get to the station quite early so I can walk up and down the platform and generally take the place in.

I’m just back from there now. The train was about 30 minutes late. No hardship. Some time to breathe.

I love our train station here in Castlebar. It’s got a kind of ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ feel about it. There’s only one platform and one track. There’s a little waiting room and a luggage trolley dispenser that nobody ever uses. There’s a walled-off patch of Japanese Knotweed that we’re not supposed to touch, so we don’t.

One of the main things I like about Castlebar station is the perspective. I always seem to have been engaged with perspective. Even as a young kid, drawing young kid pictures, there would always be a road, leading to some distant mountains, and the road would stretch away towards those purple hills, gradually converging into a single line as it went.

In later school, doing technical drawing, I loved those perspective exercises we had to map out on our drawing boards with our T-squares and our lethal 2H pencils. A plan was drawn, a viewpoint established, a line of vision plotted, and two vanishing points laid out. If you set them poorly, the result would be a misshapen mass, spiky and unconvincing though geometrically correct. But when you got all those points and lines right, and you joined them all up correctly, the appearance of the shape within the defined area at the centre of the sheet was like some kind of manageable magic.

When I walk to the front end of Castlebar station, and as I look back down the track to where the train will come from, the perspective is perfect. Track and platform run off to the limits of my vision, turning a gentle curve to the left, down in the distance. The poles along the side get progressively smaller and smaller, even though they don't really. It is perfect perspective, just like I used to draw. It makes me feel all right. 

This is where the front of the train will stop when it finally arrives. The driver will sit right across from where I stand. And everything falls away from this point, from my point of view at least. This, of course, is the case for any point in the world at which I might care to stand but, here, at the front end of Castlebar station, it is more aptly demonstrated than anywhere else in my current world.

I think it makes me feel a little like I am centred in my place.

It makes me feel at home.

There’s usually time to walk all the way to the other end of the platform before the train arrives. It’s not all that far but it’s far enough. This end of the station is a different sort of a place. The perspective seems less marked when you get there and turn and look back. The turning in the track beyond the station happens sooner and thus impairs the effect. The feeling down there is one of being at an outlying place. A place where people don’t usually go. The platform tapers down to the tracks and a stern sign warns you to go no further. If you want to venture beyond this point, you had better be on a train, with your ticket gripped tightly in your little hand.

If the front end of the platform feels like a confirmation of home, this far end feels more like the Ends of the Earth. For me, it’s a sort of an edgy feeling. One step from where I should not go. My town behind me, an uncertain place ahead.

On a stone wall, just out beyond where I am not supposed to go, there is another sign. There is no companion sign at the other end of the station. The other end of the station is the safe place. But this is the ends of the earth.

The sign is one simple sentence, written small. It reads: ‘Talk to us if things are getting to you'. There is a telephone number at the end.

Back at the safe end of the station, the perspective is geometrically correct, reliable, and reassuring. Out here, nothing seems as safe or as clear cut. It is a place where the end of the platform might not always be far enough to go. A place from which it may prove hard to go back.

I think it can be okay to venture to the far side of the station now and again. To peer over and know the danger that lies there and the lines that can be thrown to help if ever they are needed.

But the front end of the station is the place to try to be. Not only to maintain a little perspective but also to know that the perspective is true.

The train is late but it’s coming now. I can hear the whistle when it’s still three minutes out. There’ll be a tired face off the train and a heavy bag to help with.

It will be time to go home.

Getting In – Short Film

As many of you will know by now (I’ve been bleating about it on Social Media for a while), I wrote a short film and the talented film maker Richard Keaney bravely took it on and made it. 

Thanks Richard!

This weekend has been the first opportunity for the film to be seen out in the wild. It’s an official selection for the Dublin International Short Film and Music Festival. 

Due to Covid matters, the festival, quite rightly, decided to do its business entirely online. There are ups and downs to this. 

One ‘up’ is that anyone who wants to can pay their one euro and see the short film in a suite of seven other short films, all of which are commendably good. 

One ‘down’ is that we don’t get that golden moment to sit in a crowded Dublin cinema and feel how an audience responds to the material. The social and interactive element of such a festival is much diluted in its online manifestation. Still, as the old song went, we’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here. And it’s a pretty darned good place to be. My thanks to DISFMF for allowing us to join in. It’s been great.

Oh, I should do a link, shouldn’t I? Thank you to those of you who watched the film over the weekend and gave such kind and positive feedback. It means a lot. If you’d like to see it in this festival, it’s around until midnight tonight, Sunday. Here’s a link to it:

(EDIT - The Festival is over now.)

I won’t go into much detail about the story here today. Those of you who know it seem to remember it fondly and well. Those of you who don’t might have a nicer experience coming clean to it. So that’s enough about that.

There is one thing I would like to share, and it’s something I have had to learn for myself even though I’ve been told it over and over again throughout the years.

Here it is, in a slightly roundabout way, though you’ll get the gist of what I’m going to say from the next line.

I’ve known the director, Richard Keaney, for a long time now.

Will I embarrass him by saying a little about this? I hope not. My first full length play for teens was called ‘The Moon Cut Like a Sickle’. It was produced for the Linenhall Arts Centre stage in 2006 by DoYou Playhouse and, even if I say so myself, it was amazing. Richard was in the cast of that very first production. I would say his reading of Darko was the definitive one but that’s just pretentious on my part. (It’s a joke, don’t hit me). Richard was very good though. He went on to play a key role in the next play too. In ‘Midnight in the Theatre of Blood’ he played Donnie, who I named so that Richard could have two consecutive characters who were named Donnie Darko.


Simple. Richard adored the movies. Even then, as a fairly young teen, his knowledge of cinema was bordering on encyclopedic and his enthusiasm for the form was boundless. In that second play, Richard’s character engaged in a ‘pop quiz’ on Bond baddies which was largely written as a riff on the kind of discussions that teen Richard would have gladly taken part in all day.

As an aside, it’s such a pleasure to see the casts of those early plays move on through university and life and do so well in their chosen fields. That must be how a teacher feels.

Anyway, Richard went to university to study film and to build on that early knowledge. Then he started making films and his films have done really well. He has a great cinematic eye and a real feel for human storytelling.

We’ve always been in touch, to some extent. That’s where social media really does do us a service. When the script for Getting In was finished, I didn’t quite know what to do with it. I’m actually not the world’s best at submitting things to people. I was better at it years ago but I now seem to be more interested in the writing of something than the ‘placing’ of something, if you know what I mean. It’s a rather odd thing.

‘Getting In’ came up in conversation and Richard read it and saw some merit in it. He took it and, together with the wonderful producer Sonya Deegan, they made it happen, they brought it all to life.

It’s quite a wonderful thing to have this happen. To have a blank page on a computer screen turn into a living piece of storytelling that somebody can sit and see and hopefully take something away from. I am endlessly grateful.

And, yes, you know the point of all this. When I was younger, I was going to be a bit of a world-beater. I was going to scribble something down and the world would beat a path to my door to get it. I know now I will never be that. But, still, I love to write, and I love to see my writing placed before people for their consumption even if, perversely, I don’t push too hard for that anymore.

And I was told it and told it, but I had to learn it: if you want to make art and tell stories with your writing then seek out the people in your community and in your wider circles. People who think and burn a little like you do. Just talk to them, show them your stuff, look at theirs. Find common ground on which to co-operate and grow something good. You can wait your whole life for some fairy-tale ending that will never come or you can go to work with what you have and make your own story.

It’s a hugely rewarding thing to dream and to conspire and to see a little something get done.

Just keep it in mind, eh?

Looking out the Window


This isn’t like me

I’ve just spent a good half hour worrying because I can’t settle on what to write about in the blog for this week. 

It’s not like I haven’t got anything. It’s just that the thing in the front of my mind is someone else’s story, really, and not for me to be telling. 

Still, it’s hard to move your mind from something when it settles there. Plus, I really want to get one written for this week. I’ve missed a few weeks in the last couple of months and I know that’s how the blog routine will eventually end. One week will become two, two will become a month… I’ll be like every other single blogger in the world – I will have stopped.

In search of an idea, I looked up some random writing prompts on Google. I don’t generally have any time for writing prompts but, in times when one has been foisted on me, I’ve generally done passably okay with it.  So, looking at writing prompts… No… No… Jesus, No… This isn’t working.

Wait, I know. I'll look up some children’s’ writing prompts. That’s more your shoe size, Ken.

On a page of children’s writing prompts, I quickly found the following:

Go look out a window for 30 seconds. Write about what you saw during those 30 seconds.


There are six panes in my window onto the front garden, here in the computer/study/video game/Taxi Driver poster room. Of these six, five are stained by condensation creeping in between the two panes of double glazing and leaving its indelible mark there. The varnish on the hardwood frame needs renewing and the little brass handle that opens the bigger central window is snapped off, making it difficult to operate.

Still, I can see out and I can get it open if I crave air or if an errant fly craves freedom.

Outside, it’s Saturday morning in the garden. The garden doesn’t care.

Next door, I can hear John trimming his lawn. Is it the last run for this year? Maybe not, the weather has been relatively clement. John is using his basic unadorned ‘push-it-yourself’ mower. He’s got an electric one but he likes the finish of the older one, plus it’s a bit of exercise for him. That’s a laugh, though. John, retired this while, has a life of exercise, golfing with his pals regularly, cycling up and down to the shops. It’s me who needs the mower.

There are weeds in the junction between the footpath and the road… but only outside my house. Everybody else seems to be more conscientious about attacking theirs with a spade and a plastic bag. I did my part a few months ago but the weeds just grew back. Go figure.

At the start of the pandemic, I trimmed all the bushes and hit all the weeds but the bushes are now back to where they were and the pile of cuttings that formed in my March/April attack is still down the back by the shed. So I guess I'm worse off than when I started.

I wonder why I am more useless than everybody else at keeping up with basic maintenance tasks… oh, yeah (types some more).

I wish I had a photograph of the tree in the front garden from when we moved in here twenty-three years ago. I bet it was a lot smaller then.

I’ve written about the cats before but, man, there are a lot of them. I think there’s a house up one end of the street that lets their moggies breed and breed and then there’s a house at the other end of the street that kindly leave food out for this mob. Maybe not, I don’t know. All I know is that there are a lot of cats. They prowl around and eye each other up and they stalk the birds in an unmotivated way and they hang around the warmth of the car. Sometimes one particularly adventurous one comes in the house for a look around. It was in our bedroom at about 3.30 am one night last week. A paper bag with a new pair of trousers in it started crinkling gently and I thought the mice were finally back. I like cats but I’m not so gone on an uninvited guest bedding down in my chinos in the dead of night. Still, it’s a minor cross to bear.

My front lawn is green. That’s about all I can say in its favour. To name its constituent parts as ‘grass’ would be something of an overstatement.

I like my street. It’s a residential cul-de-sac so most of the cars that go up and down are familiar to me. I am on nodding and smiling acquaintance with the bulk of my neighbours but I’m not much use with names. It’s a quiet, companionable street and I’m happy here.

Venturing back to my window to see what else I can tell you. Not all that much. It’s Sunday morning now, though it was Saturday at the start of this ramble. No, I haven’t been doing this all that time. But I haven’t been doing much gardening either. Maybe I’d better get my boots on and get that pavement verge scraped of weeds. But it’s early still and I don’t want to disturb anybody’s well-deserved Sunday lie-in.

Maybe I’ll leave it to later on. 

Maybe I’ll do it then.

Then again, maybe I won’t.