Thursday 17 December 2009

Bloody Mary

I was hit with a real sense of nostalgia today when a few of the boys in Year 5 (9-10 year olds) told me of their fab new game.

‘It’s called Bloody Mary,’ one boy said. ‘We do it in the toilets. You stand in front of the mirror, then turn three times and say “Bloody Mary,” for each turn. If you do it right, you see Bloody Mary in the mirror and get scratches right down your back.’

‘Have any of you done it?’

One replied, ‘Yeah! I did.’

‘Did it work?’

He checked his mates’ faces before answering. ‘Not yet.’

The reason for my nostalgia was twofold. When I was at school we had a game just like this. We told each other that if we said the Lord’s Prayer backwards, while looking in a mirror, we’d see the face of the devil. It was a kind of a rite of passage. Most of us of were too scared to do it. Those who did... well, we never knew whether to believe what they said they saw, but the plain fact that they had done it made them somehow different. Not just a little bit braver, but wiser. They’d gone through something and come out the other side. And it felt like they had the upper hand.

Twenty six years later, I wrote that all down. That seed of an idea, the idea that boys need to face their own fears to gain maturity, grew into my very first novel: CLASH.

So if people ever ask where ideas come from, in my case, it’s the daft things I did - or was too scared to do - as a kid.

Colin Mulhern

Thursday 29 October 2009

Pumpkin 2009

Finished! I could clean it up a little, but I wanted to get the candles in.

and here's it with the lights out...

Colin Mulhern

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Pumpkin Head

I'm all fired up for Halloween (or Hallowe'en, if I'm really picky). However you spell it, it's a great time of year. I wish it was the big time horror fest that it is now when I was a kid. We never had pumpkins to carve; we used turnips, or suedes, if you're southern - we called them snadgies. They were cheap, but they were incredibly hard to carve. Pumplins are a doddle.

I'm busy playing with ideas for what to carve this year. This is last year's effort:

as modelled by Cameron. There were so many teeth, it was almost cut in two and started to sag after a few hours.

This year I fancy taking it to the next level. I had a practice this afternoon carving a photographic image of Matthew into a pumpkin.

The result is okay, considering it was rushed, but it's not as much fun as a scary face. So I think I'll keep to tradition and do a proper scary pumpkin, but I might go for 3D teeth or something.

Whatever I come up with, I'll post a pic. So come back soon.

Happy Halloween!!!!

Colin Mulhern

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Child Snatchers and White Vans

Lock your doors. Shut your windows. Turn out the lights.

No matter what, don’t... DON’T... leave the house.

This was the advice of a Year 5 girl yesterday morning, backed up by a group of friends, because... (cue haunting music) There is a man driving a white van, with blacked out windows, who is abducting kids from the streets around our school!!!!

Not true, of course. It’s an Urban Legend: the kind of story that sounds real, usually because the teller says something like: ‘It happened to a friend of my mam!’ hence their other name, Friend-of-a-Friend stories. Usually, the more macabre, the better.

When I was a kid I knew loads of these stories, and took great pleasure in scaring the hell out of kids bigger than me. Once, on a school trip away, when we were all supposed to be tucked up in bed, I reduced the hardest kid in the school to tears with a series of ghost stories that I swore were true. (Years later, this inspired a scene in CLASH).

I think the reason Urban Legends work so well is that because they are word of mouth, they come across as a shared secret, and in being told as, ‘it’s true – this definitely, definitely happened, honest!’ they have a stronger affect our imagination and natural fear of the unknown. You’re left thinking that if it happened to the kid in the story, it could happen to you.

And Urban Legends don’t just freak kids out. I’ve heard many, many stories told to me by adults, convinced they are true; convinced they have happened to a friend of a sister at college, or an Aunty out shopping, including such classics as:

  • The escaped lunatic hiding in the car

  • The axe under the driver’s seat

  • The flat mate’s scarf

  • The babysitters and the killer upstairs.

The internet has created new versions: Michael Jackson’s ghost on YouTube is a big hit (in the eighties it was the ghost in Three Men and a Baby, and further back there is the ghost in The Wizard of Oz, later debunked when the DVD showed it to be nothing more than a bird stretching its wings!). The April Fool’s Day virus is an annual event, and 9/11 resulted in hundreds of urban legends of terror plots and government conspiracy.

Basically, if there’s something you can gossip about that makes someone else look first in disbelief and then horror, then you’re halfway there.

Of course, this didn’t help the year 5 girls with their fear of the white van. One girl was in tears at the prospect of going home that day. Telling her it was just a story wasn’t enough. Luckily, I found an Australian newspaper reporting the very same story back in May. I showed her the most important line in the report:

Two days later, police informed the media that the attempted abduction report was false, that the young girl had made it up.

‘See how stories spread? It’s taken 5 months for that story to get from Australia to here.’

She finally nodded and agreed not to spend any more time worrying.

But there is another side to that story; the real curse of the Urban Legend...

If there is someone in our local area, driving a with a white van with blacked out windows, the poor bloke is probably wondering why groups of kids are pointing and screaming whenever he drives past.

colin mulhern

Saturday 29 August 2009

Fun With a Wheelbarrow

So far, most of my posts on this new blog are about Matthew. Can't resist this next one though. I'll justify it by using it for a short story.

I took Matthew in the back garden and put him on the trampoline, bounced him a few times (very tiring), then let him lie on the grass while I mowed the lawn. That's when I spotted the wheelbarrow. It's old and rusty and covered in dried concrete, but what the hell. With a blanket and a duvet it was ready to roll. Matthew had a quick tour of the street, bumping up and down the curbs. He had a great time. Then we returned to the garden and tipped him out - to squeals of delight.

The next post will be about writing. Honest!

Saturday 22 August 2009

Jolly Holidays

Just spent a week in Great Yarmouth. Had loads of fun with Matthew and his new chair. It certainly made the holiday a lot easier not having to push his old thing around. I should have included a picture of us in the Corn Mega Maze because there's no way we could have ever taken his old chair in there. It was full of bumps and furrows, and we managed to get completely lost.

Here’s a picture of me and Matty in the Model Village.

The Model Village is wheelchair friendly and works like IKEA – a single pathway taking you all of the way around, weaving around the various scenes and settings - but the path is very narrow in places and built up on either side with a wall... we had a few bashes, but went round twice.

I won’t bore you with details of everything there, but we had a fun packed week, perfect weather, and we definitely need to go back some time to visit all the places we missed.

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