I’ve put off writing a review of 2014, because it has a great big memory well on 9 November when my mum died, and most of my other memories of the year have fallen into it. But there are some things worth remembering about it.
My sister-in-law Louise turned 40 in April. She is amazing and has been a rock over the last couple of months – I don’t know how I could have got through it all without her. She and my mum were very fond of each other, and mum’s death must have hit her as hard as it hit anybody, but she’s done everything in her power to keep everyone’s spirits up, and I will never forget that. I did her a caricature for her birthday:
My good friend Stephen McCartney also turned 40, a bit later in the year. He lives in London these days, but came back to organise a monstrous party with a band, and performed a couple of songs with it. We went for a walk along the beach at Helen’s Bay, something I hadn’t done for ages, and he complained that the music in the charts these days is all crap. “Of course it is,” I replied. “You’re 40.” Here’s a caricature I did of him for the occasion.
I found myself a little less engaged with comics last year, for whatever reason, but even so I did two MCM Comic Cons, in Dublin and Belfast, and both went very well. I also appeared on a comics panel at TitanCon, a fantasy and science fiction convention, with PJ Holden, Andy Luke and Rory McConville. I got interviewed about The Cattle Raid of Cooley for international Irish magazine The Wild Geese, and the Cattle Raid got reviewed, very favourably I thought, by The Comics Journal. I did a 24 hour comic, A Personal Narrative, at the 24 hour comics event organised by Glenn Davidson at Farset Labs in October.
And in November, right after mum’s funeral, I went to the Thought Bubble comics festival in Leeds. I’d already booked it but didn’t really feel up to going, but my family talked me into it, and I’m glad I did, because everybody was brilliant. Comics people are good people. Also, my entry in the 2000AD Future Shock art competition made the last eight. Click the thumbnail below to see the full pages.
In terms of reading comics, my favourite comic of the year is Outcast, a demon-possession horror series written by Robert Kirkman, drawn by Paul Azaceta and coloured by Elizabeth Breitweiser, from Image. The story is very good, the line art is excellent, but it’s the colouring that really sells it to me, done with a limited palate with a lovely dry-brush overlay effect. Here’s a sample:
In August my singing teacher, Róisín Magee as was, McKenna as is, got married in Newry Cathedral, and we, her class, were honoured to do the music. Fionnuala and Bill did a haunting version of Alison Krauss’s In the Palm of Your Hand that had me spellbound. I played guitar, and led the group on Here Comes the Sun as the happy couple left the church. In December we put on a cabaret show, Strictly Not the X-Mas Factor, that raised over £1,200 for Cause and the Thomas Devlin Fund.
And at the very end of the year, my dad got married. It was nice to end the year with a happy event. He and my mum had been separated for over 20 years but for various logistical reasons it had never been practical to get divorced, and he’d been with Rosie for ten, and we could all tell from very early on it was the real thing. They make each other happy. And you can’t take anything for granted, it’s not so very long since Rosie had a bleed on the brain and was touch and go for a while, so they were just right to solemnise their relationship as early as they could. It was a quiet affair at the City Hall, followed by lunch at a very nice restaurant. Rosie read a couple of verses from “Us Two”, from A. A. Milne’s Now We Are Six, my dad’s favourite book, which he said he’d been given a copy of on his sixth birthday, although he no longer had that copy. Until I found it the next day, inscribed from his auntie Lila, in a box of books I’d brought home from mum’s house.
Unfortunately, 2015 began with a sad thing. My mum’s cat Eccles needed a new home, and dad and Rosie took him in. He seemed to settle, but then got spooked by another cat staring him out through the window. A couple of days later a door got left open, and he snuck out unnoticed. Whether he was just exploring and got lost, or decided there was no territory for him here and went to look for another one, or was trying to find his way back to his real home, we’ll never know. My brother Simon found his body a couple of days ago. He’d been hit by a car. Poor old sod. He was 16, which is pretty old for a cat, and had lived with a lady who spoiled him, and got one of my Special Head Rubs every time I came to visit. He didn’t have a bad life, just a shame it had to end the way it did. Bye, old man.