A chance encounter on Grafton Street

22 Jul

 

It was dusk on Grafton Street. The Christmas decorations had begun to glow in the fading light.Her reflection could be seen in the window of Brown Thomas, the upmarket department store. Its contents had grabbed her attention and commanded her to stop and look. However, she was not in the mood to pursue a mild interest in the garment on display and, after a few moments, continued her journey along Grafton Street towards St. Stephen’s Green. At the junction with Harry Street, from behind a flower seller’s stall, Harry suddenly appeared in front of her.

She surprised herself by readily accepting Harry’s offer of a drink in nearby McDaid’s but she was not uncomfortable with the situation. During and after her separation she was taught to live in and accept the “now”.

Harry ordered the drinks and then found a discreetly located table. There was a lot of coming and going in this establishment. Seating as far from the entrance as possible was preferable.

‘Samantha, I am really, really pleased to have met you today. How have you been keeping? I haven’t seen you at the tennis club in recent times?’

‘I had a slight problem with my Achilles tendon which required rest and physiotherapy. It’s getting much better and I am just about to make a comeback – when the evenings get longer.’

“Well I am delighted to hear that. The Achilles can be very troublesome, you know. Sometimes they can only be repaired by surgery. They just snap for no apparent reason. I recall the case of a football hooligan crossing Chelsea Bridge on his way to a match. Without warning his Achilles snapped, causing searing pain. A policeman was walking behind him and the hooligan thought he must have been hit on the Achilles by the policeman’s truncheon. So he punched the policeman in the mouth – could have gone to jail. I assume his immediate transfer to the nearest hospital and subsequent diagnosis saved him.’

“Yes, I know, I heard about that case.’

She felt surprisingly relaxed about him telling her things that she already knew. Normally this would irritate her.

Harry was light-headed by just being in her company. He was besotted. He would settle for a platonic friendship but, dare he dream of more? She was less enthusiastic, being frequently admired. However, compared to most men, she felt he was on her wavelength. Harry was an ambitious courtier and she was a high-born eighteenth-century aristocrat. He was speaking too much, like a giddy gurgling brook, but he soothed her and she was happy to let him babble on.

He would have preferred to offer a more salubrious setting but he had to seize the moment. A proposal of a longer walk, only as far as the Westbury, may have caused her to change her mind, either immediately or en route. Besides, the quirky nature of McDaid’s provided a certain anonymity.

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English”. You can download it or get a printed copy from Amazon. If you’re in Dublin over Christmas you can buy it in Sweny’s Chemist Shop (Joycean Museum) in Lincoln Place, near Trinity College.

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Computers are like cars – right?

7 Jul

A meeting with Phil – the procurement manager

“The residual values in your computer leases are pathetic. It’s an awful indictment of your lack of faith in your own products when you’re prepared to put no more than a 10 per cent residual value into a three-year lease. In the motor trade you’d get at least double that.’

The salesman replied:-

‘Phil, the similarities between mass-produced cars and computers only go so far. The speed of technical innovation in computer manufacturing is far quicker. For example, a newly launched computer may not be fit for purpose within four or five years of its first shipment. After this time it is still reliable and it still performs at its design speed but the IT environment will have moved on. New software and applications require ever more powerful processors and the original computer has to be replaced. It will have minimal second-hand value because no one will want to buy it. However, a five-year-old family saloon can still do the job at acceptable levels of speed, comfort, reliability and safety. A Formula 1 racing car provides a better comparison to the IT environment. A five-year-old racing car may still achieve the speed it was designed to do but it won’t win any races because more recently built cars go faster.’

‘Listen. I’ve been around the track so many times that it makes me dizzy just to think of it. There’s nothing you can tell me about racing cars. Anyway, there’s still a good market value in old Formula 1 racing cars.’

‘But it’s nothing compared to the cost of the original build. Formula 1’s are not mass produced. They are collectors’ items. You won’t find many vintage enthusiasts polishing a 20 year-old computer every Sunday morning in their garage before they take it for a sentimental batch run.’

This is an edited extract from the book – London Irish Dublin English, available on Amazon. Photo0108 (1)

Edwardian Bloomsday banter in Neary’s

16 Jun

There is something reassuring about a visit to Neary’s. Things don’t change. You are greeted at the entrance by two strong metal arms, each of which holds a big conical lamp to guide you in. Inside, spherical glass lampshades, the size of footballs, sit on great brass stands which grow from the bar. Due to its familiarity, all this seems quite normal but it is far more special than that. A friendly but reserved greeting can be expected from the barmen, smartly adorned in their famous livery of black bow tie and white shirt.

A line of small round tables accompany a continuous couch along the wall which faces the bar of this beautifully appointed rectangular room. I was fortunate to find a vacant table and was relaxed the moment I took my place on the couch. To my left were a group of retail workers resting after a hard day’s selling. To my right were three intellectual types. The looked like real or aspiring Trinity College professors, much like Michael Caine in the film Educating Rita. Perhaps Rita was sitting to my left? This I shall never know.

The professors were aged between 30 and 45 years. One had a beard, a heavy tweed jacket and green corduroy trousers. The second wore thick, black-rimmed glasses and a white, woolly Aran jumper, whereas the third was quite bald and smoked a pipe. They engaged in a giddy Edwardian-style conversation which became more pronounced during the process of procuring each round of drinks. The general banter went as follows:-

(1)The offer:-

‘Could I interest you in a further libation?’

‘Could you make a hole in another pint?’

The acceptance:-

‘Can a duck swim?’

‘Can a bird fly on one wing?’

(2)The order:-

‘James, give us another dose of that.’

‘Whatever he’s having and none for yourself.’

(3)The delivery:-

‘Now take this in your right hand and say after me.’

‘Imbibe one of these every 30 minutes and the itching should subside.’

(4)The acknowledgement:-

‘The blessing of God, Mary and Patrick on you.’

‘Tanks awfully muchly.’

‘To those like us.’

‘That one’s mine, as the devil said to the dead policeman.’

‘More power to your elbow.’

(5) Followed by general small talk:-

‘It’s the greatest country in Ireland.’

‘Who made those allegations?’

‘I am the alligator.’

‘The oldest woman in Dublin is still alive!’

‘I beg your parsnips.’

‘And there was him and him gone.’

(This is an edited extract from my book – London Irish Dublin English)    

The move from London to Dublin

3 Jun

Donal’s job transfer from the London office to Dublin seemed ill -advised and badly timed.  This was Ireland in the mid-1980s. The Irish Government was up to its neck in debt. Unemployment stood at 18 per cent and Draconian rates of income tax were inflicted on those fortunate to have a job. Moreover, Donal was a born and bred Londoner.

The reaction of Donal’s London-based customers to his move fell into one of three categories. Depending on how highly or otherwise they regarded Ireland, their line of questioning went something like:

  • ‘What did you do wrong?’ (This from the customers who felt that moving, or being moved, to Ireland must be some form of punishment meted out by the company’s senior management team.)
  • ‘Are you going there as general manager?’ (Some customers believed a posting to Ireland was like a Victorian civil servant being sent to darkest Africa. Donal would adopt the role of governor of the territory and bring civilisation to it.)
  • ‘Good luck!’ (These customers understood Donal’s rationale for moving to Dublin even if they did not see why he thought it was such a great place. By moving locations within the same company, Donal got to do the same job but in a place where he much preferred to live.)

The vast majority of his London work colleagues, on the other hand, did understand his reasons for moving. They saw him as Paddy the Irishman, a moniker with which he was quite happy. He knew that in the Dublin office he would be known as John the Englishman, but this did not bother him. He would quickly set about convincing all who cared to listen that his credentials were sound.

He would explain thus:-

‘You guys just woke up one morning and realised that you were born Irish – I had to decide to be Irish and then work at it!’

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English” You can download it or order the printed version from the Amazon website.

Amazon Marketing Services for Self-Publishing: An effective selling tool or a conspiracy theory?

11 Apr

In order to keep this article short, I am assuming that the reader is familiar with the mechanics of AMS. Here are my results. During the six month period from June to December 2015 AMS generated 100,000 impressions (small Adverts) for my book. From these Ads my book page received 600 clicks from potential buyers. From the 600 clicks there were 16 sales of my book. This generated royalties of $33 (price $2.99 @ 70%).The total cost of the 600 clicks was $40 (Ave cost per click 6.67c). Although royalties fell $7 short of the cost of the clicks, AMS only counts a sale if the book is bought in the same visit as the initial click. Therefore, I think it is reasonable to assume that the remaining 584 clicks (600 less 16) would have generated a further 3-4 sales on subsequent visits to my book page. Hence, this investment in AMS achieved the breakeven point. As an unknown author with one book I am happy to achieve breakeven in that I managed to reach a wider audience at no cost.

So why do I think AMS might be a conspiracy? It’s the same old issue – lack of transparency. It’s like standing in the street outside of the casino. The croupier comes out and takes your bet and then comes back a few minutes later to tell you if you won or lost. How do I know if the sales I achieved during the six month period had any connection to AMS? The weekly total of impressions (Ads) peaked in mid-August 2015 at 18,000, which produced 135 clicks, resulting in 5 sales. Then it quickly fell back to a weekly average of about 3,000 with no further sales until November. Why? It must be something to do with the mysterious Amazon Algorithm. Did it decide to throw me a morsel of sales in order to keep me dreaming of impossible future greatness? Am I paranoid? If I am that doesn’t mean that the Algorithm isn’t having a bit of fun at my expense.

PS: I’m still hanging in with AMS but I had to endure an enforced break from it earlier this year. The mighty giant which is Amazon tripped on an acorn and knocked itself out for six weeks. The acorn came in the form of my credit card expiring in December 2015.  My AMS account had been set up wrongly so that I had no access to the Edit/Update function. I loaded my new credit card promptly but it took five weeks and many emails before I could explain the situation directly to a human being.

A wannabe Dublin Irish man with a Michael Caine accent

26 Mar

 

Donal did not think that he was in anyway different from born and bred Dubliners. Although his accent was London, he believed his Irish DNA would keep him one hundred per cent in tune with all around him.

In fact he definitely did not want to acquire an Irish accent – either by intention or osmosis. He had met a number of Irish people in London who had tried too hard to achieve a local accent. The result was a hilarious mixture of sounds. Whilst he was very amused by this Donal did not want to become a similar source of mirth in reverse.

When he joined London Irish Rugby Club, in the late 1970’s, he was desperate to fit in. After training and a drink, the players helped to clear up the bar. Donal leapt enthusiastically to the task. Then, in a pathetic attempt at an Irish accent, he found himself saying “Are these glasses for the washing” – not even Tom Cruise could have delivered a worse sound and word order. Donal felt guilty, ashamed and naff. He vowed never to do it again.

Besides all that he quite liked his English accent. On a few occasions people remarked that he sounded like Michael Caine. Donal liked this – he thought Michael was a brilliant actor.

In response Donal would offer a more contrived impersonation in which he combined Michael’s “did you know  … not a lot of people know that” technique with a standard music hall joke :-

“Did you know, did you know that every day a man gets knocked over by a London bus? – and he’s getting bloody annoyed at it!”

Donal thought this was a sure-fire winner – the feedback he received was mixed.

When shouting his Michael Caine head off in support of Ireland at a match in the Lansdowne Road stadium, a polite Irishman, sitting next to him, gently inquired as to what part of Ireland he was from and observed that he must have spent a lot of time in England – he was correct.

It was several years later, with the coming of voicemail messages, that he realised just how very English his accent was. In the early days of his time in Dublin this revelation might have shaken his belief that he would totally integrate with the Dubliners but by the time he became aware of it he was already fully settled.

This is an edited extract from “London Irish Dublin Irish”. You can download the eBook or order a printed copy from Amazon.

A wannabe Dublin Irish man with a Michael Caine accent

26 Mar

A wannabe Dublin Irish man with a Michael Caine accent

Donal did not think that he was in anyway different from born and bred Dubliners. Although his accent was London, he believed his Irish DNA would keep him one hundred per cent in tune with all around him.

In fact he definitely did not want to acquire an Irish accent – either by intention or osmosis. He had met a number of Irish people in London who had tried too hard to achieve a local accent. The result was a hilarious mixture of sounds. Whilst he was very amused by this Donal did not want to become a similar source of mirth in reverse.

When he joined London Irish Rugby Club, in the late 1970’s, he was desperate to fit in. After training and a drink, the players helped to clear up the bar. Donal leapt enthusiastically to the task. Then, in a pathetic attempt at an Irish accent, he found himself saying “Are these glasses for the washing” – not even Tom Cruise could have delivered a worse sound and word order. Donal felt guilty, ashamed and naff. He vowed never to do it again.

Besides all that he quite liked his English accent. On a few occasions people remarked that he sounded like Michael Caine. Donal liked this – he thought Michael was a brilliant actor.

In response Donal would offer a more contrived impersonation in which he combined Michael’s “did you know  … not a lot of people know that” technique with a standard music hall joke :-

“Did you know, did you know that every day a man gets knocked over by a London bus? – and he’s getting bloody annoyed at it!”

Donal thought this was a sure-fire winner – the feedback he received was mixed.

When shouting his Michael Caine head off in support of Ireland at a match in the Lansdowne Road stadium, a polite Irishman, sitting next to him, gently inquired as to what part of Ireland he was from and observed that he must have spent a lot of time in England – he was correct.

It was several years later, with the coming of voicemail messages, that he realised just how very English his accent was. In the early days of his time in Dublin this revelation might have shaken his belief that he would totally integrate with the Dubliners but by the time he became aware of it he was already fully settled.

This is an edited extract from “London Irish Dublin Irish”. You can download the eBook or order a printed copy from Amazon.

After the match in a Dublin pub

16 Mar

After the match in a Dublin pub: The curious case of the smouldering Scotsman and the flying tea caddy.

 

 In Kehoe’s, four rugger-types stood at the bar next to Nicky and her two escorts, Terry and Donal. Three of the rugger boys were Dubliners and one was a Scotsman. This was evident aurally, from his accent, and visually by his apparel of kilt, sporran, off-white woolly socks and footwear which was a hybrid of Doc Martin’s and black ballet shoes. They were clearly in an advanced state of enjoyment and could not but notice Nicky sitting pertly on her bar stool.

With enthusiasm, they engaged her in conversation. As expected, Nicky was well able to handle them in a ladette but controlled manner, which only encouraged them more. Any attempts by Donal or Terry to prevent this were futile. Donal passed a few sporadic words with one of the Dubliners. After a few minutes, the Scottish citizen moved around the extended group and asked Donal a question.

‘Are you English?’

This would normally be a cue for Donal to give the whole Cork roots story but he knew that the question was not asked in a friendly manner. He felt he owed this person no explanations so, in order to keep the conversation short, he replied:

‘Yes’.

‘That’s interesting because, where I come from, we f***ing hate the English.’

Donal did not reply to this challenge. He feigned not to hear it and casually turned his body through 45 degrees so that he could join a conversation between Nicky and another of the rugger boys. The Scotsman moved away and spoke to Terry in order to further research Donal. After a few minutes he returned.

‘And you live here, do you?’ said the Scotsman to Donal.

‘Yes.’

‘And the Irish – don’t they hate you?’

‘No.’

‘That’s interesting because, where I come from, we f***ing hate the English.’

The Scotsman was well dressed in his traditional attire. He did not look rough so Donal felt pretty sure that he would not extend the traditional Scottish greeting ‘Do you like embroidery?’ followed by a head-butt and the exclamation ‘Well stitch that!’. Therefore, Donal chose to respond to, rather than ignore, this repeated act of aggression.

In the most nauseating, smug English accent that he could muster, he replied.

‘No, no, no old chap. There are tens of thousands of English people living in Dublin in perfect harmony with their Irish hosts. And you know why that is don’t you?’

‘No.’

‘You see, about 70 years ago, the Irish f***ed the English out of Ireland. They own this land and they are masters of their own destiny. So they have no hang-ups about the English. Whereas you chappies – you’re still under the thumb aren’t you?’

“No, no, no – we could have f***ed the English out of Scotland but we were bribed.’

‘What a sad, sad lot you are. To think that you traded your sovereignty for the King’s shilling’.

‘I will be not lectured on Scottish history by a miserable, yellow-livered Sassenach . . . ‘

Fortunately, Nicky intervened at this point. ’Now boys, boys, boys – please pick up your toys and calm down.’

An uneasy calm was restored. However, the Scotsman was still smouldering and likely to erupt at any time. The trio finished their drinks, trying not to be seen to rush them, and headed for the exit.

As they opened the door, the Scotsman could restrain himself no longer. On a high shelf above his head various items of pub paraphernalia were on display. He grabbed a rusty tea caddy and threw it in their direction.

‘Stick that up your jumper, perfidious Albion,’ he roared defiantly.

The artefact, made of tin, spun slowly as it glided above the heads of the crowd. It left a trail of rust and dust in its wake like an aging jet liner struggling to gain height after take-off. However, it was not aerodynamically designed and, being light and empty, its height and speed soon diminished. Limply, it glanced off the entrance door’s lintel with a disappointing ‘pop’ before landing on the threshold with an equally unimpressive ‘boing’ sound. The door then closed and pushed the caddy out onto the pavement.

The Scotsman had crossed the line. He had become a health and safety issue and had endangered the quiet enjoyment of the pub’s clientele. Within seconds he found that two small, but wiry, barmen had linked their arms around each of his. They marched him to the door. He protested but he could not break their vice-like grip.

‘Let me go. Do ya no ken ? I’m trying to help you rid this land of Sassenachs.’

A pedal driven rickshaw taxi was passing as the three stood on the pavement outside. Inexplicably, Donal hailed it, thinking this would provide a fast getaway. As the trio mounted the rickshaw the pub door opened. The Scotsman, with arms still locked, kicked the caddy in frustration. It flew forward loudly and lodged under the back wheel of the rickshaw. The two barmen released their grip while skilfully propelling the Scotsman away from the pub and towards the rickshaw.

‘Quickly man – go! Haste post haste! And don’t spare the horses,’ implored Donal.

The emaciated cyclist upfront turned his head sideways and looked back at Donal with a doleful left eye, very much like an exhausted horse might do. His legs did not possess the explosive power required for a quick getaway and with the caddy jammed against his back wheel he was going nowhere.

With menace, the Scotsman walked slowly up to the rickshaw. He was on eye level with the seated Donal, who chose not to look at him but straight ahead at the cyclist, whom he silently implored to action. Into Donal’s left ear was roared:

‘We hate you f***ing English!’

Then he gave the rickshaw a dismissive push which, fortunately, caused the wheel to roll over the caddy and, with this added momentum, it moved slowly forward. Behind them he could be heard extolling the virtues of his native land.

‘And another thing pal – oil, mountains, skiing, Sean Connery, Bill Shankly, Denis Law, Archie Gemmel, Jock Stein, Billy Bremner, Bill McLaren, Jim Telfer, Mighty Mouse McLaughlin, Sandy Carmichael,  Rod Stewart, Lulu, Kenneth McKellar, Andy Stewart, Moira Anderson – you’ve got nothing like that.’

This is an edited extract from the book ‘London Irish Dublin English’. You can download it now at the special St Patrick’s week price of 99c/99p for the next couple of days.

 

Christmas Eve in a Dublin Office

12 Dec

In some houses it is said that nothing stirs on the night of Christmas Eve, not even a mouse. This could not be said of the public house situated not a stone’s throw from the company’s office. From about 4pm, various members of its staff gravitated towards the pub. Some came sober, directly from the office, while others came from meetings with customers. The unfortunate ones had had tense, stomach-churning encounters which would determine whether the salesman could or could not afford Christmas. For the more fortunate ones it was a Christmas lunch to give thanks for a year, nearly passed, which had reason to be celebrated by both seller and buyer. The food and drink tasted even sweeter because it was free, correctly charged as a business expense.

Donal entered the pub at 5.30pm. People stood in groups ranging in number from two to eight. The bigger the group the noisier was the conversation. The most popular topic centred on how the year had gone for the company overall, followed by a drill down to those individuals who had done particularly well or badly. This led on to speculation about what organisational changes would be announced in the New Year. Who was going up and who was going down? By this time of the evening, the talk was becoming more jovial and flippant. There was much self-congratulation among the teams who had had a good year.

After completing a survey of those present, Donal’s gaze rested on the window of the bar and out into the middle distance. There were plastic snowflakes stuck to the inside of the window pane but real ones were starting to fall outside. There were only a few, falling slowly, softly, faintly, individually. Like furry prawn crackers wobbling in the air, skilfully adjusting their flight plan as they prepared for an economic soft landing on a windless night

They fell upon a window ledge of the Westbury Hotel and formed a small drift which enhanced the seasonal view along Harry Street, past McDaids and on to Grafton Street. Two fluffy white cones were formed by them on top of the lamps outside Neary’s. Across the playing fields of Dublin they fell, casting doubt on the matches arranged for St. Stephen’s day.

They formed a smooth, white carpet upon the flat roof of a bank’s data centre in which computers lived in ambient, water-cooled surroundings. Thickly, they balanced upon the telephone lines which left the data centre to carry asynchronous information across the dark central plain and treeless hills until they reached the far flung branches of the west in Clifden, Westport , Dingle and beyond.

They fell on all the giving and the led. Upon those who made things happen and upon those who saw things happen.

Finally, they came to rest on those who asked “what happened?”

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English” by Daniel M Doyle. You can download it from Amazon.uk for the special price of 99p until Thursday 17th December.  

A Rugby day-out in Dublin – lunch in the clubhouse and a view from the bar

28 Sep

The agenda for the day commenced at about 12.30pm with pre-lunch drinks in the club bar. A gong was struck at 1.15pm. Members and their guests then moved to the function room for a fairly formal lunch. This was followed by, hopefully, short but witty speeches from the respective presidents of the home and away clubs.

The lunch finished at two-forty-five – fifteen minutes before kick-off. The more enthusiastic supporters donned their overcoats and went to stand by the side of the pitch in order to give close, vocal support to their team. The bar and the function room were on the first floor of the clubhouse building so that the match could also be clearly seen from there. The less energetic supporters  either moved to a seat by a window in the bar or stayed exactly where they had sat for lunch. They just continued talking, ordered more drink and carried on, oblivious of the catering staff who were now rearranging the room around them for the post-match reception.

At half-time the bar was not crowded but those in it, who had not availed of a break in the fresh air, were warming up nicely. As the second half progressed the vocal support in the bar, alas unheard by the gallant players on the pitch, became more opinionated and emotional.

‘Now that’s a thundering disgrace! Ref, you’re as blind as a bat.’ said the honourable member with spectacles as thick as milk bottles.

‘They’re not fit!’ said the honourable member suffering from morbid obesity.

A rugby club bar is frequently populated by an unusually high proportion of very large people – both old and young. This understandable for a club that has been producing first-class players over many years but it still seems unreal. This is not like looking at a group of lanky, seven-foot basketball players. Most large rugby players are built in similar proportions to much smaller people. It is like an optical illusion. From 20 or 30 feet away they look no more than average-plus size, but as you get closer they seem to grow faster than the eye or the brain can handle.

Hanging around with very large people can occasionally be dangerous. Consider the case of the man, then in his 50s, who had played lock forward for the first team for many years. He was six foot four inches tall and, not being in as good a condition as in his playing days, he was as broad as he was long, weighing in at about 22 stone. He remained an active member and enjoyed reminiscing with his former team mates over a few drinks on a Saturday afternoon. On this particular day, however, he must have been tired after the week’s work. He was standing in a circle of friends with a newly-poured, untouched pint of Guinness in his right hand. Then he slowly moved away from his circle with small backward steps. The pace of the steps began to quicken but they could not keep up with his upper body. It was clear that he was going to fall.

Nobody shouted “Timber!” but many thought it. All those in his backward path scattered for fear of being crushed. It would have taken at least three men of similar size in perfect formation to have created a wedge capable of preventing his fall. He travelled another six or eight feet before landing, back first, on a table laden with pints of Guinness and other assorted beverages, the owners of which had wisely vacated their previously desirable location just seconds before. A tsunami of black and tanned frothy liquid hit the inside of the clubhouse window, accompanied by the sound of splintering furniture. When the unfortunate man came to rest he looked like an upturned turtle. He was lying on the floor with his head and knees pointing upwards. Despite getting on in years, he still knew how to fall. His large and powerful back had protected him. Miraculously, his freshly poured pint remained full in his right hand, his wrist and elbow having automatically operated in perfect counterpoint to the dynamics of his fall. He slowly turned his head and gazed in admiration at the perfectly formed pint.

‘There, never split a drop.’

******************************************************************************

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English” by Daniel M Doyle.

P.S. There is very little about rugby in this book. So why not take a break from the World Cup and enjoy this celebration of the buzz and mighty craic of Dublin City life. You can download this as an eBook or order a paperback from Amazon.