Going Live – What’s The Worst That Can Happen?

As it happens, nothing too awful. When I embarked upon my first live Q&A session on Twitter and Facebook last week, there was (in my mind) potential for all sorts of diabolical subversion. But it wasn’t too bad. In fact, it was almost fun. To make it actually fun, there are a few things I would have done differently and certainly some aspects I wish I had thought about more carefully. But overall – whether you are a writer, artist, musician or creative of any kind – putting yourself on a live interactive forum is a fabulous (if somewhat nerve-wracking) opportunity to reach your audience in a different way. For anyone thinking about doing it for the first time, here are some thoughts…

Plan ahead. Sounds obvious, but worth mentioning. Give yourself time to jiggle up some interest on your blog, social media, whatever. Specify a date and times – I went for a Friday evening 7pm – 9pm. I would recommend going no longer that two hours, believe me, it’s exhausting. I didn’t get around to answering absolutely all the questions, but you can always apologise and promise to arrange another session.

It’s all about the questions. Some people will send you questions in advance (see above) and this is a good thing, you at least have a chance to prepare some relatively sensible answers. If you are worried about not having enough questions to fill the time, have a few on standby as back up. Think of things people ask you often about yourself or your work and use this opportunity to share your thoughts. Get friends on standby to ping across a question or two to get the ball rolling or pick up the pace.

Although you can never be quite sure what questions might crop up, you can probably guess some likely themes. As I writer, I usually get asked what I most like and dislike about writing, how/when I started, who are my influences… that sort of thing. Have a little think on such things and make a few notes beforehand.

Technical practicalities. Or perhaps that should be practical technicalities? Either way, you need to know that your equipment works and you know how to use it. This was the biggest downfall on my part. I had planned to ‘go live’ from my laptop and spent quite some time setting it up with good lighting, making sure there would be no background or spill sound and ensuring I had room to move without tripping over cables and whatnot. Having only ever used Facebook Live on my phone – and never attempted the ‘go live’ feature on Twitter – I realised too late that there was no live button on my desktop versions and my phone was not fully charged.

Obviously, I managed, but was kicking myself for not at least having a technical run-through before the event itself. By this point, my hands where sweaty, I was finding the Twitter Live feature cumbersome and the whole thing was nowhere near as slick as I had planned. There was much uttering of ‘bugger’ as I tried to end the broadcasts and also unintended random shots of ceilings and floors as I wrestled with the technology. Not ideal.

Many hands make light work. For the next broadcast, I will certainly enlist the help of a willing assistant. Even an unwilling one will do. Whilst certainly not impossible to accomplish single-handedly, I personally would have appreciated an extra pair of hands on the night. Having someone else hold the camera would have been easier. It would have been nice to have another set of eyes on the questions that came relentlessly across both platforms. A bit of moral support. That sort of thing. Anyone prepared to give up a few hours of their time will be royally rewarded with shepherds pie and wine.

I won’t bore you with the whole spectacle, but here are a few clips from the live Q&A. Lots of room for improvement, but lots of lessons learned – not least of which is don’t tell people you don’t know who Sally Phillips is, as you will be immediately bombarded with endless links.

Finnegans Wake: Book 3.3

As we approach the end of this phenomenal work of insanity, the chapters seem to get longer and more dense. There’s a lot going on in this one and – as usual – it is pretty obtuse. But we’ll give it a go.

Shaun (here referred to as ‘Yawn’) wakes up wailing on a hillock (well, we’ve all done it):

‘His dream monologue was over, of cause, but his drama parapolylogic had yet to be, affact.’

He appears to have a raging hangover and is in a proper state. Then, three kings from the East Midlands show up, accompanied by the Four Masters from previous chapters. It could be that the three kings and the Four Masters are the same people somehow. Who knows. The donkey is with them, lurking at the back, when they come across Shaun laying among the poppies. After an inordinately complex conversation, they decide to wake Shaun so that they can question him.

Shaun awakes and there ensues a typically confusing conversation that swings back and forth between many topics. It is often ambiguous as to who is speaking and Shaun seems to become HCE at times. A discussion about an orangery soon turns into talk of letters and in particular, the famous missive that may or may not have been written by ALP:

‘This nonday diary, this allnights newsreel.’

Shaun is accused of causing scandal about the letter, and even of writing it. He responds by saying that someone is impersonating him, blaming his half-brother Shem. The Masters challenge Shaun over his claims to be a good and pious man and remonstrate with him about his poor treatment of Shem. Shaun offers an unconvincing account of fraternal love, then has some kind of vision which causes him to have a funny turn.

There is also a missing boat – it is orange – and it is possible that the Duke of Denmark ate it.

The Masters and Shaun then embark on epic discussions about ALP, the wake, HCE’s pub and various things that may or may not have happened. Eventually, they all get excitable and start shouting over each other. Some kind of spirit or ghost pops up (could be HCE but might also be the Prank Quean from Book 1) and talks about the infamous events in the park. HCE is declared a drunk and bad husband, also ‘As mad as the brambles, he is.’ The spirit then talks of kissing HCE, which makes the Masters somewhat cross. There is also some anger about a shapeless hat, but I’m not sure how that’s relevant.

We then seem to be back at the wake of dear Finnegan, where the priest is sober but everyone else is drunk and wanting to fight. Mr Magraw beats someone up while HCE goes in search of ALP, feeling amorous. She rebuffs his advances which HCE finds very unfair as she is apparently not refusing the affections of others, particularly Big Arthur. The infamous pub crawl is relived with gusto, as well as many other events from the book. Eventually someone gets shot and Shem is also murdered.

One of the Four Masters challenges the other three to a fight. HCE gets annoyed at being questioned and launches into a defensive and whining account of his whole life. This is effectively another retelling of the entire book, but from a point of view much more sympathetic to HCE. Essentially, ALP, women and drink are blamed for his shortcomings and the Masters eventually concede that he is ‘more sinned against than sinned’.

HCE then appears to be conversing directly with ALP, forgiving her for her adultery:

‘Still to forgive it, divine my lickle wiffey, and everybody knows you do look lovely in your invinsibles,’

He also tells her that she should never have entered his dream. There appears to be an attempt at copulation (amusingly referred to as a game of hunt the orchid) but ALP keeps interrupting proceedings by gossiping and talking general nonsense. She discusses the departed Finnegan:

‘His thoughts that wouldbe words, his livings that havebeen deeds,’

and we learn that he was fond of women and drink. Quite frankly, you are hard pushed to find anyone not fond of women and drink around here.

There is a final, plaintive protest of innocence from HCE (including an interesting defence for the crime in the park, revolving around the effect excess alcohol has on a gentleman’s trouser performance), mainly blaming Shem and Shaun for spreading rumours, his friends for turning against him and ALP for breaking his heart.

As we end the chapter, dawn breaks and the donkey and Biddy wake up.


This is a very sketchy outline of what is an extremely long and complex chapter. There is so much going on here and we get HCE’s life story at least twice, from differing perspectives. I have to say that it’s not the most fun chapter, despite there being lots of points of interest, mainly due to its density and the fact that it goes on and on. And we are not really any closer to knowing anything concrete about the characters or the events that involve them. However, the detailed retelling of the pub crawl is very entertaining and seems to get more violent and obscene with each recount.

Favourite Lines

‘…not even to the seclusion of their beast by them that was the odd trick of the pack, trump and no friend of carrots.’

Is anyone really a friend of carrots? Really?

‘The old order changeth and lasts like the first. Every third man has a chink in his conscience and every other woman has a jape in her mind.’

Sort of interesting, don’t you think?

‘Who kills the cat in Cairo coaxes cocks the Gaul.’

Let that be a lesson to you.

‘God bless your ginger, wigglewaggle! That’s three slots and no burners.’

Just loving the thought of a ginger wigglewaggle.

Finnegans Wake: Book 3.1

Following the rather grim close of Book 2, we find Book 3 in a much jollier mood. The upbeat narrator of this first chapter is a donkey owned by the Four Masters. We open with the donkey falling asleep at midnight as a church bell sounds. The donkey dreams that he sees Shaun, dressed like an earl and looking fabulous. He is a fan of Shaun and extols his skills as a great postman. Shaun then embarks on an epic eating spree, starting with a breakfast that includes a steak stolen from a black bat. There follows dinners of many courses and every kind of victual you can’t imagine. Shaun gets bigger and bigger and is very pleased about the fact.

The donkey then hears Shaun speak – he appears to be addressing a crowd and waving an axe. Shaun brushes his teeth before talking at length about how great he is and how he alone was entrusted to deliver ALP’s letter. He is then questioned by an unspecified amount of anonymous sycophants, who are as obscure in their inquiries as you would expect. They begin by asking who gave him the letter to deliver, to which he offers a prompt denial of ever being anywhere near the letter, actually he isn’t a postman and in fact he works in a factory. The simpering inquisitors are unconvinced and politely call him a liar, forcing him to eventually admit to delivering the letter. When they press him further about the contents of the letter, Shaun distracts them by complaining about bad pastry before launching into a series of brilliantly random excuses as to why he does not know details of the letter.

Shaun creates a distraction by berating his brother Shem, who is now confirmed as the author of ALP’s letter. He claims Shem forced ALP into saying awful things about her husband HCE in order to discredit him. Shaun declares the letter to be all lies, and poorly written lies, at that. This is just one of many insults thrown at poor Shem, which are frequently very funny. A couple of my favourites:

‘You know he’s peculiar, that eggschicker, with the smell of old woman off him, to suck nothing of his switchdupes.’

‘He’s weird, I tell you, and middayevil down to his vegetable soul.’

‘Then he was pusched out of Thingamuddy’s school by Miss Garterd, for itching.’

Interestingly, Shaun also claims that Shem has been forbidden from mating by HCE.

At some point, Shaun appears to find himself in a barrel floating in a river. Not sure quite how or when this becomes a thing, but it’s quite important nonetheless.

A further distraction is a very elaborate saucy tale involving a grasshopper, which quickly becomes a weird kind of insect erotica, and is absolutely one of the most bizarre things I have ever read. Shaun also sings a song about the grasshopper, whilst stuffing his face with more unlikely-sounding food.

The questioners praise his story telling skills, before asking him again about the letter. Shaun responds by speaking highly of his own writing and comparing himself to Oscar Wilde. Eventually, Shaun tells us when the letter was written:

‘When she slipped under her couchman. And when he made a cat with a peep.’

And also this:

‘Letter, carried of Shaun, son of Hek, written of Shem, brother of Shaun, uttered for Alp, mother of Shem, for Hek, father of Shaun.’

Looks like the brothers share a mother but HCE is the father of Shaun only. Perhaps this explains the animosity between them.

Unrelenting in their quest for the truth about the letter, the questioners press for more details, to which Shaun responds with delightful ramblings and manages to avoid giving any answers at all. He then falls out of the barrel and into the river, being swept away to either his death or Biddy’s house, possibly both:

‘Wisha, becoming back to us way home in Biddyhouse on way or either anywhere we miss your smile.’

Shaun then simultaneously dies and leaves the donkey’s dream.


This is a great chapter! It is a jaunty merry-go-round of the beautifully put questions, fabulous rambling excuses and tall tales involving a myriad of eclectic characters and long-awaited information relating to HCE and family and also ALP’s letter. We wander quite firmly into Monty Python territory here, with great pieces of witty absurdity and surreal humour. I have noted far more ‘favourite lines’ than is reasonable to list here. If you only attempt one part of Finnegans Wake, I heartily suggest having a crack at this chapter. There is the usual mush of the undecipherable but there are also plenty of bits that are highly enjoyable with only a little bit of wrestling.

Although I suspect Shaun is an unreliable narrator, he does confirm some aspects relating to the letter and the family and also reveals a lot about his own boastful and decadent character. We are again presented with the themes of dreams, rivers and the legendary Biddy – symbol of the circle of life. Cheerful stuff all round.

Favourite Lines

‘I’ve no room for that fellow on my fagroaster, I just can’t.’

Always a disaster when there’s no room on the fagroaster.

‘We shall not come to party at that lopps, he decided possibly, for he is not on our social list.’

Shaun is selective about where he parties.

‘To The Very Honourable The Memory of Disgrace, the Most Noble, Sometime Sweepyard at the Service of the Writer.’

There is just something very majestic about this, somehow.

(On a completely different note – a lovely chap has painted a picture of me, look!)