A Horserace and Two Funerals

Sorry for the late delivery of the blog, on Friday I had to dash to Dublin airport to meet my best friend Micky. We flew to London for the weekend to meet our other best friend , Ronan. The three of us have known each other since 1979, a mere 40 years ago. We met up to go to a horserace in Sandown, but as Ronan and I know absolutely nothing about horses, and have no desire to learn, the horserace was incidental.

I remember the first time Ronan crashed into our lives. We were having PE, physical education, in the Christian Brothers’ School on The Hill in Monaghan. It was raining so we were allowed to used the gym in the bigger Secondary boys school. Brother McCabe set up the Horse and placed a small , angled, trampoline in front of it and we were to take turns running at it , bouncing on the trampoline and over the horse. We were only 9, so most of us simply bounced on to the top of the horse and then jumped down. Ahead of Ronan in the queue were the McEnaney twins. The first one ran at the trampoline and cleared the horse in a single bound to ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aaahs’ from the rest of us. The second twin ran at it with gusto and did a handspring somersault over the horse. We whooped and cheered.
Ronan was next. He asked a few of us behind him in the queue to move back so he could have a longer run up, and then he tore off. We were giddy with anticipation , how was he going to top the McEnaneys ?
He launched himself at the trampoline with a grunt like a Russian gymnast , his foot caught in the springs of the trampoline and he slammed into the side of the horse, breaking his arm…and the horse. We never got to do gymnastics again.
We enjoyed our formative years together, Micky’s house on the Broad Road, was our HQ. Micky’s Mum Kitty seemed to adopt us and fussed over us and looked out for our best interests. You could tell from a single look  whether she approved of your new shirt, girlfriend, or opinion. I remember she put the heart sideways in me when I lazily placed a brand new pair of shoes on her kitchen table and she roared at me to remove them, and then seeing the shock on my face she gave me a hug and told me it was bad luck.
The McCormicks front room was our centre of operations. They had one of the first video players in Monaghan and we spent most Sunday afternoons with friends in there…some of them were even girls!
Before I headed off to Dublin on Wednesday I attended the funeral of our neighbour Greta, who lived a few fields away , over the hill, and passed away at the age of 93. She was born even closer to our house and lived her whole life in the same townland. Her funeral was attended by sons, daughters, and grandchildren, many of them friends of ours and our own children. She was the last of the McMahon’s , her two brothers were also great neighbours , who we knew and appreciated. She lived on a farm over the hill and her brothers and nephews all farmed close by. They are all wonderful people and as I sat there I thought more than once how lucky we are to live where we live in the land of the McMahons.
On Thursday we travelled through a gale to Gweedore to attend another funeral. My Soul Mate’s brother’s Father-in-Law had passed away at the age of 86, a life well lived. I first met Eoinie Bhain 28 years ago when I arrived at the Dodge Hotel/Karoke Bar/Den of Iniquity. I was to be best man at the wedding of Stephen and Maria. Eoinie made me very welcome and supplied me with whiskey and quietly spoken advice throughout the day of the wedding. He was one of life’s true gentlemen and it was a privilege to be there for his funeral.
The priest spoke highly of Eoinie throughout the funeral mass….or at least I assume he did, as he conducted the whole ceremony in Irish, and my understanding of the language has been waning ever since I left Master McCagues 6th class in 1979. As my mind drifted during the mass I again thought how lucky he had been to spend his long life with his partner in a place that he loved, with those he loved and was loved by. I am similarly lucky.
And so we landed in London. Micky had also invited Declan Moran, a chap I’d met many, many times when they were both doing their psychiatric training many moons ago in Fairview. And the three of us travelled by taxi to Micky’s brother John’s house, where we were staying for the weekend and where Ronan would join us later. We were treated royally by John , Isabelle, and their daughter Kitty, and also treatd to royal gossip, which we’re sworn to secrecy on.
I think we sat up until 3am setting the world to rights, or doing our best at least, and demolishing many of John’s fine wines. I slowly surfaced the next morning, waking to the sound and smell of bacon and sausages frying away. Other guests joined us and at noon we headed out on the short walk to Sandown. Ronan and I were in the minority and had no idea what to bet on. I decided to back the horse with the longest odds in each race, Ronan decided to pick whatever horse had the rudest sounding name. Neither of us won anything. But we had a great day anyway. I did come close to turning my £5 bet into £85 in the third race , but 5 metres from the finish line the jockey who was riding my horse, who’s sole role in the whole thing was to stay on the damn horse, fell off !
We had dinner and again stayed up until 3am correcting all of the wrongs we’d incorrectly righted the previous evening.
Again we had a lazy start the next day and before John left us to the airport in oodles of time, we had hugs and Goodbyes from Isabelle and Kitty. We were made to feel so welcome, it was exactly like when we were kids in Mrs.McCormicks house on the Broad Road.

So, an odd week has passed, and I feel the luckier for it. I have great friends, life long friendships, and a home that I hope my kids’ friends feel  as welcome  in, as I have always felt in the McCormick’s family home, whether that is the Broad Road, Killymarley, Cabra or that London.


P.S. Mood music – Van The Man – Days Like This

Author: paul

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