Me, running downhill

Business Goose

Business Goose

“For everything opened,

Something is closed,

A line has been drawn and,

Art is a ghost…”

Colm Keegan

You know,, how sometimes you wake from a dream and think ‘That’s a brilliant idea ! This could change everything.’ And then you doze off again and when you wake up you try and grasp the wisps of that idea as they evaporate in the daylight, but they’re gone, and you’re frustrated for a few moments , as you know it was important….but you’ve even forgotten that frustration by the time you get to the bottom of the stairs.

That’s me when I’m awake.

My life lately seems to be a stream of consciousness…and I’m not even sure it’s my own stream of consciousness any more. I may be a minor player in someone else’s dream. It’s not unpleasant, not in the least. Not for me at least.

I must admit that I do seem to live a charmed existence. I am loved. I am healthy. I am interested and interesting…after a fashion. My life is blest.

I get annoyed at everything and nothing. People not appreciating how blest they are, online contact forms, loose nylon strimmer heads, tracking a parcel sent to France, making a spiced lamb and saffron rice pastilla pie without lamb mince for our vegetarians  and with gluten free pastry for our coeliacs and watching them all push it politely around their plates because it was god awful.

And then I think how fortunate I am to have the luxury of being annoyed about such small things.

I am genuinely upset for Dougal, our last swan, being left on his own by his parents first of all , and now his sister Ermintrude has gone of to start her adult life. Dougal now just has me for company. My Soulmate says that this is a metaphor for something else in my life but I have absolutely no idea what she’s on about.

This week I have been developing a new business in animal health, collecting stickers in Carrickroe, commissioning bespoke cardboard boxes, double lined, from Keady, and delivering them all to Longford. And listening to For Those I Love along the way, and stopping to photograph old abandoned cottages when I spot them. Oh and buying Potugese pastries in Longford. Why? Why not.

I helped someone else start a new creative business. It will be incredible!

Today I ran down a hill for 5k , chased by hounds, and loved every minute of it…24 minutes to be exact.

Next week I’m being interviewed for a tv series ‘Ireland -County By County’ to be shown in ‘Murika later this year. I’m being interviewed about the Drumlin Giants and had a chat with the producer on the phone about what will happen on the day, a bit of background. It was all going swimmingly, until she asked a couple of questions …

“So Paul, how long have you been involved in sculpting projects like this?”

I’ve just done this one. I’m not a sculptor, Marc is. I just sort of describe to Marc what the story is, what I think the giant looks like and he creates everything.

“ So, how did you come up with the concept ?”

Hmm, concept you say ? It was a group effort of sorts initially, in that we wanted to do something with the Park and we certainly didn’t want to do another fairy garden/trail/door/woodland , or pixie porn, as we called it . We wanted to do the complete opposite and build giants.

“ So, where did the stories come from ?”

They were just there. I mean as soon as someone asked what’s the story with Banba, without thinking I said that she was the queen of all the giants, she protected the other giants and everyone that came to the Park. One night in 1926 as she lay asleep at the front gates she could hear a gentle sobbing. It was a young orphan boy, Benny Callan, who’d run away from his grandparents home in Corduff. He was resting against what he thought was a mound of earth and a pile of sticks, he couldn’t see that it was Banba resting and her hair. Banba gently folded her cloak around him and he felt safe and fell into a deep sleep. In his dream he told Banba that he felt suffocated on the small farm in Corduff. She told him to look up at the moon, it was a full moon.

“Can you see it ?”

“See what ?”

“Your name, there , on the moon.”

“My name ?”

“Yes, Benny Callan. Your name will be written on the moon forever. Anytime you feel afraid, or small, look up and remember this night and that I have seen your name there. You are meant for great things, I promise. Take a piece of my hair and keep it with you. It will remind you of this night and this promise.”

He was woken the next morning by the Rossmore gatekeeper and returned home.

Benny left Corduff on a horse and trap in 1928 for Ballybay where he caught the steam train to Derry. There he boarded the Anchor Line ship for New York. He worked as a farmhand and studied engineering at night and eventually graduated and got a job in the revolutionary new industry of aircraft. He excelled and  was at the cutting edge of new technology eventually ending up at Grumann Aeropace. Benny became foreman under lead engineer Tom Kelly working on a top secret project, the design and manufacture of the Apollo 11 lunar landing module ,known as the Eagle.

Benny’s core responsibility was the emergency manual landing controls, which, if you think about it is a thankless task. You’re dedicating a large part of your life and career to something that you, and everyone else hopes will never be used.

On the afternoon of July 20th 1969 Benny Callan from Corduff found himself with the Grumann team in the Kennedy Space Centre in a room adjacent to Apollo 11 mission control. As the time approached 3pm they listened intently to the live feed as their baby, the Eagle made it’s final approach to Tranquility Bay.
Through the radio cackle, with 10 minutes left until the planned  landing they hear Neil Armstrong say “Our position checks downrange show us to be a little long”. There were sharp intakes of breath, they were going to miss their landing target. And then there was silence, the signal was lost. It comes back, relief, but then they hear the dreaded words “1202 programme Alarm” , guidance failure, they will have to switch to manual control.

All eyes turned to Benny Callan from Corduff. He was staring at the screen, a small smile on his face,his hands in his pockets. He seemed calm. This gave the others confidence.

“1201 alarm !” more trouble. With 4 minutes to go Neil Armstrong realizes they are going to land on a dangerous crater and takes the Eagle out of autopilot mode and takes control. Benny Callan from Corduff’s designed control. Armstrong must now manually guide the lunar module down. In the Kennedy Space Centre , Dean Krantz, the mission controller mutes the engineers microphones so the astronauts can’t hear how worried they are. In the adjacent room everyone is staring at Benny Cullen. Benny is standing, a small smile on his face, staring at the screen , his hands in his pockets. Everyone remains calm.  

The Eagle is travelling too fast. Everyone knows it. No one is saying anything.

“60 seconds.”

Everyone holds their breath. Sixty seconds of fuel is not enough to them to land safely.

“30 seconds”.

Silence. In the adjacent room everyone looks to Benny Callan. As before he simply stands there, a small smile on his face, staring at the screen, his hands in his pockets.

And then the radio link crackles into life :

“Houston…Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

There is uproar ! Everyone is cheering, hugging each other. Everyone except Benny Callan. When they turn to look he has fallen to his knees, tears are streaming down his face. As they rush over to see if he’s OK he takes his hands from his pockets and opens them to reveal what look like tiny twigs, Banba’s hair. He looks at them then looks up and smiles, saying “ Jaysus lads, that was close.”

The Eagle lunar landing module is still on the moon and on it is a plaque with the names of the Grumann engineers who built and one of those is Benny Callan.

“Wow! That’s a fantastic story. Is it true ?”


“So, you’re a writer ?”

No, not really.

“What do you actually do ?”

I photograph old abandoned cottages, I drive to Carrickroe, I worry about Dougal, I love my Soulmate, I run downhill in Stranooden, I make a spiced lamb and saffron rice pastilla pie without lamb, I listen to For Those I Love, I get very annoyed by soulless online contact forms, I buy Portugese pastries in Longford, I…

“I meant what do you do for a living ???”

Oh, yes, I see. It’s sort of like that quote from Futurama :

“When you do things right, people aren’t really sure that you do anything at all.”

“So you do things in the background that people don’t see, but make a big difference ?”

Or, people aren’t really sure that I do anything at all, and maybe they’re right, but good things seem to happen anyway.

I think I heard a muffled scream at that point, and the line went dead.

But the best thing that happened this week was at dinner, when we were all pushing that spiced lamb and saffron rice pastilla pie without the lamb around our plates and Elliott told us the most interesting thing ever.

What’s the Mandarin for penguin ?


Business Goose !

How cool is that ?

See what I mean about a stream of consciousness ?



P.S. This is Go! by Public Service Broadcasting

Author: paul

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