Me reading Louise Nealon's Snowflake

Dreams Come True….AARRRRGGGGH !

“I don’t know where the sunbeams end
And that the starlights begin
It’s all a mystery”

Fight Test – The Flaming Lips

Is it Friday again ?

Last Saturday we helped The Drumlin Giants host their first Outdoor Cinema in Rossmore Park. We introduced 500 tiny hoomans to The BFG, The Goonies, The Princess Bride, and A Monster Calls. We served them 150 bags of popcorn and a staggering 400 triple scoops of ice cream.

We drank a lot of coffee.

All of our kids were home for the long weekend, we had a blast.

On Tuesday I met a film crew from Retail Excellence Ireland to tell them why Monaghan is Ireland’s Friendliest Place. I told them that you never had to ask for help in Monaghan twice, and that mostly it was offered before you’d thought of asking for it.

On Wednesday I told the story below at TenX9 in Belfast. The theme this month was ‘Shock’. I thought I recognised the name of the speaker on the schedule that was going on just before me, Louise Nealon. You bump into a few regular speakers at TenX9, so I assumed I’d met her here before. I asked, Paul Doran, Mr.TenX9, who she was.

“Louise, the author ?!?” Paul answered.

Not ‘Snowflake’ Louise Nealon ?

“Yes !”

Snowflake Louise Nealon, the #1 bestseller ?

“Yes !”

And you’re putting me on after her ?

“Yes !”

Ahhh Bollix !

I was so traumatised by this experience that on Thursday morning I felt justified in treating myself to tickets to see The Pillow Queens next October in Belfast, and  The Flaming Lips next July in Galway, and I also pre-ordered CMAT’s debut album…with the ‘I Wanna Be A Cowboy’ tee shirt….XL…they’re small fitting.

On Thursday evening I was asked, as a past pupil, to go on a webzoominar for people interested in doing the postgraduate in Creative & Cultural Entrepreneurship in Trinity’s Idea Emporium ,  Tangent. I told them that the best thing about the course was the people I met. I could have left after the first module with Karl, (who, it turns out has a persona called Dr.Thomas ) and considered the course a success. I wasn’t shy about sharing my opinions before the course, but now I was impossible….to ignore. I also said that some of the other lecturers gave me even greater confidence, in that I thought “If this Bozo can get to lecture in Trinity, I can write my damn book !”.

It all seemed to go well and they told me afterwards that ,as a thank you, our Elliott could pick whichever course he wants to do there next year regardless of his Leaving Certificate results. Pretty sure that’s what they said.

And it’s Friday ?!?

DREAMS COME TRUE ( as told to an actual live audience in the Blackbox Theatre in Belfast AND recorded by the BBC )

Have you ever been enjoying a dream and then it suddenly takes an unexpected turn and then you wake up to discover that the bad turn was prompted by something that was actually happening in real life ?

We’ll get back to that.

Our first born, Jake, arrived , eventually, on August 14th 1999. He was a little overdue, 2 weeks, and we’d begun to drop our guard, thinking he’d changed his mind, or was waiting for the new Millennium. We went to bed on a Saturday night …I woke to a large whoosh sound…like someone had thrown a bucket of water into the bed. I hadn’t passed much remarks in the antenatal classes  when I’d heard the term ‘breaking of the waters’ , there were so many confusing terms flying around, and that one had sounded benign. It was not benign.

Eileen panicked, but I was prepared. I calmed her down and made her a cup of tea while I rang the hospital and told them we were coming in, placed the pre-packed bags in the car, and then…..No wait, that’s not right. I panicked, Eileen was prepared, made me a cup of tea, rang the hospital and packed the car.

We had green lights the whole way from Clane , a village in Kildare where we lived in our first home, through the outskirts of Dublin, all the way up the Liffey, until…we stopped at O’Connell Street bridge. We were the first car at the lights. It was 2.00am. The bars and nightclubs were closing and there were pedestrians wandering everywhere around the car.

“Jesus ! What’s goin’ on there ???” someone shouted, tapping on the car window.

What was going on there was Eileen rocking back and forth on all fours on the back seat, trying to ease the pain. The lights went green and I tore off , leaving some mildly amused and confused revellers in my wake. We crossed the Liffey at the Customs House and got parked immediately outside Holles St. maternity hospital. A long night and day ensued before Jake arrived around 7.00 pm, I was exhausted. “Would you like some tea and toast ?” our lovely midwife asked .

“I’d love some “ I answered.

“I was talking to your wife !” she snapped.

Robyn , our amazing daughter was born in September 2001, the day after 9-11, here in the Royal. By this stage I was a pro. Eileen felt that Robyn was coming so I made her a cup of tea, told her to relax, took Jake to his playschool at the back of the Ulster Hall, came back for Eileen …Sorry, sorry, by this stage Eileen was a pro, she felt that Robyn was coming, made me a cup of tea, told me to relax, took Jake to his playschool, came back for me…and then we went to the Royal.

I collected Jake from playschool three hours later at lunchtime and told him that he had a sister.

Elliott’s arrival was much different. There had been concerns since the 3 month scan. He was born by appointment with the Royal to make sure that the various consultants and specialists were on hand. He was only hours old before he had his first MRI scan. He spent his first 48 hours in intensive care. We got him home but then spent the next 18 months travelling to appointments in the Royal to see a heart specialist, and to Crumlin in Dublin to see a liver specialist.

Everything worked out great. Elliott outgrew the growths that had been of concern, and whose names I have banished from my memory. He is now studying for his Leaving Certificate , the mature and evolved version of your A-Levels, in Monaghan , the true centre of the universe. He is as wonderfully sarcastic as his older brother and sister, and like them pretends not to find anything I say amusing.

But back in 2005, when we’d gone through all of the hospital appointments, counted our blessings, and marvelled at our three wonderful kids, we were in our late 30’s and didn’t want to chance anymore. This was a mutual decision.

“We’ll just have to be careful” I said.

“Or….” Eileen said.

“We aren’t giving up are we ?” I said ,shocked.

“No” Eileen said, before telling me she’d make me a cup of tea. I do like a good cup of tea.

She handed me the tea and then said , matter-of-factly “ You can have a vasectomy.”

I sat there open mouthed … for quite some time. I tried to object…I think. Eileen is a twin, her sister Ger and her husband Dave Liddy, were our great friends

“Liddy had one ages ago.”

“Liddy broke his hip and both legs paragliding and cycles to Bundoran on a Saturday for the craic. I’m not taking my lead from him.”

I did take my lead from him.

I was going to have a vasectomy.

It was a bit of a shock.

I assumed that I’d be going to some fancy ass clinic in Dublin or Belfast to have the procedure done by a team of NASA graduates.

My GP referred me to Monaghan County Hospital, and told me that Eileen had to go to the consultation  as well , as , wait until you get this, the surgeon wouldn’t perform the operation without her consent ??

So there we were in the consultants waiting room to see Dr.R, not his real name, that too has been banished from my memory. Of course we then bump into Mr. and Mrs O’Donnell, parents of my childhood friends. We exchanged pleasantries, he volunteered what he was there for and waited for me to do the same….I said backpain.

Mercifully we were called next and sat in Dr.R’s room. He chatted to us  for a few moments to make sure that we were both happy to have the procedure done. Eileen was very happy. He then, unnecessarily I felt, went into some detail about the size of the snip he was going to perform.

“Some surgeons favour a small snip, I am not one of them. To be sure, I favour a large one.”

I crossed my legs involuntarily. He then started looking in various desk drawers for the consent forms. He couldn’t find any, so naturally he opened the door to the packed waiting room and bellowed “Nurse ! Brind me the VASECTOMY consent forms !”

Eileen laughed….I did not.

He offered to do the procedure under a local anesthetic, but as soon as he saw the blood drain from my face, he said that we’d do it under general anesthetic.

We signed the forms and left. Mr.and Mrs. O’Donnell looked at their feet as I said ‘Goodbye’.. I can’t be sure but I think they were sniggering.

A few weeks later I returned to Monaghan Hospital to check in for my  ‘day proceedure’. The receptionist played golf with my Mum.

“Lovely day for it” she said. ”How’s your Mum ?”

I didn’t answer.

Eileen came with me to the room where I was to get undressed and wear one on those delightfully airy gowns. I sat up in the bed, she held my hand. Then the nurse entered.

“Hi Eileen, Paul. Don’t mind me” she said as she pottered around the room.

“Hello” we both said to Eileen’s Aunty Geraldine.

Eileen said ‘Goodbye’ to us both and I was wheeled to the operating theatre. I was greeted by Dr.R, and he then, again unnecessarily I felt,  introduced me to all of the nurses, most of whom asked after my Mum.

A mask was placed over my mouth and I was asked to count backwards from 10.

I got to 7.

I’ve been anaesthetised three times in my life. Once when I was 7 and had to get 4 back teeth removed. The second time was in the City hospital when I was 30 something and was having an endoscope, and this time. On all three occasions I’ve dreampt about Alice in Wonderland

This time I had a wonderful dream. I was with Alice in Wonderland, except Eileen was Alice and we were walking and chatting to the Cheshire Cat about Turkish Delight, flamingoes and mustard…and then we came upon a sleeping Gryphon. The Cat disappeared, Eileen ran away and I looked around to see the Gryphon awake and snarling and then he lunged towards my genitals.

I woke with a fright and tried to say something , but it was muffled because I was wearing a facemask.

“Christ of Almighty !” I heard Dr.R shout, which even in my distress I felt odd, as he had never struck me as a religious man. “ Get him back under !”

I heard a hiss….

I was back in Wonderland, the Cat and Eileen were rolling around in hysterics …with the Gryphon.

The next time I woke I was back in the room where I’d got changed.

Eileen’s Aunty came in with a tray full of tea and toast.

“You gave us quite a shock !” she said.

You and me both Sister…you and me both.



P.S. This is an absolute delight, Paul McCartney comes on stage to sing A Day In The Life with Neil Young.

Author: paul

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