I’ve Been To Stranooden, But I’ve Never Been To Me

“Darling, you give me shelter
From the noise that drowns out the love
And I want to discover
All the things that make you come alive”
 – The Kooks 

Long, long, ago when you could go for a run with your mate …actually it was only last Thursday, I was out for a run in Rossmore Park with Ray. We stopped opposite the souterrain to examine the site where we will eventually install our next Drumlin Giant in the park, Dagda’s Cauldron Of Plenty. As we were examining it two ladies passed by and stopped to ask what we were looking at. We explained and they asked a few more questions about the Giants, the history of the park and eventually one of the ladies asked “Who are you ?”

Paul Bond , I replied.

There was a flicker of recognition and in my mind a list flashed before me of things she may know me from, Coder Dojo, Phoenix AC, Taste of Monaghan, Christmas Lights, Monaghan Town Runners, Monaghan Town Team, or….

“You read at mass in Threemilehouse !”

Yes, that’s me, Paul Bond, reader at mass in Threemilehouse.

No matter what you think people think of you, you’re always in for a surprise.

A couple of other seemingly unrelated events made me think again of ‘who am I ?’

Oddly for me, I’ve ended up in a gang. This gang is officially called the Monaghan Volunteers Pharmacy Delivery Group , but it’s real name is ‘Ray & His Merry Men’. At the moment it comprises of Gerry, Cathal, Adrian, Sean, Jim, another Sean, Duke, our Stephen, Caoimhghin, Ray, and me. They are ex-soldiers, retired headmasters, councilors, brothers, bluffers, all round good eggs, and Ray. Basically we deliver prescriptions from all of the pharmacies in Monaghan to save people travelling in and queueing together.
It’s been going for a couple of weeks now and has taken me to parts of Monaghan I never knew existed. Having been a runner, sorry, plodder , for many years I was sure I’d tramped around every inch of the county on 5k’s, 10k’s , fun runs, half marathons and that curse of humanity, marathon training runs. But no, there were gems still hidden from me. It’s oddly sad and beautiful to see old abandoned railway and canal bridges and viaducts , some in the middle of a field with nothing around to suggest their former glory. When they were built I’m sure they took it for granted they would last forever. I think we’re all learning not to take anything for granted.

Boots asked us this week if we would do deliveries for them and of course we said yes. On Wednesday afternoon I went in to collect a delivery and there was an extra note on it “Milk & RTE Guide”. The pharmacist asked me if that was something else we did. I said no, we were all doing it for free and didn’t want to get involved in buying things for people and charging them. But I said I’d get them for this lady on this occasion. I ended up calling into 4 shops to try and get an RTE Guide. When I finally made my way to deliver the prescription, milk and the RTE Guide I dutifully rang the doorbell, left the items on  the front step and stood 2 metres back. The lady came to the door, opened it a fraction and I said her delivery from Boots was on the step.

“How much do I owe you for the milk and the Guide ?”

Its OK, don’t worry about it.

As I turned to leave she called out after me, “Goodness, Boots are great !”

I’m still doing my Trinity course, remotely via webinar, and this week we had to submit a reflection on the first module. Here’s a flavor of it :

FEELINGS – Not content with making a class of forty creatives confront their insecurities publicly the module then forced groups of them to work together on the module pitch. This filled all of us with fear. Most creative arts are solitary affairs and the base act of making money from those creative acts is rarely referred to. Now we had to join together and launch a business using our respective talents that might actually be sustainable! The third greatest fear experienced by most creatives, and certainly this one, is trying to justify your choices. However, once we started, our group’s experience, and again, mine personally, was one of exhilaration and excitement.

EVALUATION – My history is best summed up by the slogan on a ‘No Fear’ tee shirt I used to own – “Does not play well with others”.
As the class set up was one of group work and  group tables, and before our assignment groups were determined, we were encouraged to sit at a different table with a different mix of classmates at each class, I was certainly shaken from my comfort zone.

 Each time I think “Ahh yes, I know where this is going.” I’m ambushed and whisked away on a tide of new thinking and knowledge.  provoking exercises such as ‘What’s your favourite invention and why ?” seem innocuous enough until you are challenged with repeated layer removing ‘whys?’.

Something I appear to have done often, but never knew there was a word for it, is CONFABULATION, the unconscious process of creating a narrative where there were gaps, or none to begin with , that suits our current position. Another exercise “Why you’re wearing what you’re wearing” again appeared a dawdle until repeated challenges of why took us to common themes of acceptance, fitting in and ending up back at a narrative to suit ourselves. Affinity bias. I had prepared some answers mentally in case I was asked to explain my outfit choices, but as others answered I realised that I too was trying to fit in, no matter what I’d told myself.

The class group exercises broke down barriers and encouraged a non-judgmental atmosphere for sharing histories, hopes and ideas. I loved it. I gradually found myself listening more and speaking less, while not being afraid to offer opinions at the same time.
This would later prove to have been excellent preparation for the group assignment.

ANALYSIS – The journey through the classes and the group assignment work became a distinctive path for me culminating in our last class, Storytelling. “This was the class.” That will be a quote in the dedication in the book I’ll eventually write. This class may have changed my future. We discussed storytelling, we were issued a product, ours was a a tiny little porcelain bear, and we had to write a back story. I wrote about Aunt Minnie, our estranged, exotic Aunt who lived in Belfast but we never visited. It was well received. The Significant Object project was a revelation. I’ve subsequently told my brothers and kids about it. It’s so powerful and may be a practical application of my ‘power’. I’ve thought of little else since.

Keep safe you wonderful monkeys,

P.S. When out delivering prescriptions do NOT have The Jam’s ‘Bitterest Pill’ blaring, not everyone sees the funny side

Author: paul

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