“I find it hard to believe you don’t know
The beauty you are
But if you don’t, let me be your eyes
A hand to your darkness so you won’t be afraid”

Lou Reed

Life is weird, connected, terrible, and wonderful.

It’s all about your perspective.

Over the last two weeks I’ve listened to ‘The Rest Is History’ podcast’s 5 part series on Luther: The Man Who Changed The World, about Martin Luther and the Reformation and nodded along in agreement about all of the ills of the Catholic Church. I’m also reading Catherine Nixey’s ‘Heresy – Jesus Christ and the other Sons of God’ and marvelling at the other Messiahs that seemed to have littered the Mediterranean in the first two centuries of the Common Era.

I’m fascinated by the ‘other Gospels’ that didn’t make the cut into the New Testament. Most of what we take for granted about the Nativity and Christmas doesn’t appear in any of the New Testament gospels but comes from the Gospel of James, which also provides most of the Marian articles of faith.

It all appeals to my quizzical, questioning nature.

And then I went for a run on Tuesday and without thinking started praying the Rosary , counting on my fingers, holding someone in my mind for each prayer and wishing them well.

 On Wednesday I met my friend Freddie for lunch. My day is always improved by spending time with Freddie. We chat about our week, what’s bugging us, what we’re looking forward to, and generally agree on everything except music. Freddie , I’m afraid has been lost to the dark side of Monaghan’s bizarre obsession with Cowshite muzak. After lunch we walked through our wonderful town, in the rain. It has rained for 13 out of the last 14 days.

“At least the weather’s getting better.”

“How so ?”

“The rain’s getting warmer.”

We took our obligatory selfie and went our separate ways.

I walked away a little lighter in my step.

Jake had sent me a message on Monday asking if we had any old photos of our holidays in Majorca when he was a kid. This led to a safari in the attic , opening boxes that hadn’t been opened in quite some while. My Soulmate and I spent a very contented few hours poring over hundreds of images of our younger selves, interrupting each other’s reverie with an “Oh MY GOD ! Look at this one !”,

We came across photos of ourselves from teenage years, through our twenties, when we were footloose and fancy free. There were photos of nights out with friends that we’d completely forgotten , but the joy of which came flooding back as we saw ourselves dancing with friends on the tables in the Thunder Road Café.

We also came across ‘copies’ of the kids’ letters to Santa. Obviously they weren’t the originals, as they went to the North Pole many, many years ago. Jake would write a list of things, thanking Santa for his thoughtfulness last year, and asking for just one thing from the list. Elliott sent a list one year, saying any three items would be fine, and adding “P.S. If you are getting me a Onesie, get Mum to do it.”

And Robyn’s ?

“Dear Santa,

Apologies for the third letter, but I have changed my mind…. “

The letter then detailed several very specific items , that from memory bore no relation whatsoever to anything on the previous two letters, and ended with :

“ Thank you SO much. This is my last letter.

Love from,


We shared a lot of the photos that evening over WhatsApp with the kids , and there were lots of smiles and laughs exchanged between Edinburgh, Kildare and the True Centre Of The Universe.

 On Wednesday morning I got to spend a bit of time, and ate pancakes, with a bunch of very positive and proactive members of Monaghan’s community. These people, from the local business community, the council, community groups, are God’s own glue, that just get on with things and help make Monaghan the thriving wee place that it is.

Of course living here, we generally take a lot of things for granted, such as the number of independent local shops in everything from fashion, food, crafts, art, and cafes and restaurants that you just don’t get in small market towns anymore. It usually takes comments from visitors on how busy and bustling it all is to make us realise it ourselves.

In the past few months we’ve had a visitor from the UK who commented on the amount of building and activity that’s going on, especially when compared to where they live which has seen libraries and swimming pools close, whereas we’re weeks away from our brand new library and have three swimming pools in the town ! A visitor from Longford said their town center wouldn’t be as busy on a Saturday as Monaghan was on the Thursday morning we met. And a visitor from Germany marvelled at the fact that we had actual shops in the town centre, where as their town, of 100,000 now only had internet cafes and bookies, AND that we had three busy hotels in the town and an actual Castle hotel only a few miles away, AND that we actually had two town centres, The Diamond, and Church Square, which he thought was odd, fantastic, and very, very Monaghan.  

At the pancake-fest small awards were made to Flemings, Combilift, Monaghan Shopping Centre, and Donal McElwain, all of whom have contributed greatly to the success of our wee Town Voucher scheme which has generated €8.5 million in sales over the last 5 years. Not bad for a wee town of 7,500 awesome ROCKSTARS !

And that’s not even straying into all of the festivals, free outdoor cinema screenings, town promotions, murals, outdoor art, Giants and general getting off their arses and doing something for the place that we all live in, cherisg, and love a wee bit, but don’t like admitting.

Members of the Town Team come and go, each one leaving their positive mark. The new Town Team Co-Ordinator, Laura, was nervous before she was due to say a few words. I told her that everyone assumed she’d be awful, so if she was slightly better than that, she’d be grand.

She was only slightly less than brilliant.

When she sat down , relieved , I leant over and said “Worst Town Team speech EVER !”.

Whenever I think of the , mostly volunteer members of the Town Team, I’m reminded of my favourite quote by God, in Futurama :

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

On Thursday morning I ended up in Classroom 115, 1st Floor, Trinity Business School for the first time in exactly 4 years. The last time I’d been there was when we finished Module 1 in our Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship course with a competition for a business idea, some bozos won with a dreadful soap idea, and almost immediately afterwards the country closed down due to the pandemic and the rest of the course was conducted online. I’m not sure if the two events were related.

My friend Karl was there that night, he was our course facilitator, but he wasn’t my friend then, he was our evil oppressor. We became friends subsequently when…actually, now that I think about it, why am I friends with him…Oh Yes ! His longsuffering partner, Grainne ! My Soulmate and I love Grainne, and by default Karl is some sort of acquaintance.

And now here , 4 years later, were Karl and I again.

He was again the facilitator for the course that was taking place, an MSc Cancer Survivorship, and I was there with my friend Martin, the wind beneath the wings of Monaghan’s cancer care group, Crocus, and six ladies, as an empathy panel for the course participants to ask questions about our cancer treatment, journey, and observations.

Karl led the questions at the start, and we each got the opportunity to share how we discovered our cancers, our reactions, how we coped, how others rallied around, and so on. All of our circumstances and challenges were different. A lot of our frustrations were similar. But there was one thing that I was delighted to discover that we all shared.

I was surprised by most of my fellow panellists answers to the question “Did you tell anyone ?” after they’d been diagnosed. Almost everyone had kept the news to themselves and their partner for as long as they could. Some hadn’t told their own children for a while. I could understand that you may need time to get your own head around it before you had to explain it to others…but for me that time was the car journey home from Dublin with my Soulmate, by the end of which we’d told the kids, my family, my best friends, and I think I wrote about it in a blog that Friday.

But that was the only difference between us.

The panellists were all wonderful, generous, caring, and just a wee bit AWESOME !

I wouldn’t betray any of the confidences shared, but without naming names, the story of the lady who went directly to St.Vincents for her chemo from her office fancy dress party dressed as a turkey, and then when Professor  John Crown , renowned , almost god like oncologist made a surprise visit to the day ward, and a nurse came running from reception, as other nurses tried to stall him, shouting desperately “Hide the Turkey !!!”, will live long in my memory.

But what gave me a warm glow, well two things did, but the main one was , towards the end, one of the students asked if our perspective on life had changed since our cancer and our treatment. The lovely lady sitting beside me, answered for us all, “I’ve no time for negativity anymore. I won’t even waste my time trying to change the attitude of negative people, let them go, I’ve too many things to appreciate.”

It was a great day.

Oh , and the other thing that gave me a warm glow ?

Karl wanted to have a few words with the class after we left, but gave me his credit card to buy the panellists tea or coffee, so I insisted that we all have muffins and cakes as well.

We had a great chat together over our illicit muffins. Karl joined us and was delighted to discover that we were all fellow Trekkies. A lady called Bertha who was doing the course asked if she could join us. I knew she was Bertha because whe had her name written on a sticker on her jumper, which had a smiley face. She also had chips, so I said she could join us if she gave me a chip.

She did.

Bertha is from Bhopal , and I assumed that she was working in a hospital here, but she was here just to do this course. She is a cancer warrior herself and wanted to learn more so that she could improve cancer care in India.

How cool is that ?

I asked Karl to take a photo of us.

I think it’s gorgeous.

If these people were anymore awesome, they’d all be from Monaghan.

But that’s just the way I look at it.



P.S. Karl messaged me the night before and jokingly asked if I wanted music playing as I entered the classroom, and I said, well this always plays in my head anyway when I enter any room, so play that.

He didn’t.

But I play it now and dedicate it to Freddie, my kids, my Soulmate, Monaghan Town Team, my classmates from 2020, especially Denise, Martin , my fellow panellists, the Cancer Survivorship class, who Martin and I agreed were much nicer than last year’s class, Grainne….and Karl’s credit card.

The Beastie Boys ‘Rhymin & Stealin

Author: paul

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