Signs , Signals, Synchronicity

“You, I thought I knew you
You I cannot judge
You, I thought you knew me
This one laughing quietly underneath my breath

The photograph reflects, every streetlight a reminder
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night, deserves a quiet night”

REM / Nightswimming

Everything’s connected…sort of.

On Tuesday I gave another talk on ‘The Drumlin Giants and The True History Of Monaghan’, this time to the sixth class girls of St.Louis Girls National School. I told the girls that the last time I was in this very same hall , I was their age, and also in sixth class in 1979.

I, and my comrades from the CBS joined the girls in this very hall to practice for our upcoming Confirmation. ( For my non-Catholic / non-Irish readers, this is a sacrament that is performed around 11 years of age , just before you start secondary school, and you know better. It confirms your baptism promises, and the Holy Ghost was involved ! Although they call him the Holy Spirit now. I prefer Ghost.)

Our practice with the St.Louis girls basically was running through who was to sit where on the big day in the Cathedral, when you were to stand up, sit down, leave you seat , and when it was ending we had a run through of how we would leave our seats, a boy from the left side, a girl from the right, who would go up the aisle together , genuflect in front of the altar , peel off left and right respectively, and then join our families and shake down our relatives and neighbours for cold hard cash. In our practice in St.Louis we all took turns leaving our seats, with a girl from the opposite side. The only laugh occurred when the McKenna twin girls decided to go up the aisle together.

That’s the first time I recall ever seeing my Soulmate.

I told the girls that I married that girl. So when you’re practicing for your own Confirmation, keep your eyes and ears peeled…you could get more than cash and a blessing !

After that I ran through the same slides I’d shown the boys’ school the week before. Again I probably enjoyed it more than they did. At one point, having already shown how the giant dragon skull from GOT ,(series 7, episode 2), Apollo 11 landing module ( story below in the P’S’s ), Juan Mackenna O’Reilly High School in Santiago, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Fontaines DC, all connected to Monaghan, I asked what was the biggest story in the news was.

“Ukraine ? “ they asked in that odd deprecating way 11 year olds do, when they’re sure they’re right , but afraid to assert  themselves.

I said they were right and went on to explain that the Dawson memorial in the centre of Monaghan was to Thomas Vesey Dawson, who died in 1854 fighting in the Crimean War in Ukraine, against the Russians, and that if you looked up you would see that it mentions the battles at Alma and Inkerman, and that Alma House in the Diamond, now home to The Screaming Bean Coffee shop was named after the same battle.. ( Just thinking now, is there some connection between The Screaming Bean, and The Squealing Pig being opposite each other in The Diamond ?) Also ,Dawson Street in Dublin is named for the same family, and one of them, Joshua,  originally built The Mansion House on that street as his house, before selling to it Dublin Corporation in 1715, who use it today as the Lord Mayor’s residence. It was in the Rotunda room in this house that Ireland’s Declaration Of Independence was read out for the first time in 1919. It was where the Ango-Irish Treaty was approved and was the home for Dail Eireann until the 1930’s.

So , everything does in fact connect back to Monaghan, The True Centre Of The Universe.

I also invited them to contribute to the next Giant  that we’re currently designing. It will be a giant Starling, she will be called Druid, which is the Irish for starling, and has spooky connotation in English, so win win.

I showed them the clip by Colm Hogg and James  Crombie of a murmuration they filmed in Galway that takes the shape of a giant bird, made up of thousands of Starlings. Our Druid will be a Giant, but each feather end will have a drawing by each of the girls, with their name on it, along with the boys school drawings, and Urbleshanny school. So our Druid will in fact be a murmuration of their little Starlings.

They seemed impressed.

I also said that everyone who contributes a Starling will get a sweatshirt at the end to commemorate the launch day.

I also asked , while clearly wearing my ‘Choose Weird’ CREWNECK, if they’d prefer a hoodie or a CREWNECK…and only 10 out of the 54 were cool enough to opt for the CREWNECK. The rest had been pretty decent up until that point.

They had loads of questions, and I had some answers.

These kids are Rock Stars !

And then on Wednesday I went up to Beaumont to have my first chemo treatment. My Soulmate came with me.

Everything about how the day would proceed was clearly spelt out, so if there were what would otherwise might have seemed as delays, were just part of how it works. It was 5 star treatment…and I got two dinners ! With jelly and ice cream !

As it was my first day, and I was getting two different wonder drugs , I was told that everything would be treble checked, until we all got familiar with each other.

Anytime any of the nurses said “…it’s a long day for you.” I said I have great company, a mischievously brilliant book …or should that be a great book and mischievously brilliant company , audio books, and the best Spotify playlist in the world, and a seat by the window. And two dinners ! Sure what more could I ask for ?

Part of the process for the following day would be an injection that would stimulate white cell production in my bone marrow, to replace what the chemo was busily wiping out in Putinesque fashion.

Another lovely nurse , Andrea, offered to show my Soulmate how to administer the injection when we were at home. She didn’t have to offer twice. She went through the type of hypodermic syringe , where to administer it, somewhere fatty.

“That gives me a big target area !” My Soulmate joked.

“That’s good.” Andrea laughed.

“See, there’s a medically qualified practitioner stating that my tummy is perfectly fatty.” I added.

They ignored me.

Andrea showed how the syringe was spring loaded , so it would retract the needle when the dosage was delivered.

“So you use it once and then dispose of it in the needle bin I’ll give you.” Andrea finished.

“ So, just so that we’re all clear, she’d only allowed jab me once with it ?”

“Pardon ? Once ?” Andrea looked confused.

“Yes, she’s not allowed keep it and jab me whenever I drive her to it ?”

“No !” then looking sympathetically at my Soulmate, she added “Although….”

Before we left I looked out of the window and spotted a growing murmuration of starlings. I looked silently as they seemed to take the shape of a large starling, like Druid. Although it may nave just been a blancmange….I’d a lot of drugs on board at this point.

I took it as a good sign anyway.



P.S, On the way home we listed to the Smartless, a podcast by  Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes , and Will Arnett , that featured Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead. Jason said he was really chuffed that they’d allowed him to use their song ‘Decks Dark’ on his Ozark series. They said that they hadn’t realised it had been approved and it came as a lovely surprise when they watched the show. They alos said that the song hadn’t really fitted anywhere for them up until that point.

Which I though was cool.

P.P.S  This is the story I read out to the St.Louis Girls this week.

Banba and Benny

Banba 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.

Two years later 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 Monaghan 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 Monaghan. 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 realises they are going to land on a dangerous crater and takes the Eagle out of autopilot mode and takes control. Benny Callan from Monaghan’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 Callen. 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.

The silence continues …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 it and one of those is Benny Callan.

P.P.P.S This is Public Services’ wonderful ‘Go!’ which features real audion of teh Apollo 11 moon landing

Author: paul

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