Where Angels Fear To Treadmill

“Hit me for the day
For the light
That you suffered
To come by
Take to my sky
Never wanting
Only wonder

To live out of reach
Sloping family
Short to tall
One to three
Swallow the key
In their footprints
I will follow”

O’Connell/ Curley/ Deegan III/ Chatten/ Coll

This week, like all weeks, has been one of new things, experiences and learning.

On Monday we welcomed visitors from France into our home. Aurelien is the grandson of an old friend and we are hosting him for a few weeks while he completes a college semester with an internship in Combilift. His wonderful partner Marion has joined him this week to help him settle in. We’ve had dinner together each evening, and we’ve had lovely conversations with them as they politely dined on our very non-cuisine meals.

 We’ve never had guests that weren’t relatives for more than a day or two before, so this has been novel. We all share a love of science fiction, and none of us are afraid to laugh at ourselves, they already seem to have been a part of our lives for quite some time.

This morning My Soulmate and I watched from the kitchen window as Aurelien drove himself to work for the first time. It brought back memories of Jake, Robyn and Elliott’s first days of school… Aurelien didn’t look back either.

“Eileen !” I shouted excitedly. “He turned the right way out of the gate !”

“That’s a good sign.” She said, rubbing my arm reassuringly.

Monaghan , despite being the true centre of the Universe, is not a large place, but if you drive from our house , through town, to Combilift on the other side, it can take 30 minutes between 8am and 9am , as all of the schools in town are on the same route and all start at 9. So all of this week I’ve been taking Aurelien across country, through Ballinode, Rafeenan, Crosses, Ballyalbany , and Coolshannagh, avoiding the town traffic and taking 15 minutes. It’s a route that I’ve known since childhood when I would have regularly cycled to O’Donnell’s, the house we all hung out in from the ages of 8 to 28, and also cycled to school that way too. But when you are considering handing over a car to the cherished grandson of a dear friend, from another country, the roads seem vanishingly small, and everyone else seems to drive in the middle of the road.

I hadn’t realised I was nervous as I was until Aurelien messaged to say :

“I arrived without trouble !”

“He made it !” I shouted in to Eileen. “Never doubted him !” she said, but out of the corner of my eye I could see her kissing the head of the wee statue of St.Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases, and putting away her Rosary Beads.

I messaged him back.

“A proud day for the parish !”

On Wednesday I went to Dublin for a couple of CT scans and a blood test. These are now my routine , every six months, in advance of meeting the irrepressible Dilly Little, my consultant. But this week I was having them in St.Joseph’s , Raheny, instead of Beaumont Hospital. St.Joseph’s was built as a convalescent home by nuns in 1958 but is now owned by Beaumont and operated as a satellite.

It’s a proper little old hospital. I went into the main reception area and handed my appointment letter to the lady there. “That’s grand Paul, second door on the right.”

I went to the waiting room and had only sat down when a radiologist called out “Paul Bond ?” and I got up and followed her in to the scanning room. She asked me to put on a robe, and mentioned that the opening is at the back. “Does anyone actually put it on with the opening at the front ?”

“You’d be surprised.” She said.” The things I’ve seen….”

As I got changed, from the other side of the curtain she was asking me the standard questions.

“Have you had a CT scan before ?”


“Did you have a reaction to the dye ?”


“Are you on any medication ?”


“Do you have any heart condition ?”


“Do you have any kidney problems ?”


“Oh. What kidney problem do you have ?”

I’ve only got one.

“Well…the one you have, does it have any problems ?”


“Oh. What’s the problem ?”

It’s lonely.

She laughed. “If you come out of there with that gown on the wrong way round, I’m going home.”  

We got on very well after that.

One of the odd things since my chemo and operations in 2022 is that up until then you only had to look sideways at my veins and they would gush away like a very gushy thing. But now it can take several pokes about and usually a change of arms in order to find a vein. The radiologist apologises for having to poke at me a few times, and I apologise to her for the state of veins. It’s odd.

On her 4th attempt she got the cannula into a vein on my right arm and then flushed it. This sends a weirdly refreshing feeling for a moment into your arm.

This was an older CT scanner than the one in Beaumont. There were no clouds on the roof, and there was no wee sign beside the laser saying ‘DON’T LOOK HERE !’, but I still didn’t look.

The machine whirls into life , making a hypnotic rhythm that , in other circumstances would lull you to sleep. The bed you are lying on moves into the whirling thing and the whirling thing says “Breathe in. And hold.” And then the bed moves back out and it tells you to breathe again. This happens a couple of times. Then the radiologist comes back in and puts the dye which gives me a warm tingle in my ear lobes and buttocks. It is not unpleasant.

We do the CT Hokey Cokey again and that’s it.

Speaking of Coke, I found out this week that the inspiration for the famous Coca Cola song came from Shannon Airport in Limerick…and Monaghan. Honestly. In 1971 Bill Backer the marketing guru from McCann Erikson in charge of the Coca Cola account, and he was flying from Boston  to London to meet Billy Davis , possibly the most influential Soul  music  and advertising guy that we’ve never heard of, who was writing a new Coke jingle with British writer Roger Cook which was due to be recorded by the New Seekers.

The flight was grounded overnight in Shannon due to heavy fog and a lot of the Yankee passengers were not at all pleased by the standard of the B&B accommodation and griped in typical Yankee fashion about it. But the next day as they waited for their eventually onward flight to London Bill noticed that as they were all drinking their complimentary Cokes they were now laughing about their experiences and he thought that Coke wasn’t just another soft drink , it was a cultural phenomena , and over a shared Coke, people came together and shared experiences. And he took that theory with him to London and said to Billy Davis that his concept was if he could do something for everyone in the world, he’d like to buy them a Coke.

Billy Davis looked decidedly unimpressed. “I’d buy everyone a home first and share with them in peace and love.” 

“Lets include both !” Bill shouted. And that’s how one of the world’s most famous commercials “I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke” was soundtracked with the great song “I’d Like to Teach The World to Sing”.

“Wait ! You said it was connected to Monaghan ?!?”


Readers may remember I previously wrote about Neil Young’s visit to McKenna’s on Dublin St.?


He was on the same flight as Bill Backer from Coca Cola ! ( True story, you can read it in the P.S….Yes , it is true, you can ask Declan McElroy, he won a €50 bet based on that very story.)

Anyway, where was I ?

Oh yes ! Earlier this morning I was on a treadmill in Monaghan’s Coral Leisure with my sometimes-running partner Actual Ray. They had organised a 24 hour treadmill marathon in order to raise funds for LauraLynn, a charity that provides hospice care for ill children and their families. It is simply, the best. I knew that Ray would miss our scheduled training session on Thursday as he’s on manoeuveres trying to save Monaghan from itself…or Monaghan ir trying to save Ray from himself. In any case , I knew I’d be training alone and popped in to Coral to see if they had a slot free and they said no one was scheduled for 4.30pm. So I ran 6k then.

When I finished the trainer mentioned that they were struggling to fill the midnight to 4.00am times. I rang Ray, and asked if it suited him to do half an hour at midnight, and he said it did.

So , for the first time in 2 weeks I met my training partner Ray, at midnight in Coral Leisure, to run on a treadmill.

This may sound like an odd thing to do, but when I think about it, it is very in keeping with things that happen when you go running with Ray. During training runs we have climbed into old abandoned graveyards to see who was the last person buried there, we have rescued a frazzled swan and taken it to the vets, we have stood under a waterfall , we have climbed a mountain because someone told Ray that there was an ice cream parlour. Someone had lied. I was someone.

We have gone off the path just to see what’s there. This is both a metaphor for our training, and actually…our training…or rather something that we gratefully embrace in order to stop training.

I have missed it.

We had put our names down for 30 minutes.

We chatted about Rishi Sunak, Don Williams, Gateaux Pineapple Log, Vengaboys, tennis courts, Prague, both city and Child of, Fontaines DC, and Smash Mouth’s All Star.

We stayed on the treadmills for 2 hours.

We left around 2.15am , wishing Chris and Mike good luck, as they were keeping them going until 4.00am. We left them alone in the gym upstairs, listening to Bob Marley on full blast. We went slowly down the stairs, feeling a bit odd as we found our land legs after being on the treadmill. The empty swimming pool looked eerie. We left by the side door, closing it securely behind us.

We talked outside for a bit, planned to meet up for a run on Sunday, knowing that I’d be running it on my own, and said ‘Goodbye’ and then as I turned to my car, I shouted “KEYS !”.

I’d left them upstairs on the water table.

Ray tried ringing Chris. It went to voicemail.

We looked at each other, looked at the drainpipes up to the gym on the first floor, nodded in agreement and were grabbing the drainpipe and testing how well it was secured to the wall when Chris rang “Did I get a missed call from you Ray ?”

“Yeah, Paul’s left his keys on the table there.”

Chris said he’d be down directly.

We looked at the drainpipe again and breathed out a sigh of relief.

Perhaps these occasional breaks from each other may help prolong our lives……



P.S. I have amazing friends, most of whom’s friendship doesn’t threaten my very existence, this is for all of you , the quite brilliant Sun Kil Moon and ‘Ben’s My Friend’.

P.P.S. This is the account of Neil Young’s very, very real visit to Monaghan :

 The plane landed in Shannon that February night in 1971 after a bumpy journey from Boston, on it’s way to London. One passenger in particular was agitated, distraught , and quite possibly high as a kite. Neil Percival Young was only 26 but had already released two albums with Buffalo Springfield, two solo albums, an album with Crosby ,Stills, Nash & Young, played Woodstock , where he famously told the film camera men “One of you fuckin’ guys comes near me and I’m gonna fuckin’ hit you with my guitar”, released his third solo album, ‘After The Goldrush’ to great critical acclaim and was now on his way to record two live shows with the BBC in London.

In the midst of all of this he was also trying to build a relationship with his estranged father, Scott Young. Scott had got divorced from Neil’s mother years earlier and had recently bought a small farm in Manitoba in a little place called Cavan- Millbrook- North Monaghan and Neil had been promising for four years since he’d bought it to pay a visit. Perhaps it was a combination of the stress he was under, the exhaustion….or the drugs, but when the passengers disembarked from that flight in Shannon , the long haired young fella from seat 3b demanded that he be taken to North Monaghan….immediately !

A taxi was duly summoned and a very tired and emotional Neil Young made his way across the country to Monaghan in a Ford Corsair. He fell asleep….which was probably just as well , the journey time from Shannon to Monaghan by car back then was at least 5 hours, even if you didn’t stop in Grogan’s in Glasson for a pick-me-up.

The Ford Corsair arrived in Monaghan just after 8pm and Neil Young awoke to be greeted by the imposing sight of  St.Joesph’s Church on Park St. “Where the hell am I ?” he asked.

“Monaghan.” The taxi man replied.

“Have we gone back in time ? This ain’t anywhere in Manitoba that I remember.”

The taxi man laughed “You landed in Shannon airport and demanded a taxi to take you to North Monaghan. And here we are.”

“Shannon , Ireland ???”

“Yes , Sir !”

“Jeez, I need a drink. Take me to a bar that plays music.”

The taxi man , being unfamiliar with the town, pulled up beside a shop, at least he thought it was a shop, there were certainly shoes and clothes piled up in the window. There was an elderly man locking the front door behind him. “Excuse me ?” the taxi man hailed though the passenger window “Could you tell me where there’s a bar that plays music ?”

Hughie The Buck turned and leaned in the open car window “What kind ?”

“What kind , what ?” the taxi man snapped.

“Music ! What kind of music ? There’s 58 bars in this town and at this time on a Thursday evening there’s music in most of them.”

“Good music” the passenger in the back answered.

Hughie opened the rear passenger door and hopped in saying “That’ll be McKenna’s on Dublin Street then, I’m going there myself. I’ll show you the way.”

Neil laughed and introduced himself , the taxi man grunted and they drove to McKenna’s. Hughie turned to face the young man “You’re a long way from home Master Young, but I think you have God on your side, so you’ll be alright.” He laughed, Neil laughed, the taxi driver just muttered something about ‘Northern bastards’.  They could hear ‘Voodoo Child’ playing on the jukebox when they pulled up outside McKenna’s Bar, Park St. Monaghan, ‘Home to Bona Fides’. When they entered the bar they doubled the number of people present. The barman, young Seamus McKenna, was playing dominos on the bar with Paddy ‘The Hangman’ Clarke, WW1 veteran , seller of combs and all round character. He looked up to greet the new long haired arrival “ Good Evening Preacher , I see you’ve brought the good Lord himself with you tonight.”

Hughie smiled, although he was fond of his own opinions, only Paddy called him the Preacher, “Good evening to your good self, Hangman. May I introduce to you Master Neil Young, a visitor to these shores in search of good music”.

“How’re y’all this evenin’ ?”

Neil extended his hand in greeting to Seamus, who shook it warmly, but when he turned to Paddy The Hangman, he found his hands firmly folded across his chest “Are you a Yank ?”

“No” Neil answered “I’m Canadian”.

“That’s just a watery Yank !”

“Don’t mind him” the barman interjected “ He’s in a grumpy mood because I caught him cheating at the dominos…again.”

“They just slipped a bit !” Paddy replied, with mock indignation. He held out his hand to Neil “Only joking, you’re welcome indeed. And now just to show that there’s no hard feeling, I’ll let you buy me a drink.”

Neill smiled and nodded to Paddy, “Barman, let’s set these fellas up. And may I buy you a beer too ?”

“Please call me Seamus. And yes, you may.” Without asking what anyone wanted he pulled four creamy pints and as they were settling, he placed four whiskeys on the counter to keep them going. They had chatted for a good while, they were on their fourth round, and the crowd was now into double figures when ‘Woodstock’ by Crosby, Still’s Nash & Young came on the jukebox. There was a crash of broken glass behind the bar and they all turned to see Seamus staring at them.

“Jesus Christ of Almighty ! You’re that Neil Young ! Holy Mother of Christ ! Neil fucking Young !”

Hughie answered “Calm down Seamus ! Are you only realising that now ?”

Neil was surprised by this and turned to face the old man “ You know who I am ?”

Paddy’s laughed “Of course he knows who you are ! I stopped calling into his shop because he played that feckin’ ‘Goldrush’ album on repeat till it wore out the stylus….and then he still played it…he said it sounded better ! He has us all bored to tears with the stories he believes you’re telling in your songs. ” He looked at his nearly empty pint , picked it up and gently wiggled it “Anyway, Story Boy, it’s your round again.”

Neil nodded again to Seamus who had recovered somewhat and began to pull the pints. The conversation tore on with Paddy regaling them with his WW1 adventures. Neil told them tales from Woodstock, his search for the perfect band, his worry that the world wasn’t ready for his change in direction. Hughie joked “ The country’s ready for you Boy. Are you ready for the country ?”

Neil jumped up off his stool “Seamus ! Is there a guitar here ?”

Seamus  ran out the back and up the stairs. They could hear him hurtling back down the stairs and he rushed into the bar, out of breath holding the guitar out to Neil with both hands “ It…would …be…an…honour.”

Neil took the guitar, tuned it and started to strum. Seamus unplugged the jukebox. After a minute or two Neil began to sing :

“ Slipping and sliding

and playing domino

Lefting and then Righting,

it’s not a crime you know.

You gotta tell your story boy,

before it’s time to go.

Are you ready for the country

because it’s time to go?

Are you ready for the country

because it’s time to go?

I was talkin’ to the preacher,

said God was on my side

Then I ran into the hangman,

he said it’s time to die

You gotta tell your story boy,

you know the reason why.

Are you ready for the country

because it’s time to go?

Are you ready for the country

because it’s time to go?”

When he finished, they erupted with cheers and clapping. “Again ! Again !” they all cheered and Neil duly sang it again. Hughie became quite emotional and wiped his eyes…and his nose with his sleeve. This time Hughie, Seamus and Paddy all joined in the chorus.

When they finished Paddy simply said “ Jaysus, if I’d known it was that easy I’d have become a feckin’ rock star meself !”

Neil smiled and said “I get it now. That’s why they call you the Hangman, you kill people with your comments.”

Seamus and Hughie looked at each other and laughed out loud. Eventually Hughie replied “No it’s because whenever you’re in a round with him he always leaves people hanging when it’s his turn to pay.”

True story.

Author: paul

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