Cross country running

Young People , Spam, and Poached Eggs

“I’ve never been closer
I tried to understand
That certain feeling
Carved by another’s hand, oh

But it’s too late to hesitate
We can’t keep on living like this

Leave no track
Don’t look back”

  • Gregory/Marsh/Ware

I don’t feel old.

Not really.

Some people comment that I run like an old man. But when I was 16 and started running, with Ronan Hartney, so that we could get out of evening study and go to Phoenix Athletics training and meet girls, I ran like an old man. Reluctantly.

But occasionally, just occasionally, something happens that makes me think …

Last night a young chap, Adam, that I first met at Monaghan Coder Dojo, EIGHT YEARS AGO, appeared on Primetime…in a good way, not the subject of an investigation into his vast drug empire. He was discussing the impact of Covid-19 on this year’s Leaving Cert exam. He came across very well, and much more eloquent than when I first met him, I think he was 10, and still in primary school. Within two weeks he knew more about computer coding than I did, but that didn’t make him exceptional, in our Coder Dojo I ‘teach’ the beginners, and they all know more than me after two weeks. It was just a shock to see someone I still saw in my mind’s eye as a Coder kid appear as an adult on my television.

I also once coached the mighty Drumkill Rovers Under 8’s football team, I use team in the most liberal sense of the word. The kids were brilliant, boys and girls, but they had a coach who’s only footballing qualification was a love of Eric Cantona. It was great fun though, at that age the teams were mixed abilities, everyone that showed up got to play, and none of them noticed or cared, they were all Drumkillers ! Whenever we had a ‘match’ and they got to wear our club strip I always took a photo of the squad, and as they were all 8 and under it was a struggle to get all 20 of them to look in the one direction and smile, so instead of getting them to say ‘Cheese’, I got them to roar ‘SAUSAGES’. I’d count them down “3-2-1” and they’d roar ‘SAUSAGES’, I’d say I couldn’t hear them and they’d genuinely wake the dead with their roar the next time. Other teams thought we were mad.

And then just before Christmas I was in our local shop, McCarvilles XL Ballinode, great shop, and this young man, obviously on his way home from work, nodded and gave me a big smile and in a deep husky voice said “Well Paul”. I smiled and nodded back, as I would if anyone greeted me, but then my jaw dropped and I saw behind the beard the wee fella that hated to be put in goals and would pretend to be deaf whenever I tried to substitute him.

When I was 10 or 11 , a first year in St.Macartan’s College, a gang of us stayed for a few nights over the Halloween break in my Granda’s old farmhouse in Dernaseill , about three miles from Scotstown. The farmhouse had no electricity, running water, or furniture, but it was dry and became our  place. We were on our own and had great fun. After the second day we’d run out of all the biscuits, chocolate and cereal we’d brought with us, were fed up cycling to Scotstown for cans of Coke, Major cigarettes and crisps, and had nothing to eat except two dozen eggs that none of us knew what to with. On the third day Granda and Uncle Terence arrived to check on the few cattle in the backfield. He had a tin of Spam with him and got a a bunch of twigs outside and made a fire in the old grate, put a pot of water on it and when the water boiled cracked in a few eggs. They were ready in a minute. Terence put some slices of bread on forks and toasted them by holding them to the fire. Granda looked around to see six 10 year olds salivating. He put on more eggs, Terence made more toast, and he divided up the Spam. I think I will go to my grave never having dined on a more sumptuous meal.

As soon as  Granda and Terence left we got on our bikes and went to McQuaids shop and bought all of their Spam, seven tins, two Tip Top batch loafs, 20 Major, and a half pound of butter. For some reason we all sang The Vapors ‘Turning Japanese’ cycling back to the farm.

We had Spam, toast and poached eggs for tea, supper, breakfast, lunch for the next three days.
When we went home I asked Mam if I could have Spam for my lunch at school. I had Spam sandwiches from Halloween to Christmas. I’ve never had a Spam sandwich since.

Poached eggs on the other hand, I’ve had almost daily since that day Granda and Terence made them in the old fireplace in Dernaseill. They were the first thing I ever cooked for myself. And possibly until the age of 25 were still the only thing I could cook for myself.

You never know if the smallest example, encouragement, or effort you made will make any impact at all.

But I bet some do.

That’ll be a comfort to me in my dotage.

Now where did I put those slippers ???

I remember when all this was fields…

€1.20 for a packet of crisps ???


 P.S. This is class…and old….but class… Temptation

P.P.S. I’m dying to send someone a SuperJetDinosaurs sweatshirt. Tell me of a great or simple influence on you as a child 

Author: paul

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