The Everyday Irishman


A Living Word: Five Hospital Days – Thursday

Posted in The Origin Stuff by everydayirishman on April 30, 2009
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RTE Radio 1’s A Living Word begins and ends each day with a religious or secular two-minute meditation on any topic under the sun.

This week you can tune in to hear me read a thought each day, at 06.40 and 01.58. The Theme is ‘Five Hospital Days’ and the thoughts are based on my book, Two in a Million: A True Story about Illness and Love.

Thursday’s piece is below.

There is an old hospital adage, that the nurses in Our Lady’s in Crumlin used to tell me when I spent time there as a child and a teenager: When you go into hospital, you take two suitcases with you – one to carry your clothes, and another to pack away your dignity.

 

I have found that it is the little indignities of hospital that are often harder than the big challenges.

 

In the spring of 2002, months after being released following my bone marrow transplant, I still had to wear a mask while walking around Our Lady’s. I had to cover my nose and mouth, to protect me from infection.

 

One day, I was collecting blood test forms to bring to the phlebotomist, and a nurse handed me a mask.

 

I refused to put it on. It just seemed like I’d been through enough. I’d had needles jabbed into me for years; I’d had tubes shoved into every part of my body; during transplant, I’d been too weak to get out of bed and had to be washed by nurses.

 

Now I was supposed to be getting better – I felt healthy and strong. I wasn’t going to cover my face while walking down a corridor.

 

The nurse refused to allow me go anywhere.

 

I’d been worried about my pride; she was worried about my health. In hospital a little indignity goes a long way. I wore the mask that day, and stayed infection free. I’ve never had to wear a mask in hospital since.

 

 

 

Kingdom (Here I) Come

Posted in The Origin Stuff by everydayirishman on April 30, 2009
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A reflection on Kerry I did a couple of years ago:

It’s nice to get away from it all. Last March, my dad announced that he was slipping off to Killarney for three days to the annual Chartered Accountants in Practice conference. Thinking my cries would be in vain, I pleaded with him to take me too, so I could get a break from my satisfying-yet-tedious year-out home-bound book-writing. To my delight and astonishment, he actually agreed to my tagging along, and to putting me up in a four-star hotel for two nights!

It was not the first time I’d been in Kerry. As a little dote of one, I toured the county on the back of my mum’s bike, during my parents’ cycle trip around Ireland (on that tour, I would allegedly burst into tears every time I heard the term ‘B & B’, because I knew it meant I would have to go to bed!). I also visited the Kingdom about seven years ago. We journeyed around the county, staying in B & Bs. The thing I remember most about that trip is sitting at the breakfast table one morning, looking pretty pathetic with my fresh fruit and yoghurt, while the rest of my family indulged in fry-ups (I was on some kind of health drive at the time)!

The accountants’ conference, however, gave me my first visit to Killarney. And as you can perhaps tell from the above paragraph, I don’t recall much from my first two trips to Kerry!

We arrived on a Wednesday, I with almost as much luggage as I had on my two-week holiday in New York the previous summer (don’t ask me why)!

After check-in, I sped up to my room and wallowed in opulence for a while. I also had great fun snatching all the sheets of complimentary writing paper and shoving them into my bag so I could take them home and, at a later date, impress my pen pals.

I got my first surprise when we ordered room service. The waiter guy came, and he spoke, and and…People actually talk in that musical Kerry tone! I always thought the bogger accent was a myth perpetuated by D4 types to make Dubliners seem linguistically superior to everyone else in Ireland…Well, at the very least you’d expect the Great Southern Hotel to be sanitised! (Okay, enough snobbery!)

When I awoke the next morning, I discovered I hadn’t been dreaming – I was still surrounded by lavish four-star luxury! Now, I don’t really know anything about accountancy conferences, but I imagine they’re akin to those big gangster meet-ups you see in mafia movies. You know, where a load of suspicious-looking men in over-priced suits discuss how they can better fleece unsuspecting individuals. So, I steered clear of that scene and ventured out into the drizzle for a walk instead.

I strolled in a spiral around the town, until on the outskirts I happened upon Killarney National Park. Intrigued, I entered, and followed the signs along the River Walk.

I meandered down a trail, the path barely visible for all the horse shit mashed into it – walking became like playing hopscotch!

After about a mile, I reached a small wooded peninsula. I wandered through the grey trees till I was at water’s edge. The bare branches crawled out toward the horizon. The lake lapped invitingly, the dull sky mirrored in its ripples. In the distance, an ancient castle stood proudly, surrounded by lush greenery. It was a scene still with beauty, and silent but for the twittering of birds overhead.

And in that moment, I suddenly felt assured about all the reasons I give myself for living this life.

I walked on for a few more hours, visited that castle in the distance, before returning to the hotel room invigorated. Then I sat down and began to write…Thoughts swirled out of my head, through my pen onto the page, ink setting its whiteness alight with some kind of wonder…

The next day, the conference concluded, and we had a six-hour drive back to Wicklow. Back to screaming siblings and domestic demands, the stifling mundanity of middle-class existence.

Like I say, it’s nice to get away from it all.

A Living Word: Five Hospital Days – Wednesday

Posted in The Origin Stuff by everydayirishman on April 29, 2009
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RTE Radio 1’s A Living Word begins and ends each day with a religious or secular two-minute meditation on any topic under the sun.

This week you can tune in to hear me read a thought each day, at 06.40 and 01.58. The Theme is ‘Five Hospital Days’ and the thoughts are based on my book, Two in a Million: A True Story about Illness and Love.

Wednesday’s piece is below.

A lecturer of mine, drawing on Beckett, once wrote of the stages we go through as we move from despair at to acceptance of some tragedy or horror is our lives.

 

First we tell ourselves: ‘I can’t go on.’ Then we insist: ‘I must go on.’ Finally we simply say: ‘I’ll go on.’

 

When I returned home from hospital after my bone marrow transplant in 2001, I knew my life had nowhere to go but death. I’d been through months of the most severe pain I could imagine, drifting in and out of consciousness. I’d experienced psychosis and forgotten who my parents were.

 

My muscles were wasted; I had to learn to walk again. I couldn’t hold a pen because my hands shook so badly.

 

The most terrifying thing: I’d lost senses I thought I would never lose. The music I’d liked before my transplant, I didn’t know why I liked it. Movies I’d found funny weren’t funny anymore. My short term memory was gone.

 

I don’t remember how I got better. I don’t remember when the certainty of death slipped away, and hope crept into my thoughts again.

 

All I remember doing, is taking baby steps up and down our driveway, my mum by my side, as I tried to build up some strength. Every step hurt. Before each one, I’d think: I can’t do any more. My mum scolded me: You must do it. And then I did.

 

 

 

 

A Living Word – Five Hospital Days: Tuesday

Posted in The Origin Stuff by everydayirishman on April 28, 2009
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RTE Radio 1’s A Living Word begins and ends each day with a religious or secular two-minute meditation on any topic under the sun.

This week you can tune in to hear me read a thought each day, at 06.40 and 01.58. The Theme is ‘Five Hospital Days’ and the thoughts are based on my book, Two in a Million: A True Story about Illness and Love.

Tuesday’s piece is below.

The Chinese writer Lin Yutang once wrote that if you can spend an afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.

 

When I was 16, I paid a rather useless trip to Powerscourt Waterfall in Co Wicklow.

 

At the time, I was in the middle of a bone marrow transplant. Admitted to hospital in late June, I’d quickly become incredibly ill, in violent pain and too weak to lift myself out of bed.

 

It was now early August, and I was allowed out of the isolation ward for day trips. Even so, I clung to the idea of hospital, and the routine I had there. I was worried about infections and daunted by all the pills I had to take. Hospital was the only place I felt safe.

 

My parents had brought me to Powerscourt in the hope of rekindling memories from happy childhood days spent there.

 

But the weather was horrible, and we couldn’t leave the car. The sky was stuffed with grey clouds; the rain seemed to be falling in javelins. I sat in the back seat, listening to the rain and the thunder and the waterfall compete for attention.

 

And then, despite the absurd failure of the attempt to get me some Wicklow air – I laughed. My mum and dad looked at me. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t thinking about blood tests or needles, catheters or tablets.

 

I could spend an afternoon just listening to the rain. And I knew things were getting better.

 

One more college joke…

Posted in The Origin Stuff by everydayirishman on April 28, 2009
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A UCD, a DIT and a Trinity student were in an aeroplane crash. They’re up in Heaven, and God’s sitting on the Great White Throne. God addresses the UCD student first:

               

‘What do you believe in?’ he asks.

 

‘Well’, the UCD student replies, ‘I believe in power to the little people. I think people should be able to make their own choices about things, and that no one should ever be able to tell someone else what to do. I also believe in feeling people’s pain.’

 

God thinks for a second. ‘Okay’, he then says, ‘I can live with that. Come and sit on my left.’

 

God then addresses the DIT student: ‘What do you believe in?’

 

The DIT student responds: ‘Well, I believe that the combustion engine is evil and that we need to save the world from CFCs and that if any more freon is used, the whole earth will become a greenhouse and we’ll all die…Waaaaahhhh.’

 

God thinks for a second, then says: ‘Okay, that sounds good. Come and sit on my right.’

 

God then turns to the Trinity student. ‘And you?’ he says, ‘what do you believe?’

 

‘I believe’, the Trinity student replies, ‘you are sitting in my chair.’

 

A Living Word: Five Hospital Days – Monday

Posted in The Origin Stuff by everydayirishman on April 27, 2009
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RTE Radio 1’s A Living Word begins and ends each day with a religious or secular two-minute meditation on any topic under the sun.

This week you can tune in to hear me read a thought each day, at 06.40 and 01.58. The Theme is ‘Five Hospital Days’ and the thoughts are based on my book, Two in a Million: A True Story about Illness and Love.

Monday’s piece is below.

When I was a child I liked being in hospital. Being the centre of attention.

 

At age nine I was diagnosed with Fanconi anaemia, a genetic disorder that affects just two people out of every million born. My bone marrow failed and I wasn’t producing enough blood cells. I was rushed to Crumlin Hospital.

 

I was constantly having needles stuck into me; I was brought to the operating theatre for emergency procedures. I was put on drugs my parents had never heard of.

 

I was in a blue-coloured room in St Anne’s Ward. The calming colour of the walls could not calm my parents. They didn’t know if their son was going to live. Even if he did, he had a disease that would challenge him his whole life.

 

At the centre of all this, there was me. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like being poked with needles, or having a tube put into my chest. My hip and back would be sore when I came down from theatre and I didn’t like that either.

 

But mostly I was excited. My schoolmates had sent me two big packages of cards saying they hoped I got better soon. Hospital TV had more channels than we had at home. I was having my meals brought to me. I could laze in bed all day.

 

As I grew up, my attitude toward my illness would change. I would see hard times and have to face them. But in those early days this disease was a new adventure. I was living a life I’d never lived before.

 

 

Fresh Beef at SuperValu

Posted in The Origin Stuff by everydayirishman on April 27, 2009
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A reader directed me to this Irish classic:

Thought for the Day

Posted in The Origin Stuff by everydayirishman on April 27, 2009
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Put the fun between your legs – slogan on window of BT2, Grafton St

They seem to be talking about riding… a bike, that is.

Still, shocking, outrageous, not something that would have happened in my granny’s day, etc.

[Yes, I am talking a lot about my granny lately – got a problem with that????!!!!]

Me on RTE all this week

Posted in The Origin Stuff by everydayirishman on April 26, 2009
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This coming week I’ll be giving the Thought for the Day/Living Word two-minute talks on RTE Radio 1.

So, if any of you are up at 6.40am and 01.58am, feel free to tune in! I’m hoping the audio will also be posted on the Living Word website.

In any event, I’ll post the text each day on The Everyday Irishman and the full set at the end of the week on www.benmurnane.com.

Check it out or my granny will cry.

More College Jokes

Posted in The Origin Stuff by everydayirishman on April 24, 2009
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Just because I couldn’t leave you for the weekend on a Real IRA note…

Q. How do you get an IT grad off your front porch?
A. Pay him for the pizza.

Q. What do tornados and Arts grads have in common?
A. They both end up in trailer parks.

Q. How many Athlone IT students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. None – Westmeath looks better in the dark.

Q. How many Trinity students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. One – he holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.

Q. How many UCD students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Two – one to change the bulb and one more to explain how they did it every bit as well as the Trinity student.

Q. How many Bolton Street DIT students does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. Three – one to change it and two to figure out how to get high off the old one.

Q. If you see a DIT student on a bike, why should you never swerve to hit him?
A. It might be your bike.

Q. What is the difference between a dead dog in the road and a dead UCC student in the road?
A. There are skid marks in front of the dog.

Q. What do you have when 100 Arts students are buried up to their necks in sand?
A. Not enough sand.

Q. What do science students use for birth control?
A. Their personalities.

Q. You have a gun with only two bullets and you are trapped in a room with a tiger, a rattlesnake and a UCC student. What should you do?
A. Shoot the UCC student…twice.

Thanks again: Mick T

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