I love Christmas. I have always loved Christmas.
A long, long time ago, my father made Christmas magic for me.
It was as we left the house, in the dark, to go to Mass.
Suddenly, he looked skyward and asked me if I had seen Santa.
As he did, I heard the sleigh bells, I know I heard them. They were clear and loud and, well, jingly.
Of course, I didn't see the sleigh. But I heard the bells. That much was certain.
It was years later, when I lifted a bunch of keys off my desk, one day, that I realised how my father had made the sound of the bells.
He had rattled his keys. And he had made Christmas magic for me.
Of course, Santa had already been and gone by the time we were heading out to Mass, so I couldn't possibly have heard the real bells.
Now that we have little Charlotte in our lives, Christmas is more magical then ever.
She may not quite understand, at 20 months, what's going on. But we do.
And tomorrow morning, we know we will watch her little face light up as she unwraps the presents from Santa and from friends and family.
We have two Christmas trees, one in the living room and one in the kitchen.
And it is the one in the kitchen that makes this Christmas magic.
Because Connie has decorated it with the little shoes Charlotte wore in the first year of her life.
They remind us how lucky we are to have her, what a miracle life is, and what a wonderful gift from God our little girl is.
Tomorrow, we will go to Mass in Mount Argus where, like last year, I hope to fulfill my ambition of standing on the altar with all the other mammys and daddys with their children while we sing the Our Father.
It's emotional, and the likelihood is, a tear may run down my cheeck.
It's a truly moving experience.
And one that reminds us what Christmas is really about.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
I'm putting this up for the benefit of anyone who doesn't get the Sunday World (shame on you.)
You may, or may not, know that the BBC removed the words 'slut' and 'faggot' from Shane McGowan's masterpiece, Fairytale of New York. They said the words may offend, though oddly, they left the word 'arse' in.
It was, of course, political correctness gone mad and they restored the words after a public outcry.
But just in case the PC brigade gets its way, I have cleaned the song up for them.
First, the words as Shane McGowan wrote them, then, the PC version.
Fairytale of New York (as written by Shane McGowan)
It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won't see another one
And then he sang a song
The rare old mountain dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you
Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true
They've got cars big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me
You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night
The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas Day
You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last
The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day
I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you
The boys of the NYPDchoir
Were singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas Day
Fairtytale of New York (as the politically correct gobshites in BBC and elsewhere would have it)
It was December 24th, equal status female friend,
In the area set aside for the treatment of those with alcohol problems,
A senior citizen suggested that i seek medical help for fear that I may suffer fatal consquences from my condition in the coming twelve months,
Then he sang a song,
Which appeared to be about an alcoholic drink,
I was a bit rude, I admit, and turned away,
But I fell asleep and I dreamed of you.
I had a bet today - though I know that offends those in many religions -
And it came in at eighteen to one,
I have a feeling,
This year’s for me and you,
So Happy Christmas/Hannukah/Ramadan/Winter Solstice*
I love you equal status female friend,
I can see a better time,
When all our dreams come true
They’ve got high emission mechanically propelled vehicles the size of licensed premises,
They’ve got rivers of gold,
But the wind goes right through you,
And those in their senior years really should wrap up well or, better still, stay indoors,
When you first took my hand,
On a cold December 24th,
You promised me Broadway was waiting for me.
You were handsome but not in a way that suggests other males were less so,
And you were handsome too, in a similar way,
Queen of New York City,
When the band finished playing,
They cheered and shouted “encore”
Sinatra was swinging - though not in the irresponsible, partner swapping sexual sense,
And those with alcohol problems were singing,
We kissed on a corner
And danced through the night.
And the boys of the NYPD choir,
Were singing Galway bay,
And the bells were ringing out,
For the 25th of December.
You are clearly short of money,
And you like Seventies music similar to that once produced by the Sex Pistols,
And you, it has to be said, appear to be a woman of loose morals with a heroin problem,
Evidenced by the fact that you’re in hospital and on a drip to boot,
You’re not a nice person and you remind me of an insect of the kind people often use when they go fishing,
You are not expensive and you are possibly homosexual not that there’s anythiing wrong with that,
Happy Christmas/Hannukah/Ramadan/Winter Solstice* my bottom,
I pray to God/Buddah/Muhhamed/Yahweh/Nobody at all that we don’t have another one.
And the boys of the NYPD choir,
Were singing Galway bay,
And the bells were ringing out,
For the 25th of December.
I could have been someone,
Well,that’s true of everyone,
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you,
I kept them with me equal status female friend,
I put them with my own,
Can’t make it all alone,
I built my dreams around you.
And the boys of the NYPD choir,
Were singing Galway bay,
And the bells were ringing out,
For the 25th of December.
*For a full list of religious festivals from around the world held at this time of year, please send a stamped addressed envelope to, oh, the BBC.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
It's the same every year. The Christmas cards arrive and, almost without exception, they feature snow.
There are snowman. There are little cottages with snow on the roof. There are children playing in the snow. There are people tobogganing. There are buildings covered in snow.
Here in Ireland, companies send you cards which have digitally enhanced pictures on the front, showing their Dublin headquarters covered in snow.
Televisoin stations show us promotions. And there are always snow flakes.
Television advertisements feature snow, and some even feature Dublin scenes, covered in show.
Even the decorations on our streets are based on snow.
When was the last time it snowed at Christmastime in Ireland?
Some time around the birth of Christ, I'd wager.
So here is our new Christmas song. It's called Ireland's Winter Wonderland.
And, like the card above, it's true to life.
Car horns blare, traffic’s crawling,
Traffic jams, are appalling,
It’s nothing but rain,
It’s always the same,
This is Ireland’s winter wonderland.
Gone away is the summer,
Winter here is a bummer,
It rains cats and dogs,
There’s frost and there’s fog,
This is Ireland’s winter wonderland
In the meadow we can build a mudman,
And pretend that we’re in Sandy Lane,
But we know in our hearts that it’s a dudman,
And tomorrow ‘twill be lashing down again.
Later on, we’ll conspire,
As we sit by the fire,
‘Cos we’re double glazed,
This is Ireland’s winter wonderland.
In the meadow we’ll swim in a puddle,
And pretend we’re on the Costa del,
But really in the cold we’ll all be huddled,
As the weather turns our Christmas into hell.
When it rains, it’s depressing,
In three layers you’ll be dressing,
You pray there’ll be snow,
But in your heart you know,
Not in Ireland’s winter wonderland.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
❍The carved stone, found at Lismullen
IT’S a while since I mentioned Tara.
They’re firing ahead, as fast as they can, destroying the place.
How any archaeologist, with even a modicum of pride in what they do and what they are trained for, can aid and abet the destruction of 5,000 years of history is utterly beyond me.
The saddest thing of all in relation to the M3 is, that it is utterly unnecessary in the first place. It is being built to open up land for development and no other reason.
Soon, Fianna Fail and their lapdogs in the Green Party will oversee the construction of two more motorways through what once was the Royal County. That will bring to five the total number of motorways through Meath.
Add to that its incinerator, its dumps, its pylons and the gross overdevelopment of Bettystown and south Drogheda and you have all the evidence you need.
Of utter ignorance, utter incompetence and, in our most historic county, an utter disdain for the past.
John Gormley is, of course, part of it all. His Pontius Pilate act is nothing short of a disgrace. Green? Not even vaguely. He can introduce all the carbon taxes he wishes. Gesture politics.
His buddy Eamon Ryan bans exploration for plutonium in Donegal because, he says, if we don’t use nuclear power, it would be hypocritical to allow uranium to be mined for use in other countries.
Typical of the nonsensical busy bodying of the Greens.
We allow prisoners to be brought through Shannon to be tortured God knows where. We allow troops to pass through Shannon to kill or be killed.
And I’m pretty certain that, in some industrial complex somewhere in Ireland, parts are made that ultimately end up in the weapons to be used by, again, God knows who.
Recently, a carved stone was found at Lismullen. It is as old if not older than Newgrange.
It won’t move Gormley or Noel Dempsey or, in particular, the chief philistine, Bertie.
If they found Tutankhamen’s tomb, it wouldn’t move Bertie. Likely as not, he has never heard of Tutankhamen.
The stone is just further proof, that the Tara/Skryne Valley is important, not just to Ireland, but to the world.
Irish travellers marvel at the antiquities in countries like Italy, Greece, Egypt, France, Cyprus, Malta - wherever.
Meanwhile, historic sites that could and should be preserved for posterity, for future generations and, indeed, for tourism, are being bulldozed by a government of ignorant, greedy buffoons.
We look back at our history, and we read of the wonderful people who built Newgrange and Knowth and Dowth. We look at places like Glendalough and Clonmacnoise and the Skellig Rocks. We think of our writers like Joyce and Shaw and Wilde and Yeats.
And we do so with pride.
Is it likely, do you think, there will be the same sense of pride when people look back at the achievements - or otherwise - of Ahern and Dempsey and Roche and Gormley?
Sunday, December 9, 2007
IT’S almost Christmas.
It’s easy to tell how close Christmas is if you live in Dublin.
There are more vomit stains on the street.
There are more drunks and they appear earlier and earlier each day as Christmas Day gets closer.
Nobody will let you out into the ever worsening traffic jams.
Clampers are in overdrive.
Virtually every shopper in every shop is rude, behaving in a way they wouldn’t dream of at other times of the year.
You can’t get into pubs.
There is more violence, both on the street and domestically. It is almost inevitable at Christmas time, that some unfortunate woman will stab her husband, invariably fatally, after he arrives home drunk and penniless without money for food or presents for the children.
More people drink and drive.
Everybody is short of patience.
And children are greedier than ever before.
It’s likely that each of us are at least a little bit guilty (I know, I know, it’s like being a little bit pregnant) of at least some of the behaviour outlined above.
And I know that when someone my age talks about it being worse now than ever, other, younger, people put it down to my being a grumpy old man.
They’re half right.
I AM a grumpy old man.
But I am a grumpy old man because it IS worse than ever.
I wonder how much of Ireland’s new found wealth ended up, literally, going down the toilet?
Poverty, you see, has a disciplining effect. I you haven’t got the money to drink, you can’t drink.
If you haven’t got the money to splash out on ridiculously expensive and utterly unnecessary luxuries to hand out as presents, you can’t buy them.
If you can’t afford cocaine - or the new favourite in Dublin, Champagne, vodka, red Bull with a spoonful of cocaine stirred into it - you can’t buy it.
Nobody wants to go back to the bad old days. Well, not all the way back.
But it would be nice if we lived in a country run by people who were less concerned with their own salaries and more concerned with the fact that they expect pensioners to live on one-twentieth of what they pay themselves.
It would be brilliant to live in a wealthy country that had sufficient schools for its children.
It would be marvellous to live in a country which had a health service rather than a health system.
Ireland is now the kind of country where three young people died from cocaine overdoses in one week.
It is the kind of country where suicide is epidemic.
It is the kind of country where we wonder not if there will be another gangland murder soon, but only when and where it will be.
And it is the kind of country, where Christmas is seen as an opportunity to get drunker more often than normal, where cocaine supplies have been bulked up for the festive season, where prices go through the roof, where selfishness abounds and where, it seems, there is more concern about what’s on television or what is going to be the Christmas Number One, than there is about people and more especially, the people who are concerned about where they will get shelter on Christmas Day, where they will get something to eat and who they will have, if anyone, to talk with.
The Christmas message is all but lost.
Children, I would bet, wouldn’t mention the birth of Jesus in their top five Christmassy things.
And that is profoundly sad.
Because while celebrations, gifts, giving and receiving and traditional fare all have their part to play at this time of year, so too do decency, charity, prayer and reflection.
Last year, I had what was, I suppose, a slightly selfish ambition for Christmas.
It was to be able to stand on the altar in Mount Argus with all the other mums and dads and children, during the children’s Christmas Day Mass, with my daughter Charlotte, as they sang the Our Father. It is a tremendously moving moment every Sunday, but especially on Christmas Day.
I achieved that ambition.
And this year, it is exactly the same.
Friday, November 30, 2007
From where did our recent and famed prosperity come?
The truth is, it came from lots of sources.
And here are some:
Europe, who pumped in billions without which prosperity would not have arrived.
The efficiency of John Bruton’s government which, if it was still in power, wouldn’t have us in this mess.
Ray Houghton’s goal in Stuttgart to beat England.
Bob Geldof and his role in Live Aid.
Michael O’Leary and Ryanair.
Bailey’s Irish Cream.
The Royal Hospital
And even the Rosc exhibition
(and yes, I know they’re all Haughey inspired)
Low corporate taxes.
The US economic boom.
Peace, more or less, in the North.
Pope John Paul II’s visit.
The building boom.
The house price boom.
Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan and other blockbuster movies.
Greater access to third level education.
Jim and Peter Aiken.
John Fitzpatrick and his hotels in New York and Chicago.
The Cat Laughs Festival.
Oxegen, despite the spelling.
The Electric Picnic.
Vicar Street and The Point.
The ‘new’ Gaa.
A taste for wine.
And one thing that will kill it forever:
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
I am going to be honest. Don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the utter dishonesty of politicians is annoying me more than it ever did.
If you read my profile, you will know what I’m like.
Pretty cool guy.
I like cool music. And I like cool books. And I like cool movies.
And it’s all true.
But it’s not all.
Despite their being as uncool as it is possible to be, I like Keane. I actually like some of what James Blunt does. I like
Gilbert O’Sullivan. (A mate of mine, since deceased, once joined me singing Gilbert’s back catalogue at a pre-gig reception before a Bruce Springsteen concert. How cool is that?)
And I actually don’t give a damn what anyone says, I liked the Frog Chorus.
Mind you, Keane and Blunt are the only two on the Virginmedia list of top ten uncool artists I actually like. I would draw the line at the likes of Phil Collins or Celine Dion.
I like a lot of cool movies. But I also like the first three or four Carry On movies. I like virtually all World War II movies, especially the dodgy ones like The Dirty Dozens and Where Eagles Dare and such like.
I love the Ealing comedies and movies of that ilk, The Man in the White Suit, The Titfield Thunderbolt, School for Scoundrels. I love Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, anything with Alistair Sim, Alec Guinness, Terry-Thomas and so on.
I like any movie that makes me cry, even crappy tv movies.
(Another confession. I saw Love Story three times on three consecutive nights with three different girls. And it was only on the third night I had to pretend to cry.)
And if they have a Christmas theme all the better.
(Plea for help: I once watched a movie with my sister about a businessman who was mugged in New York whose clothes were stolen by a hobo. The man lost his memory and the hobo, wearing his clothes, was killed by a train.
His family thought him dead.
But one Christmas, his memory returned and he went back to his home town at Christmas and watched his now grown-up children go to church with their children. He then went to their house, while it was snowing of course, and looked in the window as they celebrated Christmas. His son spotted him through the window and went out to him. Not knowing who he was the son said: “Come in old man whoever you are and have Christmas with us.”
Happy ending I thought.
But the old man said “No” and walked away.
And my sister and I wept for a week.
If you recognise the movie, let me know. I fancy a good weep.)
I love It’S A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone, that kind of thing.
And when it comes to books, I love Kafka and Camus and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
But I love Stephen King even when he’s at his worst. I love Joseph Wambaugh. I love a bit of chicklit.
And when it comes to television, I’d watch any British cop show. Rebus, Silent Witness, The Linley Mysteries, Miss Marple, Taggart and so on.
I follow Corrie and EastEnders. I love Grand Designs and Property Ladder. I loved Butterflies, I loved Ever Decreasing Circles, I loved The Good Life.
I watch the Late Late Show, I listen to Tubridy, I think Ronan Collins is brilliant.
I think Tommy Flemming and Liam Lawton have brilliant voices.
I've always enjoyed Joe Dolan.
I When it comes to comedy, I loved all Ronnie Barker’s stuff.
I think Tommy Cooper was the best of them all, with Les Dawson close behind.
I loved Morecambe and Wise but never got a laugh out of Dick Emery or Benny Hill.
I find Russell Brand funny. I laugh at Jack Dee. I thought Bill Hicks a genius.
Currently, Peter Kay is miles ahead of anyone.
I don’t actually find Tommy Tiernan funny though he apparently finds himself hilarious. I think Jimmy Carr unbelievably unfunny.
And I admire Podge and Rodge for getting away with the same gag for so long.
Why am I getting this off my chest now?
Because I came into the hospital at 9.15 this morning and had my bloods taken. It is now 3.00pm and I’m still here having been told to wait, the doctor would see me in a minute.
Haven’t seen her yet.
Which reminds me.
I loved the Doctor movies - Doctor in the House, Doctor at Sea - too.
One last thing.|
Why don’t they show the Beatles’ movies on telly at Christmas time anymore?
Yes, I think they're brilliant too. And not at all dated.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
I am, kind of, glad that Ireland is not in Africa.
If it was, there would have been a coup a long, long time ago.
Well, all the ingredients are there.
We have a prime minister who is paying himself and his cronies more than just about any other leader in the world. And he’s doing it with public money, money taken off the people in taxes.
In addition to that, he has taken ‘loans’ from friends. These ‘loans’ weren’t ‘loans’ at all until it was discovered that he had received them. Up to that point, not a cent had been paid back.
He then lies, or at least doesn't tell the truth, to a tribunal of investigatioin.
And he won't explain what it was necessary for him to abandon the banking system and hide money in a safe while he was going through his separation.
I can only presume, despite his record, that he declared the money in the safe as part of his assets when he was required to do so.
Furthermore, he managed to wangle himself a bank loan of £19,000 without formally applying for it and without having to pay anything back for 18 months. It’s clear, he wouldn’t have got the loan if he had not been Finance minister at the time. And using your position for personal gain is more or less the definition of corruption.
If he could do the job, you might turn a blind eye.
But look at the country.
The health service is an unmitigated disaster, kept afloat only by the incredible and largely unrewarded efforts of the frontline workers.
It is top heavy with overpaid administrators who couldn’t run the proverbial in the brewery.
Our road network is still in an horrendous state. For years, little bits of motorway and dual carriageway were built here and there. This was a) to facilitate local political and electoral need and b) to avoid the legal requirement to open such schemes up to tender from construction companies in Europe.
Currently, only two cities on the island of Ireland are linked by motorway/dual carriageway. And Belfast and Dublin are linked for ideological reasons, not infrastructural.
When roads are built, they’re built badly and with little concern for history, culture, heritage or archaeology.
The M50 is, quite simply, a joke and it will always be a joke. And it will become an even more ridiculous joke when the National Roads Authority - possibly the most inept body in the world - is given control of the Westlink toll bridge.
The National Roads Authority. That’s the body that was charged with building roads to bypass towns and villages and then refused to allow services along the new roads telling people they could go into the towns and villages.
It is the body charged with signposting Ireland. Honestly. Someone is actually in charge of that.
It is the body which believed a bramble hedge was sufficient barrier in the central median of a motorway.
It’s another joke.
The Department of Education can’t build sufficient schools.
The Department of Sport is paying for the building of Lansdowne Road, a stadium too small by half, having funked building a national stadium.
It is also at least partially responsible for the pay-for-pay debacle in t he GAA.
The Minister for Social Welfare can keep a straight face telling us that €300 a week is sufficient for pensioners, when his pay rise alone is almost twice that.
The Minister for Enterprise is watching jobs vanish.
The Minister for the Gaeltacht has created division in Dingle where there was none.
The Minister for Justice is presiding over a brutal gang war, a police service corrupt in parts and a system that sees fewer gardai on the streets now than there were in the sixties.
As for the ‘Green” Party ministers, it seems there is a direct relationship between the amount of money they’re paid and the abandonment of their principles.
And as for the ‘independents’ they have, largely, been bought.
The years of prosperity are over, and the only ones with anything to show at the end of it all, are politicians who received more than twenty pay rises, and the construction industry.
It’s an outrage. It’s a scandal. It’s a tragedy.
We still have the desperately poor. We still have in sufficient places for the intellectually disabled. We have virtually no facilities for those who wish to try and beat their addiction to drugs.
We have nothing.
So maybe, at the end of it all, it’s a pity we’re not in Africa.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
THERE is a certain type of person, a politically correct type of person, who doesn’t approve of Ireland’s schadenfreude in relation to many things English.
Last night, I tried hard, very hard, to feel sorry for the English soccer team and, indeed, English soccer fans, when they were beaten 2-3 by Croatia at Wembley.
I tried to feel as I felt when Ireland bowed out of the European championships. I tried to feel the disappointment of the fans who had planned a summer of sport in Austria and Switzerland. I tried to feel sorry for players I like such as Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick and Steven Gerrard and so on.
But I failed. I couldn’t do it.
It’s just not possible.
Now, when I wrote about this in the Sunday World, the last time England bowed out of some tournament or other (it wasn’t cricket. I support them to a degree at cricket) I received a bagfull of mail telling me how immature I am (I acknowledge that) how juvenile I am (no problem there) and how racist and bigoted I am.
Whoa! Not guilty.
My desire to see England lose at, well, soccer, rugby, tennis and a few other sports here and there, stems not from events in 1169 or, indeed, 1607 or for that matter, 1798 or 1916 or even 1972.
It has nothing whatsoever to oppression, perceived or otherwise.
It has nothing to do with the Irish being ‘colonised’ or ‘downtrodden’ or anything of that sort.
It has nothing to do with some of England’s more odious monarchs or the real and actual hardship imposed on Ireland over the centuries.
No, it has a great deal more to do with John Motson and Jimmy Hill and The Sun and Ian Wright than it has to do with history.
It is an extraordinary thing that English football pundits seem to think that any tournament without them in it, isn’t worth having at all.
In fairness to Motty, he acknowledged on Wednesday last, just how utterly lousy the current English team is.
But hardly had he said as much, when Ian Wright was blathering on about how England deserved to be at the finals. No they didn’t, Ian. They didn’t win a sufficient number of games and, hence, didn’t garner a sufficient number of points. It’s simple.
When it comes to rugby, you think Stuart Barnes and Brian Moore and The Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph.
But mostly you think Martin Johnson and how the arrogant lump insulted Mary McAleese and, by extension, Ireland, with his behaviour at Lansdowne Road a couple of years ago.
Rugby players are, in the main, a well-bred bunch, mannerly and so on.
But there’s always an exception.
And if Johnson didn’t do it for you, surely the reaction of their media to their jammy wins in the Rugby World Cup did.
When it comes to tennis, you think Tim Henman. It’s not so much Tim’s fault as it is the media’s. They built him up and up and up. Henman Hill, for God’s sake. What was that all about.
And anyway, I find the name Spiderman reasonably impressive. Batman isn’t bad. Superman is brilliant.
I’m afraid it will always be the same for us, or at least, most of us.
The next best thing to Ireland winning is England losing.
You know, the funny thing about our win against England in Stuttgart, is that it was celebrated as much in Glasgow and on the Shankill Road as it was in the Republic of Ireland.
Indeed, when Ireland was drawn with England again in the World Cup in 1990, a reporter asked a woman on the Shankill Road, how she wanted the Irish team to do.
“Beat England - and lose all their other games,” she said.
Just about says it all, really.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
CAN you remember the last time a politician in this country did something courageous?
As a rule, our politicians are opportunistic, selfish and small-minded.
They are guided entirely by political expediency, not by any moral imperative.
They build schools and hospitals and roads in places that will provide the greatest return electorally. Those with any kind of power pour money into their own constituencies to the detriment of other areas.
Our leaders - an inappropriate word if ever there was one - make deals, expedient and opportunistic deals, with people, regardless of who they are or what they have done or what they stand for. The likes of Beverley Flynn and Michael Lowry may be rehabilitated in Bertie Ahern’s mind. But that just goes to show what a nasty place that is.
When was the last time an Irish minister resigned, voluntarily, for doing or saying something wrong, for causing offence, for wasting money or just because he or she felt morally obliged to make a principled stand? (On that score, if Bertie had been in just about any other democracy in the world, he would have quit over his over signing blank cheques for Charlie Haughey when the dogs in the street were barking about his corruption. He would have walked once his dodgy dig-outs became public, he would have submitted his resignation over his mysterious ‘money in the mattress’ during his separation. But he wouldn’t have been there at all if he had had the manners to quit after suggesting that those who moaned about the economy should go off and commit suicide.)
Every move an Irish politician makes is inspired only by self-interest.
Since going into government (in the mistaken belief that the 500 or so in the Mansion House, who endorsed the decision to go into government represented the 86,000 voters who voted Green) John Gormley has been busy telling us what he cannot do rather than having the courage to actually do something.
He recently managed to outfudge his Fianna Fail colleagues when it came to explaining how he was spending tax payers’ money on his office and constituency workers. Power corrupts etc.
Our politicians have built roads and railways where they believe such schemes will win them votes. For years, little bits of dual carriageway littered the country, each one built to satisfy local political needs. One utterly bizarre stretch in Mayo, was even nicknamed the “Pee Flynn bypass.”
Wood Quay was destroyed because politicians feared the wrath of unions representing local authority workers, just as the M3 is now being built on a route recommended only by those who will benefit financially from its construction. Not one of the area’s elected representatives had or has the courage to put heritage ahead of self interest.
Some years ago, representatives of Irish politicians were given the “Profile in Courage Award,’ an accolade named after the book written by John F Kennedy, for their work on the peace process.
It has, before and since, been given to politicians who have made enormous sacrifices, who have lost their jobs - who have lost just about everything - because they put right before self-interest.
I cannot imagine it, ever again, being awarded to an Irish politician.
Sure, I can think of exceptions. I can think of Joe Higgins, I can think of Richard Boyd Barrett and a few others who, even if I don’t agree with everything they say and do, stick to their principles despite knowing that by doing so their are lessening their chances of getting elected. The Labour Party too, refused to prostitute itself after the general election which was the honourable, if not profitable, course.
I used to think to he Greens in the same way, but no more.
We now live in a country where Dail seats are passed on to brothers and sisters, widows and children as if they were a favourite old armchair or a wad of cash left in a will.
We live in a country where politicians are becoming less and less accountable, where the Freedom of Information Act has been watered down simply because it allowed people the freedom to get information.
We live in a country where politicians, presumably to compensate themselves for no longer being able to accept bribes and handouts, give themselves pay rise after pay rise.
We live in a country where new laws are brought in in jig-time to allow for the abolition of the very tribunals which are exposing Bertie Ahern’s duplicity and dishonesty.
It is a country where the prime minister believes a pay rise of more than the average industrial wage is not only justified, but merely a ‘token amount.’
So, just think about these words:
“In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient – they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.”
John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage
Those words mean nothing to politicians in this country.
Instead, our politicians are greedy, grubby people.
And, yes, that is a moan.
And no, Taoiseach, I won’t go off and kill myself.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
❍Jimmy Greaves, rugby fan
“I was a footballer but now rugby is a greater love for me.”
I could have said that. People who were actually good at rugby could have said it. People like, maybe, Keith Wood or Shane Byrne or Tony Ward.
But the astonishing thing about that little quote, is that it came from Jimmy Greaves.
Jimmy Greaves, goal-scoring hero for Spurs for a generation. Goal-scoring hero for West Ham after that. The genius who missed out on a world cup medal in 1966 because of injury. Half of Saint and Greavsie who, unlike today’s pundits, realised that football was and is a game.
Today’s pundits? Today’s players too.
It is a long, long time since I have seen a soccer match that made me feel good, one that entertained me, one I didn’t actually regret watching.
I cannot abide the showboating, the negativity, the diving, the feigning of injury, the whinging at referees, the attempts to get opponents booked or sent off, the inarticulacy of the players, the clichés, the hype and the money.
Between yesterday and the day before, I watched four games of rugby. The worst of those, that between Edinburgh and Toulouse, was aeons better than the best soccer match I have seen in recent times.
God help us, there are large periods of soccer matches where it surprises me that those on the pitch remain awake, let alone those in the stands. I now know why so many supporters take their tops off even in freezing weather. They are trying to fend off sleep.
Now, I know not all is right with rugby. During the recent world cup, it too sank a little with the Garryowen, the old up-and-under, featuring rather too much. Referees have become just a little too protective of players. Some may not like what we used to call ‘clearing out’ when the boot was used to move opposition players who were illegally lying on the ball. But it worked. And when they lay on the ball, they knew what to expect.
Some of us don’t like the fact that the ball seems to be crooked in to every scrum.
Some of us don’t like the fact that different referees seem to interpret the offside law in different ways.
Nonetheless, when you watch rugby, there is always something happening.
If you get into it - and if you’re not, I recommend you do - you will realise that even when it just looks like a heap of bodies lying there, there is lots happening.
Leinster’s defence, for example, against Leicester was stupendous.
There are so many aspects to the game that you could write a book simply about tactics.
One of the main reasons rugby is such a fine game, is that it is a team building game.
The girls - that’s the backs to you - know well that nothing will happen for them unless we - that’s the forwards - get the ball for them.
Yes, there are flash players in the backs.
But you will find that, to a man, they acknowledge the work of their team-mates.
Rugby doesn’t generally give birth to grudges, despite hard physical battles. It generally gives birth, instead, to a few rounds of drinks.
And rugby doesn’t tolerate people who whinge at referees, even if they are wrong, which they generally are.
Rugby is growing. And it will keep growing if the authorities a) keep an eye on the laws of the game and b) keep promoting the game in the weaker countries and in the weaker areas of the strong countries.
A man in a Dublin rugby club once said, to my certain knowledge that ‘they shouldn’t be playing rugby in Tallaght.”
Bad cess to him.
Tallaght and Neilstown and all of the new suburbs and indeed, all of the new Irish, are the future our game.
I don’t wish soccer any ill.
But if keeps going on the way its going, it will become too boring for fans, too expensive for fans, to costly even for television and boring beyond belief.
If that happens, rugby is ready for the challenge.
(You will gather, I’m feeling a great deal better!)
Saturday, November 10, 2007
HEALTH is the issue.
Right now in Ireland, it is just about the only issue for many people.
I know about the health service because of my experiences with it and in it.
My experiences with it are good.
In it, not so.
I don’t know who designs hospitals. I suspect it is accountants. And I suspect they are on a bonus for every euro they save.
I suspect they make wards and rooms, waiting areas and doctors’ offices as small as possible.
I suspect they don’t bother including what might be called leisure activity areas for patients, not all of whom are confined to bed all day.
I suspect they say that it is up to the patients to decide what they’ll watch when there are two televisions between four or six.
I suspect they say the radios aren’t great and the earphones won’t last, but what the hell if there are no radios for the patients.
I suspect they say that the showers with the six inch steps up to them and the narrow doors aren’t actually very good, but they’re a great price.
I suspect they say that if they put in a decent kitchen, it will only result in the production of decent food and decent food costs money so let’s not bother.
I suspect they say that centres of excellence will be good for health but even better for budgets as long as we make most outlying patients pay their own way to get to them.
I suspect they say that it’s not their fault if people have to hang around hospitals all day waiting to see consultants so they’re not obliged to provide them with any diversion of any kind.
I suspect they say that if people spend six or eight hours a day visiting sick friends or relatives and then have to fork our twelve or sixteen euro for parking, that’s just efficiency.
I suspect they say that it would be too expensive, even if it is the right thing to do, for nurses and other staff who deal with patients, to be provided with clean and sterilised uniforms on their arrival at work each day.
I suspect they say it would cost too much to sterilise every bed every time a patients leaves hospital.
I suspect they think that medical care is all that counts. I suspect they think they pay doctors and nurses enough and I suspect they don’t really care if porters and cleaners and dinner ladies leave on a regular basis because, I suspect they believe such people don’t require training of any kind.
Mostly, though, I suspect those who make the decisions I suspect are made relating to patient care as opposed to patients medical care, are made by people who don’t use public hospital and who probably think they shouldn’t have to.
I suspect they have contempt for those damned costly patients.
And I suspect nothing will ever change.
Thank God that, at least in the short term, I’m at home watching my fourth rugby match in two days.
Couldn’t do that in hospital.
Reckon they suspect providing satellite television, even at a small charge, would just be too much damned trouble.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Out of hospital at least temporarily. No tunnel required.
But it was an escape nonetheless.
I don’t like hospitals though I am likely to spend an awful lot more time in them in the coming years, assuming, that is, there are years coming.
Because patients come last.
No, not when it comes to medical care of course.
I doubt there is anywhere in the world where the medical care is better than it is in Ireland.
But, God, the hospitals are depressing. They generate depression where previously, there was none.
Small, claustrophobic, grey rooms with a television up on the wall in the corner and a radio that doesn’t work.
Most patients see medical staff only occasionally. Certainly, they see them as often as they must and more.
But whether in a ward or a private room, patients are left alone to their own devices for long periods of the day.
And it is, for me anyway, depressing beyond endurance.
I know how lucky I am that my family is just a couple of miles away and that I got to see them often. But when they weren’t with me, they may as well have been on the moon.
And while everyone does everything to deal with my disease, my head, at the same times, turns into a kind of mush.
I hear, on a daily basis, how wonderful our health service is going to be. It may very well be. Mary Harney and Brendan Drumm may well be right.
But to be perfectly frank and perfectly selfish, that’s shag-all use to me.
I say patients come last because, when it comes to the design of hospitals, when it comes to their ‘non-health’ welfare, if you like, little consideration is given.
Why are the rooms so dull?
Why don’t the radios work?
Why is the food so unappetising?
Why are six people expected to share two televisions?
I could write a very long list.
But, for now, I’m going to be brief and enjoy my break from hospital. I’m going to enjoy with with Connie and Charlotte and of course, Eric the mutt.
I may have to go back in again soon, depending on blood counts and what not.
I dread it.
But if it all works, sure, it will have been worth it.
Question is, why they couldn’t make it all so much more pleasant.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
A FEW of the boys are working on a tunnel.
It’s slow work.
They’re using scalpels and hiding the dirt in their colostomy bags.
But progress is slow.
The plan is for them to emerge somewhere near the Guinness tap in a pub on James’s Street.
And I wish them the best of luck.
Personally, I’m not going to chance it, not because I don’t want to get out of here, believe me, I do.
It’s just that they’ve put me on the one antibiotic that reacts with alcohol. Makes you pretty ill. And when you’re pretty ill, the last thing you want is something that’s going to make you pretty ill. Or pretty iller. Or prettier ill. Whatever. You get my drift.
My defiance of authority came in the form of Singapore Noodles which were sneaked in by a friend on Saturday night, disguised as a bunch of grapes. The noodles, not the friend.
It was wonderful once again to taste something that tasted of something.
I am proposing, when I eventually finish my sentence, to launch a television game show called: Guess the Food.
In it, people will be blindfolded and fed hospital food and asked to guess what it is or, at least, what the hospital says it is.
“It’s beef,” they will cry only to be told it’s actually a pork chop.
“It’s a pork chop,” they will shout confidently, only to be told it’s bacon and cabbage.
“It’s bacon and cabbage,” they will roar to the cheers of their family members, who, like family members always do in such programmes, will be standing around looking like complete idiots.
But it won’t be bacon and cabbage, it will be jelly and ice cream.
I always thought there was at least a degree of overacting in films such as The Bridge Over the River Kwai and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence.
But now I am beginning to see that incarceration does that to a body. It makes him overact dreadfully.
The boredom is the worst part of it. I don’t know. That could actually be a line from a prisoner of war movie for all I know.
And so I have taken to complaining.
I hate hotel rooms, but I don’t understand why single rooms in hospitals are half the size of single rooms in hotels. It’s the engineering I don’t understand. How do they make them so small? The architect must draw his plans under a microscope or something.
I don’t understand why they wake you up all the time either. Half the time they seem to wake you up to find out if you’re awake or not. And I bet they find that 100 per cent of the people they wake up in the middle of the night are actually awake. And that means they don’t feel guilty about waking you up.
And I hate the rubber covering on the mattress and the pillows. Yes, I know why it’s there. But I can say, honestly, in my case: Not guilty.
Most of all, I hate being without Connie and Charlotte and yes, Eric the mutt too.
Hospitals may repair the bodies of their patients, but they do nothing for their mental well being.
If Mary Harney had the faintest idea what she was doing, she would address the issue of patient welfare as well as patient well-being.
I’m off again.
Which is why one friend has promised to bring in to me, a painting for my wall.
The Moaner Lisa.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
WHEN you’re in hospital, you’re asked a lot of questions.
You’re asked your date of birth on a regular basis.
(NOTE: If there is a Paddy Murray in James’s Hospital, and if he was also born on August 5, 1953, and if he is awaiting a barium enema or indeed, an enema of any description, could he please call a nurse and point out that he is not me.)
And you are asked about your allergies.
I am asked, for example, on an almost daily basis if i am allergic to penicillin or antibiotics of any kind.
I am not. But if I was and I told them so, they would not give me such medicine.
Every now and then, I am asked if I am allergic to anything.
I always reply in the affirmative and point out that I am seriously allergic to the following.
They don’t listen.
In fact, i wonder why they ask.
Because if there is one thing you are not permitted to do for any length of time in hospital, it’s sleep.
“Good night” and “good morning” are separated by only a tiny gap.
And if you are ever lucky enough to have a nurse tell you she, or indeed he, will leave you to sleep for an hour, be sure, be one hundred per cent sure, that during that hour, you will be visited by a cleaner, a junior doctor, a registrar, someone from accounts and the porter who is there to bring you, right now, for the x-ray which was scheduled for yesterday or tomorrow.
I have no doubt in my mind, that some patients die from sheer exhaustion.
Another certainty in hospital, is that you will be served hospital food. It is called hospital food not only because it is served in hospital, but because it is unique in manages to look so unappetising, in the way it can make carrots chewy.
And then there is pain.
Most hospital stays begin with pain.
You know the way it is. You have a pain in your elbow*. You go to the doctor. You have tests. You are told there is something wrong with your elbow (which you had more or less managed to figure out for yourself) and you have to go to hospital.
(*Insert hand, foot, heart, head, knee and so on, as appropriate.)
So off you go to hospital to get your pain removed.
And what do they do?
They start sticking needles into you. “It’s for bloods,” they say.
And if you have to get mucho drugs, they insert a canula or a Picc line. Worse still, they might decide to operate. And that involves cutting you and stitching you up again.
And it all hurts. It hurts a lot. And, if you’re a man, it hurts an awful lot indeed.
And so you lie awake in your bed, knowing that trying to sleep is pointless because someone will arrive ti wake you up if you make any attempt to get forty winks or even ten.
And you’re hungry because you can’t/won’t eat the food.
And you’re in pain.
You told them you’re allergic to all three.
Of course I meant four.
Stress. I’m alleregic to stress.
And boy, do they give it to you in spades in here.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I don’t want Mary Harney to trip and break her leg today. I don’t want her to get a mild bout of food poisoning or to sprain her wrist or cut her hand.*
However, if any of those things were to happen to her, I hope she is brought directly to Accident and Emergency in one of Dublin’s hospitals. The one I’m in would, I’m sure, be fine.
I hope she is placed on trolley (an experience a friend of hers seemingly thought wasn’t too bad).
Whether she is then treated publicly (very unlikely) or privately (odds on), the level of care she receives from front-line professionals will be second to none.
That will be no thanks to her.
Mary Harney is presiding over an increasingly demoralised health service.
The current round of cutbacks, which she well knows are affecting patients, will be, for some, the last straw.
Soon, morale in the Irish health service will be as low as it is in the British health service. For reasons best known to herself, Ms Harney constantly compares the two when, if she had ambition or vision, she would look instead to the health services of Northern Europe.
While Ms Harney was in hospital receiving treatment for her leg or her wrist or her stomach, she would notice a few things.
Let’s, for the moment, make the daft assumption that she believes what she says about our health service and goes public.
After her day on the trolley, surrounded by drunks and druggies and overworked doctors and nurses, she would be taken to a ward which she would share with five others.
These would not be five people of her choice. They might be poor people. (They sure as hell won’t be rich people.) They might be people with drink problems. They might be people with dementia who shouldn’t be there but can’t be moved to suitable accommodation because of the cutbacks. The might, God forbid, even be voters.
She would see one, or at best two, television sets. If one of her companions hasn’t got one tuned to an Australian soap, she might get to see the Jeremy Kyle Show or Doctor Phil. (So busy are the real doctors, that she might actually get to see more of Phil than she does of them.)
The chances of her actually getting to see something she wants to see are slim.
But there’s always the radio.
Well, no, there isn’t always the radio.
Sure, there are radios built into the bedside lockers. But there are, no longer, any earphones for them.
Well, she can open the window and breathe in the air.
No she can’t. Many of them are nailed shut - illegal surely - to prevent dust from building work getting into the wards.
Depending on which ward she’s in, Mary may or may not be able to have a shower.]
If she has damaged her foot, the six inch step - yes, it is six inches I measured it - into the shower might prevent her from getting in.
But what would surely stop her, is the gap into which those wishing to have a shower have to squeeze, to get through the doors.
Whether it is politically correct to say it or not, it’s a fact. Mary Harney would not fit in most of the showers in St James’s hospital.
At least she could occupy herself on the web. She can, in fairness. If she manages to get to the cafe in the entrance hall where, for the price of a cup of coffee you get a few minutes on the web.
At least in the cafes in the entrance hall, the food is ok.
So why can’t it be ok in the rest of the hospital?
I’m pretty sure Mary wouldn’t like the food on offer in the hospital.
There is no excuse in 2007 for food to be other than tasty, appetising and nourishing.
Mary Harney seems to think the health service can be run like a budget airline. It can’t.
It won’t pay for itself. It won’t make money.
One of the primary functions of the state - it’s actually enshrined in the Constitution - is its duty to look after the citizens.
Mary Harney and her highly paid colleagues have failed to look after the citizens of Ireland on many levels.
The Health Service is only one area of complete and abject failure.
*This is a lie. I wouldn't mind if Mary Harney got food poisoning and ended up in one of the hospitals she seems to think are wonderful.
Monday, October 29, 2007
WHEN you walk into a ward in an Irish hospital, one of the first things you will see is the television. Or maybe two televisions.
You may think that these televisions are a sign that the hospital and ultimately the HSE, wants to keep patients entertained, keep them occupied.
In fact, they are a sign of the utter contempt in which patients are held by the HSE.
In they eyes of those who administer our health service, right up to Minister Harney, patients are irritants, barely better than doctors and nurses.
Why else would one television set, or at best two, be put into a ward containing four or six patients?
If there is one thing that makes spending time in an Irish hospital bearable, it is the knowledge that those in whose care you have been placed, are dedicated, hard working and good at what they do.
It is, of course, a cliché to speak of the ‘caring professions.’ But there is no doubt that doctors and nurses, and indeed, the vast majority of those who work in hospitals in whatever area, are caring people. Sure, they get paid. And some of them get paid very well.
But the work is hard and the pay isn’t always what it should be.
It is a mystery, then, as to why our health service is constantly criticised and seems, forever, to be under attack from patients, their relatives and, indeed, those who work on the front line.
If I was employed by the health service, i would find it hard not to become demoralised in the fact of the relentless criticism.
But then, the criticism is rarely directed at those on front line.
It is those behind desks, be that in the Department of Health or in the HSE, that justifiably, bear the brunt of the criticism.
(Who was it who decided to put two television sets on the wall in a ward for four, or indeed six patients?
If the person furthest from the television wants to watch it, the sound has to be so loud so as to disturb the person nearest the set who doesn’t want to watch at all. And do they suppose that the two, or three, on each side of a room all want to watch the same thing?)
There are something like 17,000 administrative workers in the HSE.
Some of these people, the ones at the ‘top’, are the ones who get bonuses for, presumably ensuring less money is spent.
They are also the people who hire and fire in the HSE. And so don’t expect an announcement about thousands of redundancies amongst administrative staff in the HSE any day soon.
(Who was it who decided to install showers in hospital bathrooms, that have four inch steps up to them and which have doors so narrow,that many, if not most people, would struggle to get through them?)
It seems unlikely that the thousands who work in administration in the HSE have avoided illness all their lives, have managed never to spend a night in hospital or do not have relatives who have spent periods of time in the care of of our health service.
And so it is a mystery why the facilities for patients are so utterly dire in Irish hospitals. It is as if the decisions made are made by people who believe they will never darken the door of a hospital for any reason and don’t really care about those who must.
You could describe most Irish hospitals as ‘minimalist.’ But not minimalist in the sense of chic or fashionable. Minimalist in the sense of providing the minimum facilities for patients and, probably, staff.
(Who decided on the size of patients’ rooms in the new wing of St James’s Hospital? I ask because, to my certain knowledge, someone involved in planning the new building asked some of the hospital’s nurses if there was any way of improving the design of the hospital’s wards and rooms. The nurses told this man that the ‘side rooms’ were too small. He took it on board. The ‘side rooms’ in the new wing are smaller.)
It is well established, that the environment in which patients ‘live’ can help - or hinder - their recovery.
And yet, St Luke’s, arguably the country’s best known cancer hospital which at least, has the benefit of gardens, has been marked for closure.
Not a word from the highly paid Ms Harney about her plans as the good people of south Dublin and, it has to be said, beyond, dug deep into their pockets over the years to help keep Luke’s at the forefront of cancer treatment.
Ms Harney would like to move Luke’s into the already congested James’s campus, where the only grass you’re likely to see is that being smoked by some tattooed yobbo outside the front door.
(Who decides on the unchanging and unappetising menu? Do they eat it? Do they know what ordinary people eat? Do they know that sick people sometimes like to have good food?)
No doubt it’s because she’s always chauffeur driven (by a garda) that the same Ms Harney doesn’t realise the panic and fear that will sweep over unfortunate parents everywhere who have to rush their sick offspring to the proposed new children’s hospital on the Mater site.
The health service seems to be run for the convenience of those who run it.
This remains one of the few civilised countries where no attempt is being made to make wifi broadband available to patients.
It is one of the few civilised countries where no effort is being made to make the food served to patients appetising or presentable.
It is one of the few civilised countries where the old are left to rot in hospital wards designed for the sick so that books can be balanced.
It is one of the few civilised countries where there is a belief that if enough money is thrown at the health problem, it will go away.
Did I say civilised?
There are countries on this earth with little or indeed no resources, whose rulers make a better job of looking after the sick.
Ms Harney and her bureacratic pet the HSE achieve nothing, but to insult those of us who must use their service and those who work in it.
Enjoy your pay rise Mary.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Back in hospital.
The cure didn’t cure me.
I have no intention of going into all the gory details (and believe me, they’re gory) but suffice to say that the ghastly infection in my foot is still doing its worst.
It’s damned sore - up around 9 out of 10 (on a male scale. It’s probably only about 4 on a female scale.)
I have been pumped full of so many antibiotics, that I’m pretty sure, 99 per cent of the world’s infections wouldn’t come near me. Wouldn’t dare.
Sadly, I’ve got the macho one per cent, the Rambo of blasted foot infections, the one nasty piece of work that is doing to my foot what Eric Cantona (bless him) once did to a loudmouth fan.
So the little bag has been packed again, the bottles of water have been purchased, the sweets stuffed into my little locker, my toothbrush and razor laid neatly beside me and I’m back in my jim jams, back in a hospital bed and thoroughly miserable.
Well, no. That’s not fair.
I’m miserable. But it’s not thoroughly.
I know that what’s wrong with me is relatively serious. It’s not as bad as, say, leprosy. But it’s a lot worse than a grazed knee.
So while hospital is where I don’t want to be, it’s the right place to be.
I desperately miss Connie and Charlotte. I hate saying goodbye to the little mite (that’s Charlotte, not Connie) even though I haven’t been much fun for her these past few months.
She thinks daddies are people who lie on couches complaining all the time.
If and when I get better, and if prayer makes people better I’m half way there, I am going to play with Charlotte all day every day until I can stand it no longer.
Or until she can stand it no longer.
Today, I was seen by a total of five doctors. Sometimes, it takes five doctors with different specialties to come up with a solution to a difficult problem
And my foot is a difficult problem, a bit like the rest of me.
It’s not been the best three months of my life.
But three years ago, I was in hospital for a long period.
And that ended with me being given the cheerful new that I was no longer editor of the Sunday Tribune because ‘we want someone who’s there all the time, not someone who’s sick.’
Hopefully, i am in more secure employment these days. And anyway, the Sunday World is a better newspaper than the Sunday Tribune. At every level.
And, of course, three years ago, I probably had some daft picture of Eric Cantona or Denis Law or maybe even some place in the South of France as my screensaver and desktop display.
Now, I have Charlotte’s picture.
And even when some days are a bit dark, that’s always there to cheer me up.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
YOU may or may not have heard of Archibald Albion.
If you are a soccer fan and you haven’t heard of the legendary Albion, I am surprised.
Indeed, even if you know nothing of soccer and you haven’t heard of the Albion, I am surprised.
You have heard of George Best?
You have heard of Pele?
You have heard of Jose Mourinho?
Well, you should have heard of the Albion. They’re right up there. History makers, double winners.
Let me tell this story as modestly as possible.
I don’t know an awful lot about soccer. Rugby is my game. Rugby has always been my game.
But many years ago, a colleague, Senan Molony, founded a soccer team. He called the team after Steve Archibald who, I am told, was once a famous soccer player.
Archibald Albion was not a very good team.
Indeed, so bad were they, that I began recount their exploits in my twice-weekly column in the Star.
For example, they arranged a friendly game in Cardiff. But they couldn’t find Cardiff.
The first time I went to see them play, they lost 4-2, I think it was.
What I am certain of, is that they gave away three own goals.
I also learned very quickly, that when their goalkeeper confidently shouted ‘KEEPER!’ to indicate that he was in total control of the situation and was about to catch the ball, a kick-off almost inevitably followed.
And so Senan asked me to become the team’s manager.
I could go on and on telling you stories about how other teams laughed when they saw my lads arrive in mucky tracksuits, smoking and coughing before games. And then I could describe their horror when we beat them.
I could regale you with tales of the average centre half I transformed into a world-class (oh, all right. AUL -division-three-Saturday-class) striker and how I made him play on after having one testicle terminally crushed.
I could provide you with a barrel of laughs telling you stories about our new ‘keeper who was as mad as, well, a ‘keeper.
I could describe the kiss one of my players planted on a tramp in Kilkenny.
I could tell you about the Albion being the first club in Ireland to sign a Bosnian Muslim who, unfortunately, turned up drunk for his first, and last game with us.
I could tell you about Senan being the only striker in the world who loved heading the ball.
With his glasses on.
I could tell you about the referee who, one day, asked me to take one of my players off. “He’s concussed,” the ref said.
I called the player off and asked him if he was concussed.
“No,” he said. “I’m pissed.”
Instead I am going to tell you about how, with a little bit of help from a chap called John Curran who, despite being a printer is an ok guy, we not only won the league, but the double.
Archibald Albion. From Laughing Stock to Double Winners.
That was going to be the title of my autobiography.
But I suppose, I got bored and moved on.
And so did John.
And so did Senan.
And one day, without anyone noticing. Archibald Albion died.
But I can look back with pride on what we achieved.
And at the end of it all, I have only one question.
Do you think John Delaney would give me €300,000 a year to manage Ireland.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
STEVE McQueen tried to do it on a motorbike.
They tunnelled out of Colditz.
But I got out in a taxi.
Hospital’s not that bad really. The staff would cheer you up.
It is absolutely correct to say that everyone on the front line of our health service works hard, does everything they can and tries their best for the patients.
It is equally true to say that they don’t really have a hope.
This week, six porters tried to do the work of 17 in the x-ray department at St James’s Hospital in Dublin.
Four phlebotomists tried to do the work of seven, taking blood samples from around the wards.
The doctor who saw me at 8am on Friday morning, was the same one who discharged me twelve hours later.
That’s thanks to the cutbacks, put in place by the HSE. They’re the cutbacks, we are told, which are having no effect on patients. That’s just simply a lie.
The one thing most health service front line workers seem to have in common with each other, is a desire to get out.
It would take an article the length of a short novel to detail the problems in Ireland’s health service.
Suffice it to say, that comparing it with Britain - as Health Minister Mary Harney did during the week when comparing the ratio of administrators to front line staff - isn’t a good place to start.
If there is a health service in a worse state than ours, it’s theirs.
Politicians have, of course, chucked money at this problem for years. But it’s they’ve done.
They have written cheques without, it seems, having the foggiest idea as to why.
Bureaucrats told them the service needed more money, and so, fearing an electoral backlash, more money was provided.
But was was needed, and what IS needed, is a root and branch examination of the service.
Someone needs to find out why the vast bulk of workers are unhappy, unfulfilled, frustrated, planning to leave - or all four.
Doctors tell you their job is all but impossible.
I can vouch that my own doctors work incredible hours. And if they are rewarded with salaries similar - when even everything is taken into consideration - to that our TDs get, well, so be it. They’re actually worth more.
The facilities in which the medical staffs have to work, and therefore in which the patients have to be treated, are abysmal.
Waiting rooms are overcrowded. Newly built buildings were designed a decade or more ago and are now completely unsuitable.
If our minister and those she has appointed to run the health service were even vaguely serious about improving the situation, they would, for example, ensure that the food served to patients was top class. It isn’t.
They would ensure that free broadband was provided for patients. It isn’t.
They would ensure a standard of cleanliness that was second to none. They haven’t.
They would provide sufficient staff in every area, and fund it by cutting administration costs. But they haven’t.
Imagine. There is one administrator for every five frontline staff in the health service. Why?
I’m at home and receiving my intravenous antibiotics from a super company called Tara Healthcare. If such a company was used more, hundreds of beds could be freed up in hospitals.
But no. We just blather on, with the Minister spending more time on RTE than she does behind her desk.
She is providing over a demoralised service.
And while she may talk about improvements, the reality is, nothing has changed.
I’m getting good treatment. I hope I’m not well.
Sadly, though, the health service is critically ill.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
THIS is like the longest flight I’ve ever been on.
I’m not on a plane and I’m certainly not going anywhere.
I’m stuck in a hospital. And it reminds me of flying.
It’s the food.
If you accept that a chicken is a chicken and a potato is a potato and a pea is a pea, it is hard to credit the way the different ways those ingredients end up on your plate in, say, l’Ecrivan or Chapter One and in hospital or, indeed, on a flight or in boarding school.
We can only presume that, particularly in hospital, the ingredients are pretty decent. It seems unlikely that, despite the fact that our government has deemed the appointment of more committee chairmen to be of greater importance than financing the health service, hospital kitchens are supplied with dodgy ingredients.
And I accept, entirely, that cooking for 700 differs greatly from cooking for seven.
But it is nonetheless mind-boggling, how a piece of chicken can end up as part of a magnificent meal in l’Ecrivan, albeit at a price, and can, when served in hospital (or on a flight or in boarding school) make you enquire as to the location of the nearest McDonald’s restaurant.
(You will note that, today, I am not talking about wine or Guinness or pubs or anything of that sort. Mind you, I quite liked the suggestion of a hospital bar offering pre or post theatre drinks. Wonder if there’s an interval during which you could order them?)
My first encounter with food produced on an industrial scale was in an Irish College. My parents, though they loved me, handed me a nine-month sentence in the place from which I would have escaped had I been able to dig a tunnel.
The food was typically industrial.
You know. Take ordinary ingredients and cook them until they are bereft of flavour.
But was Fridays which were most memorable.
On that day, we were served what we were assured was a vegetable soup.
It consisted, I am sure, of the vegetables which had not been eaten during the week, boiled. In milk.
I kid you not.
These vegetables, carrots onions potatoes, peas and turnips, were boiled in milk until they were soft and mushy. And then they were served up to us unfortunate children.
We called it “Chef’s vomit.” I never found out if that was to do with taste or appearance or both.
Having served my sentence in that Irish c ollege in Ring, Co Waterford, I was later sentenced to nine months behind bars (not that type) in my last year in school in Blackrock College. (That sentence was, at least, deserved.)
They were way ahead of the game when it came to recycling.
Because on Mondays, we got a kind of beef chop which was, largely, inedible.
On Tuesdays, it was some type of beef stew, made, we believed, with the uneaten portions of the chops.
On Wednesdays, it was mince and mash, constructed, or deconstructed, from the uneaten stew.
On Thursdays, we got a beef soup and you can figure out from where it came.
We got fish on Fridays by which time we were so hungry we would have eaten the beef chops.
I managed to largely avoid institutions until this damned disease forced me to spend time in hospital.
But long-haul flights more than made up for that. You know the feeling: “I ordered the fish, this is chicken.” “Sorry sir, that is fish, no, hold on, it’s pork, no, it’s definitely the fish sir.”
I have had, don’t get me wrong, edible airline food. The nuts aren’t bad. And the occasional biscuit is passable.
In fact, it’s not that the food is actually inedible. Hunger makes the food edible.
It’s just that I wonder why someone somewhere goes to all the trouble of removing taste from things like chicken and potatoes and peas. I wonder why they don’t leave some flavour so you have a small clue as to what it is you’re eating.
It’s what they do in hospitals too.
I would love our health minister or indeed, the head of the Health Service Executive, to live for a week, if they could, on hospital food.
I am not suggesting the food is other than healthy.
It’s healthy enough.
Unless you’re talking about mental health.
Because it’s depressing in the extreme.
Mind you, now that I think of it, it’s not so bad that it couldn’t be improved if accompanied by a decent claret.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The Dog and Doc. That’s one of the suggestions I have had for the new bar here in St James’s Hospital.
Of course, there’s not going to be a new bar. It’s not that some people don’t think it’s a good idea to help, well, cheer up the sick.
It’s just that all the money is being spend on flippin’ medical equipment.
That and administrators. Too many administrators.
I can’t believe that firing a couple of administrators and hiring a few barmen and maids instead wouldn’t be the progressive thing to do.
Quite liked The Farmer Giles as a suggestion too.
Anyway, we need somebody progressive to look at our hospitals.
Here, for example, you have access to broadband - once you pay €3 for a cup of coffee which is not quite blackmail but is something reasonably close.
Again, it would seem to make perfect sense to have WiFi broadband available for all patients in hospitals.
I have no idea how many patients would actually use it. But that’s hardly the point.
Those who did use it would, without any doubt, recover more quickly from whatever it is they have. Unless it’s leprosy or the Black Death.
There is no evidence that using the internet has any effect whatever on leprosy or the Black Death.
But boredom is a problem in hospital. Especially if you’re only sick from the ankles down. It’s a problem if you have anything which doesn’t make you feel sick. Because all you end up feeling is bored. And when you’re bored you start thinking. And when you start thinking you start thinking about how sick you are even if you’re not. And you start thinking you’re more sick than you actually are. And you start getting depressed. And you start thinking you’re dying and you’re not long for this world and...
... and you start thinking you’d murder a pint.
I don’t think The Burst Appendix is actually a great name for a pub.
I mentioned the idea of a licensed premises to one of my doctors this morning. (I say one of my doctors. So many doctors and specialist nurses have I now, that I’m thinking of charging them a small fee to come and see me. The proceeds would, of course, go towards the construction of a, yes I know I’m banging on about it, bar.
The particular doctor didn’t dismiss the idea out of hand. In fact, she seemed to be about to tell me that, in her native country, such a thing wasn’t completely unheard of.
She is, of course, Australian.
But the fact that she didn’t knock the idea has given my campaign (I hope one day it will become, as Arlo Guthrie once suggested in relation to his own campaign, a movement) a major boost.
It would be dishonest to suggest that my Australian doctor has actually joined my campaign. She hasn’t. She just didn’t laugh at it.
The Nurse and Bottle? Not if it’s that kind of bottle.
Drink is getting a bad name. And the sad thing is, that it’s people who can’t do it, that are giving it the bad name. Binge drinkers. People who drink and want to fight. People who drink and get loud. People who drink and eat kebabs and then puke them up. People who drink and vandalise things. People who drink and frighten people. Bad drinkers.
There have always been bad drinkers.
But once, drink was respected. It was seen by some almost as a cure all.
It’s medicinal qualities were appreciated far more than they are now.
I note that, today, a report in Britain rails against middle-class drinkers.
God help us, what are the middle class supposed to do? Sit around all evening watching Emmerdale or Wife Swap or the feckin’ X Factor?
If you ask me, it’s soaps and reality television that have the middle classes turning to the (cheeky, fruity, aroma of fruit and maybe a hint of tobacco) bottle (of a decent Burgundy) in the first place.
Sure, it’s keeping them off the streets, isn’t it?
As far as my campaign is concerned, it’s onwards and upwards.
Right now, though, I think the most likely name for my bar, is The Cutback and Closure.
Monday, October 15, 2007
YOU might get out on Monday, they said.
But I’m something of an old hand at this now.
And so I never believe the first date I’m given for my departure from hospital.
I reckoned on Tuesday.
But of course, I should have known.
My Tuesday is their Wednesday or Thursday.
It’s the way it is with doctors.
It’s like my nine o’clock in the morning is their midday.
It’s the way of things. Time is more or less meaningless for doctors. If it wasn’t, so busy are they in our over-administered health service, they’d go mad.
So I’m still in my hospital bed, and still on page 84 of The Time Traveller’s Wife.
I’m enjoying it. But I keep falling asleep every time I try to read any more of it.
It must be the drugs.
Sodium benzoate, sodium bisulphate, ascorbic acid - and that’s just the Lucozade.
Fortunately, my lunch today was not served by the lady who informed me as she placed yesterday’s offering in front of me, that she ‘felt dreadful.’
Today it was the lady who had the good grace to put my lunch in front of me before she turned to leave the room, coughing and sneezing.
Believe me, suggesting that we divert money into providing sterile pods for the sick, for at least the really sick, is not an idea borne from the ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs.
Talking of which, isn’t it a really brave move by Ireland’s pharmacists to pick on heroin addicts in order to advance their campaign for more money.
Yes, I know they work hard. But so too do those who have dedicated their lives to helping our unfortunate addicts who have now been abandoned by pharmacists not noted for their moderation when it comes to pricing their products.
“We were left with no alternative,” the pharmacists said. Apart from being utter tosh, that’s just a lie.
No alternatives? Why don’t they go on hunger strike or something that might actually test whether or not they have any support from their customers, addicted or otherwise?
My bet is they wouldn’t be thrown a single pea, let alone a sandwich.
Dammit, hospital leaves too much time for thinking.
Right now, I’m thinking how Ireland really could have won this rugby world cup were it not for all the things that are wrong in the camp and with Irish rugby in general - like the fact that very few people are playing it anymore and that it is still, in the main, a middle class game which is fiercely protected from invasion by, well, the middle classes who run it.
I’m thinking how our government has become utterly corrupt, generating sinecures for its supporters at public expense.’
I’m thinking how we have a health service run by people who think it’s ok to shut down front line services while they still have highly paid people in charge of the purchase of staple clips. Let’s see the administrative jobs going, boys.
I’m thinking how those who run our national airline have managed to turn it from a much loved institution to an organisation which is tolerated by some and loathed by others by loved by none.
I’m thinking how the entire Celtic Tiger business was, in the heel of the hunt, the greatest exercise in spin ever foisted on a population, a hoodwinking more successful even than that attempted by Blair and Bush in relation to Iraq.
We know know, there were not Weapons of Mass Destruction.
And we know now that there was no great wealth in the Celtic Tiger.
If there was, why do we still have poor?|
Why do we still have homeless?
Why do we still have some dirty hospitals?|
Why is our healthcare system - brilliant when you’re in it - so badly run?
Why are so many of our ‘minor’ roads (they’re major for the people who have to use them every day) so lousy?
Why don’t we have enough schools?
Why don’t we have enough gardai?
Why are we selling so many of our assets?
Why are we selling the tolling of so many of our roads to private enterprise?
Why do we need Public Private Partnerships in the first place, if we’re so rich?
Because we’re not.
Only politicians, with their 22 pay rises and their sinecures are.
And, it seems, only those of us with time to think. realise it.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
I’d love a pint. I really would. I am, as they say, gumming for one.
It’s always the same when I’m somewhere they don’t have pints.
And they don’t have pints in hospital. Not pints of Guinness, I mean. They do have pints. Of blood.
But it’s not quite the same thing, drinking through your arm.
So I’d love a creamy. A roaster. A pint of plain.
Not right now, not this second.
But I’d love to have one this evening. Or maybe two. Might even stretch to three.
Being ill, or a little bit ill, or not at all ill but with an annoying infection, I firmly believe in the restorative powers of pints. Specifically, pints of Guinness.
For years, you were handed a bottle of Guinness after donating blood in this country.
Women who gave birth were immediately given Guinness every day to build up their strength. Their children were, however, forced to wait years for the same, er, beneficial medicine.
I have no idea why such practices ended.
Economic reasons, no doubt. Some accountant figured out that by stopping the Guinness, they could buy more ledgers or pencil sharpeners or something.
Or maybe, Carlsberg or Heineken got the hump and demanded equal treatment. Silly, that. Lager, though, hasn’t got the same powers as Guinness.
I’m pretty sure that if the lady with the trolley came around today and asked us all if we wanted tea, coffee or Guinness, she would be returning to her kitchen with pots of cold tea and coffee.
I am also pretty sure that, after a couple of trips to the trolley, we patients would all be feeling a great deal better.
And even if hospital food is, well, hospital food, boy, wouldn’t we look forward to it if it was to be accompanied by a nice Merlot or a nice, round Cote de Rhone.
You may very well think I am obsessed with alcohol.
I am not.
I merely miss it.
I don’t miss it as much as I miss my partner or my child or my dog or my house or my bed at home or a decent cup of tea.
But it’s not here. They don’t encourage it in hospitals.
And I miss it.
It’s not that I think about it all the time.
This morning, for example, I was thinking again about what a good my idea to put each sick person into their own sterile pod.
I thought about that again when the lady who brought me my breakfast informed me that she felt ‘absolutely dreadful.’
Brilliant, I thought. She feels sick and she’s walking around a hospital handing out food to people who are trying to get better. Put her in a pod, I thought, and stop her from spreading her sickness.
And today I also thought about England reaching the final of the Rugby World Cup.
I thought, there’s a mediocre, ageing, average team in the world cup final.
Because they have passion and heart and determination. And they have been well prepared.
And our younger, more skilled and more fancied team dumped out in the qualifying round.
If we’d been properly prepared, we could have won the damned thing.
And then I was looking at the hung-over England fans and the hung-over former England player Matt Dawson on television talking about the joy of the England fans.
The best of luck to them.
There is a perfectly logical reason as to why there should be bars in hospitals.
I’m not talking here about The Dog and Duck or the King’s Arms.
Maybe The Doctor and Nurse or The Cut and Stitch or something.
But it would be strictly for patients only.
And admission would be by coloured wrist band so that certain patients, for whom a drink might be harmful, would be wearing a red wrist band and would not be admitted.
There might be, say, a green wrist band for someone allowed four pints and a blue one for someone allowed three, a yellow one for someone allowed two and a pink, yes, I think pink, for someone allowed one.
And it would only be Guinness.
And maybe some decent red wines.
I mean, the thing is supposed to be medicinal.
Of course, a mini bar in the room would solve the problem too...
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Sometimes, it makes a great deal of sense to put together in the one place people who are doing the same thing or who have a great deal in common.
It makes perfect sense, for example, for Catholics like myself who want to go to Mass to gather in the church together at Mass time.
It makes sense for followers of Manchester United or Leinster Rugby, like myself, who wish to attend matches to go to Old Trafford or, nowadays, the RDS, to watch the teams.
It makes a kind of sense for drinkers to gather in pubs, shoppers to go to shops and concert goers to go to concerts. It seems unlikely that Bruce Springsteen or the Kaiser Chiefs or Arcade Fire will put on individual performances.
And it just wouldn’t be acceptable, on any level, to start burying dead people willy-nilly, here and there.
It makes no sense at all, or very little, however, to gather sick people together in one spot.
I imagine whoever came up with the idea of hospitals in the first place, was a government administrator who reckoned, correctly as it happens, that it would make economic sense to put all the sick people in one place so that a smallish team of doctors and nurses and ancillary workers could see to their needs.
The idea of hospitals could not have come from anyone with the slightest medical qualification.
Think about it.
You’re sick. You need treatment. You need to be kept in an area that is as sterile as possible.
So what do they do?
They put you into a big building full of people who also need to be kept in an area that is as sterile as possible.
And then they let in cleaners and cooks and painters and hundreds of doctors and nurses and nurses’ assistants and, of course, thousands and thousands of visitors.
Little Jimmy with his snotty nose.
Lucy, who doesn’t know -yet - that she has measles.
Tommy who is just begining to feel a bit dodgy with humps.
Uncle Fred with the cold.
Great Aunt Maude who thinks she has a cold, but it’s actually the start of ‘flu.
And all the others with as yet undiagnosed illnesses.
They pile in one after one, behind the cleaner with the smokers’ cough and the lady who delivers dinner but who nobody knows never washes her hands after going to the loo.
The ideal way of dealing with sick people, is for each of them, every individual, to be put into his or her sterile pod where a dedicated doctor and nurse could attend to them and where anyone else who had to enter the pod, to deliver food, to visit - cleaners would barely be necessary - could be fully sterilised before entering.
For a start, in a kind of ‘Hey Presto!’ way, hospital superbugs wouldn’t exist because hospitals wouldn’t exist.
Naturally, these pods could be placed either close to a patient’s home or centrally, depending on the illness and so on.
They could be portable so that, sometimes, they could be parked in your garden.
They could be wheeled down to the pub! Well, doesn’t cheering people up do their health a power of good?
And the expertise would of course have to be largely centralised.
If you had sufficient doctors and nurses, this wouldn’t be a problem.
I am aware that, by now, you think I am indeed very unwell.
You think I am off my trolley, hospital or otherwise.
You are wondering what strange drug I am receiving here in hospital.
Because the idea as outlined above, would cost billions and billions and billions.
At least, you’re right about the cost, not about me being off my trolley.
Isn’t it odd how people might cringe when they hear that some medical scheme or other, some special school for autistic children, some plan to house the homeless or help to get addicts off drugs, may cost billions.
But nobody seems to bat much of an eyelid at the United States spending, what is it now, 80 billion dollars a year on their Iraqi adventure.
Nobody seems to be worried about our own public representatives costing vastly more than they are worth, what with their highly inflated salaries, ridiculous and largely dishonest expenses, free parking, free telephones, free post, free offices, subsidised restaurant, gym and God knows what else.
If money was spent sensibly, if business wasn’t given such influence, if public representatives represented the public, all sorts could be done.
We could have sterile pods for the sick.
And we could look after autistic children and others with learning difficulties.
We could look after the old and the young.
We could eliminate world hunger.
And we could eliminate the need for war.
We could be decent, kind generous Christian,Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist people. Whatever.
Yes, I suppose. Totally.
Must check what drugs they’re giving me again.
❍Two of the loves of my life, Charlotte and her 'brother' Eric
Back to hospital.
Though I visit St James’s Hospital in Dublin regularly to see my doctors - I think I have five or six at the last count - it’s almost three years since I have spent a night here.
Last time, at least, I was sick.
Hospital’s a grand place to be when you’re sick. In fact, I can’t think of anywhere better. And, when you get right down to it, hospitals were built to look after sick people. So it all makes a perfect kind of sense.
Right now, I am not what you might call sick in the conventional sense.
I feel tremendously well. Any feeling of nausea or being unwell that I feel is a result, still, of Ireland’s lacklustre performance in Rugby World Cup.
Anyway, I’m here in hospital feeling perfectly well from the ankles up.
And therein lies the nub of my problem.
Since I was diagnosed with this damned cutaneous lymphoma about 12 years ago, I have been well from the ankles up bar one period where I was well only from the ankles and wrists up. You will gather that it was my hands and feet that were causing me problems.
And since the last time I was confined to hospital - they don’t actually confine you, they just strongly suggest you stay - my partner has given birth to our wonderful daughter Charlotte. And, up to four months ago, the greatest pleasure in my life was going for a walk around our neighbourhood with Charlotte and the hairy Samoyed we like to described as her ‘brother’ Eric.
Yes, I walked around with a deal of pride. I probably looked smug and maybe, even, arrogant. But certainly proud.
But the feet started acting up. Bastards. If I didn’t need them, they’d be gone long ago. But, like most bodily organs, they have a role to play.
Whether it is to do with being on a clinical trial for a new drug and having stopped my old drug, I can’t say. Even with the old drug which was, generally, excellent for my health bar the fact that it raised my cholesterol so high it almost killed me, my feet were bad.
But they just got worse and worse.
And then the infection set in.
Now, it’s four months since I wore a pair of shoes. Not that I measure happiness by the number of pairs of shoes I get to wear in a given month. Was Imelda Marcos happy, I ask?
Now, I’m in hospital. And I feel well from the ankles up.
Here, the sound that wakes me in the morning is not the baby pressing the buttons on her musical frog, but the nurse telling me I’m about to be fed more antibiotics through a vein in my arm. Funny that, you’d think it would be a vein in my leg, legs normally being nearer to feet than arms.
Confined, so to speak, to a hospital bed and big things happenning elsewhere.
Tomorrow and Sunday, there are two Rugby World Cup Finals.
First up, it’s England and France. I’m cheering for France.
I’d love t o cheer for England. I love the place. I like the English. I admire many of their players.
But, even though I cheer them on at cricket, there’s something....
Maybe it’s “Swing Low...” I don’t know.
And then, on Sunday, I’ll be cheering on Argentina, largely because I think world rugby has given them a raw deal over the years and they have beaten the big boys politically and I’d love to see them winning on the field.
(I know, though, that some would take an Argentina/France final as some kind of vindication of Ireland’s lousy performance. But it would be no such thing.)
For the first time ever, I will be watching Rugby World Cup semi-finals stone-cold sober.
No pints. No wine. Nothing.
I cannot imagine what the experience may be like.
A friend has suggested I will interrupt the game with cries of ‘handball” and “that was a push.”
He said I might even express surprise that the goalkeeper is so far off his line or that someone or other missed a perfect opportunity for a clean header at goal.
I will, however, miss the expertise that comes with the fourth or fifth pint. I will miss the knowledge of the game and the tactical nous that comes half way through the sixth pint.
But I am, despite what some say, in the care of what I can personally attest, to be one of the finest healthcare systems in the world.
It is a system which would be all the finer if the enormous layer of bureaucracy at its top could be removed or halved.
But on the basis that a decision to halve bureaucracy would be taken by bureaucrats, such a thing is as unlikely as politicians voting to reduce their number or to pay themselves an honest salary.
But let nobody say that once in the door of an Irish hospital, the care is not as good or better than anywhere in the world.
Let nobody say that, despite the problems, the health service is not generous in the way it deals with patients, in that I, and several I have met since my latest incarceration, as being fed drugs unavailable to patients in Britain’s much lauded healthcare system on the grounds of price alone.
So while I will complain - of course I will, I’m a grumpy old man - about being in hospital in the first place.
While I worry that seeing my much loved game of rugby through sober eyes might alter my view of it entirely.
And while I miss my partner Connie, my daughter Charlotte and my dog Eric, madly, I am in a place designed and built for sick people.
Even if they’re only sick from the ankles up.
(At leat, I hope it’s only from the ankels up.)