Category Archives: Life

The Mail Clerk

Some people just seem to get school, they understand how it works.  They understand how to interpret poems and enjoy reading and manage to get through the english class Novel in a matter of days.  They somehow manage to do their Irish homework and get it right.  They understand Tan and Cos in Maths.  I was not one of those people.  school20books11The english Novel … well lets say I always had to read every page twice because I was so bored of it, nothing I read stuck in my head.  Irish was like hearing Klingon for the first time every day, I thought why are we learning this, we’ll never use it.  As for English …. trying to interpret poetry was like trying to put a square peg through a round hole, I just didn’t get it.

It was Commerce class in school, a class I was only slightly interested in.  It was the type of class where you could switch off and drift off into that dazed state you find yourself in when the teacher has gone on endlessly about debtors and creditors or … oh God I’m even bored trying to remember the other things he used to ramble on about.  One day our teacher was telling us all about the Mail Clerk.  We were told how the Mail Clerk in a large business would separate the mail into individual departments then distribute said mail.  We learned how the Mail Clerk would collect letters that needed to be posted and enveloped up. mail clerk This particular day I was actually listening.  The teacher was saying Mail Clerk every 10 seconds, all I kept hearing was Mail Clerk this and Mail Clerk that.  I was sitting there baffled as to why he was only talking about Male Clerks.  I thought it was incredibly unfair so I put my hand up in front of 25 students to ask a question.  It was something I never did so the teacher very excitedly said, Yes Barbara what is it.  I now cant believe I actually came out with this but I went on to ask … ‘Sir, why are there no Female Clerks‘.  He stood motionless to digest the question.  I was sitting there waiting for an answer. Everyone was staring at me, the Teacher was staring at me, words were trying to come out of his mouth but just not managing to, very small shakes of his head, eyes blinking quickly … words still escaped him.  I think he thought I was joking but the look on my face was serious, he realised it was a genuine question.  The class now were in hysterics laughing … I still didn’t get it.  He finally got the chalk and wrote on the board ‘MAIL Clerk not MALE Clerk’.  Finally the penny dropped .. as I was nodding saying Ahhh, I see, the embarrassment kicked in as I heard the laughter and giggles around the room.  I put my head down and I was mortified, I don’t think I ever lived it down.  All I kept thing was, Oh my god, how thick am I, female clerk for gods sake, only I could pick up Mail Clerk as Male Clerk …

All my friend has to say is Female Clerk and it brings us back to that day as if it was yesterday.  Now everytime I pick something up in the wrong way we call it having a Male Clerk moment and laugh a lot.

At least I gave them all something to laugh at ! 🙂   They say school days are the best days of your life …. Only as an adult can you look back and appreciate that statement.

1 Comment

Filed under Life

The Yellow Porsche

I bought my first car when I was 26.  It was a 1983 1ltr Toyota Starlet, it was silver and an absolute piece of junk.  £500 worth of junk.  It had those windy down windows, the horn was a button at the end of the indicators and when I say silver, I actually mean 50 shades of silver, I was quite fond of scraping it off walls and bumping into bollards!  The radio aerial had been snapped off so even if the radio worked, it wouldn’t have worked.  If I was driving into a head wind I had to put my foot to the floor for fear of going backwards.  If  my friends were in the car with me, they hid due to embarrassment at being in such a jolopy.   It wasn’t pretty but it got me from A to B.  Obviously my vanity chip hadn’t kicked in yet because I drove that car the length and breath of the country not caring what it looked like, I was mobile!

What my car lacked in grace and good looks, it made up for it in stamina, it never gave me any trouble, apart from trying to get a matching colour for all the patch up paint jobs.    One November morning I was driving into work, I was running about 10 minutes late so I was anxious to make up time.  It was lashing rain so everyone was on a go slow.  It didn’t help my anxiousness.  I had just driven past Balgriffin Cemetery and was pulling up to the traffic lights and there in front of me was this amazing Porsche, it was beautiful, 2 years old, spotlessly clean, it looked brand new and the engine purred, it was canary yellow and wouldn’t have looked out of place in Beverly Hills, but on a cold rainy winter morning in North County Dublin it looked completely out of place.  I was horrified at the colour, how could someone choose to buy such a beautiful car in such a gaudy obnoxious colour.  The lights went green and off we went down the Malahide Road, even though I hated the colour I kept looking at it with envy.  I imagined whoever owned it must have been either very rich or very famous to be able to afford such a car.  If was a far cry from my battered and bruised noddy car.

The traffic lights on the Malahide Road are incredibly annoying, in the space of 300 meters there must be at least 4 sets of traffic lights.  Due to the rapid speed of the lights going from green to orange motorists were desperate to make the orange lights.  It was still raining when we arrived at the next set of traffic lights, and Mr Porsche was still right in front of me, lights go green, and we were off, now it became almost a race to make the next set before they went red.  The rain was horrendous at this stage.  The lights had just gone orange at the next set of lights so Mr Porsche went for it, I followed.  A split second later he obviously thought twice about whether he would make it or not, because he jammed on the brakes.  The rain was so hard on the windscreen I had a delayed reaction to his brake lights, he had stopped a few feet past the lights,  I panicked and jammed my foot on the brakes.  I immediately broke into a skid that seemed to gather pace by the millisecond.  Then I hit him, and I don’t mean I tapped him on the bumper.  My car rammed into the back of his car like a runaway train.  It felt like slow motion but it all happened in a matter of seconds.  I also stupidly had no seat-belt on.

A moment or two later, I got out of the car to face the music.  There was steam coming out of what was left of my bonnet, it looked like an accordion that had been welded onto the back of his car.  There was no sign of him getting out of his car so very cautiously I walked up to the driver window.  I didn’t know whether to knock on the window or just talk to him through the window.  I saw him sitting there with his face in his hands just shaking his head.  I tapped on the window, he turned to look at me and shouted ‘get away from me’ through the window.  I was now afraid of my life of what his reaction would be when he got out of the car.  Luckily a work colleague was a few cars behind me so he pulled up and buffered his anger towards me.  Understandably he was furious, it was after all my own fault.  We swapped insurance details and he gave me his card.  He was a Solicitor, I really had hit the jackpot. just my luck.   It was now time to try to prise the cars apart, slowly he nudged his car forward successfully.  He was still furious and as he drove off I can only imagine what he was calling me, after all  I had ruined his car and his day.

While my car had crumpled like an empty tin can all the damage done to his car was a dinted bumper and broken lights.  However, a new bumper and lights cost £4,500 and he had whiplash that paid out £31,000.  I got my piece of junk repaired for £150 and I was back on the road, thankfully I have never been involved in another crash.  I didn’t keep that car for very much longer, there was slightly too many shades of silver, the vanity gene was kicking in.

I wondered who would buy such a car about an hour earlier, well I certainly found out!  I still dislike yellow cars 🙂

1 Comment

Filed under Life

The Easons Bag

My first job after I left school was in 1986, it was a small computer company in Dublin which sold both computers and software development.  On my first day I was introduced to everyone and shown my desk and given my duties which were basically everything from answering the phone, typing, making tea, going to the shop, general dogs body would have been the perfect description.

As I met everyone, nodding and smiling and trying to remember names, I saw this guy who looked remarkably familiar.  He had a big grin on his face.  Barbara Lonergan, what are you doing here he roared?  I couldn’t believe it Paul Donlon.  I grew up with Paul in Portmarnock, he was in my class in school from the age of 4 til I left after leaving cert. Paul was working in the Stores Dept. while he studied for his Computer Science degree in Trinity at night.  As we got the same trains to and from work we struck up an immediate friendship.  We had a very similar sense of humor which involved finding the funny side of everything and being unable to hold a straight face while talking to each other.  A few days after I started in the company he turned to me and said ‘you know you were famous in here before you even started working’.  He had told them all about this girl in his class and how one day in commerce in 2nd year we were learning about the ‘mail clerk’.  Thinking the teacher meant ‘male clerk’ I asked, why was there no ‘female clerks’, the class erupted into laughter and I was mortified.  For the first few weeks the guys in work kept referring to me as the ‘female clerk’ as they roared laughing at me.  After my initial embarrassment I saw the funny side of it and even referred to myself as a female clerk to them.

After a week or two I got the gist of the job.  There were about 15 people working there and two of us were female.  The programmers were the kookiest, they were oblivious to all humour which made a funny situation even funnier.  The sales guys were crazy, the lies they told and things they got up to make a sale still leave me smiling.  The Maintenance Dept, now these guys were hilarious, any opportunity they got they would start the slagging, they were relentless.  You definitely needed a thick skin and to not be offended easily to work there.  The language was always blue.  The underlying aim of everyone was to laugh and complain, whether it was retelling stories of customers complaints/queries or simply taking the mick out of each other, I remember my shock when one guy slagged the other because he had a pigs valve in his heart due to a heart bypass. I needn’t have worried about his feelings being hurt because he returned the jibe with something so cutting, it was perfect. Nothing was taken seriously and everything was on the table when it came to banter.  We laughed a lot and complain we did, we complained about everything from the state of our paycheck to how annoying our boss’s were. This was my first experience of being immersed in the adult world of work.  Little did I know that this wasn’t how normal people carried on in work, this was a unique experience and one to be enjoyed, I loved it.  I looked forward to Monday morning as it meant a week of fun with some work thrown in.

At the end of the week religiously we all headed off to Kitty O’Shea’s straight after work to discuss and laugh at the weeks goings on.  Quite often we saw Ruairi Quinn, the U2 boys and various other ‘celebs’.  By now I had gotten the reputation of being quite clumsy, if I walked into the pub late, there would be the declaration ‘HOLD ONTO YOUR DRINKS, BARBARA’s HERE’.   Six months into the job myself and Paul were thick as thieves and such good friends that we almost knew what each other was thinking.  We still got the train most mornings and evenings together.  Our usual conversation on the train was giving out about our boss’s and how bad our salaries were.  Paul always said the same thing after about 20 minutes of hurling abuse at them.  Ah we’re lucky to have a job I guess.  This reduced both of us into convulsions of laughter with tears rolling down our faces.

This one particular Friday we all headed off to Kitty’s, there was only 5 or 6 of us and a few had to go home early so it was going to be a quick one or two.  I had two bottles of Ritz, yes that sickly sweet drink, it was all the rage back then and someone had offered me a cigarette, I didn’t smoke, but decided to give it a go.  I went on to have a second cigarette, I didn’t like it and felt queasy.  It was time to leave.  Myself and Paul decided to walk down to Abbey Street to get the bus, one of the other guys was driving into town so he said he would give us a lift.

Driving down Pearse Street I continued to feel more and more unwell.  Paul was in the front passenger seat and I was in the middle behind.  I told Nick, who was driving, I felt sick and could he stop the car.  He immediately turned slightly hysterical, Paul turned to me, I looked green, Nick kept shouting ‘Dont puke in me car for feck sake’  he used stronger words than feck.  He was driving so fast at this stage that he kept missing the red lights so he could let me out, still shouting the same thing. Nick was frantic to get me out of the car as quickly as possible, and I can’t blame him.  Paul agin turned around to see how I was looking, I was still green and had that horrible feeling you get when you know you’re going to throw up.  As he turned around to look at me I got as far as saying ‘I’m going to pu…..’  that was as far as i got, I threw up right into his face, he was destroyed.  Nick started going crazy, jesus christ, ffs, oh my god, you’ve ruined me car he kept shouting.  He was naturally horrified, he finally pulled in opposite Pearse Street Garda Station, realising where he had pulled in he panicked, he had drunk two or three pints and should not have been driving, get out of the car quick he kept shouting.  We did and pretty quickly Nick tore off like he was in a high-speed chase.

There was just myself and Paul standing on the street, me crying and him with a face full of sick.  We had no tissues, I searched my bag, nothing even resembling a tissue, all he had was an Easons bag, the striped blue, green and white one he was using to carry a magazine.  Luckily the street was empty, no passers-by to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.  He used the Easons bag to clean both of us up.  By the time he was done, the Easons bag was little more than shreds of paper.  Still crying I kept saying I was so sorry, finally he started laughing hysterically and told me to shut up.  Phew I thought, my tears very quickly turned to laughter too when he asked ‘you weren’t eating peanuts earlier by any chance were you’.   After the worst of the damage I had caused was cleaned up, what he asked next shocked me, ‘Will you go out with me to the cinema tomorrow night’.  I started laughing and thought how would he want to even speak to me after what had just happened, I said yes and as we looked for somewhere to go to clean ourselves up the times were arranged.

Our date did not go so well, it was quite a disaster really, however, Paul still remains my best friend today and despite the fact that he now lives in America, we still speak daily.  Quite often we will just mention Easons and the memories of that evening coming flooding back along with laughter.


Filed under Life

The Goldfish

As children we always wanted a dog. Most of our friends had one and we always looked on, enviously, at seeing them walking their pride and joy or playing with it in their houses.  So, being children we begged and begged until we wore my parents patience down.  As it happened my Uncle’s dog had just had puppies and due to them being of the mongrel variety he couldn’t find homes for them very easily, my Dad took one in.   It wasnt a pretty dog but so what, it was a dog, we didn’t care, we were delighted and couldn’t believe it, we finally had a dog. It was a very short-lived experience, however, because after it wee’d on the carpet for the fourth time in the space of 6 hours my Mother sent it packing back to my Uncle’s house with a note saying ‘I’ve enough to do with 3 kids’!!  After that the only pets we were allowed were either a Goldfish or imaginary dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, basically anything that required little effort to look after.

One Sunday shortly after the dog was sent packing we went to an Outdoor Market, We were all given 5 two pence pieces.  We headed off to the ‘Win a Goldfish’ stall.  You had to throw a twopence and get it into a bucket to win a goldfish.  Jim won one on his first throw.  I remember being insanely jealous because Jim kept saying, ‘this is MY goldfish, you’re not allowed play with it’, what did he think we were going to do with it, take it out of the bowl and dress it up in Barbie’s clothes!!!  Anyway, it was agreed he could keep it if he promised to clean out the bowl everyday himself and remember to feed it himself.  The deal was done and a new bowl was bought.  The fish was placed in Jim’s bedroom where it swam round and round all day long every day, good job they only have the memory of a few seconds because that was one boring life!

For the first week Jim fed the fish and cleaned out its bowl every day and every now and again would spend, ooohhh, thirty seconds watching it swim around in its chosen circle, he was only 8 at the time so neither Jim nor the fish had a lengthy attention span.  Slowly but surely it became my mothers job to clean out the bowl.  After 3 days of telling him to clean the water, she couldn’t bear the smell anymore, it was unbearable.  All she did was place the bowl in the kitchen sink and gently run the cold water until all the dirty water spilled out and all that was left was clean water.   It was hardly rocket science.

We had the fish for a little over two years and to be honest, Jim couldn’t have cared less about it by now.  For some bizarre reason my Mother loved that fish, I think she used to talk to it while we were all at school.  A bit like Shirley Valentine and her Wall.  One weekend my mother had to go out but on her way out she left instruction with my Dad John to clean out the bowl.  No problem.

Later that afternoon John got the fish bowl and placed it in the sink, turned on the tap, gently, as he was told to do and then went off about his business.  It usually only took ten minutes to clean out the water.  After about five minutes I happened to walk through the kitchen, saw the bowl, saw the water running, yep, he was cleaning the fish’s water.  However, moments later when I walked back into the kitchen, I saw steam coming out of bowl and tap.  Something didn’t add up, aren’t you supposed to use cold water to clean the fish’s water!  Then I had that OMG moment, I ran to get John.  We both stood at the sink, he turned the tap off, and when I say the tap I mean the HOT tap. I looked at him, he looked at me not knowing whether to laugh or cry.  ‘She’s gonna kill you’  I said.  ‘I know’ he replied.  He tried to put his hand into the bowl to grab the fish but because the water was scalding he could only manage a second or two, and the fish kept slipping out of his hand.  He tried this about three or four times, then he had the bright idea of the soup ladle!  He managed to get the fish but it was well and truly poached to death by now.  He emptied out the scalding water from the bowl and refilled it with cold water, then put the fish back.  I remember looking at him going … ‘You do know its dead, don’t you’.  It wasn’t appreciated.  I think he knew he wasn’t going to be able to pass it off as an unexplained death because that’s all we could talk about until Ina came home.  This story was too juicy to not take pleasure in retelling in minute detail.

When my Mother arrived home all hell broke loose.  Ina was calling John every name under the sun as the tears rolled down her face, he having no interest in this little fish started to laugh and said ‘we’ll get another one’.  Wrong thing to say!  How she didn’t deck him I don’t know, she was furious.  It took about two weeks for Ina to forgive John, but once she did, the fish story became another one of those ‘Do you remember when John ……   and there are quite a few.


Filed under Life

White Gloss Paint

White gloss paint! Loved by my mother and applied by my father.  Every room in my parents house is white, always has been and I have no doubt it always will be.  My Mother, Ina, loves white walls and flowery carpet, thankfully she has started to move on from the flowery carpets! .  When we were children it was white paint on that woodchip wallpaper, i still don’t know why they never came out with it in a white colour, because she bought enough of it.  Her excuse …… ‘It makes the place look bigger’ and ‘It looks clean’.  My dad only ever painted when he was in bad humour, or perhaps having to paint put him in bad humour.  I guess after working a 12hr day 6 days a week he wasnt in the humour much of popping open a can of paint, and exercising his muscles some more, not his idea of fun.

One night John started painting the sitting room walls, we didn’t need to ask the colour, we knew it was white, myself and Jim were watching tv and John was in foul mood.  The furniture had to be moved and we were grumbling about the disturbance, John, dutifully ignored us.  I was probably only 6 or 7, Jim is a year and a half older, but i knew i was sooo not happy with being inconvenienced.  Jim wanted to help, on this night his offer of help was not wanted, John just wanted to get this over with as soon as possible.  He got one wall done with the help of lots of f’s and b’s, must have been the cutting in, it gets to everyone!  Then he was gone, we knew he wasnt finished because the can of paint was still open and brush sitting on top of it.  I think John was gone to have his dinner.  Ina was as bad a cook as I am now so we knew it wouldn’t have put him in better humour than he already was!

I went off for some reason, I can’t remember why but i was only gone 5 minutes, when I arrived back, I thought there was something wrong with the TV, I sat down waiting for the screen to go back to normal.  After a rew moments I realised NOTHING was going to make the TV go back to normal.  Jim had grabbed the paint brush dipped it into the open can of gloss paint and painted the whole TV screen, it was perfectly painted, he even made sure not to go outside the line of the screen.  As he sat there laughing his head off, I had that sudden OMG moment, he was still laughing, when he finally got why I was so shocked he realised what he had done, he ran, faster than I ever saw him run before.

I remember just sitting there alone desperately trying to come up with excuses as to the state of the TV, couldn’t think of one, meanwhile, Jim was still hiding out in some corner of the house.  Ina walked into the sitting room about 10 mins later, dinner must have been over.  I said nothing hoping she wouldn’t notice.  I kept looking at her to see if I could spot the moment the penny dropped and she noticed the new piece of art in the corner…..and then the penny dropped. What did you do?  I very quickly transferred the blame back to Jim.  I wasn’t getting blamed on this one. She ran, as I thought to find Jim but instead she arrived back with t-towels and tissue paper thinking it would wipe off, it just made it a whole lot worse.  She was frantic.   Every time she put the t-towel or tissues down the paint rubbed off the carpet and tv stand.  There was white streaks of paint everywhere, he had put so much paint on the brush it had started dripping down the screen onto the base of the TV.  She went from quietly whispering ‘what were you thinking’ to roaring ‘I’ll bloody kill you both’ at me. Jim was found hiding in his wardrobe, the smile was well and truly wiped off his face that night.  It is probably just as well, but, to this day I cannot remember Johns reaction, possibly because we were ushered off to bed very quickly but I know the paint job that TV got led the way to our first remote control TV and a new flowery patterned carpet…..

Another howler when we are all sitting down remembering.


Filed under Humorous, Life

The Wig

While on the phone to my sister last week, we were chit chatting about stuff in general and she suddenly asked ‘Do you remember when John got the wig’.  As we remembered it we both fell around the place laughing and couldn’t stop.

My Dad John has been bald for as long as I can remember.  For a while he indulged in the comb over.  Quite often he spent longer getting his hair right than my Mother did.  If we were out for a family walk and there was a high wind, we were elected.  It meant we laughed away an hour at Johns expense.  We had a game, I would stand to his right and Jim his left, we had to get him to turn and look at one of us and if the wind caught the comb over and it went awol we scored a point.  He would usually catch us out after we got to 3 all.

One evening when I was 10 we were watching some TV after our Tea.  The front door opened, as we had seen Johns car drive up we knew it was him.  But it wasnt him, it was a man with a full head of thick black curly hair and he had a suit on.  John was a butcher and never went to work in a full suit, a shirt and slacks yes, but never with the jacket on.  Immediately myself and Jim ran into the kitchen to get my mother shouting ‘a stranger just walked in the front door’.  When my mother went into the sitting room she just stood there with a look of shock on her face and her mouth wide open as if she was catching flies, then she started laughing and went ‘Oh jesus John’.  I don’t know whose decision it was but John had only gone and gotten a wig.  My mother kept saying ‘it’s your Dad’.  Myself and Jim just stood there looking at him, trying to digest the dramatic transformation.  My sister who was 4 years younger than me hid behind my Mother, obviously afraid of this stranger who did not look like her Dad.

After the initial How Do I Look awkward moment my Mother demanded he take it off…

John:  I can’t

Ina:     Why not

John:  They sewed it on

Ina:      What!, they sewed it on, you’re joking me, stop messing and just take it off

John:   I can’t

Ina:      How did they sew it on, they hardly used a needle and thread

John    Well yeah, sure isn’t it after taking them all day to get it on me.

This conversation went on for ages and for the rest of the night we heard things like, don’t sit near me, I can’t even look at you, you look ridiculous, whats everyone going to think , oh jesus christ you can’t go out looking like that!  Myself and Jim just spent the night laughing at him from behind hand covered mouths.  My mother was so horrified I think she threatened to leave him if he didn’t go back the next day and get them to remove it.  In fairness he did look ridiculous and to this day I don’t know what he was thinking getting one in the first place.

Next evening when John arrived in the door, the wig was gone!  All someone has to say now is ‘remember the wig?’ and it reduces the five of us, including, John into howls of laughter and the slagging begins.  Ina always says the same thing every time that story is mentioned … ‘and it cost a bloody fortune, must have hurt too’ … howls of laughter again.  John  also always says the same thing once we’ve stopped laughing …. ‘I thought I looked great’ and we’d be off again …


Filed under Life

Events that change our lives (2)

Continued from Events that change our lives (1)

The arrival of the owner of the garage was slightly awkward to say the least.  He had gotten a phone call in the early hours from the Gardai and was, of course, well aware of what had happened.  He had travelled straight from his home into the hospital, had met John and had driven my dad home for a quick change and back to the hospital.

Heres the little nugget of information we had all forgotten about.  A sawn off shot-gun had been stolen from under the til counter of the garage two weeks previously.   While we were all having dinner that evening Jim told us it had been stolen and the first thing my mother said was ‘that gun will be used to hurt someone’.


Jim got through the next 24 hours, still critical.  We had neighbours, relatives and a lot of Jim’s friends call all day.  Everyone was shocked at what had happened.  Then came the question ‘who done it?’  The police had been in touch with John about 12hrs after the shooting.   They had the man who shot both Jim and Dominic in custody.  Dominic was the other man shot, he was in his 60’s and working in the garage shop was his part-time job.  There were 4 people in the shop when the burglary happened, Dominic behind the counter, Jim standing opposite him and two other lads I had gone to school with about to leave the shop.  The robber walked in with a balaclava over his face and gun in his hand.  He shot into the roof, then demanded Dominic hand over the til, Dominic tried to hand the til to Jim who was going to give it to the robber.  Before Jim took hold of the til he was shot under his left arm and chest, as he dropped to the ground, the burglar took aim at Dominic and shot him in the face, he then tried to shoot a 4th time but the cartridge jammed in the barrel.

Luckily the two men unhurt, recognised the voice of the burglar and were able to tell the police who they suspected it was.  The police called to the house of the burglar only a matter of hours after the shooting, he was in his kitchen eating a sandwich, 17yrs of age.  His brother was in my year in school, another brother was in the same year as my sister, we knew the family well.  He had stolen the gun two weeks before he used it, he had stolen it from the very garage he shot Jim and Dominic in.


Just minutes after my parents left to go back to the hospital two days after the shooting, I answered the phone.  It was the hospital looking for permission to operate again, I asked if it was serious, they very plainly said yes it is.  I immediately said, of course, yes, and they were gone.   My parents arrived to the hospital and Jim was already in surgery.  I can only imagine the anxious wait they had, because it was another 4 hr operation.  This time they had to remove his left lung and sever all nerves leading to his left arm.  He was alive but very ill and in for a tricky 24hrs.  Dominic was very lucky, his face was sprayed with the pellets from the cartridge.  He was back in a ward and waiting for swelling to go down, he was out of danger but it was unknown how disfigured his face would be.

Three days after the shooting myself and Ingrid were allowed in to ICU to see Jim.  Needless to say it was very emotional.  He had tubes coming out of everywhere and his body was so packed with dressing he looked like the Michelin man.  Gradually as the days went on he started to improve, after 3 weeks he left ICU.  That was only the start of his recovery.  During the first round of surgery they had to remove a rib in order to get at the actual cartridge itself to remove it.  The left side of his chest needed skin grafts, they had to remove part of the calf of his leg to try to graft under his arm and again more and more skin grafts on his chest and they made a few attempts to get some movement in his arm by redirecting nerves, all unsuccessful unfortunately.  He was in hospital for over 3 months and had approx. 16 operations.

The day he came home from hospital was incredible.  All the neighbours and relations were waiting on the road and as soon as Johns car turned the corner there was lots of ‘here he is, here he is’.  It was like the scene out of The Snapper when the brother was ruturning from his stint in the army, without the record player blaring, of course!  Everyone started clapping when he finally managed to get out of the car.  He was in a body cast with his left arm also in a cast at a 90 degree angle to his torso.  Everyone was crying with happiness.  Jim on the other hand just smiled wondering ‘what are you all like’ !!  It was a good day.  He was the local hero for quite a while after, something he hated.

The way my parents handled everything once Jim had gotten home from hospital was just amazing, between his regular trips to hospital and rehab, to the trial.

By the time Jim got home from hospital everyone knew who had shot him.  We as a family had to live in the same village as them.  For me I hated the guy who shot him and for a while I did despise the whole family.  I saw them regularly, I had to pass them in the street, or sit a few seats behind them on the bus or dart.  One thing that changed my mind was one day about 6 months after the event I was waiting for a bus and along came one of the brothers of the burglar.  As usual with them I avoided eye contact but I was shaking inside, it was both anger and fear.  After about 5 minutes he approached me and simply said he wanted to apologise for what happened and he tried to explain how horrified they were as a family as to what happened.  I accepted his apology and thanked him.  I felt relief afterwards somehow and I no longer despised the family.  I did still hate the guy who committed the crime.  Eventually we all just let that feeling of hate go, what was the point.

Damien Meenaghan was sentanced to 12 years in jail and served 8.  The family no longer live in Portmarnock and we as a family have never seen or heard from him since the day of his trial.

It took Jim another 2 years before he felt any way confident.  He still refuses to swim or be seen without a long sleeved t-shirt on, his hand is permanently in the shape of a claw with no movement, in public he either hides his hand or puts it into a pocket.  He did manage to gain some movement in his arm through rehab.  He returned to the garage to work, Joe hired an assistant to help him and as his confidence returned he learned how to adapt to only having the use of one hand.  About 15 years ago the garage closed and Jim built an ‘all mod cons’ garage in the grounds of my parents house.  Today he still works as a mechanic, but he always has an assistant with him for those jobs he can no longer do.  I really dont know how he got through what happened to him, he definitely has an inner strength equal to none.


Filed under Life, Uncategorized

Events that change our lives. (1)

This is my first attempt at a Blog.  I’m jumping in head first, so bear with me.

They say write what you know about, so here goes!

This my version of how the armed robbery of our local garage by a young local man affected our lives.  There were no fatalities, but the injuries sustained by those shot permanently changed the course of their lives.

February 27th 1987 I was 19, sitting in my bedroom practising my guitar chords at about midnight.  I had taken up lessons about a year previously and had gotten as far as Bye Bye Miss American Pie, and I thought I was great.   All of a sudden there was 3 big bangs only seconds apart, thinking it was just kids messing with bangers or something like that I kept strumming away, about 15 minutes later the front sittingroom window downstairs started to thud and hammer with noise, my cousin and two other women were banging and screaming ‘someones been shot in the garage, John,  Jim’s been shot,’ again and again before they even got to reach the front door.

I ran downstairs to the sound of utter confusion, my father with a face full of shaving foam, with just his vest and trousers on ran like Usain Bolt through the hall out the front door towards the garage which was across the road a bit, in total bewilderment I kept going, whats going on, whats going on.  My mother stoney faced, ‘something happened in the garage’.

My brother Jim was the mechanic in the Jet garage in Portmarnock and had gone over  there to buy a can of coke at about 11.30, and as usual would chat with the lads and shoot the breeze.  He was 20, didnt smoke, drink, didnt do much else apart from long distance cycling and golf, he was a good boy, as a mother might say.

Sitting in the kitchen waiting for my father to come back was like counting down the minutes til mass was over, it took forever, he arrived home after about an hour, during that time, we were told to stay at home and not go over to the garage which was only about 100ft from our house, and I dont know what made us do it, but we did, we stayed at home, didnt even look out the window.  Of course we heard the sirens and ambulances, my Mother got quieter and quieter and kept pacing and pacing up and down.  After about 10 minutes the sirens set off for the second time we knew someone had been rushed to hospital.   My image of her sitting in the kitchen at the table with a lost look on her face will never leave me.

My father rushed in about 5 minutes later, quickly to put a jumper on and headed off in a Garda car  straight to the Richmond Hospital.  My father told us he was just grazed by a bullet and all was ok, we knew it was a whole lot worse than that.

Nowadays trying to get in touch with someone is simple, whether it is by txt, twitter, facebook or phone call, it can be done instantly.   Back in ’87 there was only your home phone or public pay phones.  The waiting for information from my father as to the extent of Jim’s injuries was insufferable to say the least.  It was not like now though, now we are used to getting updates quickly and regularly.  Back then, we knew we would just have to sit it out and wait for information to come through.  The first realisation that this was far more serious than we had been told came via the 1am news on the radio ..  ‘Two men shot in garage in Portmarnock’.  Myself and my sister and my mother Ina all just stared at each other and realised, this is serious.  There was no tears or hysteria, but the phone calls started coming in thick and fast.  My mother has 4 sisters and 3 brothers. I can only guess my father phoned them from the hospital to tell them but, they were on their way!

The Aunts arrived, because they all look alike and did everything together I had christened them the Ina’s.  By 2.30am the house was full, there was lots of tea making and lots of tea just left there to go cold.  My father finally phoned shortly after 3.00am, Jim was met at the doors of emergency and was now in surgery.  He had been shot with a sawn off shot gun from 4ft in the chest and underarm.   He told us Jim was still conscious and managed to give him a thumbs up as the stretcher whisked into the theatre room.

We heard every news bulletin on the radio and each report of the event was more and more graphic, eventually we had to turn the radio off.

The doctors came out to update my father, John.  He had to be resusitated twice and things were extremely critical, they tried to prepare John for the fact that they may possibly have to amputate his arm.  John very quickly took this in and pleaded with the doctors to only do this as a very last resort, they agreed.  Finally about 7am, John phoned, Jim was out of surgery, he still had his two arms, although his left arm would never have more than 10% movement and he would never have use of his left hand.  The next 24hrs for Jim were going to be critical.  The next 6 or 7 hours are quite vague, neighbours calling, phonecalls from friends and relatives and then the arrival of Joe the owner of the garage.


Filed under Life