Tag Archives: school

On the Run

Years ago, back in my teens, when the confines of my world were restricted to the lowlands of the Midlands, I had a cute little Labrador called “Shelly”. Poor Shelly was neglected by the rest of my family. I walked and fed Shelly on a daily basis after school. Some weekends, I brought her for an extra long walk to make up for the day or two during the week I might have neglected her.

One warm, sunny day, Shelly and I set out on a walk. A mile and a half down the road I reached the T-junction. I stood on the hill overlooking the expansive green fields and stone walls that are notorious in the West of Ireland. “Left or right?” I asked myself. I decided to go left and onward we walked. I had been living in the area for a year or two by then and still had no idea of where I was going.

Two hours later, Shelly and I were still walking. The afternoon sun sat high in the cloudless sky. It was warm. I felt the heat. Shelly panted but maintained her pace. I still had no idea where I was. I hoped Shelly might pull a Lassie and lead me home, but the thick bitch did no such thing. I was a little concerned. Onwards Shelly and I marched.

Five hours later, I was still on the road. I was now panicked. I recognised no landmarks. The country roads looked the same, merging seamlessly, removing any sense of familiarity. By now I was exhausted. Shelly limped. I stopped every few minutes to allow her rest. I even attempted to lift her fat carcass and carry her. She was too heavy. In the distance a car came over the hill. It was Dad. Dad used explicit language and gruffly instructed me to get into the car.

Shelly could not walk for three days. For three days she sat in her basket. My family accused me of “breaking” the family pet. I felt unbelievably guilty for a few days until Shelly was back to her old self. Her paws made a full recovery and once again allowed her to chase us around the kitchen at the sight or sound of food. Mum aptly called her “Hunger’s Mother”.

Since this incident, I’m careful about going on random walks. I’ve resigned myself to the fact I have no sense of direction. When I jog, I do circuits around the same park a number of times. This ensures I don’t get lost. I often run up the road and back again. Yep, it is as dull as it sounds. Blasting my ears with some of the newest chart hits sometimes takes the edge of it.

This evening, I threw caution to the wind. I left work and instead of running through the local park, I headed for the plush neighbourhoods of Sandymount. The lavish properties inspired notions of grandeur. I eventually hit Sandymount Strand and ran along the walkway of the coast. The sky was clear, the evening was warm and the sea was blue. Dublin bay looked sensational.

On my return journey (in the general direction of work) I took a detour along the beach. I loved it. During the jog, I came across some pictures constructed with sea shells. One picture was of a mermaid and the other was of two fish. For once, during a jog, my mind was active, absorbing the detail of my surroundings. It was invigorating.

I am definitely going to do this again. I will pound the open road and see where it takes me. Yeah, I might get lost. What of it? When on the open road, I am mostly on my own, but for the big, fat lump of dog that runs alongside me. Shelly is there in some form or other. I bet she loved this evening’s jaunt.

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All Choked Up

I went to school in a dreary, grey and green national school on the south side of Dublin. Everything in the building was worn and faded. The school seemed as if it had once been great, but had become dilapidated since its glory days. Our uniform consisted of a green jumper, green tie and grey trousers. The teachers, for the most part, were from the country and encouraged you to speak Irish in every thing you did. If you wished to fart, it was necessary to raise your hand and ask for permission as Gaeilge. There were no canteen facilities of any kind. The only way to luncheon was through packed lunch. Ten minutes before break time, classrooms bustled with the clatter of lunch boxes on desks. The smell of bread and crisps wafted through the room.

I have a particular memory of one such lunch time when I was ten and in fifth class. That particular day, I had jam sandwiches, a carton of juice and a non-descript chocolate bar. I tucked into the sandwich with ferocious hunger. The guy I shared a desk with was okay compared to the rest of the gobshites in my class. His name was Conn. He was good natured and a little abstract in his thinking. He and I were friends.  We often got in trouble for messing and talking. It was fair to say he took the blame for most of our antics. One such lunch time he put a challenge to me.

“I bet you can’t fit that entire sandwich in your mouth,” he challenged me. “I don’t mean half a sandwich. I mean two slices of bread.”

“I bet I can,” I answered confidently.

I rolled the sandwich into a tight, white ball and bunged it into my gob. The large glob of bread was hard to manoeuvre in my mouth. I did my best to bite it as much as I could. I aimed to reduce the size of the bread-y sphere; chomp, chomp, chomp. Conn watched as I wrestled with the bread. It was proving more challenging than anticipated. I tried to chew the bread. All was not well. The bread had become lodged at the back of my throat. I picked up my carton of juice and squirted some into my mouth. I thought this would lubricate the glob of bread from my throat. Instead, the juice mixed with the starch and seemed to form a paste. The dough ball was well and truly lodged. I attempted to speak. No words came out. A gurgling noise was all I could hear. What the hell is happening? I thought. Oh my God I am choking. I stood to my feet and attempted another gurgle. This failed to grab the teacher’s attention. Conn watched with horror. I slammed one hand down on the table. The teacher, Mr Stack, looked up from his newspaper and assessed the situation.

“You’re choking,” he announced loudly to the glass.

I confirmed this with a gurgle. He jumped up from his desk and made his way to me. He spun me around into the Heimlich manoeuvre. I remember the faces of my fellow class pupils. All of them looked on open mouthed. The silence was tangible. From my rear Mr Stack delivered a blow to my stomach. A large piece of bread flew from my mouth a travelled across the room. I remember the embarrassment that swept over me. I even remember thinking how it must have looked. My strange thoughts were interrupted by a final application of pressure to my stomach. The remaining piece of bread dislodged, flew threw the air and bounced along the grotty, worn green carpet. I gasped for air. I was absolutely mortified. I dismissed suggestions to get a glass of water. I foraged for the pieces of bread, while wheezing and coughing; one lay about six feet from me next to the sink; the second nestled under someone’s desk. I deposited them in the bin to remove any evidence of the event.  

In the play ground after lunch everyone informed me that the teacher had saved my life. This added to my embarrassment. After school, I stayed behind and thanked Mr. Stack for his quick thinking. It was very awkward. Eighteen years on, I doubt he’s forgotten the sight of bread flying from my mouth. I know I never will.

My First Fag

Nope, this story is not about the first guy I got with. It is about the first cigarette I properly smoked.

Until the age of fourteen, I moved around an awful lot. While attending school in England, I was a trouble maker and terrible in school. Essentially, I was a cool kid. When I moved to Ireland, I underwent a personality transplant. My English accent alienated me from the other students. The fact I was well spoken and could hold a conversation with the teacher meant I was a nerd. I went with it. I was never overly happy, but it didn’t weigh down on me terribly. 

Popularity didn’t concern me until I was in secondary school. In third year, before my Junior Certificate, I decided I wouldn’t work as hard as I could. I wanted to stop doing well in work so that I would be on the same level as the no brainers with whom I shared a class. I didn’t pay attention or cooperate with teachers. The peak of my plan involved buying a packet of cigarettes. I bought a packet of Silk Cut and put them in my pocket, careful to remove at least one so it didn’t look brand new.

One day, while walking from school with another pupil from my class, he said he needed to buy cigarettes. I whipped out my packet and offered him one. He declined and didn’t comment any further. The following week, other students were talking of the scandal of me smoking. It was then I realised, if my plan were to come to fruition, I would need to actually smoke a cigarette in front of the ‘cool’ students. I would teach myself to smoke.

I had heard of some smokers “not smoking properly” since they didn’t inhale. I aimed to do this. One day, in a cubicle of the toilets, I lit up and took a few drags. At first it wasn’t too bad. I should learn to hold the smoke, I thought. I took a deep drag on the cigarette and inhaled a lungful of nicotine. I held it for as long as I could. Suddenly, my eyes started to dim and I felt dizzy. I gasped for air, avoiding a total black out. Noise of coughing and hard spluttering filled the cubicle. I had nearly suffocated myself.

That was the end of my hopes of coolness.