Tuesday 25 October 2016

Enjoy good old days - even if you had to eat sheeps' tongues

Published 01/06/2015 | 02:30

"I hope this makes some sense to you. I hope too that rather than look back in regret or sadness, you can take the days that made up the best days, and give thanks, not so much for the passing, but for the happening"

The students were gone home. It was the in-between time. There's something very scholarly about a university without students. And there on College Road, near Cork University, was the old digs where we screamed out the window to wake up the neighbours, just for kicks.

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This was known as roaring therapy, or so the one fifth of a doctor said. We shouted at the tops of our voices and men who in a few hours would be walking earnestly to work with umbrellas and brief cases called the gardaí, who had us roar for them in the cells of the Bridewell. We were left off with a caution.

For a while, I got lonesome for the old days when, with an Afro beehive hut on my teeming-with-ideas head, I could never see anything but success ahead.

I thought back then I would be Taoiseach, or something very big, at the very least. Maybe even the King of the World. I was happy and free. Looking back now at the me that was, it's as if I'm behind one of those one-way glass screens they use for ID parades in police dramas on TV.

It's me, but not me, I'm looking at through the looking glass. I am tempted to shout stop. You're doing this all wrong and you have no chance of surviving if you take the path you're on right now.

But would I be the me I am today if I hadn't take so many wrong turns?

So I just give the boy a hug and wish him good luck.

I was driving by the Bons and looked up at the room where my four children were born and the sadness came. I know it's hard for you to comprehend how I could be sad about such a series of incredibly happy occurrences.

For a second, I laughed. I think it was the laughing that always saved me from ruin.

The earnest words of a man friend came into my head. "Witnessing the birth of your kids is even better than being present at a winning Kerry All-Ireland. Unless it's Dublin we're after beating."

Again, I thought of what might have been.

It would not be an exaggeration to state that I took more wrong turns than a blindfolded man in a maze.

And that's what I was.

More sadness, and then I had to stop the car from it, after I went through a red light.

I closed my eyes, tired from working late in the pub, laptop glare and the long drive.

It was then the picture gallery appeared before me. Framed they were, in orderly, parallel rows.

There was me with Brooksy and Hennessy, my college classmates, in a pub having a laugh.

I saw the 30-year-old me with the newborn baby in my arms in the middle of 30 cots in the maternity hospital.

Jimmy Boylan, my college landlord, serves me with sheeps' tongues, a delicacy from The English Market. He's framed, right in the middle of a long wall, with the glasses perched on the top of his nose, and me the innocent first-year got it in to my head that he was after murdering his managers in Henry Ford's factory.

There they were, my footballing friends and flatmates. In reality almost, such was the vividness of the images before me in the gallery of the restored past.

Then came the picture of the last day for housemates who hit off for a trip to the beach in Crookstown before we broke up for good, and later that night there was a mad disco in Blackrock Castle to the tune 'Daddy Cool, Daddy Cool'. But it all made me sad and lonesome for days gone by.

I shut down the pictures.

And again I think of what might have been. Maybe I could have worked harder, made more out of the chance my mother and father never had. Of my 12 aunts and uncles, only one went to college, such were the times that were in it.

From somewhere the voice of the boy who would take so long to become a man spoke. Enjoy the days that were. Don't regret what might have been. He has sense now even if it's ciall ceannaithe, earned sense.

It was like when you see an old film and enjoy it even more now that you've moved from the man you were when you saw it first.

Why should I be so lonesome when I still have the memories so vivid, so true and so the me I then was. Lucky I am to have had such cracked times. So I close my eyes and walk through the succession of images triggered by the drive by the place where the man was formed from the boy.

My dad died around now, a good few years ago, and instead of lamenting his passing, I'm enjoying him. And for the first time in 50 years, I remember the song he sang over and over again to me when I was a small boy.

"Do what you do, do well boy."

Maybe the memory of my dad put me right. He was always there for me when he was alive, and he wasn't the kind to give up.

So it was on the side of College Road, where we sported and played, I was gifted the ticket to a retrospective. And so I drink in the old days and enjoy the happy times all over again. It was a life-changing moment and in a second I chose to take the chance I had been given by the look back from the calms.

Memories of happy days need never be suppressed. Happy is, as happy was. Happy is today. Enjoy the look back. It's as easy to choose happy as sad. In a way, if you choose to be lonesome, you dishonour the memory.

I hope this makes some sense to you. I hope too that rather than look back in regret or sadness, you can take the days that made up the best days, and give thanks, not so much for the passing, but for the happening.

Irish Independent

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