Tuesday 27 September 2016

The Yates anthology: Hard to imagine pain of losing child

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

A man holds his head during a memorial service for six Irish students at the Cathedral of Christ in Oakland, Calif
A man holds his head during a memorial service for six Irish students at the Cathedral of Christ in Oakland, Calif
'Dunphy’s exploits on the pitch with Man United, Millwall, Shamrock Rovers and Ireland (23 caps) were superseded by his journalism, broadcasting and books'

As the father of a J1 student currently in San Diego, my gut reaction to the Berkeley tragedy was it could have been any one of us that lost a child, as circumstances of 21st birthday parties are so common. The nation has been shocked, numbed, devastated, bereaved and remains grieving as the full horror emerges. Could it have been avoided?

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In Britain, they've changed the terminology relating to RTAs (road traffic accidents). Accidents are being re-classified as incidents, because they don't just happen, they're caused.

Either the balcony was never designed to contain so many people, or joists were damaged from defective waterproofing. Both scenarios suggest this catastrophe was inevitably waiting to happen, rather than random. Loss of a son or daughter is the most acute and chronic bereavement. Getting your newborn baby to infancy requires intensive love and care; years of education are joyful through nurturing; coping with moods and tantrums of teenage adolescence is eventually rewarded with blossoming young adults. It's at that moment, you must let go - waiting for the latch key to turn in the front door at 4 or 5 in the morning - not knowing what mischief, danger or self-harm they have wilfully encountered. They're now beyond your control. You know, they're wrong about their own limitless indestructibility. You can't put old heads on young shoulders.

Long after the conveyor belts of news cycles have moved on to the next disasters, annual anniversaries of June 16 2015 will forever scar the lives of those parents. They were the brightest and best of Irish youth, cruelly cut off from fulfilling their life dreams. The empty hollow ache for the parents can never heal, despite the support and solidarity of Irish people everywhere.

Brush with royalty

Today sees the concluding fixture of Royal Ascot. Even regular racegoers, who've never been, don't get what sets this phenomenal meeting apart from all others. It's not just because it's the most competitive flat racing in the world - with top-rated global competitors from Hong Kong, Australia, America, South Africa, France and Japan - contesting the greatest set of Group races. Not even because it's held at height of summer, glorious sunshine optimally showing off the horses' physiques.

Royal Ascot is unique due to its Britishness - specifically, South England/London elitism.

You don't have to be a toff to inhale the pageantry of the daily procession of royal horse-drawn carriages each day from the adjoining Windsor Castle. Pomp and ceremony of the national anthem is rare at racetracks.

There are no commercial sponsors of any races, instead all are named after some aspect of past or present royalty.

A military band (plus a Sonny Knowles type) leads thousands in a mega nostalgic sing-a-long after racing.

The common misconception is every bloke has to dress up in top hats and tails. This only applies if you're in the rarefied royal enclosure. My tickets (usually from touts at the railway station) are for "grandstand and paddock", where you only need to wear regular suit and tie.

Ladies put more effort into their attire than for a wedding. The quintessential drink is a jug of Pimms.

If you ever find yourself in London on third week of June, hop on a train to the Berkshire course - you'll never forget it, even if you've no interest in racehorses.

On track, it was another fabulous week for the world's best flat jockey Ryan Moore: steering home my favourite, imperious Gleneagles; Willie Mullins's Clondaw Warrior landed a touch on behalf of the WAG syndicate of jump jockeys; while precocious John Magnier two-year-olds won well. Dermot Weld pulled off a superb training feat with Free Eagle's first run of the year to win the Prince of Wales.

A classical British event, but another great week for Irish racing; perhaps to be topped off by Wicklow Brave winning the last race for Willie and Ryan.

National treasure

All this weekend Christ Church Cathedral hosts Dublin's second annual Garden Festival, seeking to raise funds to maintain this Anglican Church. This is the mother church for the Protestant diocese of Dublin and Glendalough and is one of the country's top tourist attractions. Originally built by Christianised Danish King Sitric in 1038, it was rebuilt in stone in 1171 by Strongbow.

Yesterday, I was there to compère a 'This is your Life' interview with notorious character Eamon Dunphy who'll shockingly be 70 this August. Dunphy's exploits on the pitch with Man United, Millwall, Shamrock Rovers and Ireland (23 caps) were superseded by his journalism, broadcasting and books.

He was a master of trolling, even before it was invented; becoming a national treasure by being a national nettle - with stinging diatribes against his victims' failings and hypocrisy.

My favourite phrase of his is about drink/being drunk: "At least I know, at some point in the process, I will feel happy." From humble origins, as an author he got up close and personal with U2 and Roy Keane before inevitable rows. His second autobiography beyond 'The Rocky Road' is in gestation. While offering to have John Giles's baby over the years, hopefully he won't befall the same fate of being axed from RTÉ's panel. Methinks he's now mellowed, being nicer to John Delaney than previous FAI blazers.

Up close and personal, Eamon is more kind, emotional, savvy and vulnerable; much less acerbic and volatile than his media persona.

Don't let this stop you enjoying the festival, which promises lots of family fun in the form of food, horticulture and garden displays, craft demonstrations and assorted animals to pet - this doesn't include Eammo, who still hasn't lost his propensity to bite.

Irish Independent

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