Saturday 20 July 2019

Lay of the Land: I'm still working hard at having fun on the job

Lay of the Land

'The feel-good vibe is undoubtedly fuelled by the fact most of us are free to enjoy the fun. ' Stock Image
'The feel-good vibe is undoubtedly fuelled by the fact most of us are free to enjoy the fun. ' Stock Image

Fiona O'Connell

One of the lovely things about living in a country town is the way bank holidays engulf everything and everyone.

It's impossible to ignore the trail of tents pitched along the riverbank or the camper vans parked all about the place. Music from various venues fill the evening air as visitors and locals alike stroll back and forth over the bridge from special events and exhibitions.

The feel-good vibe is undoubtedly fuelled by the fact most of us are free to enjoy the fun. Apart from our excellent emergency services, hospital staff and gardai, that is. Hard-working hacks also keep going during holidays, all so you can relax with today's Sunday Independent in your hands.

For there's no denying death - or deadlines. Or deliveries, whether of newspapers or newborns. Reminding me of the time I taught English to German midwives in the National Maternity Hospital. Since my fantasy alternative career is medicine, I was delighted to mooch in and out of Holles Street. Which is also why my favourite job as a student was as part of the administrative team in the operating theatre of a London hospital.

Talk about taking a short cut to becoming a high-status consultant. I had to wear a white coat whenever I left theatre to photocopy the operation lists, swanning downstairs and deluding myself (if no one else) that I was a doctor, without all the hard slog.

Far from finding hospitals clinical, I thought the atmosphere was almost exotic - what with everyone wearing surgical masks covering their nose and mouths. It was like the Arabian Nights, or maybe Arabian nurses and medics.

Aware of my enthusiasm for all matters medical, they let me don surgical overalls and matching shower cap to watch as they operated on a patient with webbed fingers.

Speaking of fingers, a surgeon approached me one day to politely ask if I could be more careful. Turns out I had typed "amputation of the left index finger" instead of the right one. Luckily they noticed my error in time. The poor patient would not even have been able to point the finger at me, what with both index indicators getting the chop - followed, presumably, by this appalling typist.

I survived that summer and the rest of college to begin my first full-time job in Hodges Figgis booksellers, where one of my fondest memories is the time the assistant manager asked me to cover while his secretary was sick. My duties included making beverages when requested, which I duly did one day. He took a long sip and then looked at me.

"That," he remarked amiably, "is probably the worst cup of tea I've ever tasted". I returned to reception, pleased by my superlative performance.

Sadly my friend is no longer in Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street, Dublin. But I will be back there this Thursday, June 6, when a collection of these columns, Lay of the Land, will be launched. I won't bank on seeing you, but please drop by if you're free.

Sunday Independent

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