Monday 20 August 2018

Diary: Fergal Keane

Bright future: City Hall in Belfast. The city has come a long way since the signing of the historic Anglo-Irish Agreement
Bright future: City Hall in Belfast. The city has come a long way since the signing of the historic Anglo-Irish Agreement

Fergal Keane

I don't take well to immobility. My nature is too restless. But here in my bed in the Ulster Hospital in east Belfast I am becalmed. There is nothing too seriously wrong but an ailment substantial enough to warrant confinement for a week.

It has been 36 years since I last lay in a hospital bed. That was in Jervis Street one hot summer in the early 1980s. I had a broken ankle and lay in a ward full of old men who had - in Paddy Kavanagh's phrase - "fallen in love with death".

There was a double amputee who harangued the nurses for their perceived failures (they were living saints every one, but could not satisfy our angry friend) and a long-term patient who had been transferred from Grangegorman psychiatric hospital and prayed loudly into the night. Long into the night. I felt as if I would never escape. The nurses opened the windows to relieve the heat. In came the noise of buses, trucks, street traders, seagulls.

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