Monday 22 April 2019

John Masterson: 'Live life to the full and leave little to regret'

Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra

John Masterson

I have always liked Frank Sinatra. His version of Send in the Clowns is one of my favourite songs. My Way was my father's party piece and I can still hear him singing "Regrets? I've had a few. But then again, too few to mention".

During the week I was meeting a friend for lunch and she suggested Brother Hubbard in Capel Street. I didn't know it and Google Maps got me there about 15 minutes early.

The friendly woman who greeted me asked me if I wanted a table or if I preferred to wait in the couch area. There was plenty to read so I opted for the couch and picked up the restaurant recipe book written by a Garret Fitzgerald.

I became absorbed in the introduction. Garret had seen an article in The Guardian some years back saying something along the lines of it is not the things that you do that you regret, but the things you did not do. He and his partner were successful in life in their thirties but felt something was missing. It turned out to be food and off he went to train at Ballymaloe before heading around the world including Australia and Syria.

When Garret came to our table, I recognised him from his picture and we fell into conversation about the 'regret' motivation.

"You can steal it," he said, "I did."

He was a likeable man, the restaurant had a likeable feel and we had an enjoyable lunch.

I am always intending to become a better cook and the day before Neven Maguire had been telling me about a lamb recipe using a spice called sumac. I had never heard of it. Paying my bill on the way out I noticed that the restaurant had a little shop and there it was, sumac. I knew I would regret not buying it. I cooked the meal the next night and, as usual, Neven was right. It was a small step in the right direction.

The weekend brought the story of an Irish man who had lived his life to the full and has not left my thoughts since I heard of his death.

My extended family travel a lot and we have a WhatsApp group where we always say when we are boarding a plane and when it lands. I had been to Ethiopia and flown with the airline that suffered the weekend disaster so I listened with more than usual interest and wondered if some unfortunate people were waiting by their phones for a message that would not come.

I listened to Michael Ryan's mother speak with pride about her son on the radio. Here was a man who wanted to improve the world and went about doing it every day. I thought of all of the young people who are idealistic and then gradually lose their ambition as they get sucked into daily life, only to suddenly reach middle age and have the regrets about the things that they never did. Christine Ryan spoke clearly, almost matter of factly about the things that her son had done and the love he had for people, his family and his work. "He lit up a room," she said, and what greater tribute could a son receive.

Of course, Michael Ryan's family and colleagues are facing into the most dreadful period of dealing with their loss. People who heard this mother talk about her son may look at life and wonder do they truly love what they are doing. And if not, why not?

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