Sunday, 30 March 2014

Blog Hopping

Hello everyone. The wonderful Teagan Kearney has invited me to take part in a blog hop. Don't go racing off for your gym gear just yet, it's not as energetic as it first sounds. This wonderful idea allows us to share bloggers we enjoy reading. As part of it I have to answer a few questions but I will try and keep that bit short.

To begin with, I would like to thank the lady who was so kind as to include me in her nominations
Teagean Kearney. -

Teagan is a writer of mainstream fiction but her blog is a constant source of helpful advice and tips for aspiring authors. I have always found Teagan to be wonderful at interacting with bloggers and writers she encounters on her journey through G+. Her posts are crafted to perfection and an inspiration to read

The Famous Four

Before I share the four bloggers I am tagging in this Blog Hop, I want to cheat a little bit. I want to name check a few people that could, and should, be included here if only I were allowed.

Mr A Long - the undisputed master of verse. He would have been first on my list except for the fact he has already been tagged by someone else. Mr Glendon Perkins who has some of the best storytelling on the web if you ask me but has taken a step away from his blog to concentrate on more intensive projects.

Other people that are so worth checking out are Jess Bell, Ben Roach, Francine Hirst, M.Macca, Amy Glamos, Doug Phillips, Tammy Knott and Peter Noah Thomas (Only the tip of a huge iceberg of wonderful people I have come across on G+ in the last eight months) I would have loved to tag you all.

Drum Roll Please.....

Mr M.A Barr 

It has always amazed me how he can get so much happening into just a hundred words. His post swing from humour to horror but always ring completely true. Everytime I open one of his posts I closed it richer than I began.

Ms Karie Thoma

Karie from near New York, USA, was one of the very first people to welcome me to G+ and interact with me on my blog. Along with AJ and Glendon, Karie did more to encourage me to keep blogging than anyone else. I have read with interest as Karie experimented with different styles, moving from writing about her childhood, through fiction and recently onto some fantastic poems. Not all of her work goes on her blog, she is kind enough to share some directly onto G+ but to me that is the same thing.

Ms Grace Jolliffe

Grace is a lady which seems to have boundless energy. She is not only a published author but she shares kids stories about a fictional Irish village called Ballyyhoo as well as fantastic photos of the west coast of Ireland. You could find Grace blogging about nearly anything, from writing to reed weaving. She is truly a woman of many talents.

Mrs Jo Robinson

Jo is all the way from the beautiful South Africa, or just round the corner in Google Terms. Jo is a writer of Sci-fi/ fantasy as well as Mainstream literature.  I first came across Jo on the community Readers Meet Authors and Bloggers. of which Jo is the owner. Unlike many communities Jo actively engauges with people who are members, giving advice and help to those of us just getting started. Since that first meeting Jo has been a constant joy to read, bringing the heat of the African nation into my life on a regular basis.

A Bit About Me.

As part of the blog hop there are four questions to be answered about my writing, here we go.

What are you working on?
The main challenge I have set myself at the moment is a longer story. I wanted to see how long I can keep a good plot going. I know most of these are stuffed away in hard drives but being a bit foolish I decided to do my first attempt in public and in real time writing. It is called Honeysuckle Lane and I have up to chapter 15 on the blog to date. Other than that - a pirate story for Lucie and the gang is coming along.

How does your work differ from others in the Genre?
I am not sure I have a genre. I don't think of myself as a writer or an author. I hope I am a story teller. People tell them to me, I tell them to you, sometimes I make them up. If you get a fraction of the enjoyment from reading them as I get from writing them I will die a happy man.

Why do you write what you write?
Since I was a kid I loved stories and making up stories. I was about eight, I wrote a story for my English homework about a spy, stuck on a mountain, in a snow storm. I though it was great. I remember how upset I was with the teacher when all she wanted to talk about was the spelling mistakes. "But did you read the story?" I kept asking her. I still write for the very same reason, I love it.

How does your writing process work?
It might be a photo, a word, a casual remark or something I see. A tiny speck that seems to get sucked into my brain for some unknown reason. Once there I run it round and round, twisting and turning it until I can see the start middle and end of the story in big blocks.

After that I just sit at the keyboard and lit it fly. I don't worry about structure, spelling or anything. Then I leave it sit. When I have forgotten what I wanted to write I go back and read it. Mostly I change nearly everything. I might do this a few times. The last time I change the font the size and background, then read it again. This time I will notice more things that need changing. The last time I read it out loud like I am on stage. I will find more that need changing. At some point you have to press the print button. Hope to God and let it fly.

So, there you have it. I want thank everyone that has ever read one of my stories. Hug's to all that have taken the time to leave a plus, letting me know you have been for a visit. My eternal gratitude is laid before the special people who have taken the time to type a few kind words in reply. 

Yours sincerely

Squid McFinnigan 

Friday, 28 March 2014

Mike's Bloody Cast

Mike’s Bloody Cast

Uncle Mike spend nearly six months twirling in that bed. He was so sea sick when they took him off it, he would have rivalled any sailor in a wobbly walking contest. If he could walk at all that was. All the doctors were amazed at Mike's recovery, it was nearly supernatural.

"Thank God that's over, Doc," said Mike, as the orderlies were undoing the straps that had kept him in place, for nearly half a year.

"You've done great Mike, but you still have a way to go. We're putting you in a cast. You'll have to take it easy for a good while yet. Your bones have knitted, but they’re still very weak."

"Slap her on Doc, and let’s get this show on the road. Rita is driving up in the van to get me."

The doctor started laughing, "You're going nowhere in a van, or a car for that matter."

"How the hell am I getting back to Killblaney? I don't think you'll land a chopper in me yard."

"Were sending you home by ambulance."

"Ah that's daft Doc, there is nothing wrong with me. It's just a cast. I was going to have a go at driving home myself, I can feel my feet just fine."

"Now that is daft, Mike. You can’t walk, there is no way you can drive."

"I wouldn't be walking, Doc I’d be sitting. Once I get old Betsy into fourth gear, all I need do is guide her home. After all, it's downhill from Dublin to there."

The consultant started laughing again, "Don't count on sitting much either."

"What do you mean by that?" Mike called, after the consultant as he walked toward the door.

"You'll see," said the doctor, over his shoulder and left the ward.

When Mike was wheeled from the plaster room, he knew exactly why the doctor was laughing. From his neck to his waist, he was completely encased in a rock hard tube of plaster. His hands were jutting out of his body at a thirty degree angles, and braced with timber struts. The nurse that had applied the cast had been so quick, Uncle Mike told her if she ever got sick of the job, she could always come plastering for him.

Uncle Mike was laid out in the ambulance, like a pole-axed scarecrow. Rita tried to keep up in the overheating van, as they journeyed south. He was uncomfortable, but Mike felt great to be headed home after so long, discomfort was a small price to pay. When Mike got home, they had a bed ready for him in the sitting room, there was no way he was going to manage the stairs. Uncle Mike didn't think it was too bad actually, close to the fridge and the TV, what else could a man want. Over the next few days, he found a few other things that would fill his dreams.

 The first of these is to be able to go to the bathroom by himself. It was embarrassing. But the real bane of his life was growing by the day, it was quite literally, an itch he couldn't scratch.

"Rita!" he called, from the sitting room. "Rita, bring a clothes hanger."

 She left the spuds she was pealing and went into the sitting room. There was Mike wiggling around as much as he could. His face scrunched up in annoyance.

"What do you want a clothes hanger for?" she asked.

"I have a flipping itch, it's driving me crazy." Rita threw her eyes to heaven, but went to rummage in her wardrobe. It just so happened, shortly after that, Father Tom decided to call. The priest knocked on the door but got no answer. He could hear the sound of the TV coming from the sitting room, as well as voices. Father Tom tried the door and found it open. Back in those days, it wasn’t unusual to find a door locked. Friends and neighbours often wandered in for a chat. Father Tom stepped into the hall. From the semi opened sitting room door came the sound of voices

"Oh God - yes, Rita. That's lovely pet, a bit harder," Mike said. Father Tom's hand hovered over the handle.

"How does that feel?" a woman's voice.

"Fecken haven , shove it in a bit further will you."

"Is that enough?"

"That's it. That's IT! Harder, Whooho , Faster."

Father Tom's hand fell away from the handle. He backed out of the hall, closing the door quietly behind him. Father Tom hurried away, red faced. If he had only opened the door he would have seen Rita, itching Uncle Mikes back under the cast using an unravelled clothes hanger.

Over the following weeks, Uncle Mike was visited daily by a physiotherapist. He felt the exercises she had him doing, were far too easy. Mike was an all or nothing kind of guy, he was the kind of man that would use a cannon to swat a fly. One day, after the Physio had left, Mike decided to take things into his own hands. He sent one of the kids get his brother PJ.  Rita arrived back home to find PJ, and the kids, hoisting Uncle Mike out of the bed.

"What the hell is going on." she asked.

"I'm getting out of this bed. Are you going to stand there shouting at us, or give us a hand?"

With Rita and PJ pulling, the three kids pushing from the back, Mike was levered to his feet. His knees wobbled under the unaccustomed strain. Rita and PJ had to take most of his weight. With all his might, Uncle Mike forced his legs to take the strain. Little by little, they let Mike stand alone, shakily, but standing. With rivers of sweat running down his face, Mike forced a smile, "See. Easy."

After that, Mike was helped up on his feet again and again. His legs taking the weight better each time. The next time the Physio visited, Mike called for Rita to help him up. When the Physio saw what they were going to do, she went pale.

"Hang on, you can’t do that," she said to Rita.

"Tell him not me," said Rita, helping Mike swing himself out of the bed. With just a little pull he was on his feet.

"What do you think of that," said Mike, beaming from ear to ear.

The Physio looked on, slack jawed. "There is no way you should be standing Mike. It's not possible." Once she had the chance to get over her shock, she advised Mike that he should not push things to quickly, or he might end up undoing all the good he had done. She had no idea who she was dealing with. Uncle Mike had decided he had enough of laying around, and once my Uncle Mike got something into his head, nothing was going to stand in his way.

Soon, Mike was able to get up by himself, and began taking his first shuffling steps. The sound of crashing ornaments became common place, as he stumbled around the house, with stiff arms and stiffer legs. One afternoon, Rita arrived home to find Mike flat on his back in the middle of the kitchen.

"Holy God, Mike, are you ok? What happened?"

"I went left, but my legs went right, I'm grand girl."

"Did you hurt yourself? Should I call Dr Carey?"

"I didn't feel a thing. This cast is like an all over crash helmet. Just give the lads a call to lift me up."

With PJ on the way over to give a hand, Mike had no choice but to stay where he was until he got there. Rita got on with putting away the shopping. They chatted away as if it was the most normal thing in the world, Rita having to walk around Mike as she went about her chores. When PJ arrived he found Rita sitting at the kitchen table drinking tea, Mike lying on the floor with his mug sitting beside his head, sipping the milky tea through a straw, chatting away about Granny Begley's missing chickens.

"Hey - about time You-sir, get me up for feck sake." Mike called, when PJ walked into the kitchen.

"Don't I get a cup of tea first? It's not like you’re going anywhere."

"Stop you messing and get me up."

"Come on Rita, Coronation Street is starting on the telly, Leave that grumpy old bollocks where he is," said PJ, taking Mikes cup of tea and heading for the sitting room with a smiling Rita following on behind.

"Lads, Hey. Don't leave me here Ah come-on!" called Mike. Inside the sitting room PJ and Rita stifled laughter. It was not often, you got one over on Uncle Mike, so they were going to enjoy it.

As months passed, Mike made extraordinary leaps forward. He was able to get up by himself and walk around the house. You have to understand that Mike was in constant discomfort, but battled through willing himself to get back on his feet. The more mobile he got, the itchier the cast became. About once an hour, you were guaranteed to hear, "This bloody cast," as Mike struggled to reach itchy areas, with a succession of kitchen implements. His reinforced upper arms were making a difficult job, impossible.

One afternoon Rita walked in on Mike getting one of the kids to saw through the timber struts with a hand saw. Once his hands had been freed from the plaster prison the true destruction began. As the days rolled by more holes appeared in his cast. It wasn't long before Mike settled himself into the driver seat of the Digger and powered it up. The shuddering and shaking had the most unusual effect on Uncle Mike. It eased the pain in his back and actually rattled the itch away. From that day on when Mike was awake, you would find him rumbling around in his digger, even when there was no work to be done.

Rita and Mike called round to Granny Begley's for a visit shortly before he was due to get the cast off. In the back yard, PJ had a rust riddled Ford Escort up on blocks, trying to fit it with a new exhaust pipe. Mike was wearing a shirt over his cast, which was a shadow of its former self. Firstly it was never going to be white again. Engine oil and gear grease had permanently blackened the cast. Holes had appeared here and there in the body but the neck and base of the cast looked like giant rats had been nibbling on it. Uncle Mike couldn’t resist the lure of a car on blocks, and soon found himself in the back yard. Rita and Granny Begley watched from the kitchen window as he wiggled his cast clad body under the jacked up front of the car. PJ was feeding the new exhaust pipe along the clamps from the back.

Now, the brothers loved each other but like most brothers, they also drove each other a little crazy at times. It was not long before the voices in the back yard began to raise in volume and tone.

"What the feck are you doing back there," came from the car near Mike’s legs.

"Shut up and just get the pipe screwed on," called PJ from the boot end of the car where his legs were kicking like a dying fish.

"Shove it closer," called Mike.

"I'm pushing it," called PJ back.

"Push it harder!" yelled Mike.

"I'm pushing the fucking thing, it’s stuck!"

"Hang on, Hang on, I see the problem. It’s caught in a hole in my bloody cast." 

I don't think the two sweating men found it funny but everyone in the kitchen thought it was hilarious.

The End.

Monday, 24 March 2014

The greats of Irish Rock

The Legends of Rock

Phil Lynott
I must admit to being a huge fan of rock music, more specifically Irish Rock. Two men dominated my early musical life, Garry Moore and Phil Lynott.  This was later reinforced by meeting and coming friendly with Brush Shiels. Brush is an amazing man, one of the true individuals still existing in an industry bending all to conform to a stereotype. I have seen Brush perform live on many occasions. No matter what crowd he is faced with, from bikers to blue rinse old biddies, he always gets the crowd going. The sad thing is that I never got the chance to see his great friends play with him. Although I feel I have touched greatness through his stories.

 Brush Shiels
Phil joined Brush in founding a band called Skid Row. At this stage Phil sang lead but did not play any instruments. It was not long before Phil was having trouble with maintaining key and pitch, it was down to his tonsils.  Phil had to take a break from the band.
Garry Moore was born in Belfast and joined Skid Row replacing a member that went to work full time in the Guinness brewery. When Phil recovered, his spot in the band had been taken. Brush felt bad and offered to teach him to play the guitar. Thinking the base would be easier he sold Phil a Fender base for £36 Irish pounds and the rest is history.
Garry Moore
Phil would later go on to front one of the greatest rock bands ever to come out of Ireland, Thin Lizzy. Garry Moore and Phil Lynott continued to work together for many years and would later collaborate on an album called Out in the Fields resulting in the amazing piece of music I want to share with you tonight. The great tragedy of this story is that Phil Lynott passed away on the 4th Jan 1986 and Garry Moore was taken from this world in Christmas 2012. Two legends in the truest sense. I will always regret not seeing them live. It is all the more remarkable to remember that they were producing music of this vibrancy as far back as the late 1960's. It seems just as fresh to my ears today. I hope you take a little over six minutes to enjoy this video, you wont be sorry.

Parisienne Walkways - Garry Moore / Phil Lynott (Live)

Monday, 17 March 2014

Swings & Roundabouts for Mike

Swings and Roundabouts for Mike

Uncle Mike’s first night in hospital felt like a giant game of pass the parcel. He was shipped from emergency room, to X-ray, to intensive care, and back to X-ray again. Even though the doctors were all being very nice, Mike could feel the nervousness in the air. Mike was strapped to his bed by so many restraining straps, he felt like Gulliver, in the land of Lilliput. Mike’s eyelids had just closed for a few moments, when the breakfast trolley woke him up, again. No wonder there was so many sick people in hospital, thought Mike, no one could get a wink of sleep.

"Hey, nurse. Any chance of a cup of tea?"

"Sorry Mike, we can’t give you anything, until the surgeon has been to see you," she said, giving breakfast to the guy in the next bed. The smell was torture, he was starving, but he was always starving.

"Go on. A sneaky cup of tea, no one will know," Mike said, winking, and wiggling his fingers at her.

"Would you stop it," she said, slapping his fingers, but giving him a little smile. He still didn't get any tea. A little after ten, a tall doctor in his fifties arrived, with a load of younger doctors trailing behind him. He looked like a mammy duck leading her ducklings to water. Mike could see him outside the ward speaking to his group. After a few minutes, the tall doctor came in alone, leaving all his little ducklings clustered around the door.

"Good morning, Mr Beagly. I'm Kenny O'Regan, your consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon."

"That's mighty, Doc, I didn't even know I had an orthopaedic. Did I break it?"

The surgeon laughed, "Actually you did, Mr Beagly."

"Call me Mike, Doc," he said. "I would shake hands, but I am a bit tied up."

"It's great to keep a sense of humour, Mike, but this situation is very serious. By some miracle you have avoided any major damage to internal organs, but your spine has been fractured along your fifth thoracic vertebrae. You have been very lucky, actually. It’s a compression fracture which has not dislocated, but still might. The long and short of it is this, one jolt or movement in the wrong direction, and you may never walk again."

"So, you’re telling me, I'll be fine."

"I didn’t say that, Mike, but it could be a hell of a lot worse. You’re not out of the woods, yet. We need to move you to a special unit in Dublin."

"No way, Doc, why can’t you look after me here? Dublin is too far from Rita and the kids."

"Your treatment is too complex, Mike."

"I really don't want to go, Doctor, and anyway, going all that way in an ambulance will kill me. I think I would be better off, staying where I am."

"You're going nowhere by ambulance, Mike. We'll be sending you by helicopter."

Only for the fact he was tied to the bed, Mike would have shot straight out of it. "A chopper, are you serious?"

Doctor O'Regan laughed, "Of course I am, Mike."

A frown creased Mike's forehead, "Do I have to pay for it?"

"No Mike, it’s on the house. Are you up for a trip, so?"

"Count me in, Doc, are we going now?"

"Not just yet, Mike. Do you mind if my students come and review the details of your case? We don't often get cases like yours, plenty of broken bones, but you're a little special."

"No problem, Doc. I am well used to teaching youngsters a thing or two." Dr O'Regan beckoned to the group, and they filed into the room, surrounding the bed.

Uncle Mike took them all in, giving them a huge grin. "Jesus, lads, would you crack a smile," he said to the group, "or I’ll think ‘tis a wake you've come for." Uncle Mike pointed a finger in the direction of a tall ginger-haired intern. "Hey, freckles, are you one of the Cunninghams?" The young doctor blushed, as the rest of the group laughed at him.

"No, Mr Begley, My name is Sweeney."

"There is a breed of a Cunningham in you. You’re the spitting head of them."

"I assure you, I am all Sweeney," said the mortified young man, his face as red as his hair.

"Fair enough," said Mike, turning his attention to the group in general. "What do you lot want to know, first?"

The trainee doctors again gave a little sniggered, again, Doctor O'Regan turned to Mike, "Why don't I get them started?"

"Fair enough Doc, give me a shout if you get stuck on anything." More laughter flowed from the gathered students.

It was later that afternoon when they came to get Mike ready for his trip to Dublin. Once again strapped to a backboard, he was wheeled out to the car park, when the helicopter was due to arrive. Rita was there, to see him off. Two orderlies and a nurse were also alongside, to help with the loading.

"Do you think they will fly over the house, Rita?"

"Why don't you ask them?"

"I’d love to have a go at flying one.  Hey - I think I can hear it coming. Can you see it, Rita?"

"It's off over there," Rita said, pointing behind Mike’s head.

"Hey, hey, hey, lads, will you twist me around, so I can have a look at it?"

The orderlies pushed Mike’s bed in a circle, making the nurse that was holding his drip go with them. The problem was, while Mike was making a circle, the helicopter was circling, as well.

"Keep going, you nearly had him," encouraged Mike, as the whole team danced a merry circle in the middle of the car park. Eventually both the massive Sea King Helicopter, and Mike’s trolley, came to a rest.

"Sweet baby Jesus, look at the size of the thing," Mike gasped. "How the feck can it stay up in the air?"

"You're not getting nervous, Mike?" asked one of the orderlies.

"Not on your nelly, lads, get me hooked up and let’s get going."

The nurse smiled at Rita, as Mike was being strapped into the back of the helicopter. "It's a blessing, if you ask me," she said, rather cryptically.

"What is?" asked Rita.

"Being a little innocent," she said, nodding towards Mike, wiggling his fingers and smiling wildly "There he is, perhaps never to walk again, and all he can think about, is taking a ride in a helicopter."

Rita smiled, and said, "You could be right," wondering to herself whether the pot was calling the kettle black.

The orderlies and the chopper crew settled Mike in, while Rita and the nurse watched on from a safe distance. After a few minutes, Mike’s voice rose above the high pitched whine of the aircraft engine. "Rita!" Not many voices could be heard above the whirring Rolls Royce Engine, but Mike managed.

"What is it, Mike?"

"The driver fella said he will swing by the house, on the way to Dublin. Will you ring the kids and tell them to be looking out for us?"

"Okay, Mike," said Rita.

"Tell them to take a photo for the album."

"I will, Mike. I’ll see you on the weekend," said Rita, leaning in to give him a kiss. She couldn’t help but feel a little queasy, at the thought of him being up in the air in this thing. It was insane, but the nurse might be right. There he was, broken back, good chance of being crippled for life, small chance of dying in a huge ball of flames, and Mike was the happiest she could ever remember seeing him.
"Don't worry girl, I will be right as rain in a few days," Mike said, as they closed the sliding doors, and the engine began to build in pitch. Rita and the hospital crew retreated, as the blades of the helicopter began to whir through the air. Before the wheels left the ground, the noise was deafening. The huge machine inched into the sky, twisting away into the evening sunset.

True to his word, the captain of the coastguard helicopter diverted over Killblany, but the picture was never captured. Back in those days, it took longer for Rita to reach a phone, than it took the helicopter to reach Killblany. The kids actually did hear it, and even saw the huge red and white aircraft hovering over the house, before peeling off to the north east. If only they knew their father was in it, waving his fingers at them. The flight from Cork to Dublin only lasted about forty minutes, but it was a highlight of Uncle Mike’s life. In direct comparison, the next three months were some of the hardest days he ever faced.

When Mike arrived at the Rehabilitation Centre, he was prodded and poked for hours. Eventually he was strapped into a huge circler bed. It rotated constantly. For the first few days, Mike couldn't sleep, between the pain and the constant movement, it was agony. On the third day, exhaustion took over, and Mike passed out. Round and round and round Mike went, never stopping, except for more poking and prodding.

A sour faced old matron ruled the ward with an iron fist. Mike called her, “Sister Tank”, as he could feel her coming, long before he saw her. Back in those days, patients were allowed to smoke on the wards. Mike was very fond of his fags, as was the guy in the bed to his left. His skinny neighbour was a spotty-faced joy rider. Mike was glad this little runt was more or less, confined to his wheelchair. Otherwise, nothing would have been safe from his sticky fingers. The joy rider had crashed a car into a street lamp, while being chased by seven squad cars. He was on his way home from a night of ram raiding, when he bumped into a copper’s roadblock. He was very proud of the fact it took seven squads to corner him, and told Mike on several occasions, that if he had not swerved to avoid that dog, it would have taken another ten. The wreck left him paralysed from the chest down, and shaky from the chest up.  The man in the bed to Mike's right was even worse, six hours a day he had to inhale pure oxygen, or he would just pass out. During these times, no one on the ward was allowed smoke.

A few weeks in, it all got too much for the joy rider, he drove at the man in the right hand bed with a flaming lighter in his shaking hand, and cursing with the lack of nicotine.
"Hey, you maniac, you'll blow the whole fecking place up," Mike said, but the joy rider advanced on the oxygen tent like some demented, shuddering, suicide bomber.

"Sister, sister, SISTER!" yelled Mike.

Nurse tank managed to turn off the manic joy rider’s chair, just on the point of mass destruction. She lashed the Dublin byo, with the sharpest edge of her tongue.
"Smoking is doing none of you any good, and is a filthy habit," was her parting shot.

Later that day, Uncle Mike was having a particularly uncomfortable time, he was given extra pain medication which helped him sleep. Mike came round in the early hours of the morning. Anyone that has ever smoked will understand that one of the first things that crosses a smokers mind when they wake up, is having a smoke. Uncle Mike was no different. As unhappy circumstances would have it Mike’s bed was rotating away from his bedside locker, when he woke. Mike waited and waited until the bed came around and lined up with his locker again. Mike groped in the drawer, but his fingers couldn’t find the cigarettes. He searched with blind fingers but before he could find the cigarette box, his fingers were dragged away by the rotating bed.

Mike had to wait an agonising hour before the bed again reached the bedside table. This time Mike wasn’t going to be outdone. He stretched as far as he could and delved his hand into the drawer’s depths. He just could not find his fags. As the bed began to rotate away Mikes sleeve got caught on drawer knob. Mike pulled, but this only got him more entangled. Mike felt the drag across the chest increase, as the weight of the bedside locker dragged on his pyjamas. In a sicking moment, the locker left the ground bringing with it the bedside light, water jug and bottles of Lucozade left by visiting relatives. The crashing of glass bottles brought sister Tank running down the corridor.

"Mr Beagley, what is going on here?" cried sister tank, from the door.

Uncle Mike twirled through the air entwined with the bedside locker. What could he say to explain what had happened besides the truth. "Just looking for my fag's sister."

It took a good twenty minutes to get the room back to normal. After the near firebombing and attempted destruction of a ward, it came as no surprise when Sister Tank confiscated all cigarettes, issuing them to the patents one at a time after meals. Only my Uncle Mike could cause so much trouble, while completely strapped to a bed.

You can get all of Uncle Mike's story in one place, along with the combined tales of Father Tom. Hope you enjoy them.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Uncle Mike

Uncle Mike

My uncle Mike is a unique character in many ways. He could best be described as a mild mannered tornado, with a huge smile. He has his own particular way of looking at the world, and some of the things he gets up to would leave you shaking your head in amazement. Uncle Mike always had one scheme or other brewing, but things didn’t often go to plan.

Mike's greatest gift is his ability to take anything that the world throws at him with a laugh and a smart comment.  If Uncle Mike had been on the Titanic, he would have said “What’s all the fuss lads, sure tis only a bit of water.” So, as an introduction to this larger than life fella, I thought I would tell you about the time he went to buy a Christmas tree.

Back in the eighties, Mike had been married to Rita for about seven years. They had three young tearaways, who seemed determined to follow in their father’s wild footsteps. I don't know how Rita stayed sane, she was either a saint or had a huge stash of Valium someplace. The trail of destruction, that was Mike's life, was rapidly being added to, by his three little helpers. One shared room in Granny Begley's house could no longer cope with the madness, they needed a place of their own. That was why they moved, lock stock and barrel, five miles, to the neighbouring village of Killblany.

Let me tell you, Ireland was a tough place to live in, during the recession hit eighties, and rural Ireland was positively spartan. Uncle Mike was a mighty wheeler and dealer, always on the lookout for a bargain, but he was too soft by far, to ever make any money from his schemes. Mostly, Mike’s job consisted of driving his rusty old JCB on building sites. That is, whenever there was work to be had. 

Like most Irish men, Uncle Mike loved a good knees-up and was the life and soul of any party, always quick with a joke, or a song belted out with gusto. Within weeks of moving to Killblany, Mike had made friends with nearly everyone in the village. There wasn’t a table in the place that hadn’t shaded his feet, while he drank bucket loads of tea over a good chat. When Paul, the teenage son of a widowed neighbour, needed a favour, Uncle Mike was only too happy to help. Paul wanted to get a Christmas tree as a surprise for his mother, and who better to rope in to help, than Mike.

At this time, Uncle Mike was driving a bright orange Renault C4 that had seen nearly half a million miles as a post van, before he picked it up in one of his famous deals. So it was, that two weeks before Christmas, on a frosty winter’s afternoon, Uncle Mike and his young sidekick coaxed the little van to life and went in search of a cheap tree. They vanished into the gloom, leaving an oily cloud of smoke trailing after them.

They ended up in Clonmel Town, which was packed with Christmas shoppers. It took them ages to even find a parking space, and that was only by a bit of luck. The amount of people out shopping was crazy, considering they times they were living in. Most weeks, the average family classified their needs into two main categories, can you eat it, or can you drink it? If you could not eat it or drink it - it was a luxury, and have you ever tried chewing on a Christmas tree? Uncle Mike thought that the place would be awash with the things. He imagined they’d be practically giving them away for free. As it turned out, there was only one man selling trees in the square, and thankfully, he had plenty left in the back of his truck. Uncle Mike waddled up to him, with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, trying to look as casual as possible.

“Well there, you-sir,” Mike said, in his sing song way. Uncle Mike had the worst memory, and he called everyone he ever met “You Sir,” the two words rolled into one, “Yousir.”

“Well, lads,” said the man selling the Christmas trees.

“What are you asking for a tree?” asked Mike, nudging one with his foot.

“Fifteen Pounds,” said the man.

“Fifteen! Are they gold plated, or what?” Mike laughed.

“Fifteen, and that is a fair price, look at the size of them,” said the man, holding one out, to be fully appreciated.

“Aye, grand size, but look at the needles on it. It's half dead.”

“It’s not, tis only cut fresh this morning,” said the trader, angrily.

“Twenty-five for three of em,” said Mike, spitting in his hand and shoving it forward. The man looked at Mike's hand like it was the sweaty armpit of a leper.

“Forty and that is the best I can do.”

“Twenty-five and you’re lucky to get it. The hills are covered with the things,” said Mike.

“Forty quid, or piss off!”

“No need for that,” said Mike.

“Take it or leave it.”


“Feck off, you chancers,” said the trader, throwing the tree into the back of the truck.

“Suit yourself,” said Mike, with a shrug, and walked away with his neighbour’s son trailing behind him.

"What about the tree?” asked the young lad, when they were out of earshot.

“Don't worry about that fella, there will be loads trees this time of year,” said Mike, but there weren't. They looked everywhere they could think of, but no one else was selling Christmas trees. 

"Thanks for trying, Mike, I couldn't afford fifteen quid anyway. We might as well head for home."

"Don't be talking like that you-sir, we came for a Christmas tree, we’re going home with one. There is more than one way to skin a cat, you know." Mike threw the van into gear and left town in a haze of blue smoke.


It was getting dark, when they pushed the overheating old motor up the mountain road. The bushes rubbed both sides of the van, long before they reached the top of the forestry road. It wasn’t long before they had to park up the C4 and make the rest of the journey on foot. Uncle Mike got a rusty old bushman from the back of the van, and walked away into the undergrowth, with young Paul tripping along blindly behind him. They had been walking for fifteen minutes when the sky clouded over killing whatever little light the moon was providing. They were as good as blind.

“We’ll never find a tree, now,” Paul said.

“Jesus. Hold that,” Mike said, shoving the saw into Paul's arms. Uncle Mike swung himself up into the lower branches of a massive tree. He was surprisingly nimble, for a man that thought a triple helping of dinner was just a nibble.

“What are you doing?” Paul called.

“Look at the top of this one. That will make a grand Christmas tree.”

“You've got to be kidding.”

"Hold on there,” said Mike, leaning down to grab the saw out of the young lad’s hands. He clambered up the tree like a chunky, thirty year old monkey. Soon he was sawing like a mad man, eighty feet above the ground. Paul could just make out his shadow, against the lighter sky. The top of the tree came crashing into the undergrowth nearby, scaring the life out of Paul. He could only just make out the shape of Uncle Mike, swinging around in the sky, and laughing like a teenager.  
“That’s fantastic,” Paul shouted up, when he pulled the decapitated treetop from the brambles.

“I told you we'd get a Christmas tree.” laughed Uncle Mike.

“You sure did, Mike, come back down now, will yea.”

“What about me and Mrs O’Brien?"

"You’re going to kill yourself."

"Rubbish. I did this all the time, as a kid," Uncle Mike said, starting to sway the tree top, over and back.

“Come down, Mike.”

"Shush, you old woman!” Mike shouted. It dawned on Paul, what Mike was going to do. He was trying to get the top of the tree to swing far enough over, so he could grab the top of the next tree.


“I am nearly there, one more swing.” Mike shouted, as he swished backwards and forwards, clutching what remained of the tree. With one final sway, Mike launched himself into the dark night sky.

Uncle Mike grabbed a branch, but it never stood a chance against a flying eighteen stone Irishman. The branch snapped like the dry twig it was, and Mike sailed past the trunk of the tree, into the darkness beyond. Uncle Mike whistled through the air before landing with a sickening impact in a briar patch, a few feet away. Paul felt the ground tremble under the impact, and he fought his way through the undergrowth, finding Mike laying spread-eagled on his back. He was awake, but the wind had been knocked out of him good and proper. Mike managed to take a few strangled breaths. 

“You okay, Mike?”

“No, fairly sure I’m not. I felt something go squish,” Mike managed to say, between shallow painful breaths.


"Yea, inside," he said, pointing a finger at his ample belly.

“Can you stand up?” Paul asked. Mike strained, but nothing moved, his face a picture of agony. Uncle Mike's knuckles cracked as he squeezed the life out of the branch he was still holding.

“I think I am in big trouble, Paul," he said, realising that he couldn’t move his legs.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck” said the young lad, walking in circles.

“I’ll go for help,” Paul said, running off in the general direction of the van.

"Wait! Ouch!” Mike wheezed, squeezing the branch to control the pain. Paul came back and knelt beside him, waiting for the pain to subside.

“Don’t leave me here,” pleaded Mike. Paul was in a blind panic, he was on the verge of running off again, when Uncle Mike asked, “Where are we?”

“How do I know?”

“How the feck will you find me again?”

“I don’t think I should move you.”

“It will be okay, you have to get me back to the van," Mike said, as reassuringly as he could. 

"You're too heavy, Mike. I can't lift you."

"You're going to have to drag me." Mike winced, as he lifted his arms, allowing Paul to get a grip of him.

"I don't think we should do this." Paul said, once more.

"It'll be okay, trust me." 

Paul heaved backwards, and Mike slid out of the bushes. Uncle Mike stifled a groan of pain, concentrating on squeezing the branch he still held in a steely grip. Every tug was agony. Brambles ripped at Mike's skin and clothes, as he was dragged back in the direction of the van. An excruciating hour later, they arrived, it felt like a lifetime for them both. Uncle Mike was a sweaty mess, as pale as a ghost. Paul didn’t look much better.

"It feels like my guts are hanging out,” Mike said, when he got his breath back.

"You look okay to me."

"It hurts like hell. I can't move my legs."
"I'll get you into the van," Paul said, opening the back doors. He got Uncle Mike’s arm over his shoulder, and heaved with all his might. Mike landed in the back of the back of the van, with a thump.

"Oww, Jesus, take it easy. I am not a bag of spuds."

"Sorry, Mike."

The little orange van rattled down the winding rutted road. From the back of the van came grunts of pain, each time they bounced over a rough patch.

When Paul swung the van onto the main road, Mike called out from the back, "Hey, Paul. You better turn back. I think you missed a pothole." 

"If you don't like my driving, why not get out and walk," said Paul, with a smile on his face. The way he looked at it, if Mike was still able to crack a joke, he couldn’t be that bad.

"You’re a right funny man, right funny," said Mike, from somewhere behind him.

"I don't know what you're complaining about, I was the one doing all the pulling and dragging. You were just lying there, you lazy lump." Just then the van hit yet another hole in the road. The bounce caused Mike to cry out. Paul felt bad for teasing him, so he drove on as carefully as possible.


Paul pulled the van into Dr Carey's driveway and jumped out, leaving the engine running. He ran to the front door and rapped the knocker, quick and hard. The lights came on in the hall, and the door opened. Mr Carey was standing there, a newspaper in his hand.

"Is Doctor Carey there, it’s an emergency!"

"Mary," Mr Carey called, and a grey haired lady appeared from the kitchen, wearing yellow washing up gloves.

"Hello Paul, is everything alright?"

"It's Mike Begley, Dr Carey, he’s taken a fall and can't feel his legs."

"Where is he?" she asked, stripping off her marigold gloves.

"In the back of the van, doc."

"Bring my bag will you, dear," Doctor Carey said to her husband, following Paul to the back of the orange van.

The doors creaked open, and there was Uncle Mike, stretched out on the floor, where a Christmas tree should have been, still clutching a fir branch across his chest.

"Hi Doc, how you doing?" asked Mike.

"I think the question should be how are you, Mike. I heard you had a fall?"

"He fell off a -" started Paul, but Mike cut across him.

"A roof of a house, Doctor." Mike said, the look he gave Paul said, shush.

"Don't move from there, Mike, I am going to get a light to examine you." said Doctor Carey, going back inside her house.

"Why did you tell her you fell of a roof?" asked Paul

"We don't need every man, and his dog, knowing we were robbing the forestry, do we?"

Doctor Carey came back with her bag and a big red torch. She climbed into the back of the van and began examining Mike.

"I think it's my guts, Doc, I felt something go squish, when I hit the ground."

"Well, they are all still on the inside, Mike. That's a good start," she smiled at him. After ten minutes, she got out of the van.

"I can't tell how much damage you’ve done, Mike, but it is fairly clear that you have injured your spine. There could be internal organ damage. How high was this roof you fell from?"

"I would say - about the height of a telephone pole," wheezed Mike.

"That’s well over the height of a three story house, you’re lucky to be alive." said Doctor Carey, not looking one bit convinced by Mike’s story. "I am going to call an ambulance, it is too dangerous to move you again in this heap of junk."

"Is there really any need of that Doc, Betsey here is sensitive." Mike said, patting the floor of the van.

"Mike, one jolt and you may never walk again," Doctor Carey said, her voice grave and cold. She turned to Paul and said, "You had better run up and get Rita, someone will have to go with him, to Cork."

"You’re sending me to Cork?" shouted Mike, from the back of the van.

"We have to Mike, you might need surgery," she said.

"Jesus, that's great, Rita always wanted to go Christmas shopping in Cork, she will be delighted."

"It's not a shopping trip, Mike, this is serious." Doctor Carey snapped at him.

A quiet "Sorry" floated out of the back of the van, making Doctor Carey crack a huge smile. It was all too surreal. "Run on and get Rita, Paul." Doctor Carey said, again. As Paul turned to run down the driveway, Mike shouted out of the van.

"Tell her to bring my razor, and some clean clothes. Tell her not to forget the underpants. Remember the underpants, clean ones!"

"I’ll be back in a minute Mike," said Dr Carey.

"Did he hear me about the underpants," Mike asked, before she could leave.

"I am sure he did," she said, with a smile. As she walked away, she heard Mike saying to himself.

"Can’t be going to hospital without clean pants on."

From the house, Dr Carey called for an ambulance transfer to University Hospital Cork. She detailed spinal injuries, possible internal bleeding, and possible organ damage. After she hung up the phone, she wondered if she should have included possible brain trauma. No, she thought, Mike was about this mad all the time. As it turned out, the ambulance arrived before Rita did. Mike was being slid onto the back board, when a winded Rita looked in the back of the van.

"Holy God, Mike. What have you done to yourself?" she asked.

"I fell off the roof," Uncle Mike said, as his head was being wedged into a neck brace.

"What the blazes were you doing on a roof, I thought you were going to buy a Christmas tree for Paul's mother?"

"It’s a long story. I‘ll tell you later," Mike said, going very red in his face.

Dr Carey was standing outside the van, and laughed to herself. It all made sense now. Up to now, she had been baffled by the branch Mike was holding when he arrived. He was still very reluctant to let it go of it. Only when she said she would give him a shot for the pain, would he release the thing.

"Did you bring the underpants?" Mike asked.

"I did, two pairs."

"Two pairs, we’re not going on holidays, woman, just a quick trip to the hospital." At this comment, even the paramedics laughed. When Mike was settled into the stretcher, Dr Carey gave him a morphine shot, for the pain.

"What CC was that, Doctor?” asked one of the ambulance men. When she told him, he looked surprised, and said "That's quite a bit."

Dr Carey nodded and said, "I know, but he is a horse of a man."

As the ambulance doors were closing, Dr Carey could hear Mike asking the driver what his name was, and if he was anything to the O'Briens up near Grange.

The ambulance crew would later tell the staff in the hospital, it was one of the strangest call outs they’d ever been on. For a guy with such terrible injuries, Mike didn’t stop talking once. Halfway along the sixty mile journey, he treated them to a couple of jokes and even a song. The paramedic turned to the driver after a while, and said in a low voice.

"Do you think he is having a reaction to the morphine?"

Rita, who had sat quietly the whole journey, holding Mike’s hand, overheard the comment and said, "I wouldn't worry, this is actually quiet, for him."
Rita's comment got Mike going again, this time with mother-in-law jokes. Before long, the ambulance was making its way up Patrick Street, in Cork. From where Mike was lying, he had a great view of the sky above him. 

"Holy God Rita, look at the lights."

"They’re lovely, like thousands of stars," she said.

Smiling, Mike squeezed her hand and said, "I told you, I’d bring you to see the Christmas lights, one day."

Rita squeezed his hand back and a little tear fell from the corner of her eye. Rita was the only one that could read him like a book, and she knew, despite his good humour and joking, he was terrified. She knew he understood exactly what could happen, what the consequences might be. She also knew, that if this big bear of a man ended up in a wheelchair, it would kill him, for sure. Mike saw it in her eyes, and smiled his biggest reassuring smile.

"Hey lads, how much further to the hospital?" Mike asked.

"Five miles, Mike."

"Bet you a tenner you can’t make it there in under ten minutes," Mike said, with a wicked grin.

Rita saw the ambulance crew exchange a smile, before the lights and siren screamed into life, rocketing them through the city traffic with four wildly laughing people inside. The happiest little emergency vehicle in the west. 

If you enjoyed this story, you can get all of Uncle Mike's adventures in one place by checking out The Misadventures Of Father Tom. Hope you enjoy them.