Twinkly… Like she was…

Twinkly… Like she was…

Not knowing isn’t always a bad thing but only if it leads to learning. I have always hated not knowing what a word meant or how something worked. I was intrinsically curious as a boy. I remember reading everything I could get my hands on, literally reading one new book every day. It started with the easy stuff at an early age when I got my first library card; Enid Blyton was an early favourite.

There were world’s way beyond my little street and I wanted to experience them all. But it was the little things that enthralled me. I remember we didn’t have a dictionary and I constantly came across new words that I’d have to remember to look up the next time I went to the library.


One such word that stands out was calico.  A girl in the story I was reading wore a calico dress. Although the name of the book has long since been overwritten in the bustle of my mind, I distinctly remember the word and thinking, how beautiful. I don’t really know why the word caught my attention, but it did and I said it out loud and tried to imagine what it was.  I was eight years old  and my first assumption was that it was a colour.  In the context of the story and the girl in that story, it was immediately obvious to me that the colour the word described was yellow.

Perhaps it was the setting, as I liked to lie on the roof of our shed at the end of the garden and read in the summer sun, or perhaps it just was the context in the book, but that calico might mean yellow somehow worked. Usually I’d ask my Mam and she’d tell me. But that day I stayed on the roof until the book was devoured and by the time I’d finished, the word had slipped to the back of my mind.


Some days later I was back in the library and the librarian, a rather pretty woman who wore clothes neatly but with a hint of swish, appeared before me in a yellow dress. I had seen her before and not paid her much attention, but on that day she looked prettier than I remembered, like my Mam, only she was a lot younger and taller.  She wore going out clothes like the ones Mam wore sometimes on special nights out, and her hair was filled with waves like the sea.

I was looking at a book way beyond my ability as I often did, drawn to it by the binding and feel of its weightiness.  I so wanted to be able to read great big books like this one, but I knew from dipping my literary toe in the water, that I never understood them when I did. Someday I knew I would.  They still enthralled me.

“Finnegans Wake?” When I looked up she was smiling down at me. “May I?” I nodded in agreement that she indeed might, and she leaned down and gently took the book from my hands. The pretty librarian opened it and read out loud.

“Riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environ.”

It might as well have been Chinese she was speaking but her voice was musical. I saw the words fall from her lips and felt them on the back of my neck.  They were delicious, floating through the air. Leaving the book open in her pale hands, she smiled at me again. My mind wandered a little as it was prone to do.  She had lost me at ‘Riverrun’ and I was already outside in my head and all the girls on my road were trying to convince me that they could jump higher than I could. That was impossible of course but it was a whimsical notion, the type of weird wandering my mind indulged in. She snapped my back with her sweet voice. zgrl

“This is a splendid choice of book. It’s one of my favourites” She closed the book gently and rubbed its front cover affectionately as though it were a living thing.

“Have you read it?”

I was taken aback by the depth of the conversation. Back then adults didn’t talk to children that way. Libraries were hard and fast about the ‘sssh’ rule too and I looked around. We were alone. She was waiting patiently for an answer and although I was normally a tiny little chatterbox, I was in that moment lost for words, so I just shook my head to tell her that I hadn’t.

“Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret.” She lowered her voice and got down to her hunkers so we were eye to eye…well almost.  “I tried many times to read this one and kept giving up. He’s not an easy man to read.”

I had no idea what she was talking about, but she smelled nice and I noticed that she had diamonds in her ears. They were twinkly like she was.

“Perhaps you’ll find Mr. Joyce a little boring? I did at your age.”  I couldn’t imagine the beautiful lady ever being my age. “What do you like to read? If you could make a wish to find the best book in the whole wide world…what would it be like?”


Somehow she had found my ‘go’ button so off I went. I listed the last five books I had read and told her which one was my favourite and why, and where I had read them, and how long it took me to read them, and which bits I liked and, and, and before you know it I was telling her all sorts of stuff not even related to books.

“Well now…” She said when I finally took a breath and looked over her shoulder as if searching for something in particular and then she stood up.  Her hand was offered and I took it. She led me to the children’s section from where I had strayed, and sat me down at a low table instructing me to “wait here a minute.”

As though she knew precisely where every book in the whole library was, she made a Bee-line for a very particular book, slid it out  from  its perch on a shelf and brought it back to me.

“This is the perfect book for a clever boy like you.”

I looked at it. The book was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. She stood there for a moment while I examined the book. It was a big thick tome compared to what I normally read and the cover was so exciting. I opened the book and felt a little dismayed because there were so many words on each page and the font was smaller than I was used to. Somehow I knew though, that I would read it all the way through, although I didn’t think I’d get through this one in a day.

“When you bring it back, you can tell me what you thought of it.”

She swished away, the girl in the calico dress, leaving me somewhat dazzled in her wake. I later found out what the word calico meant but in that moment, it described my new found friend perfectly. Like I said at the outset, not knowing isn’t always a bad thing but only if it leads to learning…


Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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No S**T Sherlock

No S**T Sherlock

Getting older is “a pain in the hoop Bill” as the boys from Après Match might say. If it’s not one thing it’s another.  My latest venture into the world of exploratory medicine was an MRI for my left shoulder early on Wednesday morning. Now if you’ve ever had and MRI, you’ll know that it’s a painless procedure, unless you suffer from claustrophobia in which case it might be a bit of a struggle. On Wednesday I had one of the most painful experiences I’ve had in years and I’m still not the better of it today.

I woke up this morning, darkly depressed, not a state I am at all comfortable with, as I tend lean to the dark side at the best of times. The chronic pain and the lack of sleep, are at this stage taking a rather heavy toll on my Psyche.


Generally I tend to be the one who keeps the smiley face on so when I switch off its noticeable. I recall hearing the story of the man who goes to ta doctor in London in the early nineteenth century, suffering from depression. The Doctor in his wisdom prescribes a visit to see the great clown Joseph Grimaldi who he declares, will be guaranteed to cheer him up.   I feel like that man when he tells the doctor that it would be no use, explaining  “You see…I am Grimaldi.”

It would appear that I have a combination shoulder injury, adhesive capsulitis  and some damage to my rotator cuff and maybe even, a touch of something else.  I went to the doctor, got diagnosed weeks ago, did several weeks worth of physio, got worse, went to another doctor, did my MRI in advance of some pain killing injections planned for later today and it has been one long pain in the arse, or should I say shoulder throughout.


We all have our troubles don’t get me wrong. I am old enough to have had my fair share of injuries, especially playing sport in my younger, handsomer and dare I say sexier looking years… Yes I dare. There are some who would say that the hint of grey (maybe more than a hint eh?) makes me even sexier, but they tend to be octogenarians with blue rinses, on their way to collect the widow’s pension in the post office, or lonely, not so fussy gay men.  Let’s face it I’ve not reached my use before date, but my best before has long since passed. This particular injury however, does rank at the top end of the pain spectrum for me at least and certainly reminds me that I’m no spring chicken. 

The problem is that I have very little movement in my left arm, or my bad arm as I like to call it. It has always been my bad arm as I am very much right handed. When I played basketball I spent a huge amount of time working on it to teach it how to dribble as good as my right, but it was a poor student. Bad arm! Right now I cannot even raise it to the horizontal either to my front or side and it certainly refuses to go behind my back.

It’s the little things I miss. Washing my hair one handed, slipping a belt through my trousers one handed, even trying to tuck my shirt in at the back have all become ridiculously complex if not impossible on my left side. Luckily I have one dog who walks on a loose lead so she goes to my left while the other two lunatics drag me up the road by my good arm. I used to feel like Indiana Jones, these days I feel more like his auld fella.


So where was I? Ah yes the painful MRI.  I was there on Wednesday morning at 06.30, early as ever, and eventually ended up stripped and be- gowned, and on the table.  My arse was hanging out of the gown as I couldn’t reach around and tie it. What a fine sight indeed. The MRI technician or whatever they are called, was pleasant enough until she told me that I had to tuck my shoulder in against a frame and lie with my arm perfectly still.  Therein lay the problem. Sweet mother of the Divine I couldn’t hold my arm that way. Sure don’t I spend an age each night at every twist and turn, just trying to find a way to position my arm in bed so it doesn’t hurt.  

“Come ‘ere to me darlin” says I (She was more motherly than daringly, but sure I can’t help myself) “how long is this going to take?”  She tucked a pillow under my head and raised my legs a little.

“About 15 minutes,” says she with a smile for the ‘darlin’ in my voice, “why, is that uncomfortable love?” Now for the non-Irish, among ye, the love and the darlin’ thing is very normal, especially for people of a certain age, so don’t be getting the wrong idea.

“Uncomfortable? says I, “ it’s not really bearable, sure I can’t lie like this for any length of time.”


She gently adjusted my wrist. “That’s the best I can do, we need to have your shoulder in that position and you really will have to stay still. Do you think you can manage it?” She gave me a big smile as though that would make it easier. She knew by my face that I was struggling as she handed me the alarm button.  “Sure you can press this if the pain is too bad and I will give you a break, but it would be best if you can stay still until it’s done.”

“Go on” says I against my better judgement. She put a set of headphones on me and away we went into the tunnel of pain. Of course this was not my first MRI and I generally fall asleep inside, despite the loud noise banging away over the music from the headphones.  I always suspect I snore my arse off, but I don’t really care.

Wednesday was different. It seemed like an age before the first of the whirring clicking began and every second that passed, highlighted the pain in my shoulder even more.  I thought about whether or not I could actually last the 15 minutes and quickly came to the conclusion that it was unlikely. The choice was stark but clear. Man the Fup up!


Now that’s easier said than done because for all the bravado that one might muster, lying perfectly still in a narrow tunnel, being bombarded with the blast of noise as you are enveloped in a magnetic field in a room which is essentially a giant faraday cage, while your shoulder and upper arm feels like it is in a vice being squeezed, can alter one’s perception of pain a little.  Sometimes I think too much.  10 seconds becomes 2 minutes, and 2 minutes feel like 10. Halfway through, I briefly considered throwing in the towel but then thought the better of it.

What was the point? I would only have to go back in again anyway and sure that’d be worse. Feck this I thought – mind over matter. Unfortunately I’ve never been one for meditation, the very skill that might have stood me in good stead that morning.  All I had was bloody mindedness and a false sense of machismo.

I’ve seen John Wayne tie a hanky around his bullet-ridden arm and still ride a horse. Was I going to wimp out of a 15 minute MRI because of agonising pain in a shoulder that I desperately wanted to move – just an inch even? The hell I was! 15 minutes later it was all over and I have never been so relieved.

“You were very good” she said “didn’t move at all, the images are perfect and clear” she told me.

“No s**t Sherlock” came to mind, I knew exactly how still I was for 15 minutes, sure hadn’t I counted every flippin’ second! But all I said was “that’s grand so.”

Took me forever to get my clothes back on one handed. I nearly called for help at one stage but I’m way to proud to do that. I collected my greatest hits CD on the way out and slid into the car, never more pleased to be driving an automatic.  My left arm was fubared. I drove one-handed to work and slid the CD into the hard drive on my desk.  It meant nothing to me of course. So I did what any self-respecting highly trained medical professional would do. Hello Dr. Google… You’d be amazed at the diagnosis I came up with after a solid medical training of ten minutes on t’internet.

Now all I have to do is visit my Doctor today for the cortisone injections. Sad as it is, I have never fantasized about anything as much.  I’d let him saw off my arm if it gave me relief at this stage if the truth be told. Fortunately I’ll be able to give him the benefit of my new found extensive medical knowledge. I’m sure he’ll be delighted…

IASD - globe 2

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

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Cows laying chickens…

Cows laying chickens…

As Met Eireann threatened us with the potential disaster of temperatures returning to normal in the coming days, it got me thinking. The current “so called” heatwave that has this lovely green Island declaring drought status and introducing water restrictions is in my opinion, using the accepted old geezer argument  of “call this a heatwave “ nothing, compared to what we had to go through back when I was a nipper.  How bad were the heatwaves when I was younger? You may well ask. Well let me tell you.

It was so hot; donkeys were climbing trees in the early morning just to lick dew off the apples. Water restrictions? Pshaw! We had to wash ourselves using salt and milk until the cows udders dried up from dehydration. After that the whole country started to smell like feet. There were ducks trying to swim on glass-topped tables, cows were laying chickens and and chickens were laying hard boiled eggs it was so hot.


We had to drink feckin’ imported beer and the zoo closed down because there was nothing to see. All the African plains animals stayed inside in the shade and the whole ice-cream shop liquefied.  Mullingar was a desert for six weeks, people in Cork became disorientated when all that was left of the river Lee was in fact “the banks” and in Kilkenny, all the cats melted.

Cavan people were digging up their buried cash to pay smugglers to go across the border to Northern Ireland and bring back bottles of something called Evian. There were non-native lizards  (not that there’s any other kind) immigrating to catch the sun on garden walls in Finglas and Ballyfermot, and the only ones finding it easy were toothless grannies who had seen it all before. They had an uncanny ability to garner refreshment through the sucking of lemons.  Us Dubs thought, given the amount of whingin’ the Culchies did about Dublin getting everything,  that they’d have been able to get refreshment from all the sour grapes but oh no, they complained even more than us.


The farmers who had been whining and moaning for the previous 600 years about the fact that it never stopped raining and were therefore poor, started saying that they were sorry, and could they please have the rain back.  The colours on the Friesian cows were blending together so that all over Ireland there were fields of dehydrated grey-looking cattle with absolutely no sense of humour.

Children were sticking to each other in school and teachers were looking for more days off. All over Ireland there were scaldy pink heads, and tops that should never have come off, were coming off. Mr. Universe it wasn’t let me tell you.  There were men with sandals and argyle socks, naked from the waist up wearing Paddy caps and proudly displaying their beer bellies with not even the decency to suck in.


Now I’m not saying it has not been a hot few weeks don’t get me wrong. It’s not often we can count on continuous sunshine week after week in Ireland, and it has been hard to keep the butter from turning to water, but  young people today just don’t  get it.  Everything was worse in the old days. It’s a fact. Except for the whole concept of ‘The good old days’ which ironically were always better.

In the last few months we’ve had a succession of red storm warnings. There has been pretty much everything fecked at this little place from hurricanes to arctic blasts and snowstorms, and now a flippin’ heatwave.  It’s like all the other weathers have spotted that the rain has been keeping Ireland all to itself for all these years and now they are all trying to get a piece of the action.


People are actually saying things like “It’s too hot.” For the love of all that’s holy lads, we whine about the damp weather from one end of the year to the other and the first bit of decent weather we get and what do we do…start moanin’.  I heard someone complaining that we should have bigger reservoirs and we wouldn’t have to cut back on water use. For feck sake! It’s usually raining in summer, why do we need bigger reservoirs for a once in a thirty year event. Get over yourself.

There are more important things to worry about like, what’s the best solution to gentlemen’s supermarket shopping attire in this weather? I found myself freezing my nethers off as I worked my way through the frozen food section, because it’s really not a shorts and t-shirt environment. I mean what’s the dress code?

Speaking of dress code, lads… seriously, the vesty top you wore to Lanzarote six years ago, beige with a faded, unrecognisable print on the front from Dunnes Stores, with three-quarter length, blue shorts (waist 28” –Belly 40”)  and a pair of flip flops, is not appropriate attire – anywhere- anytime –any weather. Kop yourselves on and show a little dignity.

But like I say, we are losing the run of ourselves. There are lads and lassies all over the world in far warmer climates, putting on coats in similar temperatures because it’s too cold. Fair enough it is a little bit on the hot side, and Ok it is a bit tricky finding a choc-ice or a brunch in every shop, but seriously like I already said, this is nothin’.  Now the weather when I was a lad …


But hold fast. The recent vile threat from the Met office, is that we may be about to see that oh so familiar sight again soon – rain.  As sure as eggs is eggs it’ll return. We all know it but we just don’t want to face it.  The truth be told, if it wasn’t for our new found desire to preserve the planet, most of us would secretly – if we thought we could get away with it – starting burning smoky coal and upping the emissions from our cars, just so Ireland could get a bit of the auld global warming that’s supposed to be going around.  Never mind the 800 years of oppression from the British – sure we’re bessie mates again now. Prince what’s his face and your wan from Suits are over at the minute drinkin and carousin’ and telling jokes about football coming home and watching kids play hurling in Croker.  What about 800 years of feckin’ rain? That’s the big issue. Don’t we deserve a break?

You know what’s next.  The temperatures will fade, the clouds will appear, we’ll all be looking out the window saying things like, “hopefully it’ll clear up for the weekend” but knowing in our hearts and souls that it’ll bucket down on Saturday.  There’ll be whispered talk of “sure maybe we’ll have an Indian summer in September” but afraid to be greedy after a few weeks of good weather, we won’t say it too loud in case in doing so, we jinx it.

There’ll be “the kids’ll be back to school soon” before long and “sure then Halloween will be on top of us.” Oh yes and it’s a fast and slippery slope we’re heading down then I tell you. You know it, I know it, the dogs melting on the streets of Ireland know it – It won’t be long ‘till Christmas…

Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
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There is a wonderful piece of writing advice often given, which is to avoid clichés.  I am going to use at least one and who knows maybe more, for in this case they perhaps best describe the events of what for me was a truly frightful time. The cliché I have in mind is that on Monday afternoon last, during three long hours of my life, time stood still.

As frequent visitors to my blog know, I had my own dice with death not that long ago and I described that in some detail at the time so I won’t repeat it here. However there is one aspect of that event which is relevant in this case. We often hear that at the moment of closeness to death, time does in a way stand still and our life flashes instantly before our eyes. It was not my experience and I have never really found that time could be halted even in a metaphorical sense. It would seem to me now however, that I was wrong.

Love is and should always be, ever present in a relationship. It should never be taken for granted, nor relied upon for one’s own salvation. It is of itself a thing of wonder and I believe can only truly be shared in the absence of selfish indulgence.  It is a hard thing to find, harder to keep and easy to diminish. Sometimes, there are those who forget, who let slip the weight of kindness and leave it all too late to remember how important our loved ones are to us. Not so me., for I wear my big old creaky heart on my sleeve and I fearlessly defend my right to tell those who matter to me, what they mean to me.

Take my darling Jo. She is indeed my sweetheart, although it may seem foolish to use such a term at my age, it is nonetheless so very true. I wake up each day blessed to have her in my life, happier for hearing her laughter, stronger for the holding of her hand. She has saved me later in life than I deserved to have been saved. I have with her help, rediscovered what a joy life can be. My darling, my love ,has suffered the pain of nearly losing me and never once faltered through my recovery. Joanna is there always, unfalteringly brave at the worst of times, and that I say she has saved me is truly an understatement.  But she is not only a fine and wonderfully strong woman; she is also the slip of a girl that I love, the dainty flutter in my heart, my flutterlfy.


On Monday last, for 3 awful hours, she was gone from me, holding on to her connection to this world by the ingenuity of science as doctors fought to keep her alive. What should have been a simple operation went very wrong, as she failed to respond in recovery and could not breathe for herself.

I left her early that morning, as they wheeled her away to the theatre with a soft kiss and an “I’ll be waiting when you get back.” I briefly tried to engage with the theatre porter, but he was a dour if not overly handsome foreign man, with no desire to talk to me. It seemed unusual, for anyone who has visited the Irish hospital system will tell you; porters never shut the feck up.  I was nervous because for all my calm, don’t worry darling, everything will be fine they can do this operation in their sleep attitude, I had not slept well the night before as I had a portentous visitor sitting on my window sill in the early morning half-light.  I was fearful that my night-time haunter had more than me on his mind.

Time standing still is an erroneous description. It doesn’t exactly explain the long drawn out feel of a single minute as you watch a hospital clock. For all my laid back attitude to most things, those who know me well, will know I do not suffer half-truths or misinformation well.  To be told that my darling, my love, was delayed in recovery was never going to be enough for me. I perhaps owe an apology to the young nurse that I badgered for clarity, for she seemed unaware of exactly what was going on. But I needed clarity. Eventually with no answers coming and the hours ticking by, my stress levels could not accept that some vague breathing difficulty explanation would suffice. I called on a dear close family friend who worked in the hospital to assist me in finding out more. I say friend but in truth I will call her family and I am forever grateful for her support.

Without hesitation, she told me she was working that day and would be across the hospital campus with me in ten minutes. Oh how those minutes dragged. I paced the corridor like a crazy person.  I could feel the tension in every fiber of my body as each second brought me nearer to a possibility that I was hugely unprepared for.  It was only when I saw that unmistakably beautiful hair, scattered across the pillow on the hospital trolley emerging from the corridor beside me, that I felt I could breathe again.

The poor anesthetist expressed her relief that they had saved her. She was under the impression that I had been fully informed which at that point I wasn’t, but it wasn’t long before she confirmed my worst fears that my gentle sweetheart had indeed struggled to return to us after her operation.


That night, I sat up awake, alone with my relief but still fearful that the worst was not past. I did not need to contemplate her near miss. My heart, dodgy as it is, never skipped a beat in the heat of battle but it did  falter as I sat in the quiet of that night knowing what might have been.

I have not been quite myself since I must admit. I am by nature such a melancholy man, I cover up my darkness with smiles and laughter as best I can, but I am running on empty a little of late. There is no finer woman, no kinder soul than my darling and the chink in my armour revealed itself to me this week. Not that I am surprised. But I guess it is more than that.

To be helpless is an uncomfortable and unfamiliar feeling for me. The last time I felt this way was when I myself lay in a hospital bed and I know that my beautiful love endured a similar struggle, as she had to sit by and wait for news of my fate. She never complained nor let on and stayed strong by my side.

We know what love means the two of us. I am not talking just of romantic love, but of the love that cradles and nurtures, the love that carries weight and lifts burdens, the love that anticipates and always sees the importance of kindness. 

How could I not be drawn low by the threat of losing such a fine thing? Love is fine indeed when it is so gently given, freely, without condition or agenda. My beautiful Joanna is in herself truly fine and I cannot help but be grateful for the happiness she has brought to my life

There are no lessons for me to learn here. I cannot say I should cherish her more, for I cherish her daily.  It has been a sobering, fearful time though, one where I have been reminded perhaps, to value the day that is in it a little more. For isn’t each day wonderful when you are loved.

My distractions are gone. I cannot write and to put this to paper has even been hard. I have no time nor interest in anything other than seeing the lovely girl I adore recovers fully, my heart, my eye, my colour, my shine, my strength, my darling…my flutterlfy…


Haven’t read a Max Power book yet?  I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –
twitter @maxpowerbooks1

Universal book links