Break a leg

“Me and some guys from school
Had a band and we tried real hard.
Jimmy quit, Jody got married
I should’ve known we’d never get far”

‘Summer of ’69’
Bryan Adams.



Our unorthodox tree this year was a branch sprayed silver.

Happy 2016.

The year came to a close, and it was a busy time here in Leixlip. The fire service roster sees to that. Normal service is suspended while the crew dish out the days to those that really need them. There was one date I definitely needed.

After a decade of not gigging, I had managed to rope myself into doing a live show in a local pub. I used to play in a band, and as is the way with these things, the band didn’t make it. Once I joined the fire service, I even stopped pub gigs with a covers band. ‘Just couldn’t guarantee that I’d be able to show up. Each year, the singer from the band would return home from the USA and we would have a jam session in one of the houses, then retire to a local hostelry to regale each other with tales of yore (all of which would sound terrifically boring to anyone listening in).

This time around, when Tadhg, the singer, emailed to say he was on the way home again for Christmas, I put it up to him, suggesting I book an acoustic gig in the local pub, The Salmon Leap Inn. He took the bait: Alea jacta est, as the big man said.

But before we could get on stage and do our thing, we had the small matter of Christmas to contend with, and the Stephen’s Day Run for Mum, which we try and do each year. It takes place in Maynooth, a few miles up the road from Leixlip, and raises some funds and awareness for the serious issue of suicide.


In the past, a few of our crew have taken part, but this year it was down to Saoirse and I to fly the flag. So we donned some fire gear (designed for use in bogs and woodland) and set out in what was yet another appalling day, weather-wise.


The run is only 3k, but after a Christmas layoff and large amounts of turkey and ham, you still feel the distance. One of Saoirse’s rowing friends, through work, joined us, and came second in a blistering time of about 8 and a half minutes. Impressive. I would be pleased with that time on a bike…

Overall, it was a lovely day. Everyone was in good spirits, and the turn-out was fantastic, despite the weather. Much-needed funds were raised, and a good time was had by all, regardless of ability.

After a few rehearsals, we felt ready to unleash ourselves on the public. The pre-publicity was doing its job, and the buzz about the gig promised a good night; at least in terms of audience anyway. Not much we could do about the quality of the performance!


The gig itself was a microcosm of the whole Christmas experience. A huge build-up, rushed preparations, last minute panic, and then suddenly it’s all over. Anyone who ever got married can empathise with that scenario.

No need to blather on any more about the gig. We did it, and that was the main thing. And we enjoyed it. Probably won’t repeat it again anytime soon, but sure never say never.

The next item on the agenda was the Lock Up The Year half marathon on the 31st December. It’s an annual event which takes place along the Royal Canal. There is a marathon option, and a 10k, but the half sits well with me at this time of year. And the ‘mile a day’ programme which finished up the same day as the race paid dividends.

The runners and riders for the half at Cloncurry Bridge.
At Cloncurry Bridge, looking east, just before the off.

I stuck with my mate Ciaran for the whole way, as we are about the same, pace-wise. The first stretch as far as Kilcock is particularly muddy, and there is no way of getting some decent traction. Plus we were yackin’ away about all manner of things. It wasn’t ’til we passed Maynooth, and Ciaran started working out the possible finishing time that we put the head down. He reckoned we were going to have to up the ante a fair bit to get the sub-two hour finish. We went from about 10 minute miles to 9, then 8 and a half, and then 8. By the time we hit the outskirts of Leixlip, we were fairly pushing it along. The route has been slightly altered since it first began; the actual 21k mark comes up along the towpath opposite the Le Chéile clubhouse, but there is still another bridge and section of road to contend with – about 1.1kms in all – before you finish. So according to Ciaran’s Garmin, and my watch, we did the half in about 1.59. The recorded finishing time was over 2.03 with the extra bit on the end. But sure let’s not fall out over a few minutes 😉

Coming in at the end. Hat, gloves and waterproof had all been removed by this stage as the heat came on!

The event is an unofficial club gig, and as I’ve mentioned before, there are no chip times or T-shirts, or any of that malarkey. The craic is afterwards in the clubhouse with the best soup and sandwiches you’ll ever have. Roll on next year; maybe the full marathon?

The New Year had a lazy start. We had had some friends over and it was midday before any serious movement was made out of the bed and into the kitchen to make some breakfast. The pan was full of bacon and sausages when Jarlath (who had done the marathon the day before) appeared at the door to say that my Dad had had a fall. Turns out he had slipped on the wet and slimy patio out the back getting some firewood and had come down very heavy and was in a lot of pain. He had used his mobile to ring anyone on his short list of numbers, and Jarlath – fair play – had taken the call and come straight down.

I went in the ambulance with him, and after a short spell in A&E in Connolly Hospital, he was x-rayed, and a broken femur was diagnosed. He was a lot more comfortable now; certainly earlier he had been in terrible pain when we had to move him from the ground with a scoop stretcher into the ambulance. They operated the following day and inserted an intra-medullary nail into the femur. I say ‘inserted’ but in reality this is a fairly robust procedure where they drill down into the bone with a long drill bit and then whack in a long spike of titanium with a hammer, which is then screwed in place top and bottom. My Dad’s a builder; he’d appreciate the work.

So, that was the rather unfortunate start to the year. My Dad’s a trooper, so the real problem is going to be convincing him to slow down when we do get him home. For now he’s holed up in Blanchardstown, getting the best of treatment. I know the HSE gets a lot of stick, but when it works, it works wonderfully well.

Here’s my Dad, refusing to look at the camera. Get well soon.



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