My Ankles? My knees? My hips?
All are creaky but that is not the Creaky of the blog post title.
My blogging silence is mainly because the other version of life (the one with bad skin and farts) has been pretty hectic recently. Hectic is the word you use in a family when you have to do loads of things that the teenager inside your body would normally rather not get off the couch for.
The running first –
The running is fine with the long runs reaching up to 18 miles at the moment. The charger for the Garmin has been broken by the invisible people (i.e. not the kids, not their mother) and until Ebay deliver the replacement I will be running by ‘feel’.
The long runs are going too fast for ultra training (nearly all sub-8:15) and I am avoiding the food side of things (no pots of custard, no rice crispie bars) so they are more tiring than they should be. As I have a 10 mile ‘race’ in a few weeks I’ve tried to get some speed in and have been trying some mile intervals. The results are fine (7:05 territory) but I realise that I am caught between being too fast for an ultra and too slow for a 10 mile race so I’ll probably make a mess of both.
One idea I floated by Grellan last week (we were at the annual Cork region Marks & Spencer’s James Bond convention) was running the 10 mile route as a warm up before the race itself and so being able to get a 20 mile slow run in and being able to justify my abysmal 10 mile pace. I think he both saw the merit in it and saw through it in equal measure.
Still, the injuries are all still standing in the wings and if I can keep them there I’ll be happy.
The hecticness of life over the past 3 weeks has mainly rotated around my father-in-law – Cyril – turning 80 last week. A great milestone for a great man. The only problem with this was that my wife (and her siblings) decided that the way to celebrate it was to get completely stressed out and to transfer this stress to everyone they know. I think the reverse logic was that if they were stressed then he wouldn’t be.
The birthday involved a family mass and then tea (beer/wine) and sandwiches (canapés) and a birthday cake at Blackrock Castle. easy-peasy.
The only problem with all of this was that the ‘family mass’ was to be held in our house. I had visions of scenes from the exorcist and blood flowing down the walls as the priest senses the ‘evil spirits’ in the walls.
That didn’t happen but the 7-day cleaning festival my wife embarked us on did test the strength of our marriage. The benefit of the mass is that the kitchen table is now referred to as the Altar.
The priest who said the mass was a Capuchin called Fr. Joe and, like all Capuchins, he was a very nice man beyond everything else. I was educated by the Capuchins so the idea of someone in a Habit wasn’t unusual. My kids, on the other hand, thought he was from Mars. I tried to explain that the Capuchins were the first Christian socialists or Christian Buddhists but my children just looked at me with the ‘why is that man wearing a dress dad?’ look on their faces. I wonder will I ever be able to take them to Scotland.
If you ever end up in my company and you can’t work out my mood then the simple rule would be that I talk when I’m a bit nervous. And so it was that I began to tell Fr. Joe about my stellar education at the hands of the Capuchins. To be fair, most of it wasn’t lies and a fair bit of it could loosely be classified as the truth.
Now before we get to the Creaky of the title I should tell you a little about my formative years.
Everybody can remember all the feckless wasters that masqueraded as teachers but were in fact borderline non-functioning alcoholics/sociopaths/sadists (delete as appropriate) that did their best to capsize the little boat that carried you down the river of life.
As you get older you (if you’re lucky enough) to realise that there were a few diamonds among the sacks of coal that passed before you.
In my case there were three teachers that had a profound effect on my life.
In Primary School I had a teacher called Jim Deegan when I was 8 and again from the ages of 10 – 12. He thought me how to express myself and to be articulate (mainly through making us all act out his plays in Irish).
All very wanky I know, but still, you are reading this because of him (in a very roundabout way).
Then in secondary school there were two teachers.
Dan O’Regan was the maths, physics and applied maths teacher. I was always good at the hard sums but he treated you like as an equal which gave you a confidence to be curious, to ask questions and not be afraid of the answers and to wonder at the world. Five years of hard sums went by with Dan as the captain of the ship.
And then there was Creaky.
My Latin teacher
Creaky was so old when we first met him in 1983 we thought he was a fossil. That said, we were 12 so everybody looked old.
His back-story was a mystery to us. He had spent most of his adult life working in the missions of Tanzania and Zambia and seemed to have retired home to Ireland to teach Latin to brats like us. He had the yellow waxy skin of someone who has had malaria and his thousand yard stare must have recalled a lifetime of experiences we could only dream of.
His real name was Fr. Donatus McNamara (Donatus is the latin for ‘The Gifted One’) and he was tall and lean with an Abraham Lincoln beard.
He had something that many of the other adults I had met in my live up until that point lacked – he had humility. He was just as at peace teaching the conjugation of irregular verbs and the history of Trajan’s Dacian Wars as he was wearing overalls and acting as janitor to the school.
He also had a very dry sense of humour and great patience and in the five years he endured my efforts to learn Latin he never once lost either of them.
He was also a very handy man to have around should you ever find yourself in Rome. He knew the lot.
What did he teach me? I’m not sure. I think it must have something to do with acceptance, patience, humility and other worthy human traits I wish I had more of.
Anyway, I was rabbiting away to Fr. Joe about this ancient priest who taught us Latin in the 1980’s and who must now be well gone to his reward and Joe tells me ‘Naw, Donatus is after fucking off back to Zambia‘ (I may be paraphrasing there). He is currently working in the Capuchin mission in Zambia and wrote the history of their 80th anniversary last year.
This guy must be ‘a great age’ as they’d say.
Anyway, a combination of getting older (Donatus as well as me) and sentimentality made me track down his address in Zambia and after this blog post I’m going to send him a note to thank him for suffering us and making sure he knows that some of what he tried to teach us, by example and through the irregular latin verbs has stuck and it was all for the good in the end.