Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Book of Loud Lamentations

And lo, it came to pass in the fifth month of the third reign of King Bertie that a great darkness fell upon the land of Blan-chards-town. And a plague of crane fly descended upon the people and it got into their houses and it covered their asses and their oxen and their kith and kin and the people were sore afraid.
And they ran out into the street and they rent their teeth and gnashed their garments and they cried out, Lord, why hast Thou set this plague of daddylonglegs upon us?
But the Lord remained behind a cloud giggling and made no answer.
And the spider who lived in the window frame cast out his net upon the left side and he cast out his net upon the right side and soon his net was heaving with the weight of crane fly and the spider gulped.
And the sky drew dark and more and more daddylonglegs descended upon the land. And the children of Blan-chards-town had great fun removing their legs on the one side so they ran around in circles. And some children removed the legs from one daddylonglegs and stuck them onto another daddylonglegs to make the second daddylonglegs go faster.
And the Lord grew red in the face trying to suppress his laughter.
And the sun went down on the first day.
And then the great prophet Va-rad-kar spoke unto the people.
I am a doctor, he sayeth. Let me through.
This plague is all the fault of King Bertie. In his court is great wickedness and sloth and the Lord is punishing us for following the path King Bertie has shown us. For surely the jackass may lead the hyena into the wilderness and his tongue will cleave to the roof of his mouth and he may lose one tenth of his body fluid but the lamb will not lay down with the lion unless it is a very foolish lamb.
I call on the people now to give thanks and praise to the Lord and to call upon the great prophet Enda to lead you out of the darkness and banish this plague of daddylonglegs for ever. For though I am a great and powerful prophet I am not worthy even to tie the sandal of the great prophet Enda who lives in the land of Ma-yo.
But the people paid no heed to the great prophet Va-rad-kar and passed by on the other side. And the sun went down on the second day.
And the people called instead upon the wise men of the Sanhedrin who lived in a magnificent palace in the centre of Blan-chards-town where people came from all over the county to worship and pay homage. And the wise man in charge of the administration department sayeth that it was not his issue for the daddylonglegs were in the houses of the people and he told the people that it was a housing issue and the wise man in charge of the housing department sayeth that it was a matter for public lighting as the place was dark with the plague of daddylonglegs and the wise man in charge of public lighting sayeth to the people that they must contact the environment department as this kind of problem layeth under their domain and the wise man in charge of the environment department put the people onto environmental health and the wise man in charge of environmental health said he was away from his desk yea verily until the 18th but if you leave a message he would get back unto you. Yea verily.
And the sun went down on the third day and the people went to bed with daddylonglegs skimming over their faces and they woke on the morning of the fourth day to find their houses crawling with these insects and they had taken over the sitting room and the remote control and the people could not watch Strictly Coming Dancing for the daddylonglegs kept flicking onto David Attenborough.
And then the great prophet Hig-gins who had been banished unto the wilderness rode back into Blan-chards-town upon his ass and the people lined the streets and sang hosannas and laid palm leaves beneath his feet or used dandelion leaves when palm leaves could not be found.
And Hig-gins addressed the people thus.
Good citizens of Blan-chards-town. This plague of daddylonglegs is the result of selfish and wicked ways. Thou hast followed the teachings of the property developer who sitteth down at the table of the politician and shares his wine. For as the lion attacks his prey the hyena will follow and the hyena may fill his basket a hundredfold from the table of the lion. Just as the ivy cannot live without the cedar, so the property developer cannot live without the politician.
I am urging you now to cut down this vine and hunt down this lion and rid this land of the scourge of daddylonglegs.
But the people looked mystified and walked over on the other side. And the sun went down on the fourth day.
And on the fifth day the people called upon the great Brian son of Brian to save them from the plague of daddylonglegs which had now taken over the public transport system and were driving the 39 into town during off-peak hours.
And Brian son of Brian told the people that he had made representation to the holy Green Party members within the sacred cabinet upon their behalf and that the holy Green Party members had promised to look into it and report back in due course.
And the people bowed down in thanks and gave praise to Brian son of Brian, saying, He is indeed a wise and holy man.
But still the daddylonglegs kept on appearing. And the sun went down on the evening of the fifth day.
And on the sixth day the daddylonglegs had assumed control of all the light industry and service industry in Blan-chards-town, yea even the shops in the Centre and all the bottles of insect repellent mysteriously disappeared from the shelves in Atlantic Homecare. And all the plugs were removed from all the hoovers in the land and the sweeping brushes were hidden and the people blamed it on global warming and immigration and the EU and George Bush and the younger generation.
And they packed the churches in great lamentation and wailing and called upon the Lord to deliver unto them salvation from the great pestilence that lay upon the land, though some secretly said the public transport sytem was now a big improvement on Dublin Bus. But the Lord was on a pilgrimage to Fatima and had forgotten to turn his out of office on.
And the sun went down on the evening of the sixth day.
And on the morning of the seventh day the people woke from their fitful slumber to find that all the daddylonglegs had disappeared, save for the few still caught in the nets of the spider on the window frame. And they were sore puzzled and scratcheth their heads and furroweth their brows and peepeth nervously behind curtains.
And the great prophet Va-rad-kar addressed the people and claimed the credit.
And the even greater prophet Enda addressed the people and claimed the credit.
And the wise men of the Sanhedrin addressed the people and claimed the credit.
And the banished prophet Hig-gins addressed the people and claimed the credit.
And Brian son of Brian addressed the people and claimed the credit.
And the priests and pharisees addressed the people and claimed the credit.
But the people cared not and there was much drinking and carousing and revelling and barbequeuing, yea, even past the setting of the sun.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Giving blood

Probably my biggest regret in life, apart from the incident with the Swedish air-hostess and the apricot jam, is that I never gave blood sooner.
Of course, such was my lifestyle in the early years of my so-called adulthood that anyone benefitting from one of my donations would have felt more than pleasantly merry and might well have been stopped by the GardaĆ­ as they drove home from the hospital. But once the last vestiges of adolescence had fallen off my shoulders and I became boring and flatulatory, there really was no good reason why I shouldn’t have started giving blood.
Of course, I told myself I was too busy, though I could always make time to go and see Shelbourne. I had no car and Pelican House was on the south side, but so was Harold’s Cross, where Shels played at the time. Years of wasted opportunities, I suppose, looking back.
It was only when we moved out to Dublin 15 that I started giving blood. The clinics were local and the venues were many and varied. I have donated blood in Coolmine Community School, St. Peters in Dunboyne, Castleknock Community College, Hartstown Community School and Blanchardstown IT, a veritable cornucopia of educational establishments and have admired everything from class projects on Peru, (with the emphasis on anchovy fishing,) to Confirmation portraits while waiting for my turn to lie down on the bed.
The thing that depresses me a little bit though are the questions. Have you ever had typhoid fever? Have you ever fondled a monkey from South America? Have you ever snorted cocaine? Have you ever snorted a typhoid monkey or fondled South American cocaine? It really makes me wonder what sort of exotic lifestyles some people have and puts it up to me how dull my life has been.
But that feeling disappears when you get chatting to the nurses. Blood nurses are the only category of people that are never in bad form. Even hospital nurses have their grumpy moments and nuns have been known to give the odd lash of the tongue when riled but the blood nurses are invariably, almost unnaturally pleasant. I suspect its because they do a lot of monkey fondling in their spare time and therefore feel their lives are so enriched.
The first time I gave blood, I actually had a little trouble. I lay down on the bed and the blood nurse inserted the needle. No problems. But when she opened the valves, the red liquid – I was quite pleased to see it was indeed red – merely trickled despondently into the waiting container, as though loathe to leave the safe confines of my body. “Go on, get out into the world, meet new people,” I urged it but to no avail. Was my blood donating career over as soon as it started?
“We’ll try the other arm,” said the blood nurse and lo and behold, there gushed forth a veritable waterfall of crimson liquid. After all this time, this is a phenomenon that I have never come to grips with. Surely your blood is coursing through your veins constantly, starting at your heart and performing a complete loop around your body before being reenergised back in your heart? At least, that’s what I remember from my biology classes apart from incubating frog spawn and the explicit diagrams on page 73. Your blood doesn’t say “No, I don’t think I’ll bother with the left arm – too much of a detour and the traffic can be dreadful.” The blood nurse’s explanation of “It happens,” doesn’t quite satisfy the scientific probing of my mind but there you have it. This is probably what political commentators call ‘The Arms Imbalance.’
Apparently, for I have no way of confirming it, I have Blood Type O. At first I was a little disappointed in this, having hoped for an exotic blood group that only a dozen people in the world have, thereby being put on a worldwide data base and called into action to fly to Venezuela at a moment’s notice.
However, it was patiently pointed out to me that it was far more useful to society that I had the most common blood group, as there were potentially so many more people that I could help. And also if I urgently required a transfusion myself, they wouldn’t need to disturb Jimenez in Caracas on my behalf.
The thing about giving blood though is the tremendous amount of well-being it brings you. I don’t know who said that there is no such thing as a truly unselfish act (possibly Lionel Ritchie) but the psychological benefits of giving blood must rank almost as high as the physical effects of receiving it. You’ve given up an evening of slouching in front of the telly and made a huge difference to someone’s life – maybe even saved their life. And all because you’ve made the huge sacrifice of sitting in a classroom and lying on a bed.
On about my ninth or tenth visit, I was lying on my bed in Blanchardstown IT filling my bottle (intravenously I should add) when I was approached by a blood nurse in the manner of a raincoated man recruiting for the CIA.
“Psst!” she hissed, through gritted teeth. “You ever thought of giving platelets?”
I assured her that, far from the action being at the forefront of my mind, I had no idea of what a platelet was, no idea of what one looked like and no idea that I had any to give, not having progressed much further than page 73 of my biology book.
A quick biology lesson ensued, wherein it was pointed out that platelets are an essential component of blood, along with red blood cells and white blood cells and lord knows what else. They are particularly of benefit for leukaemia patients and premature babies and, as I had a particularly high concentration of them lazily breast-stroking around my veins, I considered it somewhat selfish of me to hang on to them, when it was a matter of life and death to other people.
So now every month, I go to St. James’ Hospital and spend a very comfortable 45 minutes to an hour attached to a centrifuge, while I try and make as many words as I can from the nine letter word square in the Independent. Being strapped to a machine sounds dodgy but in reality it is extremely relaxing. You lie on a bed and can watch telly or a DVD – Quentin Tarantino movies I find are particularly apt – or simply watch the Luas glide past outside the window. Occasionally you might get a bit of tingling on your lips but that is all.
The other big thing – though possibly not such a big thing for people less egocentric than myself! – is that you get two points for every platelet donation and, as you can donate every 28 days as opposed to 90 days for blood, your tally mounts up really quickly. Together with our partners, we were all brought out for a lovely meal and presentation night in the Burlington Hotel, when we reached 50, and I am already licking my lips as my 100th donation approaches.
So perhaps monkey fondling does have a down side.