Category Archives: June
Date: 15 July 2016
Posted by author: Roundwood
The Phone Call
I love my life here. It’s a pretty magical existence, living in a 300 year old country estate, surrounded by nature and animals, my girls at my side, entertaining interesting guests from all over the world. But, I do get homesick sometimes. I miss my family in Canada. Sometimes I wish I could just meet my father for a pint, tell him about my life. About the tiny Mexican woman who stayed with us last week, who’s job was risk assessment for NASA, or a cute story about one of the kids, but I am where I am and wouldn’t change it for the world. You can’t have everything.
It was during one of my recent bouts of homesickness that this story begins and it’s one that I couldn’t have made up if I tried. It was the day the world learned of David Bowie’s death. A sad one for myself and millions of others and I have no doubt that it effected some of them the same way it hit me. I got me thinking about mortality, mine and that of those close to me, slowly leading my mind across the Atlantic to Canada and my parents. If an extra-terrestrial rock star can be taken from us, none are safe.
When the sad news broke, I was in the kitchen with Khan, a 19 year old Berliner who had been staying with us for a few weeks. I suggested that we should record a song in Bowie’s honour and we began exchanging ideas about what kind of song we should make. One of the musical references he made, was to his “father’s Turkish rap crew”, a combination of words never uttered in my presence before. We went online and sure enough there was his father, rapping in Turkish. I tried for a moment to picture my father in Khan’s father’s crew, but because dad had wasted so many years being a judge, I was certain both his rapping skills and his command of the Turkish language would have been underdeveloped enough to prevente our fathers from busting rhymes together.
Then my phone rang. It was my father’s number and considering the mortal theme running through my mind, I got a bad feeling. I answered it and from the sound I was hearing, could only assume that his phone was in a tumble-dryer. This was followed silence, then heavy breathing.
“Dad, can you hear me?” No response, only distressed breathing.
“Hello…Can you hear me?” Then I heard distant voices, that I thought at first were echoes of my own, repeating,
“Can you hear me? Hello, can you hear me?”
A feeling crept over me that something terrible had happened and he had called me to say good-bye, losing consciousness before he got the words out. I was sure that I was listening to my father’s last breaths, the distant voices belonging to concerned bystanders trying to revive him. Then the line went dead.
Finished work for the day, Justice Flynn left his chambers and made his way to the parking garage. When he arrived at his car, he cursed under his breath at the idiot who had parked so close to his driver’s side that he couldn’t open his door. Weighing his options, he decided that finding the offending car’s owner would take far too long and that this was a situation that called for “thinking outside the box”, a skill he used daily.
The plan was simple. He would enter through the passenger’s door, lean across into the driver’s side, slowly ease out past the car blocking his door, then get out and walk around to the driver’s side. Except, when he had taken up his position, he couldn’t properly get a grip on the steering wheel, a constraint he corrected by opening the drivers door, giving him the few inches he needed.
He called his wife to tell her that he’d be home in time for dinner, hung up the phone and started the car. He put it in drive and stretched his left foot out to press down on the accelerator, quickly discovering that it didn’t posses the same subtlety that his right foot did, as the car shot forward. In a panic, he stomped for the brake, missing it and fully flattening the accelerator. The screeching tires propelled him forward, the sudden motion making him grip the steering wheel, turning it hard left, and into the wall in front of him. The impact threw him forward, a flailing limb engaging the cruise control and hitting the speed dial for his son’s phone number in one fell swoop, before launching him out of the open driver’s door. The vehicle continued forward, connecting with a pillar, which slammed the door shut. Doors shut and engine on, the doors automatically locked and the car continued on, an eighty thousand dollar pinball, in a parking garage themed pinball machine. Down the ramp it went, it’s course corrected by the walls it bounced off on it’s way through the security gate.
Dazed and confused, a nasty cut on his elbow but otherwise unharmed, Justice Flynn looked on in stunned silence as courthouse security guards surrounded his unstoppable driverless car, which continued to bounce from wall to pillar, like a short-circuiting robot. The surreal scene made even stranger by the fact that the guards were shouting at the car, asking if it could hear them.
“Can you hear me?”, a voice from inside the car asked them back.
To prove to himself that he hadn’t sustained a head injury in the fall, he reasoned that the bluetooth function must still have been enabled on his phone, which would explain the conversation taking place between his car and the guards. To test his theory, he reached inside his breast pocket, retrieved his phone and ended the call. To his relief, the voice stopped. Now, if only his car would do the same.
Date: 30 June 2016
Posted by author: Roundwood
Dog Days of an Irish Summer
One Sunday, in the not too distant past, we decided to take advantage of the rare confluence of sunshine and a day off, by going for a walk in the mountains. It was unusually hot for May, or for any time in Ireland for that matter, so with great delight we headed towards Kinnitty Castle. Children in tow and dog in the boot, we planned to stretch our legs on the grounds and then have dinner in the castle and let someone else do the dishes for a change. We started out with a bounce in our step. But it didn’t take too long before 23 degrees of Irish sun shortened our stride. About ten minutes to be more precise. But that’s all it took for our 6 and 7 year old daughters to begin their “go-slow” campaign, stopping to pick wildflowers every twenty paces. Rococo, our energetic labrador, had no such qualms with the elements. She charged off into the woods, tail wagging and eyes bulging, as if she would never be taken on a walk again. As it would happen, she was nearly right.Focusing on the task of encouraging the girls to plod on as Hannah and I began to wilt ourselves, Rococo’s absence went unnoticed. Until we heard a raspy wheezing noise behind us. We turned to see her slowly stagger towards us, eventually collapsing at our feet. She didn’t look good. Her tongue spilled out of her mouth and lay in the dirt covered in foam, her eyes were slits and she was panting uncontrollably. I ran back to some other walkers, who graciously donated a bottle of water which I administered to our distressed patient. She could barely drink it. When she finally finished it off, matters hadn’t improved.It was obvious that our concern had made it’s way down the ranks when our eldest, Amelie, asked where we would bury Rococo if she died. It was time to up the ante from “concern” to “panic”. I ran on ahead, hoping to find a stream to cool her down. At the same time I rang Pete Wederburn, Ireland’s favourite celebrity veterinarian, who’s number I happened to have in my phone. He confirmed our panic and told me she was suffering from hyperthermia, a potentially fatal situation. It was essential that she be cooled down immediately. At that very moment, I spotted a stream at the bottom of a steep embankment through the woods.“Great!”, said Pete. “Now you’ll have to get her to the water as quickly as possible, but don’t let her walk. You’ll have to carry her.”And just like that, a plan came together. I had tracked down expert advice, found a stream and now all I had to do now was carry 90 pounds of sweaty, slobbery, semi-conscious dog for the guts of a kilometre, then down a treacherous hill to the life-saving water. This would turn out to be the hard part. The small miracles of getting phone reception in the middle of the woods and stumbling upon a stream in a life or death situation apparently came with a cost- one I fully measured the moment I heaved Rococo up into my arms. Big dogs don’t know how to be carried at the best of times. But carrying a well fed, dazed lab was like carrying an oversized bean bag full of bowling balls that sporadically lurched in one direction or another. I was in a constant state of trying not to drop her.Realising immediately that there wasn’t a better, or even a good way to man-haul a dog, I began my staggering-heave-walk towards the stream. At about the half-way mark, concern for Rococo began shifting towards her bearer and Hannah voiced her concern that I may have been closer to a heart attack than the dog. By the time I had reached the top of the hill leading to the stream, my arms decided they had had enough and began shaking uncontrollably. Rococo immediately fell out of them, completing the last part of the journey with gravity’s help.Unfortunately, the malnourished stream wasn’t the answer. Deep enough to submerge her paws, but not enough to lower her body temperature; we were still in trouble. Then, a shout from atop yonder hill.“I see a river!”, shouted Lucie, our 6 year old. Sure enough, a hundred meters away flowed salvation. Unable to carry her, we coaxed Rococo up and over the small ridge, nudging her toward the water. When she finally realised what was in front of her, she didn’t need to be told twice and threw herself in. The cooling effect was almost immediate. Her eyes opened, she began lapping up water and her tail started wagging. We let her linger until we were sure she was out of danger and then began picking our way out of the woods.As we neared the castle, we met a couple standing outside the stables. Covered in muck and dog hair, I began explaining our ordeal and hoped that they might have a cool place for Rococo to recover while we had dinner. I was just coming to the part of the re-telling that involved me carrying her to the stream, when Lucie ran up and interrupted.“Are you talking about the time I saved Rococo’s life?”Yes Lucie. That’s how the story goes. But not how it ends.Yesterday, two months after the fact, Lucie extracted herself from the giggling gaggle of little guest girls she was playing with, tugged on my apron and said,“Daddy, do you remember the time you were carrying Rococo, when her tongue was hanging out of her mouth and stuff…and I went on the hill and said that I saw a river? ““Yes, I remember Lucie.”, I replied.“Well, I really didn’t see a river. I just said it to make you happy. And then, there WAS a river. Do you remember that?”Yes I do, yes there was and you just made me more happy than you’ll ever know. And THAT’S how it ends.