Accept The Challenge

Until recently, my urge to write deserted me. Whenever I did put something together, it seemed rather strained, and so I did not write very often. Now, I’m back in a better groove and the writing will likely flow more freely.

A little puzzle for you.. .

See can you find the football, the two pigeons and the drone? As soon as you’ve found all three, just smile smugly to yourself but do not give away any clues. If you like, you could use a code to let us know you’re smiling smugly. Something along the lines of “I’m a smug winner”, or perhaps “Timber”. Be as creative as you can with your chosen code. Really, what you want to convey is that you’ve solved the puzzle and you’re a winner.

Garmin And Guinness

The watch seems to be looking out for my best interests. After yesterday’s two hours in the garden, it seems 16 hours of recovery is recommended. That would mean that I’d be ready for action about lunchtime today.
However, I burned a few matches in Park Hotel last night. I’d be hoping the big brother watch can’t figure out that I enjoyed my usual three Guinness and then a few more, as I celebrated with local athletes.

Now, lest my battery levels dip too low, I’m going to request that hoovering or other home distractions be postponed.

Garden Therapy

Might just as well go gardening, says I to myself.
It does need a good tidying up, says she, reading my mind.
So when I got finished, I smiled with satisfaction and took a selfie with my lovely Winter League hat.
There’s magic in that Winter League. I know because the words are not spelled backwards as I expected for a selfie.

I’m happy. She’s happy. Win win.

Mary Burke: Life Summary & Eulogy

Today, we want to thank you publicly, mam. From the bottom of our broken hearts, we thank you for everything you have done for us.

Life Summary of MARY BURKE

● Born Kilcaroon, near Clogheen in Co. Tipperary
● Moved to Cahir Boarding School on a scholarship
● Moved to Dungarvan after her leaving certificate to work in Waterford County
● Meeting Dad every morning on the way to mass
● Married in 1957 and had 8 children
● Much financial stress had a big impact on Mary’s and Michael's mental health
● Illnesses she bore with fortitude: scarlet fever, TB, Depression, Cancer even Covid
● Lost her son Gary suddenly in 1993 and her husband Michael in 1996
● Woman of deep faith, daily mass goer, studied scripture and reforms of Vatican II, member of local prayer group for years, co-facilitated Síol Retreats
● Keen sense of social justice and an awareness of others' needs. As a young woman she volunteered to go with doctors when they were testing people for TB despite it being contagious and she later caught herself and spent 3 years in a convalescent home in Waterford.
● She instilled a sense of justice in her family from a young age by showing compassion for others, for example on Saturdays we would have dinner without meat and the savings were put in a jar and at the end of every year the savings were given to her favourite charity
● The pen was always mightier than the sword for her and she had no fear of writing letters challenging injustices or inequalities she saw around her.
● She also worked as a volunteer with MABS in a very discreet and respectful way
● Love of reading learning and education. Even in her 70’s she used to do a night-course every Autumn, for example French, archaeology, journalism etc
● Hobbies: reading, current affairs, gardening and even hill walking with the Dungarvan group
● Dementia: As dementia robbed her of her memories and ability to function she accepted gracefully the help she needed. For such an independent minded woman this was extraordinary for us to see. She had a smile for all those who helped her.


My eulogy for mam, delivered with love at her funeral on the 2nd of February:

For the benefit of those of you who don’t know me, my name is Pat, and I am Mary’s eldest son.  

I have my sister Elaine with me, and she is under instruction to help me if things go weepy!

I shall be reasonably brief. Probably about 8 minutes, maybe 9 if I need to take in a few deep breaths here and there. Mam would say, shur take your time! I’m not going anywhere!

There are many many people that we want to thank, and in due course every single one of them will be thanked, but I want to make very special mention of just 4. First and foremost, our sisters Michele and Elaine have been mam’s main carers since 2014. They have had an incredible devotion to mam and an attention all the details of mam’s needs.

I also want to thank Michele’s sons, Shane and Gary. For the past 9 years, throughout their teenage years and beyond, they shared their mam with Mary. They learned how love works, as they saw Michele and the rest of us in the house every day. For this, we express our deep appreciation.

OK, now I want to change tack entirely…

I want to address my words directly to mam. You are here with us today, mam, and I want to say a few words just to you.

In recent years, your memory faded, at first slowly, and at a rapid rate since 2020. When I’d be bringing you back to Michele’s house after a visit to the hairdresser, it would be very usual for you to ask: Whose house is this? In fact, if you were alive today, you’d be sitting down there, and you would quietly tap one of us on the hand and ask Whose house is this? It’s the house of God, mam.

Oh right, thank you.

Today, we want to thank you publicly. From the bottom of our broken hearts, we thank you for everything you have done for us.

Your eight sons and daughters have been shaped by your love for us. Our dad Michael was shaped by your love for him, and it’s very likely that many of your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, friends and neighbours present here today (and others who cannot be here) have been shaped by you to some extent.

Rather than go into the details of your long life, I’d like to remind you of a few little stories. I’ll tell them to you because you’ve forgotten them!

You loved writing, and you loved writing letters to right a wrong, as was mentioned earlier. Council officials, newspapers, health service, RTÉ and so on. On the strength of one such letter, you secured the first bus shelter in Dungarvan. She did not want people to be waiting in the rain. Another was the removal of an ugly hoarding outside the old Ormonde Hotel on O’Connell Street. The footpath was completely blocked for months at a very narrow pinch point, and you helped get it sorted.

And you would say, Did I?

While we know you and dad had a deep love for one another, we also know times were very tough throughout your married life. This was mainly due to financial stress, as the rules at the time dictated that you had to give up your well-paid job. This had a significant impact on your mental health as well as dad’s, but you both found a way to manage by joining GROW Mental Health Group.

Despite financial hardship you still managed to dress very stylishly, something dad loved. How did you do it? You were an amazing money manager. You would buy a coat in the January sales and spend the rest of the year looking out for matching hat, shoes and bag etc. Many years later, you donated outfits you no longer wore to Vincent de Paul or the charity shops. But here’s the thing… As well as the old ones, you would give one outfit that you still liked. When we quizzed you about this, you would tell us that giving to others is not just about giving away things you don’t want. There has to be some sacrifice.

And so we learned, that in giving there is love. We are here today to honour your life of giving. Truthfully, we have devoted ourselves to your full time care since 2014. We know how difficult it became in recent years and months, but you were so appreciative of our help. Considering that your greatest fear was losing your mind, you accepted your rapidly changing circumstances with remarkable dignity and fortitude, mixed with toppings of oblivion. In fact, just two weeks ago, when Elaine mentioned leaving the bedside light turned so that she could pop in to check on you, you said.. Why? Do you think I’m not well?

And so, as your 91 year earthly journey comes to a conclusion, we are here today for you. Everything is ok. We supported you, because that’s what you spent your life doing for us. We will be leaving shortly. Is that OK?

And you would say… Yes, that’s fine. Thank you.

Even when you had forgotten that you had just been to the hairdresser, there were two things you never forgot. You never forgot to say thank you. And secondly, you never forgot how to put a smile on our faces with a witty reply.

Would you like some lamb for your dinner? You said, “I suppose I would if it’s cooked”

Wouldn’t it be handy to have a man to rub gel into our backs? Michele said. And you said, yes, but how would we get rid of him then, when he had that done”.

Given that you were so knowledgeable about history, I brought you to the Millennial Park in Lismore and we were looking at the 1916 Easter Rising commemorative stone. You asked lots of questions and when I explained the Easter Rising, you said… That’s news to me!

Many’s the time when I was blaggarding you, mam, you would throw your eyes up to heaven  as if to say… What on earth is he on about?

I remember telling you a joke recently, and I was keen to see if you understood.

A foreigner living in Ireland had never visited a funeral home. So he asked Paddy. What do I say?

Oh, you just shake hands with the first person and say… I’m sorry for your troubles… and then just move on.

So, he went to the funeral, shook hands with the first mourner and said… “I’m sorry for your troubles. Move on!”

You didn’t understand the punchline, mam! But that’s OK. We will slowly move on with our lives, as will everyone else here who has come to bear witness to how special you are. You are special beyond words.

Of course, your reply to such a wonderful compliment would be different. I know exactly what you’d say. You’d say: Oh, I don’t know about that… but thank you anyway.

I want to finish with a farewell, not mine, but borrowed from my friend

It’s just 3 short simple sentences, mam, but I’ll need to take a big deep breath.

I love you. We love you. Go in peace.

Taken on Gary’ wedding day 1992.

Backwards Is Good

Every minute of every day can now be devoted to watching the small screen and keeping up to date with the entire outside world, all without a hello or how-are-you.

If you could un-invent something, what would it be?

Paragraph 7b of my Transparency Policy (Europe and Bolivia) requires me to state that this is fiction. Formed within from nowt.

All done now. Easy it was, really. Not a bother. Well, not too much bother. I uninvented Dead Easy App. It had been on my mind for a while.

Back in 2009 I had spent a few weeks putting the code together, and realised I was on to something big, and I mean gi-normously big. To summarise, versions of Dead Easy App were downloaded 9.7 million times within the first year and by 2021 the number shot up beyond 3 billion. Its success was all but ensured because I chose to make it available freely. I wanted no reward other than the satisfaction of seeing phone users benefitting from my work, and my name forever Oscared.

In a short time, millions of Mobilers were able to use phones while walking. Walking to the bus. Walking down busy footpaths. Chatting with friends. Teenagers, small children and many a willing adult came on board. Brilliant for young mothers pushing prams and buggies. Dead Easy App took care of all outside interruptions.

In the years since the launch, there has not been even a single incident of users crashing into one another. It does exactly what it says. Users are able to go about most daily tasks without having to shift their gaze from the screen. Examples such as walking the dog, eating a sandwich, paying contactlessly, chatting over a coffee, even cycling, can all be done safely without ever looking at anyone. The screen is queen. Or king if you want it that way.

Human interaction diminished and quickly drew to a standstill. Imagine the busy bustling scenes of downtown New York or Dublin, many thousands brushing almost shoulder to shoulder, never quite touching, and all the while reading, streaming and thumbing the addictive screens! It’s a matrix for the new millennium!

I’m sure you can see why a very small minority protested vigorously. Indeed they did. They wanted eye contact and the tactile nudge of strangers. Bigots and over-educated do-gooders. In their quest to be seen and heard, they tried very deliberately to push and shove their way through crowds, in supermarkets and even on sponsored charity walks. But Dead Easy App was built for such idiots! Attempts to outwit the Walking Dead failed miserably on all continents, and even on Dublin’s southside.

Fast forward to January 2023. User numbers have stabilised at 4.7 billion. People just don’t need to look where they’re going any more, and most would agree that productivity levels have increased exponentially. Every minute of the day can now be devoted to watching the small screen and keeping up to date with the entire outside world, all without a hello or how-are-you.

In my dream last Tuesday, the damage caused by Dead Easy hit home horribly. I awoke in a panicky sweat. Even before feeding the confused dog, I fired up the old laptop. It took me less than twenty minutes to add some extra code and when I finished, there appeared four additional items on the main menu. For clarity, here’s the top line:

  • Abort Everything
  • Say Hello
  • Breathe It All In
  • All Of The Above

I was clear in my mind that I wanted to go back to 2009. Just to be sure, I waited a while longer. My hands trembled. I made myself a cup of cocoa with some honey, and minutes later, I pressed the button.

The world turned upside down. It was akin to giving the dog a bone and taking it away. Confusion abounded, and will for a long while to come. Listening skills will need relearning from scratch. So too gestures, facial expressions and people skills. All destroyed utterly in such a short number of years.

If you could un-invent something, what would it be?

A Few Showers & Exciting News

I managed to make time yesterday to scoot up a few hills. The forecast looked dodgy and it turned out to be exactly that, but with no cold whatsoever.

The first shower arrived early as I scooted up Strikes Hill. The great thing about this hill is that there’s protection from the usual south-westerly wind. I whistled away to the music of Hanz Zimmer. Light rain fell softly for the first few tracks.

On the descent to Geoish, I needed to concentrate fully because of the wet road surface. My whistling stopped, but the sun soon shone again. Onwards I sped merrily up hill and down dale to Clashmore, Aglish and back to Clashmore again.

It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. My last climb was the Mountain Road. This is a definite favorite of mine, and there was a mighty tailwind to help me along.

Just before the rain arrived, I took a call from my daughter, Meabh. She has an uncanny knack of calling when I’m on the challenging part of a hill! Her news was just the best. She and Jimmy are within weeks of moving in to their first home, constructed mostly by themselves. Today, the electricity was connected. Now the clock is running for first big bill! Such excitement.

The rain turned heavy for the last half hour of the spin. No cold. A perfect afternoon of enjoyable scooting.

Link to all the data. No details of the fun and pleasure, unfortunately.

Bells of Ireland

Normally, I’d be reluctant to start a sentence with the word “So”. It seems everyone and anyone has jumped on the bandwagon in recent years.

So, just to prove that I haven’t completely lost my horticultural touch, here’s a little thing I grew this year for the first time, don chéad uair.

It’s called Bells of Ireland, officially Moluccella, and it’s a dainty thing. I set a square foot of seeds, perhaps twenty in all, yet only a single plant made it this far. For that, I’m grateful. I’ve watched the bees flitting about it, but they usually don’t linger very long.

I had noticed the intricate veins on each bell. As the nights have become colder, the flesh has crumbled, and only the skeleton remains. I’m tempted to remove it to the compost heap, but I will wait to admire its final show.

I’ll also be able to look back at it on Instagram. You can too.

Instagram @paraigdeb58

Normally, I’d be reluctant to start a sentence with the word “So”. It seems everyone and anyone has jumped on the bandwagon in recent years. Have a listen to radio interviews and you’ll be shocked at the number of people who overuse the word. I’m screaming at my phone! STOP, in heaven’s name.

To clarify my use of the word, I have done so simply to be able to show what I mean.


Coming Out: I can’t Update My Name Right Now

This post was written in 2016 on my old Kilcaroon blog, and I’m reposting it here once again for clarity.

It’s time. I’ve had this post in the back of my mind for the past thirty-something years, and now the time is right—time for me to put on paper my long regret in order for me to move forward.

I refer to who I am deep down. Who am I? In short, I am Pat Burke. Since 1985, I have used the Irish version of my name. I like the Irish language; in fact, I like it very much! However, the reason behind my decision at the time was filled with confusion, and as the years rolled by, I continued to be troubled.

Journey back with me, please. I had been teaching in Dublin since 1978, using my name, Pat Burke. Mr. Burke, to my pupils. I started my second teaching job in West Waterford in October 1985. A strange thing happened on the day I was signing my contract. A particular local priest, who shall remain name nameless, visited my home. As I was ready to sign the agreement, he mentioned that he had a favour to ask. He said that he would like it very much if I were to use the Irish version of my name, Pádraig de Búrca. Now, it needs to be said that I applied for the job as Pat burke, and I was informed in writing that I was successful. The letter is in my name, Pat Burke. I feel sure that he was flying a kite; that this suggestion came from him alone and was not in any way associated with the Board of Management of the school.
Fast thinking time…and to my regret I agreed. I really felt that my choices were limited. In 1985 Catholic Ireland, what the priest wanted, he usually got! So, I started 22 years of teaching in West Waterford as Pádraig de Búrca. Immediately, I discovered that I was, in reality, two people! My parents and family knew me as nothing other than Pat. All of my schoolboy friends did likewise! I was a schizophrenic! Monday to Friday at work, I was Pádraig, and everywhere else, I was Pat. Shortly afterwards, to rectify the situation, I changed my name officially to the Irish version. Within months, Pádarig de Búrca was on all my correspondence, and as I began to integrate back into Dungarvan life, I became known as such. Many, many people became very confused.
I joined the Dungarvan Badminton Club as Pádraig, met my future wife as Pádraig, and as the years rolled on, I joined Dungarvan Cycling Club as Pádraig. Understandably, the transition was a difficult one for my parents, siblings, cousins, and school friends.
Interestingly, my wife and I adopted a slight variation. I did not like Pádraig, as it has a rough guttural sound (for anyone unfamiliar with the language, the phonetic pronunciation is “paw-drig”). The “d” in the middle bugged me, so we used Páraig (paw-rig) at home! More split personality issues now.

In or about 2010, my family brought up the anomalies with me, and I was glad they did. I was happy again to be called Pat by my mam and my brothers and sisters (dad had passed on). Some had a tough time getting used to the initial change and found it easier just to stick with Pádraig. Some rowed in with my Páraig variation, while some were more comfortable with Pat. My nephews and nieces are completely confused. Fast forward to 2022, and I am back to my previous Pat Burke incarnation.

So, let me put this to bed. I have long-standing regrets about my 1985 choice. My name is Pat Burke, always was, and always will be. The Irish version of my name is not me. So, what happens now?

Realistically, I am not going to change my name back again. I know so many people through teaching, friendships, and local involvement with several clubs and organisations that it would be very impractical. My darling wife calls me Páraig, and this I like almost as a term of endearment as it originated only between both of us. Several close friends call me Páraig, which also pleases me. I am 100% more comfortable with Páraig as opposed to Pádraig. But, the time is right for me to be called Pat by my family. Full circle… in fact, several interconnected loops.

Footnote: I started using Facebook in 2010. Since then, I’ve used so many variations that even Facebook itself is at its wit’s end: Pádraig de Búrca, Pat Pádraig Burke, Pádraig Pat Burke, Pat Burke, Paddy Burke (I don’t know how I thought that up!) and currently Páraig Pat Burke. And a lovely story to finish: I joined Tried & Tested Triathlon Club, using my official Pádraig de Búrca title. The club uses Facebook for messaging. When a member of the committee met me recently, she mentioned that she did not know what to call me and was sure that my Christian name was Páraig Pat, as in persons using two Christian names, e.g., Paddy Joe or Mary Ann (should that be Mary Anne, I wonder?). I appreciated her curiosity and confirmed that Páraig is my favourite name. Earlier today, I tried to edit my name on Facebook to “Páraig de Búrca” and use “Pat Burke as a nickname, and here is the error message that came up: “You can’t update your name right now because you’ve already changed it too many times. Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you’re connecting with. This helps keep our community safe.” I wonder, perhaps, if it would make a difference if I were to email/share this with Mr. Z. Perhaps I’ll launch a campaign to force FB to allow more than six name changes without undermining safety issues! I think ten would be a good number.

If you were able to follow all of that, I’d love to hear your slant on it! If you are entirely messy, that’s understandable.

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