A song from the West

Jun 11th, 2009 | By | Category: Ireland

There was a cartoon in Punch magazine back in the 1970s that showed a man sitting in a doctor’s waiting room.  He had picked up a magazine from a pile that lay on the table and held it open with both hands.  The man remarks to another person in the room, “It says here that a fellow called Hitler is going to cause some trouble”.

Perhaps the magazines in the waiting room were not just so old, but sports magazines previewing the Beijing Olympics hardly seemed attractive; even less attractive was one reviewing the 2007-2008 soccer season.

No need for magazines though, RTE Lyric FM was well into its afternoon programme The JK Ensemble. The clear tones of a young Christy Moore singing “Spancil Hill” filled the room; a song of an exile in America longing for his home in Co Clare.

I dreamt I held and kissed her as in the days of yore
She said, “Johnny you’re only joking like many’s the time before”
The cock he crew in the morning he crew both loud and shrill
And I awoke in California, many miles from Spancil Hill.

A man sitting across the waiting room joined softly in the singing of the words of the last verse: the mellifluous long tones of a soft Munster accent accompanied the music from the radio.  A voice that had about it the softness of a misty day on the Western seaboard brought a sparkle into the afternoon.

The cars rushing their way towards the N11, to join the daily rush southwards at the end of the working day, became a distant noise in the background; even the prospect of needing the Visa card to pay for the appointment receded; for a moment the other Ireland reasserted itself.  Spending the whole time in Dublin, the other country is forgotten.

For a moment, it was again 1981 as the CIE bus rattled its way through country roads.  Each landscape was undiscovered country, every town was new and different.  There was no need to get anywhere because no route had been planned; wherever the bus went, we would get off.  The map by which we navigated covered the country in the space of an A5 page. Distances were unimportant; all that mattered was time.   A pair of students in late summer in a country where God seemed to have made plenty of time seemed a perfect combination.

The dry stone walls; the fuchsia growing at the road side; the farmer driving his red Massey Ferguson down from the farm to leave churns of milk at the roadside; the shops and pubs painted in bright and even lurid colours; story book girls with deep black hair and freckled faces; the random images of a distant September.

The music had changed to a jazz piece and the spell was broken; the Munsterman was called by the doctor and disappeared into the consulting room.  The waiting area filled with sound as new patients arrived.  It was Dublin again on a busy June afternoon.  But, for a moment, it had been different.  Perhaps old magazines are a good idea.

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  1. When I worked for a Doctor there was a lady who had had a very long wait for her appointment. When the Doctor finally called her the Lady said “Isn’t it dreadful about the Titanic”!!!!

  2. I would love to have seen the doctor’s face!

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