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in search of smock alley 022

WAIT! I’M CONFUSED! Did the body found behind the dustbin belong to a car bomb victim in the middle east who was caught up in a strike threatened by nurses who are opening a new school in the himalayas?


Well that was my brains understanding of the six o’clock news which I watched for a minute or two while at a patient’s bedside the other day.

You see I don’t own a TV so I am a bit out of touch with how the news is shown these days, but luckily my patient wasn’t and he (patiently) explained how it works.

The latest written updates flow underneath the picture of the newsreader who happens to be reading something totally unrelated, which in turn is nothing to do with the photos flashing up on the side of the screen.

I felt dizzy. How much can a brain absorb at one sitting? or more interestingly how much will it remember and what.

We are, afterall more inclined to be influenced by the negative then the positive.

So is it a ploy to make us fearful that we will miss something filled with fear which in turn will make us more afraid and want to be less involved with our fellow humans?

And who benefits from our fear?

Please don’t look to me for answers to my questions. 

They are just ponderings and mutterings from my very simple brain after one five minute shot of looking at the news on TV.

And that five minutes made me very glad I made a decision many years ago to live a life without a TV.

If I wish to hear the news I turn on a radio.

‘Inundated’ is a good word to describe how we are bombarded with information these days. Information that in turn impedes and fills the space around us.

That small space that goes with us wherever we walk or cycle or drive. Those metres within our vision where we have an opportunity to connect with other humans.

Instead of being present in that space our eyes are hooked to a screen and our ears to headphones.

And our body language reads:

‘Don’t bother me’.

‘Can’t you see i’m busy’.

‘Sorry you maybe asking for help but I can’t see you, hear you, or afford to care about you’.

‘You see you might take up some of my precious time and then I might miss something’.

‘Actually I won’t miss anything because I can record, resee, rewind, replay, go forwards’.

‘Let me push by you, step over you, go around you, but at all costs avoid contact with you’.

I too am guilty of the above at times.

But I try not to be.

The yellow bicycle makes sure I spend a good amount of my time looking around me and engaging with others.

Here is a true story with a happy ending of one of those times.

(I will readily give the credit to the yellow bicycle and a kind bus driver, I was only a small cog in the bigger picture).


It was a cold windy sunday morning in March and I was on my way to work.

I left home a six thirty expecting to be slowed down by the northerly wind (I usually leave at seven).

A wise decision, for not only were the gales blustery but it had started to rain.

Head down, almost blinded by my hood, I stoically turned the pedals, happy that there was very little traffic about. as I was surely in danger of cycling into something.

Blackrock village has been bypassed by a dual carriageway and a now a set of high rise apartments line it on either side. These gradually give way to a small shopping center and outside the carpark of this shopping center there is a series of bus stops. One of these is the stop for the *patton flyer (the airport) bus.

The wind was howling down this corridor of buildings and I was struggling.

My head was bent down between the handlebars, a hard thing to do on the upright yellow bicycle.

It was so low that I almost missed a man running down a side street in the direction of the bus stop. But his flurrying form caught the corner of my eye and I straightened up to look at him.

He was middle aged, slightly overweight, nothing unusual about him really except for the fact that his overcoat was flapping wide open in the wind and rain and he was dragging two suitcases, one which kept turning over and slowing his progress.

As he ran, he was calling out breathlessly ‘wait! stop!’

I thought he was going to have a heart attack.

Ahead I could just make out the brake lights of the Patton flyer pulled in at the bus stop.

I could see his predicament.

The bus driver wouldn’t see, let alone hear him on such an awful stormy morning.

As I cycled past him I found myself yelling ‘Don’t worry I’ll stop the bus’ .

Standing on my  pedals, (also a difficult feat on an upright bike) I pushed with all my might and despite the wind, picked up speed.

I had nearly reached the bus when the indicator light turned on and it pulled away from the kerb. Looking back I saw the man stopping and his head dropping dejectedly. The airport bus only came once an hour so he would now probably miss his flight.

But all was not lost yet.

There were a set of traffic lights at the bottom of the hill ahead .

I kept going and sure enough as the bus approached them they turned red and the bus stopped.

I sped down the hill and pulling up alongside the drivers door, tapped on the window.

The driver looked down at me, a startled expression flashing for an instant across his face. Then he frowned .

‘He thinks I’m trying to mug the bus’ I laughed to myself, knowing I must look sort of threatening in the dark, my hood up half covering my face.

I pulled down my hood so he could get a better look at me and see that though I might look like a mad woman I was actually not dangerous and made a pleading gesture with my free hand.

He opened the window. The wind and rain blew in lifting his hair and making him squint. ‘Oh thank you so much’ I called up at him ‘listen! there is a man back there who has just missed your bus. please PLEASE wait for him’

I was aware that half my words were getting whipped away in the wind and I shouted louder

‘He was nearly having a heart attack trying to catch you and he will probably miss his flight if you don’t wait. I know there won’t be another bus for an hour’.

By now the passengers were all craning forward to see what the commotion was about. Some were even leaving their seats to get a better look.

‘Sure’ the driver smiled ‘I’ll pull over and wait’.

Relieved, I turned and cycled back along the path to where my friend was still standing breathing hard.

‘Come on he’s going to wait for you’ I couldn’t see his face with the rain but he must have heard me because he broke into a trot.

Fearful I would be late for work I jumped back on my bike and headed on.

I was nearing the hospital when I a loud horn sounded.

The patton flyer swept past me and in the lighted windows I could see a row of faces smiling and waving and as it disappeared into the distance, I could see my friend waving happily out the back window.

I was ten minutes late for work and when I gave my explanation to my ward manager I knew from her raised eyebrow that she didn’t believe me

Despite being in the bad books for my lateness nothing could wipe the happy smile off my face for the rest of the day.


* Sadly the Patton Flyer no longer runs, It was put out of business by a bigger and wealthier bus company…..Why am I not surprised?

(please support small companies, shops, independent coffee houses, Bookshops, Art galleries, Artists, Writers, Small cinemas and theatres and anyone else making a living by the skin of their teeth…they lift our spirits greatly and deserve our support)