Thursday, August 26, 2010


Warning: Do not be fooled by the title of this blog! Its content is not remotely connected to orthodox surgery or medicine!

Last Monday week, I decided to take a rather arduous walk up to Lake Muskery in the Galtee Mountains, armed with friend, Nancy, camera, picnic lunch, and a new pair of walking boots. Apart from a shepherd calling to his three obedient sheep dogs, we heard nothing except the wind swirling and swooping in and around the various peaks and crevasses.


It had been some time since I had done this particular walk and I had forgotten just how hard it is on the lungs! After a while however, I sloped into a comfortable rhythm of breathing and stopped wishing I'd stayed at home to finish the dreaded ironing. The purpleness of the heather heaved around us and we repeated ourselves in declarations of its wild, unqualified beauty, even stopping to test its 'bedworthiness'!

                       Me taking time out!

As a retired secondary school teacher of English and Geography, Nancy plied me with extremely interesting information about rock formation etc. Eventually, we arrived at the lake and found shelter to feast on apricots, cheese, crackers, chocolate, coffee and cigarettes. (An almost healthy lunch!) Had camped at the lakeside, one night several years ago, and swam in it, in the darkness, after several 'slippery nipples' (A fairly robust cocktail...The mad old days!)

                  A Pensive Nancy

We took the easiest option for our descent, along a rough dirt track, which enabled more breath for discourse. Our conversation sprawled out across the subjects of Spirituality, Catholicism, Islam, our work in drama and theatre, the chaos of the Irish government; indeed the chaos of the planet ....! My car came into view again after three and a half hours, and as we trudged closer, I could see broken glass next to the passenger/driver side. My worst fears were realized. The window had been smashed and my handbag had been snatched from the boot. A surgical removal of sorts ... no key required in this instance! The peaceful high invoked by the walk was flattened somewhat at the thought of having to cancel all my credit cards, the loss of my driving licence and mobile phone with all my contact numbers. However, a more balanced perspective returned, when I learned that same evening, that a very dear friend of mine was on a life-support machine. 

Teaching drama and directing musical theatre is very much a seasonal and quite spasmodic occupation, and because of the present recession, summer workshops had not been an option this year unlike previous years. I decided therefore to take myself off in the van armed with tea towels, mens jocks and socks, reading glasses, and various other bits of rather unexciting merchandise to sell at markets around the area. Whilst I have not yet made my first million, nor even my first two hundred euros, I have met some of the canniest, most caring and comical people over the summer. I ran my own shop for almost twelve years on the Main Street in Tipperary town, but the market business is an absolutely different ball game. For one thing, there is something quite liberating about trading in the open air, rather like eating al fresco, which is infinitely more pleasurable, once the elements are on your side.

                    Camden Market, London.

(Visited this market during recent trip to UK.)

Last Thursday, Emma and myself had just set up the market stall when the heavens opened. I blamed Jim, my neighbouring marketeer for the rain, because he started singing. Jim, a sprightly man, from Co. Limerick, who has won both our hearts, is one of the most genuinely cheerful people I have ever met. Its quite difficult to put an age on him but I guess he must be in his seventies; a batchelor, who took care of his mother until she died a few years ago. Jim's nephews work alongside him, and their respect for him is hugely evident. We covered the merchandise and sat back into the van, hoping that the grey clouds would roll by towards Limerick. Two hours later, the rain stopped, but only for half an hour, in which, we took in the princely sum of 20 euros. The rain came back this time with a vengeance. Time to pack up. As we were about to head home, we realized that we had somehow managed to lock the keys, which I'd placed securely into my newly-purchased handbag, inside the van! Damsels in distress!

Almost two hours later, and following a suggestion from Jim, that we were insured and should therefore break the window (not a good idea considering the break-in of a few days earlier, I thought!), a local garage owner was performing a key retrieval operation par excellence, surrounded by Jim and two other marketeers, in unrelenting rain. Having pushed the window outwards with two cushion 'yokes', the 'surgeon' used the gap to insert two strong wires with differently-angled hooks attached; one that fished my bag towards the driver seat, and the other to fish out the keys from the bag. The 'key' supporters cheered him on. Jim uttered such words as 'You're fishing well!' and 'You have it in the back of the net!' causing Emma to double up with laughter, and because I couldn't bear to watch the delicate operation, lest I should put a 'hex' on the procedure, given my luck of that week, I hid behind the van with my fingers crossed.


The quest was victorious and my marketeer heroes brought  the keys to me as if they were bringing home the 'Golden Fleece' itself. Whoever said the age of courage and chivalry in the face of adversity is dead!!!

Discovered afterwards that I could have called out the AA. Might have saved myself a few bob, but would hate to have missed out on this unexpected experience of 'ceoil agus craic'.

We drove home as if we had sold hundreds of euros-worth of stock with the new catch-phrase of the moment, 'You're fishing well!' in a broad Limerick accent on our lips. Two lots of breaking, entering and extraction within the space of four days!

My mind took a turn off the main highway, and I got to thinking about my fascination with doors, keyholes and what lies behind them; my love of the story 'The Secret Garden' for example.... the door being a symbol of making choices, changes. Then the thoughts drifted to the FEAR of opening those doors, and decisions not to walk through them being made, lest they should slam behind, leaving us stranded in unchartered waters, unable to return to the tried and tested of familiarity.

I believe that a fear of change; a fear of turning the key and walking through the portal  into another chapter, might eventually cause us to lose the colour that makes us who we are. Life might become dull, boring and GREY! We could find ourselves locked OUTSIDE the business of LIFE! The Keyhole Man, a siren-like figure is a metaphor for that fear!


Have you seen the Keyhole Man?
That lurks in the hollows and shadows.
And like legendary Charon of Hades,
Ferries souls from colour to Nothing.

If you meet the Keyhole Man,
Whose smouldering eyes transfix.
Revoke with scorn his pseudo-passion,
Designed with skill to draw you in.

If you kiss the Keyhole Man,
Gutters will choke on chunks of you,
Spat out by this demon of decaying grey.
Colour-blinded  in Nothing ... your remains with him.

Maureen Walsh. August, 2010 ©

          Keyhole Surgery of another kind!

My friend is recovering ... thank God!

Ciao for now!

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