Daniel Sammon recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Writing from NUIG. It is less than ten years since he was bitten by the writing bug and in that time he has written five books including three non-fiction, one fiction and one poetry. Even so, writing is not his main pre-occupation at all, but rather management of a property portfolio and limousine-driving of tourists all over Ireland, from his base in Connemara, which keeps him well supplied with writing material for his pen or rather his writing keyboard. With so much spare time on his hands! he also managed to fit in courses in Legal Studies, Self-Employed Accounting & Taxation and Creative Writing, for which he received ‘Certificates of Distinction’ in all three. He is currently enrolled in a Genealogy Course in NUIG.
‘A Dinner for Me is Only Wasted’
By Daniel Sammon
It was a cold Friday evening around five o’clock in the middle of January and the forecast was for worse weather on the way. John was after putting in a hard enough week.
He had prepared himself for a tough one; he didn’t expect it to be easy, but once this week had passed, he sure expected things to be a bit more manageable. Though he was now over sixty five years of age he was in his first year in university; this was a monumental decision at his age and now he was reflecting on it. Though he loved challenges he sometimes wondered, did he bite off too much this time; even so, he felt confident he could conquer this ‘Mount Everest’.
He never really considered going to college when he left secondary school, forty seven years ago. At that time third level education was for the sons and daughters of teachers and the like, but not for him and his likes, or so he thought, who had no background in academia, so he just got on with his life.
Anyway from what he knew, or rather assumed without knowing at all, third level students were by and large spoiled brats, who spent their time smoking joints of marijuana and getting up to all sorts of antics that their grannies wouldn’t approve of, to say nothing of their mothers. Then once they passed their exams and got their degrees they settled down to a respectable profession, at least on the surface, got married to someone who was doing similar things themselves, and kept up their old ways whenever they got the chance. John was no sooner finished secondary school than he met and fell in love with a debonair young lady of similar age, named Helen who was a ‘reader’ in The Kerryman and though he had no regular income or no qualifications in any trade or profession, he was married to her before the year was out. Before too long the first of six children arrived on the scene. A gap after four, of about eight years, and along came two more, all girls except Stephen who was the last.
In the early 1970s he wasn’t too long out of the traps when he realised that paying rent was only a fool’s game. He had no option but to pay it himself for a short time after he got married, but he resolved that at the first opportunity he would no longer be paying rent to some fat cat.
Though he hadn’t a penny saved, it soon dawned on him that it was money down the drain, paying rent.
After a week driving around the south and west coast of Ireland on his honeymoon, he arrived back in Dublin. He arranged with his close friend Jim to look up and acquire for him a one-roomed flat anywhere, but preferably on the north side of Dublin. On his return, to his dismay, Jim had forgotten to look for any accommodation as he had promised. Urgently, John purchased an Evening Press from a street vendor on the corner of Arran Quay and Church Street, and through it, he acquired a flat in No. 73 North Circular Road.
Without having saved any deposit, he purchased a £5,000 house in Tallaght with a ten per cent deposit which he borrowed from his older brother Francis. Frank, as he was known, helped his father on the small fourteen acre farm at home, which he would one day inherit, when ‘the boss’ passed on. Frank hadn’t much money himself and though he was cautious with what he had saved, he took a chance lending his younger, somewhat carefree brother £500. At the first opportunity John repaid him in full. Due to an acute shortage of funds in the financial institutions at the time, mortgages were extremely difficult to acquire, even if they were approved, but he eventually managed to get one, from Dublin County Council. It was over a thirty five year term but was subsequently paid off sooner.
After about fifteen years in Dublin the whole family moved back to the west of Ireland.
One by one the children went to the nearby national school and then Kylemore Abbey, which the Benedictine nuns operated as a secondary boarding school for girls from all over the world, and after that they made their own ways through life.
John, who was tall and well-built, with a good head of dark hair was in excellent health and full of energy. Common sense told him he wasn’t going to live forever and so he wondered what he would do with the remaining years of his life.
He was, what some might regard as a non-conformist in certain ways, though many would have regarded him as a conservative. He was a regular Mass-goer every Sunday, though he would be the first to admit he wasn’t over-religious. He loved his few pints every weekend in his local pub, which was owned by another brother Patrick and himself at one time, but was now in the sole ownership of his brother. He wasn’t sure where the notion came from, but he decided he would like to acquire an academic degree in writing at university.
Having made his application and happy to have in his back pocket as it were, certificates of distinction, he achieved through correspondence courses while in his fifties, in Legal Studies, Accountancy & Taxation and Creative Writing, he was thrilled to achieve a place for a Master’s in Writing degree in the National University of Ireland.
The first semester went like a bird! A mere twelve weeks and it was over before the end of November. The Christmas came and went so quickly, like the Galway to Dublin train.
And now here he was at the end of the first week in semester 2.
This was a tough enough week, as he attended about double the normal number of lectures, so as to pick out the most suitable and most practical ones, in relation to his future prospects as a writer of exceptional ability.
On the TV in the corner of the pub, Leinster and Montpellier were playing in the Rugby Champions League in the RDS in Dublin. Though the Montpellier men looked like bulldozers, almost every one of them, Leinster hammered them by 57 points to a mere 3.
The head was nearly taken off poor Jonathon Sexton once again, after only 26 minutes by Frans Steyn, who was red-carded for his cyclical tackle. This changed the dynamic of the game and had a major bearing on the end result.
John only went for one or two pints, but the snow flakes coming in the door every time anyone went in or out and the harsh whining wind whistling and swirling round the corner, and having acquired for himself a comfortable armchair beside the warm fire he was reluctant to leave, when his own declared quota of two or three pints was reached. ‘I’ll have one more’ he thought, somehow blaming Leinster, for his celebration of their fantastic win, who he normally wouldn’t be too bothered about how they did.
Another one led to one more until he realised this could go on all night till he finally gulped the last drop, bade his fellow drinkers adieu and left.
His wife – still the same one from all those years so long ago – had the dinner cooked for him when he arrived home but at this stage, as he mightn’t even remember the following day what he had for the dinner he thought to himself ‘a dinner for me is only wasted’.
When he put some tartar sauce on the fillet of salmon garnished with mushy peas, fresh carrots and flowery mashed potatoes, that took only a few minutes to be heated up in the microwave, washed down with cold pasteurised milk, he changed his mind completely and wondered how he came to his original assumption.