“We’ve gone on holiday by mistake!”
Yes, from Withnail & I.
Just one great line among the many in that tragic-comic movie classic.
It also kind of sums up how I feel about my “career” in journalism.
I fell into it, if not by mistake, literally, then certainly not by design, or ambition.
If you know the movie, you’ll remember the scene:
The titular pair have escaped the daily humiliations of life as out-of-work actors in the big city for the daily humiliations of life in an unheated, broken-down country cottage, owned by I’s Uncle Monty.
Our penniless anti-heroes are starving and cold, and it’s bucketing rain as they head off on foot looking for fuel and wood. The rain plastering their hair to their heads, and cascading down their blinking faces, they flag down a neighbouring farmer in his tractor.
Journalism was not something I had thought about as a career when I was growing up.
Though even as a small boy I loved the sports and features section in our daily newspaper, the Irish Independent.
News was boring and for grown-ups, people like my mom and dad who got vexed about politics and watched the Late Late Show — “And here is your host, Gay Byrne!”
Every Sunday evening, I’d go up to Granddad and Aunt Maura’s to read her Express, then a big, messy, satisfying broadsheet.
Heaven was a rambling, pungent piece, the odd photograph but mostly words — lots and lots of words, the more words the better — filling an entire page, about some famous runner or boxer, or best of all, a footballer like Bobby Moore or Peter Osgood.
James Lawton, Alan Hubbard, and Danny Blanchflower are writing names I remember from that time. But they weren’t the stars; the people they wrote about were, like Muhammad Ali or Dave Wottle.
So there was no scribbling of juvenile “scoops” for me, no cut-down trench coat and Trilby with “Press” in the hatband!
No, I was in my mid-20s, having spent a few years in Europe, knocking around, picking fruit, working in factories, even a stint as a builder’s mate with a friend of mine in small-town France.
Haphazard but fun.
But the time had come to think about a “career”, whatever that might be.
And it all came down to a man I met when I was working as a tour guide with Irish pilgrims in Lourdes.
We got friendly, this man and I, and had several great chats.
We must have been talking about what I might work at next. What might interest me, challenge me — and pay well enough.
He observed that I seemed to be articulate and interested in current affairs and all that, and did I ever consider being a journalist?
Ah … no!
But before I knew it I had fixed myself up with a place on a course, and the rest is … well, I’m still in the read all about it game.
It’s been okay … pays the bills, and eventful enough.
All of which, however, makes it kind of strange for me when I am attempting to steer our daughter, especially, towards something she might ultimately work in, and actually enjoy.
Get well paid enough for too, but not let money dictate things.
It is hard, though, isn’t it, for kids to make these decisions when they are still caught between wanting to save the world and murder their French teacher?
And still living with the worst Mom and Dad, ever!
All I know is I’ve always wanted that our kids would discover something they were passionate about doing, and let the rest take care of itself.
Be ready with the cash, of course, and help out when required.
But let their paths be dictated by their passions.
As it stands, our lad loves football, and plays away, but who knows what will happen for him?
He is a fine footballer but at 14, he has been hindered for some time by a knee condition, variously identified as a variation of Osgood Schlater, or as tendonitis of the knee.
Either way, it restricts his explosive movement, jumping or sudden sprinting.
It’s limiting, but he doesn’t talk about it, he just gets on with it, even as he struggles for speed and power against players who he would have dominated in his pomp.
He won’t hear of stopping to allow his knee issue to be sorted before resuming when he is 100 per cent
No, he keeps plugging away, making the best of it. So admirable.
Our daughter is creative, and has a creative temperament to go with it, to put it carefully. But admirable too in so many ways. Opinionated, feisty and honest. Very honest!
Her path isn’t straight-forward, but we try and work with her as she tries to find her passion, and herself.
Doesn’t really sound like a plan all of that, though, does it?
And it’s a bit scary, trying to prepare the way for a passion to be explored and developed, when it has hardly leaped out and announced itself to her. Or us.
So no guarantee, obviously, of success and satisfaction — whatever shape they might take — and there’s always the possibility things might not work out brilliantly.
But sure maybe that’s part of the journey too?
Wanting the grace to trust in the process and their strength of character and determination to make things happen for themselves.
Fearing they will blame us if things don’t work out.
Or even if they do.
Or would we be better off pushing the conventional options as they near the end of their school careers, and then just bankroll their choices off the career menu?
Works for the majority …
So, the Grand Plan, or Career by Mistake?
Like so many of us.
When they get wherever they are going, finally, we can sit back, demand the finest wines known to humanity — “We want them here and we want them now!” — and drink to their successes.
*My Word Of The Week (#WotW) is, surprise, surprise, CAREER
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