I WAS going to make this announcement a little earlier but those cantankerous cabin crew clowns over at BA briefly threw a spanner in the works which has since been removed and will now hopefully be used to beat them ferociously.
I'm coming home! Initially I'd hoped to keep this somewhat of a secret until my arrival but seeing as I'm only going to be at home for four days I thought it best to say it now so as to prevent missing out on meeting any old friends during my short stay.
A few weeks back, a gentle anticipatory quivering started inside my chest but it has since expanded into an all-over body tremble of excitement as the day draws closer. The flight home is going to be rough, leaving at 9pm on the 23rd from Vancouver and landing into Shannon at 9pm on Christmas Eve with a 7 hour layover in Heathrow along the way.
But I don't care. I'd travel home on a cart pulled by a three-legged, blind, cranky donkey via Baghdad if it meant getting to spend a few hours at home. I can already taste the turkey, the ham, the prawn cocktail, the pudding, the roast spuds, o Lord the steaming, crunchy, butter-drizzled roast spuds. Just typing about it here has left my keyboard covered in a thick veil of drool.
As well as looking forward to making a pig of myself at the dinner table, I am almost as excited about seeing those who will share the table with me and most likely have to wrestle with me for the food. Without a doubt there have been times when the family have tolerated my presence, as opposed to desired it, but being out of the coop for seven months combined with the shortness of my stay will mean that I will hopefully be granted the status of golden child during my brief return to Ballyneety.
And once my belly is full to the point of necessitating a cesarean (say that 10 times fast) I'm also looking forward to re-acquainting myself with the taste of a proper pint of Guinness in Fennessy's, perhaps after a day at the races in Patrickswell depending on my funds. If I like the taste of that first proper creamy since I left home, I might even have to try a few more, maybe in the White House, or Tom Collins', or Nancy's. I'm an equal opportunities festive drinker and no worthy establishment will be discriminated against.
In between gulps, I will occasionally come up for air and tell anyone that'll listen about life in Vancouver and while the glass is up to my lips they'll hopefully return the favour and recount what scandal I've missed at home since May.
Then, before I know it, the 28th will arrive and I will be gone again with a head full of happy (and in some cases hazy) memories. I don't even want to sleep a wink when I'm home so as to create and store as many of those memories as possible to bring back across the Atlantic with me. Only three days left!
UUUUUUGGGHH, I may as well just get this over and done with. I've been putting it off for days now but have finally summoned the will to recall the details of a rough period for The Hoge, starting with our losing the big final and finishing with Yours Truly lying unconscious in a blistering hot shower.
Having always been a competitive sort I've never taken losing well, but last weekend's loss really was a particularly vengeful square kick in the scrotum. In hindsight we probably got a little too anticipatory about the game - the evidence of that can be seen in the previous post - and it led to more than a little stage fright on the day.
This might sound strange coming from someone who bleeds Bruff yellow and only joined the Vancouver Rowers a few months ago but I was as keen as any long standing member of the club to win the game. 15-10 isn't a shameful scoreline by any stretch of the imagination but we should have won, plain and simple.
In fairness though, it was the first final the club had reached in over 10 years, thanks in part to the injection of no less than six Limerick lads to the squad. The above photo of the Shannonside contingent was taken at a club dinner the night of the final at which we were regularly reminded that there was always room for more Limerick players. Obviously they said it would be best if such players had learned their trade with Bruff but they would also kindly accept those who hadn't had such privileges in life.
A few days after the game, I emerged from the cranky dark hole in which I'd been dwelling and decided to go for a run so as to sweat out some of the excess and abuse of the previous weekend. The only problem with trying to sweat anything out in Vancouver in December though is that the temperature rarely ventures above freezing at any point in the day.
Looking back on it, going for a run wearing shorts and a long sleeved shirt with the temperature several degrees under zero displayed about as much intelligence as wearing nothing but sun cream. At no point during that hideous half an hour did my teeth stop chattering and when my feeble brain started to throb with the cold I realised that a lively pelt home was necessary.
I stood in the shower at home for twenty minutes doing my best impression of a violently shaking Kango drill as my bones thawed. Since my whole body had been numbed by the cold, I had opted only to turn on the hot tap in the hope of feeling returning that bit quicker to my frozen body. Bad idea.
Apparently I fainted as a result of hypertension, which occurred because of blood rushing back too quickly to my extremities as the almost boiling water heated them up. All I know is that I woke up on the floor with a bump on my forehead and the jets coming from the shower burning a layer off my now defrosted back.
Naturally I've taken to wearing several layers if I so much as poke my nose outside the door after that delightful episode.
It's a good thing too because the sub-zero temperatures mean there ain't much grass growing round here so my job title has changed from landscaper to ice-salter/snow clearer necessitating a 4am rise. God be with the days when I'd saunter into the Leader half conscious at 9 in the morning.
Like I said, it's been a rough few days but I must say there is some comfort in the familiarity of recovering my bitterness at the same time. Being content in myself was all well and good but what am I really without my whinge?
THIS weekend I will play in a cup final for the first time since I was just emerging from the spotty, cranky throes of puberty.
Unexpectedly, for this final I won't be donning the beautiful and well chosen yellow and wine colours of Bruff (although I won't be the only Bruffian playing) but instead the red, black and white of the Vancouver Rowing Club - which in Canada passes for the name of a rugby club.
And this week, while anticipating the Lower Mainland final, my mind has wandered back to my previous big final days back home in Limerick.
I'm almost sure that my first sporting final was in Croom at an Under 10s hurling tournament with South Liberties. It was memorable for us losing and my accidentally smacking our opponent's captain on the chin with the boss of my hurley during the clash. After the game, I tried to apologise to him for it as he showed his teammates the cup but he told me to get lost. Even at nine years-of-age I had a capacity for sourness that made me wish at the time that I'd cracked his chin into several pieces, thereby preventing his petulant reponse.
After that less than savoury introduction to cup finals, there were a few barren years but a team on which I featured once again climbed to the summit at Under 13s, this time in the oval ball code. For many years, Newport had been the bane of our young lives such was their dominance in our particular grade of underage rugby. That's what made it all the sweeter when we beat them in the North Munster Cup Final in Thomond Park.
I can still see our centre celebrating with his hand in the air even before he crossed the chalk after intercepting a Newport pass on the half way line. Even more clearly can I remember one of our player's parents roaring at him from the sideline to stop such classless carry-on as it was Thomond Park he was playing in and not Old Trafford.
The following year brought with it another final day, this time once again in hurling but unlike the Croom catastrophe, this time Liberties emerged victorious. There were however parental remonstrations again on this occasion however as we celebrated our win in the Klinsmann style that was fashionable with jackass 14-year-olds at the time. It was hugely disrespectful to the jersey, we were told, to cover it in muck by sliding along the ground, especially seen as the celebration had originated from a bloody soccer player.
Our Bruff team returned to Thomond Park again the next year for an Under 15s cup final showdown with Richmond but there was to be no repeat of our Under 13s heroics as we crumbled to the boot of one Wayne Murphy who could have dissected the posts with a kick taken from one of the ground's toilet cubicles that day.
Certainly there have been other finals since then that I have been involved in but on every occasion it has been as a splinter arsed substitute. That won't be the case this Saturday however when I'm hoping I'll be able to bring a bit of that Bruff Under 13s and South Liberties Under 14s luck to proceedings.