Monday, November 8, 2010

Falling Down a Mountain

Just after leaving the Hart of Ireland tour group in Galway on September 17, I zipped out to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, with my aunt and uncle. They were staying on an extra week after the tour, and I was to drive them around to some of my favorite places -- bogs, ancient stone forts, holy wells, etc.

Dún Aengus, Inishmore, Aran Islands, Co. Galway

Our first stop was going to be Dún Aengus, an ancient cliff-fort at the edge of the big island of Inishmore. We took a minibus up to the interpretive center, and started to climb to the fort. Ironically, I'd spent a good bit of time warning my wonderful aunt and uncle that the path was rocky (here's an excellent picture of the spot), and that it wasn't exactly a walk in the park -- so it was particularly ironic when I was the one who took a tumble.

Now, I don't recommend breaking a bone on an island with a population of 800. No hospital facilities, only a doctor's dispensary. But the doctor was very nice, and suspecting a fracture, she shipped me off on the 8-seater plan to Inverin, where I got a cab to the University Hospital in Galway.  X-rays there confirmed a fracture of the surgical neck of humerus, in other words, the long bone of the upper arm, right near my shoulder.

Okay, not my bone -- but similar!
All the while, a song kept running through my head...  "The Sick Note" or "Why Paddy's Not At Work Today":
Dear sir, I write this note to you to tell you of my plight
For at the time of writing I am not a pretty sight
My body is all black and blue, my face a deathly grey
And I write this note to say why Paddy's not at work today.

Whilst working on the fourteenth floor, some bricks I had to clear
To throw them down from such a height was not a good idea
The gaffer wasn't very pleased, he was an awful sod
He said I had to cart them down the ladder in my hod.

Now to clear away these bricks by hand, to me seemed very slow
So I hoisted up a barrel and secured the rope below
But in my haste to do the job, I was too blind to see
That a barrel full of building bricks was heavier than me.

Now when I had untied the rope, the barrel fell like lead
Clinging tightly to the rope I started up instead
I shot up like a rocket till to my dismay I found
That half way up I met the bloody barrel coming down.

Well the barrel broke my shoulder, as to the ground it sped
And when I reached the top I banged the pulley with my head
I clung on tightly, numb with shock, from this almighty blow
And the barrel spilled out half the bricks, fourteen floors below.

Now when these bricks had fallen from the barrel to the floor
I then outweighed the barrel and so started down once more
Still clinging tightly to the rope I fell towards the ground
And I landed on the broken bricks the barrel scattered round.

As I lay there moaning on the deck I thought I'd passed the worst
But the barrel hit the pulley wheel, and then the bottom burst
A shower of bricks rained down on me, I hadn't got a hope
And in all of this confusion, I let go the bloody rope.

The barrel then being heavier it started down once more
And landed right across me as I lay upon the floor
It broke three ribs, and my left arm, and I can only say
That I hope you'll understand why Paddy's not at work today.
I even started composing my own (albeit much abbreviated) version:
While climbing up Dún Aengus, I had nearly reached the top
When my foot went out from under me and I did a belly-flop
Chevaux-de-friese outside Dún Aengus (photo by Betty Rogers)

Another view of the chevaux-de-friese (photo by Betty Rogers)

Cliffs at Dún Aengus (photo by Betty Rogers)

Cliffs at Dún Aengus (photo by Betty Rogers)

So the upshot was that I had a whirlwind tour of most of the hospitals, clinics, and x-ray and A&E departments of west Galway, was forced to cancel my Saturday night reading at Portumna Castle (rats!), and had to cut the whole trip short. And I didn't get a lick of research done for Book Four. Very disappointing altogether. I guess I'll just have to make another trip to Ireland in the spring.

It's been just over four weeks now, and I'm on the mend. Fortunately the writing hand is still intact, and I've become quite proficient at putting socks on one-handed.

Minnesota Library Association annual meeting, October 7 in Rochester, Minnesota
(photo by Dáithí Sproule)
The only silver lining is that everything is fodder for a writer. Now everyone is asking whether Nora Gavin is going to break her arm in the next novel. I can't say whether that will happen, but it's likely that someone is going to break something!

So thanks to everyone for the well-wishes. I'll be back in fighting form in no time.


  1. Ouch! Thanks for filling us in on the Real Story. I knew you'd had a mishap, but was left wondering what had happened.

  2. A bellyflop? So sorry to hear of your misadventure, but it was lucky you could still type. Love your books. Funny how characters take on our own misadventures.

  3. I hope recovery goes well and I'm really glad your writing hand is okay.

    I know something of what you feel. Ten years ago, I tripped while walking the dog and broke my left kneecap and right ankle. Pretty disabling, but at least I could still write.

    Finally, last year I decided to use that "research" in a book and I'm currently writing a book where the protag falls over a dead body and breaks her legs. While writing this I must have figured I needed to update my research, because I fell while walking the dog (a different one) and once again broke my left kneecap and right ankle.

    My husband has now forbid me to do any more research in this area.

    Heal quickly!!!

    gkw9000 at

  4. Sorry to hear about your mishap and hope you're arm is back to normal soon. I'm sure the writer in you captured some of your experience on paper. You never know when a character will fall down a mountain and end up in an emergency room! Best Wishes