The Pope and I

The Pope and I

“Stand up,” she demanded. “Now, I am giving you one last chance to tell me your full Christian name, or else.”

I was terrified. I had already given her my full name.

I was baptised with the namesakes of two famous monks. Saints, both of them.

Francis Benedict. That’s who I was known as to my parents until about the age of five. From then on they called me Frankie. The problem was me. I couldn’t get my tongue around it.

It is quite normal for a child that age to have a slight problem with pronunciations. At bedtime I would pray to Jesus, Mary and Jofis. I couldn’t say Joseph properly. My two best friends were John Coss (Crossan) and Gerard Kaana (Kavanagh).

I remember the time when our regular teacher (a nun) was off sick or something. A new nun came in to teach us for a day or two. We were lucky in that our nuns were nice; Nowadays we hear some very sad stories of miserable childhoods.

But anyway, this new nun, Sister Assumpta, was winning us over by asking each child his or her name and making each one feel special. She was lovely. Young and full of joy and peace. Until she met me.

“Oh, look at you with your lovely curly golden hair.”

I smiled.

“What is your Christian name, child?”

“Francis Bendy-dick.” I replied, all proud of myself.

“Sorry. What was that, child?” Her smile was more fake now.

I told her again. I also told her that my granny had helped pick the name at my birth.

I think she blessed herself and then…well then she lost the plot. She turned into the nun from hell. A few of the children started to cry. My friend John had my back “Please Sister, that is his real name. I swear.”

And so it continued until she sent for the head nun. It was eventually all sorted and explained. She apologised to me and to the others. The head nun explained that Sister Assumpta had a build-up of wax in her ears. So that was that. Sorted.

It was sometime around then I became known as Frankie.

As a matter of throw-away fact, tomorrow is the feast day of Saint Benedict. I only know that  because there was a Benadictine monk on the radio today talking about opening a new monastery in Ireland.

If I could just give an opinion on the subject of names, in general. It doesn’t matter which name parents give to their child. It is how the child lives and how they treat those they encounter which is important. Even if his name is Lucifer it doesn’t mean he is destined to be a bad ass.

Good manners are worth more than any college degree.

I hadn’t given much thought about my double barrelled name until last year when, for only the second time in history, there are two Popes alive at once. Francis and Benedict.

I will strive to clean up my act from now on. I have a name (or two) to live up to.

Thank you for reading

Francis Bendy-dick.

If those dentures could talk.

If those dentures could talk.

I have a little toy on the dashboard of my truck. A miniture set of dentures which, when wound up, will chatter away till their heart’s content.  I think it was one of the kids who stuck them there with chewing gum during a  “helping Daddy drive” day, a couple of years ago.

When I was a boy my mother would attempt to make me laugh by popping her dentures half way out and crossing her eyes.  I can’t remember if it made me laugh or vomit. But i remember how it transferred her face to the point where it was unrecognisable. Then she would suck them back in and say something like “Mocking is catching!”

There was a story she used to tell – she did that a lot, tell the same stories over and over, only the stories which got a laugh. But she never seemed to grasp that the stories decreased in funniness with each repetition.

But she used to tell about an incident which happened in her home town, Derry in Northern Ireland, during the second world war.

The story goes that there was a growing fear that Derry and Belfast, being part of the UK,  would be bombed by the Nazi planes. So one evening an evacuation was hurriedly organised. There were trucks and buses waiting at the end of each street to take people across the border to the safety of Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.

The residents were running down the streets in their droves. An elderly couple, Agnes and Willy, were among them. Suddenly Agnes stops. “I have to go back!”

“What for?” asked Willy.

“My teeth. I forgot my teeth.”

Willy dragged her by the hand “C’mon woman! It’s Bombs they’re dropping, not sandwiches!”


Thanks for the stories Mammy. They’re stuck like chewing gum in my mind.