Captain Connor

(Note: I had a boss once who used to call me Captain Connor, for no particular reason. I never knew how to react. Eventually I started calling him Flight Lieutenant Steve. This seemed to work.)

Because my birthday was on a Wednesday, I couldn’t possibly not do something on the Saturday after.

I decided to be brave. Last year, I had deliberately done nothing big about my birthday. Birthday parties are always so stressful.

  • What if no one comes?
  • What if everyone comes and has a crappy time?
  • What if only one person comes and I don’t really like them, but only invited them to be polite?
  • What if people from different circles come and they don’t get on with each other?
  • What if only people who I kind of know come and they all judge me for not having any proper friends?


All that said, I love birthdays. And it is 2014 – the Year of Connor. So I invited everyone to a birthday party. I went one step further and had it on a boat. It’s just a pub that happens to be on a boat that’s permanently moored to the North Quays. But it’s still different. Being me, I labelled it a “boat party” and lots of people thought that I had hired a yacht or something.

On Saturday morning, I gave myself permission to have a second birthday. I walked into town and I bought a sailor hat. Nothing says birthday bravery like a novelty hat. I also bought myself a birthday present of four books and a decorative multi-coloured hot air balloon for my kitchen.

Also a bird shat on me. Which happens to me approximately once every five months. And every time I freak out. Birds are awful. Without exception. They have beaks and they want to peck my eyes out. They circle threateningly. They can fly. They have eggs instead of periods. There is nothing endearing about birds. Except penguins. Penguins are my spirit animal. (Depending on my mood, Rylan Clarke is also my spirit animal.) Anyway, apparently having a bird poo on you is good luck. And I guess no matter what birthday disaster awaited me, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as bird poo.

I put on my sailor hat, met a friend and we walked together to the ship. And I had a surprisingly lovely night.

  • One of my friends wore her most “Connor” clothes. They included a sparkly, sequiny top of foxy gorgeousness, a fake fur coat of wonderfulness, and a feathery handbag of amazingness.
  • One of the guests was someone I had known in UCC when I was an undergraduate. I sometimes worry about my skill for losing all my long-term friends and this was amazing.
  • Two of “my Boys” came, and I had no choice but to introduce them as “my Boys”, which was exquisitely embarrassing for everyone involved. One of my friends was delighted to discover that I hadn’t invented them.
  • I learned that one of my friends spent a month as a teenager following the Grateful Dead around the States on tour, serving “grilled cheese” to the stoned concertgoers.
  • We used the word “ahoy” far more often than was necessary.
  • My snootiest friend wore a sailor’s top and managed to look like he actually was on a yacht for the entire time.
  • I got far, far, far too drunk. I think I spent much of the night demanding that people buy me drink. And yet no one walked off in a huff.
  • I got a biro tattoo on each “bicep” – one of an anchor and one of a harp.
  • I failed utterly at spreading my attention equally among everyone, but everyone else was very effective at making friends with each other – much to my relief. It was too small a group for faction-fighting.
  • We sang sea shanties. Or at least we sang Row, Row, Row Your Boat. The only sea shanty I know is Gay Pirates by Cosmo Jarvis, and that wouldn’t have been quite right.
  • One of my friends claims that guys on rugby teams frequently accidentally drink each other’s pee. I tried not to make too big a deal of this, but it was the only thing I could remember about the night when I woke up hungover on Sunday.
  • At midnight, someone made the mistake of telling me that they had a bottle of poitin at the bar. I swayed and staggered my way to the bar and ordered one for everyone. Two people didn’t want their’s, resulting in a bout of arm-wrestling to divide up the seconds.
  • I didn’t feel all that drunk when I left.

But I was. I was very, very drunk. I’ve been drunk three times recently. On the first of these occasions, I decided to come on to straight rugby boys. The second time, I decided that the friendly post-work pints with a former colleague was actually a date, and was devastated when it turned out to be friendly post-work pints. The third time was my birthday, and I fell back on crying.

I’ve always cried when drunk. I’ve cried on Camden Street with colleagues, and in taxis in Poland, and in student bedsits in Cork, and into straight men’s chests. And I cry hard. I cry giant man tears.

I was in my taxi, whimpering a little, telling my friend about how grateful I was for everyone who came and how loved I felt and how much I loved my birthday and how my friends were the best people and wah, wah, wah.

As soon as I got into Hall, the whimpering turned into massive sobs. I texted some of the people who had been at the party. I sent them long soppy grateful messages. I didn’t go all the way into my flat. For some reason, I stood on the bridge over the duck pond in Hall and I continued to cry. I sent drunken messages to my friends, who all sent back sober and tolerant responses, including the classic “Emote away, Connor!” I also, and I have no idea why, downloaded and started listening to Harry Connick Jr’s version of I Could Write A Book. I didn’t even know he had a version of it, but I listened to it over and over again.

So there I was, standing outside on a bridge next to my flat at 2:00 on a Saturday night, bawling crying, texting my friends and listening to some 1950s easy listening. Luckily, the first student to pass by was one of the only ones of this year’s batch who I feel I can be myself around. I hugged him, he wished me a happy birthday, and I went back to my Harry Connick Jr and my emoting.

A few minutes later, one of the more eccentric Hall security guards walked across the bridge. He gingerly said “Hello Connor”. I turned to face him, sailor hat, poitin breath, red cheeks, tears and Harry Connick blaring out. He backed away and didn’t say another word.

I eventually made it into my flat, where I had a nice cry on the couch and made my way to bed. I really was very happy.

I woke the next morning with a hangover that lasted for forty-eight hours. I felt it in my bones. I’m never drinking again (LOL), but Saturday night was well worth it.

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