My head and Santa's helicopter.

" There he is !! "
Just one word: 'MAGIC'
 © Seamus Farrelly/Meath Chronicle. 

There was a private joke involving me, doing the rounds over the past few weeks, which I don't mind sharing with you now: 

Q:What has Aidan Murphy's Mind and Santa's Helicopter got in common?
A: They both end up beating the air around them into submission.  

Ha ha. Very Funny !! 

I suppose it's really only after this event that I can look back at that wise crack and give a smile. There was just too much happening in my head to credit the smart-ass any earlier. The whole aviation aspect of this takes and  needs the planning to start about 6-8 weeks in advance. It begins with the sourcing of aircraft and pilot, then moves into operational availability. For example, the aircraft used yesterday was taken on a test flight the weekend previous to ensure all boxs were and are ticked. Helicopters are pretty complex flying machines, things can go wrong and flights do have to be aborted. To mitigate the risk of not disappointing over 500 kids, this pre-planning is vital.

I was actually in bed in the Bons Secour Hospital some weeks ago when I sent off my first Santa email to Aoife's school principal Ciara Whelan. I think I started it with something like "Hi Ciara, it's that time of year again...".  This is Ciara's second year as School Principal in St. Seachnalls Primary School. A switched on woman, dedicated to the cause, knows what works and why, and that folks makes it very easy for somebody like me (and Santa) to do business with. I'm not going to bore you with the rest of the logistics, they are all packed away now with cherished memories of yesterday's excitement. But before I do leave it, it's important to acknowledge the teamwork that's required and needed to click everytime an operation like this is pulled off. From my good friend and adrenaline junky to boot Paul Monahan, helicopter pilots Andrew Woods and Andrew Byrne, Dublin Air Traffic Control, Paul Foley and his crew at Dunshaughlin Fire and Rescue Service (MH14), The teachers and Parents Association of St. Seachnalls School, Meath Chronicle editor Gavan Becton and his trusted photographer Seamus Farrelly, my cousin Brian who was my standby Santa and ready to jump in 'literally' at a moments notice throughout the entire day and last but by no means least, the white bearded man himself in the big red suit.. SANTA !!!

I'm writing this blog at 5:30am, bright as a button. The reason for this is, I hit the hay early last night as I never sleep the night before the Santa run. I lie awake in the bed the night before running through my mental checklist and preplanning solutions to various issues that can and sometimes do arise during the Santa flight operation. For Example: Two years ago, my good friend and helicopter pilot Andrew Woods flies the aircraft into our designated landing zone (LZ) just outside Dunshaughlin on the morning in question. Split timing is everything at this stage of the operation. As Andrew lands and settles the skids on Dessie Caldwells freshly cut grass, rotors are running full tilt, I'm in touch with the school to commence the orderly evacuation of the 500+ students as I simultaneously run in to the house to grab Santa and load him up. Over the noise of the helicopter turbine, Santa shouts over at me "Aidan, I can't find the beard". No beard !! It wasn't there !!! But nobody panicked (well, except for Santa). Rest assured Santa flew into St. Seachnalls on schedule with a beard !! So now you can see why and where the pre planning and dare I say it, risk assessment comes in to play every year. 
Daddy & Daughter, that's  a wrap !!
 © Seamus Farrelly/Meath Chronicle

It was only last night, sitting beside the fire in our snug sitting room, going through the thoughts and memories of the day and then especially when I came across this beautiful photograph (above) where Meath Chronicle photographer Seamus Farrelly grabbed my own camera off me and in a moment (as he does) snapped this shot, did a sobering thought of reality 'click' in. Do pardon that pun please. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not trying (nor would I) put out a beautiful flame that was lit yesterday, but I would be lying to you if I didn't admit to getting emotional when my eyes locked on to Seamus's photograph above. That timing when Seamus's finger pushed that button and my camera went 'snap'', he had captured it. That's the moment. That's why I did it. Of course this whole scenario demands to be shared and duly is. 

Click the link below to view St. Seachnalls 
7 min video of the mornings adventure. 

Here's the rub, this moment of mine also has me quiet ill. I am 48 years young and I have Gastro Cancer. Yes, I am on a course of specific treatment and yes it's designed to shrink this inoperable tumour of mine so they can hibernate it. My eyes then well up as I glance back again at this picture. I ask myself that horrible question, will I be here next year to fly in Santa? More tears in my eyes now. I don't know. Oh jesus. I'm not panicking but my mind races immediately back to when I was told the news first. And here's the thing, I'm not just thinking of Aoife here, I'm thinking of disappointing over 500 children. With that, a few trembly breaths in and I refocus myself, more slow and more deep breaths come and go.

A nice Thank You from the School Principal

The 'now' moment is good to me. I'm eating well, taking the 15 or so daily tablets, sleeping well and to date knocking the living crap out of my chemotherapy side affects. But it's only human and indeed normal for my head to have these darker thoughts. On the plus side, I find once my mind has this moment of morbidness, after the emotional load it carries (when I recompose myself), I feel I am in a better place. Once I then compel that new moment to paper, or blog rather, like what I am doing now, my mind reaches a much more composed, compassionate, even serene place. 

And with my mind in that zone now folks, I commit this blog to you, my reader. 

Thanks as always...



  1. So glad Santa made it to Dunshuaghlin again this year by helicopter. Hope Dunshuaghlin knows how special that is.p


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