The Thing Is with Steve Canavan

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They say with age comes wisdom but after what happened to me at the weekend I’m not sure I agree.

It was my birthday, an occasion I find just a little more depressing with every passing year - especially that moment when a family member inevitably dims the lounge lights, walks in with a small unappetising-looking cake with candles on, and you have to do your best to try and not look too pained while everyone starts a tuneless and half-hearted rendition of ‘happy birthday to you’.

Alas this year not everything went to plan.

What happened was this.

After all the excitement of opening the presents (that sarcasm, I’m 43; I got four cards and a book from my mum that I’ve already read), I was in the kitchen peeling some potatoes. The fact I had to do such a menial, mundane task on the anniversary of my birth – when you’d think, say, my wife might have offered - may surprise some of you, but Mrs Canavan insists that at eight-and-a-half months pregnant doing any kind of chore around the house is beyond her – although she is still able to lie on the settee for prolonged periods eating Quavers and watching Masterchef.

Anyway, I’m peeling spuds and all of a sudden I feel the urge to sneeze, which in itself isn’t a bad thing because as we all know the function of sneezing is to expel mucus containing foreign particles or irritants and to cleanse the nasal cavity. Obviously.

However, I am quite a powerful sneezer (I inherit this from my mum; on holiday in Portugal, she once sneezed so loudly – true story this - that it set off a fire alarm and resulted in the evacuation of an entire hotel) and in the action of sneezing I involuntarily threw my head forward and smacked it against the kitchen wall, right at the corner point where it joins the back door.

I recoiled in agony, bent double, made a frantic wheezing noise like someone attempting unsuccessfully to get the top off a jar of pickled onion, and gingerly felt the top of my head.

When I looked at my fingers there was, horrifyingly, blood on them.

This was not good.

I screamed to Mrs Canavan for assistance but she couldn’t hear me over the sound of the Quavers she was munching, so I was forced, despite feeling groggy and slightly disorientated, to fish a bag of frozen peas out of the freezer and then lie horizontally on the kitchen floor for 35 minutes until I was sure I was not suffering from a fatal brain haemorrhage.

At one-point the cat, clearly more concerned than my wife, wandered in to see what the fuss was about. However, rather than fetch help he took advantage of the situation, lay down on my stomach and fell asleep.

I remember thinking, as I clutched the peas to my cranium, it would be a really weird way to be discovered if I expired - lay on the kitchen floor with a bag of Birds Eye frozen petits pois on my head and a sleeping cat on my stomach. Worse still it was quite a cold day and I was wearing those really awful slipper socks that only people beyond the age of 90 purchase.

So, all in all, I’m rather glad that after half an hour of lying prostrate and regretting all the things in life I had meant to do but never got round to - such as reading the entire works of Shakespeare and walking the Pennine Way naked – I was eventually able to rise unsteadily to my feet and live to tell the tale.

This was good news for me but a blow for the cat, who had to jump off and find another resting place.

I considered going to A&E to see if my wound needed stitches but thought it was too embarrassing to say how the accident had occurred (‘well, doctor, I was in the kitchen peeling potatoes when I sneezed and head-butted the wall’), so decided not to bother.

I now have a nasty little cut on my head and, worse still, I got blood all over the potatoes, had to bin them and go out and buy another five pound bag, but by the time I got to Tesco Express they’d run clean out of Cyprus and instead I had to purchase King Edwards, my least favourite brand.

What a lousy birthday.

Photo helped end all illusion

I was at my mother’s the other night when she handed me this photograph – taken on my first birthday.

She explained it was one of her favourite pictures of me and that she had entered it into a bonny baby competition in the local newspaper.

My sisters almost choked on their brews and suggested she should have entered into a ‘baby with fattest cheeks and worst hair’ competition.

I have to admit that previously I’d always felt I was quite a cute child, which was reassuring because it meant that I had once been, despite what I look like now, relatively attractive.

However, this photo shattered that illusion. I look like a small wild animal that has just woken to find a predator in its nest and now looks slightly alarmed about it. My hair makes it look like I’ve just returned from a walk in a strong breeze and my ears are jutting out in a manner that I can now fully appreciate why my sisters’ nickname for me was ‘FA Cup’ (they’d grab me by my ears and pretend they were lifting the trophy … these days it’d be labelled abuse and I’d need counselling).

‘Do you want to keep the photo?’ asked my mother.

I politely declined and asked her never to show it to anyone again, lest they are mentally scarred for life.