Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

I left the dentist’s feeling like my mouth was not my own. The anaesthetic lasted, as it always does with me, long beyond the work. I knew I couldn’t speak as clearly as I wished, because I had a very short conversation with the receptionist about my next appointment before I left. My tongue was having difficulty forming words and I was lisping.

The anaesthetic always takes ages to act on me and by the time it finally starts to take effect the dentist has got fed up waiting and has given me extra shots, gets through the work quickly and lets me out on to the street, one side of my face feeling like a dead football, if that makes sense, and an itch in half my lips and one ear that scratching only makes worse.

On my way home from the surgery, I called in to my local grocery shop to purchase some necessaries – I didn’t think I’d want to come out again for the rest of that day at least.

When I heard the assistant call to indicate it was my turn in the queue, I went to the counter and handed over the items. She scanned them electronically and told me how much to pay. I hardly heard her but automatically checked the electronic display.

“Two thixty-three?” I asked with difficulty, double-checkin; for some reason. I do that – don’t ask me why.

Yeth pleeth”, she replied with that look they often have which says they kind of see you but only kind of. I looked at her sharply. Was she taking the piss?

“Thanksh,” she said, taking the five note I gave her. My eyes narrowed but she was already ringing it up in her “done this a few hundred times today, a couple of thousand a week, could do it my sleep” kind of way. Then she gave me my change, her eyes sliding over me.

Two twenty-theven change, thank you,” she said. “Neksht!”

I stared at her but her eyes were already on the next customer, who was approaching and looking at me a little impatiently. I moved on and came to a halt near the doors.

By now I was chiding myself for being paranoid. Had I never met someone with a lisp before? Suspecting her of taking the piss? Come on! She was hardly aware of anyone except as bearers of items to ring up, give them their change, thank them, call out for the next customer. Eight hours a day with a couple of breaks. She’d have to notice someone first before she could take the piss out of them.

Shaking my head at my paranoia, I moved towards the doors, which opened automatically. Then I heard it. “That’ll be six sixty-seven please.” Clear as a bell. Then “Thank you. Next!”

Bitch! No lisp — she’d been mocking my affliction! I raged inwardly. I had a good mind to march up to her and …. say what? “Ethcuth me Mith. You were taking the pith out of me”? And how could I prove it? I’d sound like some kind of paranoid or psychopath …. or thycopath ….

Oh, fuck it! I barged out of the door, almost banging into someone coming in.

“Oh thorry!” we both said simultaneously and passed one another, each watching the other out of the corner of his eye.



Diarmuid Breatnach


The festivities were being held in a small country town, probably in a hotel hired for the event – I’m not sure. I don’t even know what they were celebrating – their GAA team’s win? But that would be weird too, because I knew they weren’t from this town or county – I could tell that from the indulgent smiles of the locals passing in the street. Yes, at one point some of the gathering were in the street – I can’t remember why.

I was peripheral to the gathering – maybe a relative by marriage, someone’s partner (though I don’t remember being with anyone) or perhaps a visitor. But I was tolerepted – that’s more than tolerated but not the same as fully accepted. When the gathering turned to calling for singers and songs and I was prevailed upon to sing (which to be honest, didn’t take much prevailing), I could almost read the thought in the air afterwards: “That Jackeen can sing, all right.” And I was asked to sing again, which of course I did — maybe more than once.

I am pretty sure I wasn’t with anyone and I remember focusing at some point on a dark-haired woman whose eyes might’ve been blue, anywhere between thirty and fifty years of age, depending on genes and life-style and health but more likely the lower age of the range – and it definitely wasn’t makeup, of which she was wearing little.

We kind of clicked and were getting on well – she seemed intelligent and there was something definitely sexy about her but understated, like a strong current running underground. We became an item for a short while, obvious to people there but I don’t remember any intimate details – only a definite intimacy.

Then the scene somehow shifted and she got excited about the offer of a part in some production in the big city. I was glad for her, although it meant I was going to see less of her.

When I saw her next, it was in the big city, she and her male counterpart were still wearing the eye-masks and head-pieces from their performances, although in a public place, which was a little weird. They were laughing a lot … she was buzzing – they both were – and turned towards one another, me little more than an observer, though sitting at the same table.

For the next scene we were back at the gathering, which seemed to have moved on but little, and some of the women were tearing into her, verbally but at one point also physically; I’m not sure what about but part of it could have been about how she had treated me. I remember she got some clothes torn off her and marched past me (I had just arrived in the hotel lobby — or was it a big mansion now? — and caught the end of the altercation) ….. Yes, marched past me, tears taking a line of mascara down her face, wearing some kind of pink leotard with strips of outer clothing hanging off her …. Some of the women were jeering: “Look at her go, the great actress!”

Minutes later she stomped back past me again, her eyes flaring, head up and jaw jutting forward, heading back towards the women. “I’ll show them! I’ll show them!”

I watched her stomp past in that ridiculous pink leotard and fluttering strips of clothing and – you know what? Despite everything – I was mentally cheering her.





By our Science Reporter

Can Baked Beans
A new metal-detecting system has been developed which is revolutionising security detection, prospecting and archaeology.  Previous systems have depended on magnetism and have not responded well to non-ferrous metals.  The new system responds to all metals and, strange as it may seem, it functions through using baked beans in tomato sauce.

An Irishman developed the detection system after discovering the principle, like many great discoveries, through accident.  “I often prepare breakfast of baked beans on toast,” said Dublin man Diarmuid Breatnach.  “I noticed when I tipped a tin of baked beans into the pan for heating, that some of them remained stuck inside the can, even after vigorous shaking.  I began to wonder if there might not be an attraction of some sort between them and the metal.”

Metal Detector
The Garrett Ace 150 metal detector, at the lower price range of conventional detectors, sells at €199. The new bbp (baked bean principle) detector however is currently selling at around half the price.

The idea kept going around in Breatnach’s head until he decided to test it out.  “In a friend’s garage, we ran a series of tests and discovered that yes, indeed, baked beans in tomato sauce are attracted to metal.  And we discovered that they worked with many different kinds of metals – steel, obviously, but also aluminium, copper, zinc, tin, silver and alloys like brass and bronze.  We didn’t have any large enough surfaces of gold and platinum to test – they have to be several millimetres across to work – but we thought it would work for them too.”

The Dublin man then set about designing the machine that would employ this attraction for metal detection.  Using his skills learned in a former trade of fitter-welder, he constructed the first prototype and took out a patent on it.

“I went to a small metal-ware company on the outskirts of Dublin where I knew a guy and made a deal with the owner.  They produced a few models and then we went to security firms and some metal mining companies, the models worked great under test conditions and we got supply contracts.”

Now the factory, Schiessen Ltd, has expanded its workforce four hundred per cent and struggles to keep up with orders.  In addition, baked bean in tomato sauce production has soared, with attendant expansion in the cultivation of haricot beans and tomatoes abroad.

What impact have these developments had on Breatnach’s life?  “When I started, I was in default on my mortgage and the bank was about to seize my flat,” said the Dublin man.  “Those days are gone and I’m comfortable now.  But I never forget how it started and still eat beans on toast in the morning,” he says with a smile.

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