Irish Film Institute- Stranger than Fiction Documentary Film Festival 21st June

It is not everyday one gets to star in a documentary film festival at the Irish Film Institute. Before I come over as a lovey, I’ll remind you that unlike Andy Warhol, my moment of fame only lasted 5 minutes. My friend Ross Whitaker had created a short film about my relationship with my former guide dog Larry. Unfortunately, as many of you know Larry was forced into retirement and has been smelling the roses with my Dad Johnny in Northern Ireland for over a year.
With the festival starting at noon, there was a minor hitch. My Dad travelling up from Belfast had forgotten to pack Larry. I only realised this when he was halfway up the motorway, leaving Larry unable to walk up the red carpet. Still, there were 8 films to get through before mine, so I settled down in my seat with my family and friends eager to see what was on offer.
Despite an economic downturn that has hit the Irish film industry extremely hard, it was great to see the determination that keeps great short films being made. A short film is incredible, purely because it provides a unique snapshot of life. We saw intrepid swimmers at Dublin’s 40 foot and the tragic stories of families of Irish prisoners. Each film was a maximum of 10 minutes long, so there was little time to take it all in.
There was one film that really stuck in my head though. Tom Matthews, Waiting for Goldfish. Despite the quirky title, it was a fascinating look at one of Ireland’s best known cartoonists. Today we are all under pressure to live responsible linear lives. 9-5, a wife, maybe kids and 2 weeks holidays every year perhaps. Tom is certainly different. He gets up, goes to the pub, and hopefully in that time, he’ll be able to come up with an idea that will appear in the Irish Times. Wonderfully eccentric, stocks and shares just aren’t a part of his lexicon.
He said one thing in the film which struck a chord. “It’s fine to good enough most of the time, but sometimes you can be brilliant.” It struck me that it is indeed fine to good enough if it achieves your required goal …but it depends what your goal is. For Tom it is getting his cartoons into the Irish Times, for some people it could be getting a promotion at work or beating their personal best in a sport.
When I first went blind, my goal was as simple as working out how to tell the time. That was good enough in the beginning. Then it was finding my toothbrush and trying to cook my own food. My goals were about being independent. A few years later my goals changed and reaching the South Pole was my goal for most of last year. Yet, now that I’ve returned successfully with a 5th place finish, I realise that reaching the South Pole was good but not brilliant. This could be interpreted as negative but it is not. In the beginning I wasn’t sure if I could live any sort of a meaningful life as a blind person. Ten years on I am glad to be back competing and disappointed with anything that isn’t brilliant.
It is important to be satisfied to just be good enough, but it is equally important to keep moving the bar upwards and keep searching for your best.


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