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Fond memories of Marcus and an era that has passed

 

 

 

We live in an age of technology which has effectively done away with the need for human input in a lot of jobs. In such an era, it’s hard to believe that once upon a time if you wanted to talk to someone in a bank or an insurance company or any such big national or international company, all you had to do was pick up the phone – or even better, just walk in off the street – and talk to whoever you happened to come across. Nowadays if you ring your local bank, you get through (if you’re lucky) to some call centre in a completely different part of Ireland, and if you want to have a word with one of the ever-decreasing number of staff members, you definitely have to make an appointment. The personal touch that was once so important is now nearly no more.

  I was once a staff member with Bank of Ireland, an institution that I served for more than 12 years way back in my younger days, and all these thoughts came into my head last week when I heard of the death of a true legend, Marcus Keane.

  Years ago, I guested in Quarry House in Roscommon town for a number of weeks, when Dinny Egan, Mickey Kelly and Marcus Keane were the occupants. To this day the dinners that appeared are still talked about. Dinny and Marcus were the cooks, while Mickey did the washing up. I wonder what I did? My good friend Jack the Lower recalled coming in to visit us one evening and wondering how four lads could possibly be thinking of eating all that was on the table.

  Marcus moved on. I became an official part of the Quarry House population, and the towns of Strokestown, Glenamaddy and Roscommon (again) were all to benefit hugely from having Marcus working in their midst. One of the things I was told when I first ventured into banking in rural Ireland way, way back, was that we, the bank staff, were to be active on the social scene, that we were to mix and mingle with our customers wherever and whenever we happened to meet them. Sometimes that might be in the pub, which I took to like a duck to water, but in truth it meant that the local people got to know the bank staff, and many a deal was thrashed out in the back room, or snug, in the local, and all that was left to do was dot the Is and cross the Ts when the arrangement was later formalised in the bank itself.

  Marcus Keane was the epitome of what it was to be a bank man back then. He was always available to talk to, he was known all over, and he was treasured by all the people he dealt with. In the world we live in today, he would probably be regarded as old-style, but as I drove back from the removal on Thursday evening, I felt extremely sad. I was, of course, sad at his passing at quite a young age, but I was also sad that there is little room for the likes of Marcus in the banking world any more – his larger than life personality would be in danger of being swallowed up by the technology that our generation has largely been replaced by.

  Over the period I was in Ballintubber, Mayo (where he lived) on Thursday evening I saw people from Glenamaddy, Ballygar, Creggs, Ballaghaderreen, Glinsk and Roscommon, all of whom had been helped by Marcus at some time in their lives and all of whom just had to go along to say goodbye. Later, I got a message from a friend of mine, and I quote: “In fairness to Marcus, for once it can truly be said…we will not see his likes again”.

  That sums it all up pretty well, and all I can do is express my sincere sympathy to his wife Mary, and all his family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Tries…and a fry

It’s early on Sunday morning, and in common with thousands of Irish people all over the world, I am up and ready for the full Irish – and all set to watch our opening match in the Rugby World Cup over there in Japan, where we are about to take on a Scottish team that has been doing a great job of talking themselves up and is certainly not short of confidence.

  The truth is that I have been taken in by all the Scottish hype, and all week I had been predicting that we may well be beaten, so to see an Irish team go out and strangle the life out of our Celtic neighbours was very satisfying. It sets us up nicely for the rest of the tournament.

  Now I won’t go into the actual story of the game – in which we played very well –  but the commentary of Hugh Cahill and Donal Lenihan, with their continual over-confidence regarding the result, really annoyed me, and even though we were ahead all through the game, having seen the Scots come back to draw against England in the Six Nations after being 30 points down I really felt the two lads were a little over-inclined to write them off too early.

  As it happened, I needn’t have worried, and we were worthy winners in the end. Now the secret is to keep our own feet on the ground and treat the Japanese, our next opponents, with proper respect, but like it or not, we are back in the running and have as good a chance as anyone (except maybe one or two) of claiming the Webb Ellis trophy.

  The full Irish meanwhile was just beautiful, and fortified my belief that Kelly’s white pudding is an essential ingredient in any fry-up. I can’t wait to next Saturday morning for the match with Japan…and another helping of Kelly’s white pudding.

 

Dancing and drama!

 

A reminder now not to forget the huge Big Tom Tribute Night which is taking place on this Friday night, 27th of September at 8 pm in the Oaklands Hotel, Glenamaddy.

  Among a large number of top class musical acts that are booked to appear, there will be a special guest appearance by Rex Reeves, nephew of the late and legendary Jim.

  This is a real musical extravaganza, and a credit to Julie Healy for going to great lengths to organise it, so get to the Oakland on Friday night in huge numbers and make it a night to remember.

  If, however, by any small chance you aren’t into country music, don’t panic, because on the same night (27th of September) and the following night (Saturday 28th) the Kilbegnet Drama Group are putting on their production of John B Keane’s ‘Sive’ in Kilbegnet Hall, with doors opening at 8 pm. They never disappoint so if you want a great night’s entertainment go along.

And finally…

Finally for this week, our big dance on October 12th, in Dowd’s of Glinsk – for Cancer Care West, and Lourdes Invalid Fund – is getting ever closer, so put that date in your diary, and we look forward to seeing you all then (or even before) and hope you will dance the night away to the music of the wonderful Lancers.

 

 

Till next week, Bye for now! 

A knee-jerk response on climate change will cause hardship in rural Ireland

 

 

 

One has to be very careful when writing or saying anything about climate change these days. That serious action must be taken all over the world to try to halt the damage being done to the environment is not in any doubt. But, looking at the big demonstrations involving young people all over the world last weekend, you sense that our politicians are very likely to fall into the trap of reacting in a knee-jerk manner. That reaction, largely because they want to be seen to be on the ‘Green’ bandwagon, will adversely affect many ordinary people.

  The Budget is in two weeks’ time and the certainty is that there will be substantial increases in carbon taxes, which will affect rural people in particular. Big increases in the price of petrol and diesel, home heating oil, and coal and briquettes, will make Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Paschal Donohoe popular with the climate change brigade, but it will be a further massive blow to rural Ireland and the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on their cars and vans to get to work every day. What happens if we have a severe winter and people cannot afford to heat their homes? It’s not an outlandish prospect.

  Leo Varadkar – and most of his ministers – are mighty for the bandwagon. They love to be seen supporting whatever is the latest fad, and the climate change movement is certainly that. What we need is leadership, not populism. If rural people are fleeced with carbon taxes, it will be the expensive price we will have to pay to keep up with the Jones’. But remember, there will be an election next year and people may show that they have long memories if the Government go to town with carbon taxes.

  There are other things that the Government could do to raise taxes to pay for the fight against climate change. A levy on air travel is the first obvious one. Taxing the huge global corporations that make massive profits here, while paying hardly any taxes, is another way of raising finance. I’m sure there are other creative ways of getting people to reduce their carbon footprint too.

  I made enquiries about an electric car recently. The salesperson told me the car would have a range of about 320 km. However, that would be on a flat road with no heater on and if driving at 80 km per hour. I asked him what about driving on a day in mid-December – when it’s dark at half-past three – and when it might be snowing outside, requiring the heater, the lights and the wipers to be on. “That would reduce the range considerably” was the answer. Enough said.

  I admire Greta Thunberg and the young people who have taken up the baton on climate change. There is no doubt that we have to act fast to save our planet. We have to play our part here in Ireland too. But the reality is that if we here in this country didn’t light a fire or put on a heating system, drive a car or lorry, or use any kind of fuel at all from 12 midnight on January the 1st, by the time January the 3rd came, the emissions from China would have made up for the emissions that we’d have saved. That’s the scale of the problem we face. Pressure has got to be put on the likes of the USA, China and others, or our efforts will be a mere drop in the ocean.

  When Minister Paschal Donohoe puts 7 or 10 cent on a litre of diesel so that our Government can be seen to be ‘doing the right thing’, just think of Donald Trump sitting in the White House or the Chinese leaders sitting in Beijing, and know that they couldn’t care less. That is the blunt reality, and that’s our biggest problem in relation to this issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is gender neutral parenting a novelty fad?

 

 

 

 

As a parent, I have to say that while I’m extremely tolerant and understanding of the overall concept, I think insisting on raising a child gender neutral without giving that child a choice is a bit over the top. There, I’ve said it. Now I apologise if I’ve upset any of my lovely readers who may, (like UK parents Jake England-Johns and Hobbit Humphrey), have decided to keep their kids’ genders a secret in order to protect them from “the gender bias that society places on children”.  

  Look, I salute these parents, and fully respect their right to raise their children in this way, but…have they taken society’s gender bias issues a bit too far? I only ask because I’m personally at odds with the whole coercive parenting trend, and I do wonder if this couple and those of their ilk are simply buying into some fashionable fad. If this is the case, isn’t it possible that this brand of parenting may create a heap of awkward predicaments and confusion for their child(ren) down the line?

  To be honest, when my girls were small, I suppose I took a pragmatic approach to parenting by eliminating the stereotypical gender-specific items. That’s to say, when it came to toys, I was just as happy buying them so-called male-associated train sets or trucks and dressing them in blue dungarees and shirts, as I was buying them Barbie dolls and prams and slipping them into pink princess dresses. Like most parents, I encouraged my girls to play football and enrolled them in the local GAA team just as quickly as I enrolled them in ballet and drama classes. And, had I given birth to two boys, I’d have done the same with them. Yes, if any son of mine wanted to play with a doll I’d have bought him one – and God help anyone who sneered or made a negative comment. 

  However, unlike the England-Johns-Humphrey family, I would never have denied my kids the right to know or to embrace their specific genders, because to my way of thinking, a person’s gender is defined by the assignment of their sex organs. It is the state of being either a male or a female.

  But I also understand and fully accept that for many, gender is not a case of simple biology. Therefore, thankfully, due to changes in society’s shifts and mindsets, those who have been living in turmoil and are at odds with their gender and who wish to choose it for themselves can now do so without fear of isolation or exclusion.

  In fact, if my granddaughter came to me tomorrow and said I want to identify as gender neutral nana, I’d be delighted for her. I’d hug her, tell her how much I adore and love her and congratulate her on making her decision. I’d encourage and support her to explore her choices without fear of restrictions. And you know why, readers? Because it would be her decision, not her mother’s, and not anybody else’s…hers and hers alone. She’s 12 years’ old, she’s well into puberty, and because we’re an all-inclusive, compassionate family, she knows the full facts of life, (not the ‘babies are a gift from the stork’ Disney version). And I’d feel that we, as her supportive family, had done a good job of raising an independent child who can and who does, (because she’s allowed to), make her own choices.

  I’m enormously respectful and I fully embrace gender neutrality, and gender non-conforming. I see it as a person’s right to choose. What I don’t embrace, and what I will never support, is a parent(s) who believes it’s their right to coercively raise a child as if he/she were some form of experimental clone used to stick their own two fingers up to society. No parent, and I don’t care how fashionable they think they are, has a right to refer to their child, (who is a human being), by the pronouns ‘they’, ‘them’, or in some instances as an ‘it’, as is now trendy.

  In fact, I found it very difficult to roll my eyes back into the forward position and keep my big mouth shut when I overheard a woman in my daughter’s salon say she was expecting a ‘theybie’. Yes, apparently that’s a label some supercool parents are placing on their unborn/new-born, clearly forgetting that there’s an innocent little individual human at the centre of their pregnancy…a beautiful  individual whose mental wellbeing, and whose physical and emotional needs must, whether they decide to  identify as male, female or as gender neutral, be treated as a priority and not as some chic novelty fad.

 

On yer bike…and support Western Alzheimer’s Roscommon!

 

When a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, their condition can have a major impact not just on the patient themselves but on their entire family, causing emotional and financial stress, as well as care issues, to name but a few. Indeed, as a dementia diagnosis can be both devastating and heartbreaking, having someone who can provide our families with sensitive and social support as well as being able to offer assistance regarding the range of services available within our communities is vital.

  With that in mind readers, I’d like to ask any bikers among you if you’d be so kind as to support a local Motorcycle Run taking place on behalf on the Western Alzheimer’s Society’s Roscommon voluntary committee organised by the lovely, caring Roscommon bikers. Now, despite the fact I’m considered a woman who never misses an opportunity to get her leg over, (my bike…calm down), I’m annoyed that on this occasion, due to being incapacitated in a surgical boot, I’m unable to take part! 

  However, for those of you who are available, the charity run leaves Hannon’s Hotel on the Athlone Road this Sunday (29th) at 11 am sharp. Registration starts at 10 am; it’ll be €20 per bike, and your route will take you through the lovely counties of Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and back home to Roscommon.

  All funds raised are in aid of the wonderful angels who are part of the Western Alzheimer’s Roscommon Voluntary Committee, with organisers assuring me that “everyone will be fed!” 

 

Glory, books and egos...

 

The glory game…

 

The Roscommon Senior Football Championship is warming up nicely. Roscommon Gaels are very much a form team, powering into the semi-finals with another good win last weekend, this time against a gallant Elphin. The Gaels certainly won’t want any hype to threaten the hope…but suffice to say they are real live contenders this season.

  Padraig Pearses and Boyle have both been going along very nicely too. Pearses had a big win against perennial heavyweights St. Brigid’s at the weekend…the Woodmount club definitely putting down a firm marker as we move to the business end of the championship.

  Boyle maintained their free-scoring form, defeating Michael Glavey’s as the Ballinlough side struggled to contain the Boyle attack.

  There is so much to admire about Fuerty GAA Club and how they go about their business on and off the field. The club has made great strides in recent years and has enjoyed a terrific campaign at senior level. Their run came to a very dignified end on Sunday when they lost out by two points to Strokestown. It’s great to see a strong Strokestown team…the club/area has long produced teams of flair and quality to grace the game in Roscommon.

  Finally, a word of congratulations to a team from my own neck of the woods…Kilglass Gaels, who won the Ladies Intermediate Final last weekend.

 

Kevin’s book

 

Staying with GAA matters, and former Roscommon manager and long-time RTE pundit Kevin McStay has been putting pen to paper. The launch of his memoir tonight (Thursday) in the Abbey Hotel promises to be a big social event.

  It will be very interesting to see McStay’s perspective on his recent tenure as Roscommon manager, firstly in the ill-fated ‘dream team’ arrangement with Fergal O’Donnell, and then in a more conventional solo capacity. ‘The Pressure Game: Walking the walk on the county sideline’ is a memoir written with Liam Hayes. It promises to be a fascinating and insightful read.

 

Missing Miriam

 

Naturally – when I recovered from the shock – I rang the Editor of Life Magazine (Sunday Independent) to make my complaint.

  “I bought the Sunday Independent yesterday” I explained to the Editor, who listened with ill-disguised impatience.

  I told him that once I had released the Life Magazine from the various sections, I was of course stunned to discover the great omission.

  “What great omission?” he asked, with a sigh.

  “I’ll tell you what great omission!” I said, proceeding to tell him.

  “There was no cover photo of Miriam O’Callaghan, and no eight-page spread on her inside the magazine!” I said, with feeling.

  Stunned by the extraordinary revelation, the Editor apologised profusely and promised that normal service will resume soon. It was, he admitted, a horrendous oversight.

  Miriam, he assured me, would very soon return to her natural home. I don’t know who’s going to break it to Claire Byrne (or Marty Morrissey).

 

One studio, three big egos!

 

I quite like Sky Sports’ unlikely new pundit, Jose Mourinho (Latest appearance: ‘The Main Event’ last Sunday…cue usual excessive hype). Pundit Mourinho is more likeable than tedious, dramatic, self-indulgent Manager Mourinho…in fact some of his tactical insights are fascinating, his knowledge of the game making him quite an interesting addition to the Sky panel.

  On Sunday, it was a heavyweight panel…Graeme Souness, Mourinho and Roy Keane…a lot of ego on show, each guest trying hard to come across as the coolest! (A nervous minute or two for any Sky Sports employee who met those three in the elevator!).

  The Souness/Mourinho/Keane combination worked well enough, but I honestly think they were tiptoeing around one another, none of the three quite ready to presume to assume the ‘top dog’ role just yet. If anything, there seemed to be a bit of deference to Mourinho.

  Solid enough then, if not exactly brilliant, from a line-up that looks mouth-watering on paper. A lot more pedestrian than the often brilliant Brady/Dunphy/Giles dream team of times past (on RTE).

  Mourinho never reached great heights as a player, but this trio would have been a very interesting midfield combination…Souness and Keane intimidating anyone who came near them, Mourinho wearing opponents down by shrugging his shoulders, raising an eyebrow and engaging opponents in philosophical debate.

 

Funny phone call

 

I see Donald Trump’s in all sorts of trouble again, this time for allegedly bad-mouthing potential Presidential election rival Joe Biden in a phone call to the President of the Ukraine.

  But hey, isn’t the newly-elected President of the Ukraine a comedian? Yeah? So what’s the big deal?

  I mean, what’s wrong with two comedians comparing/discussing material in a phone call?

What does our version of ‘Sarah’s Law’ mean?

 

 

 

According to a report in the Irish Mirror, there are over forty convicted sex offenders living in this country who are at either a ‘high risk’ or are at a ‘very high risk’ of reoffending. Now, armed with this information, I for one am relieved to hear that, under new laws, Gardai will be allowed to make disclosures with regard to these perverts’ whereabouts, but only in the interest of public safety. As part of this new strategy, the sex offenders will also be electronically tagged.

  It is my understanding that, in the interest of averting risk, this pertinent information will only be given to a select number of ‘necessary’ individuals/organisations, and it will be done so on a confidential basis. This means, I would imagine, that the likes of local schools and other mandatory bodies will be on that ‘necessary’ list of need-to-knows for the specific purpose of keeping in line with their child protection and risk management strategies. Therefore, in the event some perverted sexual deviant who poses a clear and present danger to our own children and our vulnerable relatives/friends moves in next door or within our communities, we will remain ignorant. That is to say, nobody, as in the authorities, will be distributing leaflets through doors, nor will names and addresses be read out at Mass and nobody will be taking out an advertisement in the local paper, etc. The reason is well, (and I imagine right-thinking people will see where I’m going with this), former offenders who have served their time have a right to go about their lives free from persecution, etc. Indeed, there is an understandably strong support for the whole rehabilitative ideal, with many believing that recidivism rates among sex offenders runs quite low in this country.

  I guess it all depends on what guides and what influences your own personal beliefs, and I am not in any shape or form offering my opinion either way. Wouldn’t dream of it, in this instance. I am simply just stating the facts and providing my readers with information I believe to be of interest to them.

  However, here’s the thing…the law will provide disclosure to any member of the public who actively goes searching for it. Got it? The Gardaí will have to give you the information if you go asking for it in person! I’m sure many of you will have heard of ‘Sarah’s Law’. For those who haven’t, it’s the child sex offender disclosure scheme operating in England and Wales, providing for any member of the public to ask the cops if someone with access to their child/a child has a record for child sexual offences. Well, we will simply have an adapted model of this law here in Ireland. This piece of legislation will amend the Sex Offenders Act 2001, and it will include other legal changes that’ll make it necessary for predatory paedophiles/sex criminals to inform Gardaí of their addresses within three days of their release from custody, as opposed to the seven-day period currently in operation. In addition, if said pervert goes AWOL, authorities can release names, addresses, descriptions and photographs into the public domain.

  Look, it’s human nature for every single one of us to worry if/when/should a convicted sex offender move into our neighbourhoods and our communities. Indeed, we absolutely have a right to know who is living next door and who is out on the road when our precious children or vulnerable relatives are within easy access. However, in the interest of being a law-abiding citizen, I feel it necessary for me to mention that we should all be cautious of engaging in any labelling, stigmatising and/or scaremongering campaigns, and I’d advise readers, if they have concerns, to please refrain from giving oxygen to rumour or speculation, but rather that they would immediately speak with their local Garda Station and take their cues/advice from them.

 

A double for the Dubs… I’m so proud!

 

Well we sealed the deal, did the double and made history! Yep, I’m talking about Dublin’s two All-Ireland wins…both occurring on the same weekend.

            You probably all know by now that I’m a proud Dub, and while I really don’t wish to gloat, I think I will…just a small bit, because I do think, along with my fellow Dubs living in this beautiful county, that we’ve earned it! And, while we all enjoy and revel in our moment, I’d like to acknowledge all of you thoughtful Roscommon natives who wished me well and who wished the Dublin teams well, and who genuinely delighted in our wins. You’re all legends, and your goodwill showcases the true sporting and generous spirit that I’ve always found to be evident in this county and in its people. Okay, there were a few begrudgers, but their comments fell on deaf ears and I paid them no heed.

  Mind you, I’m raging I couldn’t watch my native county make history in person. I’m hopping, (literally), that I wasn’t in the thick of it, screaming from the Hill in Croker, and instead, due to still being held captive by this surgical boot and crutches – eleven weeks and counting – I had to be content with chewing my nails up to my elbows in front of d’telly! Never mind, I’ll be there next year please God, in all my glory alongside my granddaughter when the lads go for the six-in-a-row and the ladies go for the four-in-a-row!

 

Is Leo firing surface to airwaves missiles again?

 

Well it looks like we’ll be going to the polls in May, folks. And sure isn’t it great that Leo believes he’s so privileged he can actually choose the date for the next general election. Now there’s self-belief for you, readers.

  Indeed, last week, firing a surface to airwave missile, during an interview, Mr. Smug declared: “I believe we can win that election. In fact, I am sure of it even though it may not become apparent until the last week or ten days of the election campaign”. That so, love? Fair play to you. However, (and I hate to poke holes in your little ego bucket), before the campaign poster photo-shopping commences, can I suggest you sort out a few major issues like the National Broadband debacle, the cervical smear scandal, the homeless crisis, and the overspend on the Children’s Hospital, to name but a few!

 

 

 

 

How I went from cheering The Kingdom to toasting the High Kings

 

 

 

From the moment I got up last Saturday morning there was nothing much in my head other than the All-Ireland football final replay.

  If the truth were told, I was hoping that the Kerry lads would halt the Dubs’ five-in-a-row bid. I really had no particular reason to support The Kingdom, but I suppose we all like to see the underdog cause an occasional upset.

  Anyway, at about 12 midday a couple came into the shop, and after a bit of a chat I found out that the lady was a Galwegian and the man was from Kerry. So I put two and two together, getting five, as I wrongly assumed that they were on their way to Croke Park.

  The woman told me they had only got one ticket, and that her sister, also a ‘Galway girl’, had got her hands on that, and had left earlier in the morning to travel by bus on her own to Croke Park, and would be making the return journey later that night after the match was over.

  Now I won’t deny that my first reaction was that she was a very selfish woman and that she should have given the ticket to her Kerry brother-in-law, and I said so to the sister – in no uncertain terms – particularly as she, being a Galway girl, can hardly have had any real interest in the outcome. Her answer took me by surprise when she said her sister was hoping the Dubs would win because she wanted to be present when history was made, when the Dubs would become the first ever team to win the magical five-in-a-row.

  It made me have a re-think about my own position, and later in the evening when history was made I have to admit that I looked at the Dubs in a new light. I realised that they are most certainly the best team ever to have graced the game of football, and while I don’t want their dominance to continue forever, I do acknowledge what a wonderful group of young men they are – wonderful ambassadors for the GAA – and I can only congratulate them on their amazing achievement.

  A year ago, I wrote that not only would they do the five, there was no reason to think that it wouldn’t stretch out to six or seven. Today my sentiments are exactly the same. I cannot see this Dublin team losing their crown for a few years yet.

* The great thing about sport is that there is always something else coming around the corner, and out here in Creggs we have a big Intermediate Football Championship quarter-final against our neighbours, Oran, to look forward to on Saturday evening next.

  Then on Sunday morning at 8 am, our Irish rugby team will start their World Cup campaign against the Scots over in Japan. It makes me wonder what would the likes of me do if there was no such thing as sport!

 

No, I’m not  ‘gone cuckoo’

 

My recent revelation about the presence of the cuckoo in Crosswell (that’s where I live) has caused consternation in Mikeen’s, with several people telling me that it’s me that’s gone cuckoo, and that by the month of September, even if he ever came he would by now be long gone.

  An old ditty which says the cuckoo flies away in July had all the bird watchers in a tizzy, and the amateur ornithologists in our midst were ‘certain sure’ that I had got it wrong.

  Some of them seemed to know what they were talking about, and for a little while I wondered could I possibly have heard a musical pigeon…until the lad who told us there were no crows in Leitrim joined in. He had most of the bird people believing him, and when he convinced them that you would get a few crows around Carrick-on-Shannon, but nowhere else in the county, that was enough for me – and, no matter what evidence they try to dig up, I know what I heard, and I repeat that only a week or so ago, I heard the crystal clear sound of the Crosswell cuckoo.

 

 

A great celebration of life and times of Mary Black

 

A number of my friends and acquaintances can’t stand the longer winter nights, when, at its worst, it’s dark at 5 o’clock. I suppose they have a point, but at the same time the long nights give us the chance to rekindle the wonderful roasting open fires, and also the time to watch more television programmes.

  Now I’m the first to admit that some of the present television offerings leave a lot to be desired. Only last night I had the dubious pleasure of watching an episode of Ear to the Ground, which was a repeat that focused on Christmas of last year, and which featured a load of turkeys that I’m sure were destined for the 2018 Christmas Day oven.

  However, earlier in the week, I happened to tune in to a documentary on the singer, Mary Black, and I can only say it was a brilliant insight into the life and times of one of our top, and longest lasting entertainers. It didn’t try to sugar-coat the struggles she has had with lack of confidence and depression.

  One of the most telling observations that the singer made was the fact that her depression was at its worst when everything, career-wise and family-wise, was at its best. As she said, there was nothing financially, or otherwise, troubling her, and yet the depression was still there.

  She also at times questioned her right to be popular and successful, and it was heartening to see someone who, while acknowledging she had a good voice and was quite talented, never wanted great fame or fortune, but was happy to have her own loyal followers and to make a living doing something she obviously loved.

  I would never claim to have been a fan of either Mary, or her sister, Frances, but I admire the former for allowing the documentary to be so truthful about her insecurities. It is a credit to her that she had such a successful career – playing the Albert Hall in London a number of times in the 1990s, and later joining forces with six other top Irish female artists to record the iconic Woman’s Heart album.

  Two of Mary’s three children – Danny, lead singer with The Coronas, and Roisin O – have followed her into the music industry, and they are both hugely successful in their own right, so the Black musical legacy will live on.

  I was hugely impressed with Mary and her honesty, and, knowing RTE’s great fondness for repeats, this will surely be shown again. If you missed it, make sure you have a look next time. It won’t disappoint.

 

And finally…

 

Finally for this week, we are up and running with our tickets for the big fundraising dance in Dowd’s of Glinsk, on Saturday, October 12th. There will be music by The Lancers, and all funds are going equally to Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund.

  The number of families locally that have suffered from cancer, either directly or indirectly, is frightening, and so many members of our community have benefited from the wonderful facilities in the Inis Aoibhinn Residence in Galway.

  Meanwhile, the Lourdes Invalid Fund assists pilgrims to go to Lourdes at the end of August each year, and it is our privilege to do some little thing each year to help both organisations in even a little way.

  Your generosity over the last 15 years has been humbling, and I have no doubt you will once more come up trumps. We are looking forward to renewing a lot of acquaintances on Saturday, 12th of October, and hopefully before that you will meet us at your door over the next few weeks as we arrive with our very colourful newly-designed tickets.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

RTE does some excellent work…but gravy train must depart!

 

 

 

Speculation concerning the future of RTE has been a major story over the past few weeks. Let me state at the outset that I am a supporter of the need to have a quality state broadcaster. It is a fact that to have that service will always cost a lot of money to run and it must be paid for. Some of my best friends work for RTE and I know a lot of people in the organisation who work extremely hard and are not paid the kind of telephone number salaries that we hear mentioned with regard to the station’s elite stars.

  Some of the work that has been done by RTE over the years, especially in the area of news and current affairs, has been top class. They have uncovered and told many stories in Irish life that would never otherwise have come to the surface. The great work done by programmes like Prime Time Investigates has shed a light on corners of Irish life that no-one else could have done. So such programmes have done the public a great service over the years.

  RTE’s coverage of sport and the arts has also been excellent over the years, but all that does not mean that the station ought not to be subject to review like every other organisation in the country. I fully realise that cutting the salaries of their top stars will not solve the problems that RTE have. Having said that, I fail to understand how they can pay Marian Finucane over €300,000 a year for two weekend radio programmes that last less than four hours in total, €450,000 or so to Ray D’Arcy, and over €200,000 to Nicky Byrne,  who was already a very wealthy young man as a result of being in Westlife. (Was there no other young person fit to do that job for a fraction of the cost?).

  It is very hard to justify that kind of waste. Those salaries I’ve referred to total about €1m a year – for just three people! As someone who has worked on radio for over 30 years, take it from me that it’s not rocket science. Fifty grand a year would be plenty for most presenters, and none of them should be paid more than €100,000 a year.

  It is very clear that the ‘gravy train culture’ at RTE has to come to an end. It was interesting to hear Dee Forbes, the Director-General of the organisation (she earns €300,000 per year) complaining about the financial situation being so grave. She should look on her own doorstep to start with.

  In this era of so-called ‘fake news’ and social media, and with the arrival of subscription TV and radio, it’s a very changed media scene. But there is still room for the likes of RTE and the BBC. How they are to be funded going forward is a huge question for the authorities.

  The state broadcaster will always have a role to play, particularly in terms of news, sport, the arts and investigative journalism, and I don’t think we have been let down by RTE in that regard over the years.

  The reality is however that RTE will have to slim down and cut its costs. That being said, I would be strongly in favour of retaining as much of its positive output as we can into the future. Like every major organisation, it will be have to be reviewed and reorganised. The gravy train days may be over, but RTE should stay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making the French connection…again

 

 

When we joined the queue at Dublin Port, Joe Duffy was dealing with the usual mix of callers – varying from reasonable and reasoned to mad as a box of frogs. (I’m not sure if it’s acceptable in these politically correct times to describe some Liveline callers thus; it may even be unfair on frogs).

  Dublin was basking in sunshine – we didn’t care. We were bailing out. After lapsing for a couple of years, we were off to France again for a camping holiday. Naturally, we had observed the unwritten rules for Irish people going abroad: (1) Bring too many clothes; (2) Squeeze in as much familiar food as possible, because, let’s face it, you can’t get that sort of stuff over there!

  In front of us was that familiar uplifting sight: several lanes of cars, camper vans and haulage trucks, all waiting to board the ferry to Cherbourg.

  There’s nothing quite like the beginning of a holiday; you suspend the real world, and embrace the escapism. Soon we were on the WB Yeats for the first time, leaving Joe Duffy to deal with unmuzzled dogs and unmuzzled conmen. The WB Yeats compares very favourably with the Oscar Wilde, the ship we know from previous trips. While it is an 18-hour sailing to Cherbourg, it’s comfort – in fact you could say luxury – all the way…with restaurants, a bar, cinema, kids’ play area, a shop, and of course cabins.

  Relaxing on board, we get talking briefly to two couples from Armagh. They introduce themselves as a Catholic couple and a Protestant couple. They hadn’t met before, but had linked up over a drink this evening, seduced by the holiday mood. When three of them disperse for a cigarette on the upper deck, the Protestant man – a haulier who traverses the whole island – tells us of the depressing shadow Brexit is casting. Later, one of the women matter of factly says that while both communities in the North are getting on much better than in the days of the Troubles, tensions remain. It will take time. Hopefully it will get time.

  Our first stop in France was in Normandy, at a park in Lisieux. After a rainy first night, the temperature settled into the late 20s, mercifully cooler than the record-breaking early 40s of a month before. Normandy has many great attractions. Most poignant and fascinating are the D-Day landing beaches.

  Le Mont-Saint-Michel, an island and mainland commune which is one of France’s biggest tourist attractions, is also well worth seeing.

  The Les Castels park has a majestic old house as its focal point, around which are dotted dozens of mobile homes, chalets and camper vans. Facilities for children are fantastic.

  After a relaxing week in Normandy, our drive south to our second destination coincided with a dramatic temperature rise. We drove for five and a half hours in searing 36 degrees’ heat. We weren’t really complaining. Mostly avoiding the busy motorways, we stuck to the ‘D’ roads, savouring the quaint, pretty, flower-adorned remote villages.

  We arrived at our new park, on the edge of the city of Nantes. Another really good site: restaurant/bar, swimming pool, takeaway, mini-golf, launderette, etc. Here, you can enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of ‘country living’ while being only a 12-minute tram journey from the city centre. Best of both worlds.

  It was our first time in Nantes, a historic city which we instantly liked. The vibrant city centre is brimming with youthfulness. We spent a few afternoons there in the glorious sunshine, enjoying the great late-summer atmosphere. On one walk, we encountered an Irish pub, where we had a very nice bite to eat, surrounded by photos of hurling and football teams from the ‘60s onwards, and by young French people who were not reared on Ring, Mackey, Shefflin, Keaveney or O’Shea.

  The tram service was great. And of course you see all types of people in such city environments. For the most part, the city was buzzing with millennials to-ing and fro-ing. There were people down on their luck too. As we waited for a tram, a man who looked like a very jaded version of the late actor Richard Harris wandered along the platform, bending down every few seconds to pick discarded cigarette butts off the ground. In a world of his own, he caressed each ‘new’ butt and placed it into a plastic bag…for later. A man forgotten by society.

  The French are appalled by Brexit, rolling their eyes at the very mention of it. Not that we converse much in French, not beyond the basics. Mostly, we keep to ourselves. We have always found ‘the locals’ to be friendly. The France we know is rural, friendly, relaxed, slow moving…in short, pretty magical. If any readers are looking to try a family holiday with a difference – particularly if you have small children – I very much recommend these campsites, with their excellent family-friendly facilities.

  Two weeks having sped by, we drove back to Cherbourg with the resignation of the holiday-makers who have been caught by time.

  Back on the WB Yeats, an elderly woman chats animatedly to the Latvian barmaid (“ah, I have a friend in Riga!”) before venturing to her travelling companion “I expect the poor girl is on the minimum wage”.

  The barmaid collected glasses nearby. Above her, the quote on the wall read: ‘Tread softy because you tread on my dreams’.

  Across the way, a very dapper man walked arm in warm with a very dapper woman, as though auditioning for parts in the Downton Abbey movie.

  Five boozy men from Northern Ireland insisted on calling the patient barman ‘Ian Paisley’. It’s time for us to catch up with a movie in the ship’s cinema. 

  Next morning, after a good night’s sleep and a calm sailing, we were reunited with our car and preparing to drive off the WB Yeats. First, a rueful look at the French people who were beginning their holiday in Ireland. Wonder what they’ll make of Joe Duffy?

 

You can’t win with these…politicians!

 

Do the politicians think we’re stupid?

  You can’t really win with these guys – because they play tricks with language, and frequently defy logic! Often, it’s quite insulting.

  On Prime Time the other night, Miriam O’Callaghan pressed Minister David Stanton about the ‘asylum seekers for Oughterard’ controversy.

  “You don’t communicate with the locals in these instances” was the gist of Miriam’s charge. (Cue much nodding at TV screens in Rooskey).

  We do communicate with locals, replied  Minister Stanton disingenuously, adding that the ‘communication’ starts AFTER a deal has been struck with the accommodation provider!

 Precisely. The Department does a deal with an accommodation provider, THEN that information trickles out, and THEN the Department pays lip service to the issue of ‘services’ in the given area.

  Leo’s at it too, I see. He’s taken a leaf out of Richard Bruton’s book. Remember when the scandal over the costs’ overrun regarding the Children’s Hospital was at its peak…Bruton (and colleagues) tried to turn the outcry on its head by pretty much saying ‘Do you really want us to abandon it after all these years?’

  Now the Taoiseach is employing the same tactics. Amidst ongoing concerns about aspects of the mooted National Broadband Plan – not least the likely cost – Mr. Varadkar glibly says: “Rural Ireland does not have a future in the 21st century” unless fibre broadband is delivered to every home.

  So that’s it, Leo. No more questions. No more scrutiny. No more accountability. Just a little pathetic!

 

Man minds net, then tidies up…

 

All over Ireland at the weekend, goalkeepers – in Gaelic Football, hurling and soccer, at varying levels – did the usual mundane stuff at the final whistle in their respective matches. Same as it ever was. Almost the forgotten man. Unlike those outfield ‘heroes’, you have some tidying up to do, some housekeeping. Maybe a spare sliothar or hurl to pick up. A bottle or two of water. A pair of gloves to be untangled from the net and perhaps tucked under your armpit. ‘Let them off back to the dressing room, the rest of them, I’ll pick up my stuff here and trudge back in my own good time’…

  All over Ireland it happened again last weekend, on lumpy, bumpy pitches, the goalkeeper alone with his or her thoughts…wrapping up, even as the handful of diehards who watched the game were impatiently pressing the button to remotely unlock their cars.

  A familiar routine then…none of which explains the sight, last Saturday…of Stephen Cluxton doing his version of this goalkeepers’ routine at the final whistle. This ought to have been just a little different to the scenes that unfold each weekend all over the country. But it wasn’t. At the final whistle in a game played at Croke Park on Saturday, Cluxton – with a pretty vacant expression on his face – did his tidying up duties. How can this be? His Dublin team had just won a historic five-in-a-row! And Stephen was the captain! (Later, on social media, footage of him…sweeping up the dressing room!).

  What a man. What a goalkeeper. What a legend.

 

 

Stop being school-flakes – and follow uniform rules!

 

 

A school in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in the UK made headlines last week for allegedly removing over one hundred students from class (on their first day) for apparently turning up to school wearing footwear that was considered to be ‘unacceptable,’ thus breaching the school’s uniform rules. Now, while many parents were angered by this – in fact, if you were to read some of the social media posts, I’d go so far as to say some went ballistic – in this instance, I’d say,  they’ve only got themselves to blame.

  If these parents had bothered to read the school’s guidelines, which, according to the principal, were ‘announced before the summer break,’ they’d have known what was, and what wasn’t acceptable for this particular school. In addition, in an attempt to make their new uniform policies crystal clear, the school in question even provided visual prompts for those parents who were either too dim to get the message or were so smug they thought the rules didn’t apply to their little darlings! Yes folks; pictures of acceptable footwear was apparently posted on the school’s website. So, armed with all of this information, I’d conclude that, in this instance, the school’s actions were entirely justified.

  Look, one of the reasons I’d imagine school uniforms are worn by students is to reduce what may be the obvious socioeconomic disparities existing among them in the hope of encouraging a level playing field for everyone. You see readers, as we live in an era of high fashion brands where certain items of clothing have become a definitive status symbol – separating the haves and the have nots among us – no parent wants their child to feel ‘different’. And, while it’s awful to think that some kids may use another’s choice of clothing as a reason to pick on them or to isolate them, I’d support the wearing of a uniform as it allows less opportunity for some to be singled out by their less compassionate  peers.

  Look, my granddaughter started secondary school last week and, while the list of dos and don’ts regarding her uniform and her PE gear were longer than Greece’s national anthem…(it has 158 verses…swear to God), both herself and her mother have chosen this school and they have to comply. Now don’t get me wrong, I fully support the thinking that everyone, (and in this case students) should be allowed to express their own individuality, and I’m not opposed to that. Indeed I love the whole gender neutral uniform policy being adopted by many schools where they offer students a range of options; but again, parents need to adhere to these. Now I’m not skirting the issue (sorry, that was a terrible pun), but I believe if parents enrol their kids in a particular school, they do so in the knowledge that  they sign up to, and fully embrace that school’s rules and  mandatory uniform policies, whatever they are. Simples!

  However, if a parent is strongly opposed to uniforms, believing they restrict their little darling’s freedoms of expression, then that’s fine, and, in order to keep everyone happy, they should seek out a school more appropriate to their kids’ specific needs. Here’s the thing…our kids go to school to learn, and to gain what we hope will be valuable skills and knowledge they can confidently apply to their future real-life situations and careers. And, while school should be a place where students can freely express themselves, the fact is, in order to keep in line with the establishment’s ethos, some limitations will apply. Now, while I know some schools’ uniform policies may cause severe stress on a family’s budget, often sending many into debt, (especially if they insist on including specialist items), I’d strongly advocate for a system that prioritises a value-for-money and affordability ethos over specific bespoke elitist attire.

  At the end of the day, if your child joins An Garda Síochána, becomes a firefighter, a pilot, a flight attendant, a doctor, a nurse, a soldier, a chef, a delivery driver, a fast food operative, or a lifeguard, etc., (all great careers), they’ll be required to wear a uniform. With that in mind, school-flake parents, stop getting shirty (aagh, I did it again), and remember, you chose this school because you believed it was the best one for your kid!

Nobody does drama, difficulty and disaster like Sinead O’Connor

 

RTE Director General Dee Forbes should really be a travel agent for guilt trips, given the woman’s tenacity and capacity for rattling that begging bowl! Yes readers, according to the Irish Times, poor put-upon Dee has informed her staff that they must now face cutbacks as the station cannot afford to “continue as we are,” if they don’t receive an increase in funding. And about time too!

   Look, to be honest, as a reluctant licence fee payer, it has always been my belief that RTE, with its humdrum shows being fronted by tedious presenters trying to sell washed-up lacklustre guests as TV gold, has long since passed its sell-by date. I mean, excitement must surely be thin on the ground at Montrose House if someone thinks teasing has-been Sinead O’Connor as a reason to tune into last Friday’s Late Late Show is what passes for titillation. I’d rather read Donald Trump’s Twitter updates than tune into a show featuring a drama queen who appears to feel duty-bound to create controversy, viewing just about everything as an ultimate disaster.

  Don’t get me wrong, I do feel a certain amount of empathy for Sinead’s, let’s say, circumstances, but, is it so awful of me to be sick to the back teeth of her continuous angst-ridden sagas? It’s as if adversity, calamity and tragedy have now become as natural to her as breathing. Yes, the woman is a talented singer, yes, she’s clearly a troubled soul and I have huge compassion for her, I really do…but OMG Sinead love, do drama, difficulty and distress absolutely have to be your weapons of choice when appearing on d’telly?

 

 

We give out about the weather…but do we realise how lucky we are?

 

 

It’s Monday evening…and here in the west of Ireland, it’s a sunny, bright (though cold) September evening, and even though it’s normal for us to give out about the weather, the truth is that we have very little to complain about, as we hardly ever experience any major weather-related disasters.

  Last week Hurricane Dorian absolutely ravaged The Bahamas, and although, so far, the official death toll is only in the mid-forties, leaders there believe hundreds, if not thousands, remain missing, and they predict that a “staggering” death toll will be the end result. Photographs on national and international media outlets show the total and utter devastation that has followed on from the visit of the hurricane, with homes completely flattened like paper houses, and basic life necessities like food and water in short supply, and a massive humanitarian aid mission is required to try to keep the desperate survivors alive.

  And so it would be easy to believe that these natural disasters tend to only occur in poverty-ridden islands, like The Bahamas, Haiti, and Papua New Guinea, but, as Irish Independent journalist Rachel Farrell, has recently discovered, the most powerful state in the world, the United States of America, has suffered enormous damage from weather-related incidents over the last 10 years or so. Almost 7.3 million Americans have been displaced in those ten years, with many losing their homes altogether, some living in hotels, some relying on strangers to help them, but many of them still have no place to go.

  There is a national emergency fund, FEMA, which set up to try to alleviate the suffering of the millions of displaced residents, but the sheer scale of the numbers, in both actual and monetary terms, means that progress is too slow, and many of those who are already homeless may always remain so. On top of those unfortunates, it is calculated that every year a quarter of a million people in America will have to leave their homes as a result of various disasters. These will be added to the already enormous list, and nobody knows when, or if, they will ever be re-housed.

  As we face into a winter where we may have a bit of frost, or, God forbid, an inch or two of snow, it’s time for us as a nation, to be grateful for the exceptionally kind climate that we are blessed with, and even though we have had some people displaced here due to flooding in recent years, as a rule of thumb we are very lucky with the weather we have, and the very little damage that it does.

 

Camogie was class!

 

On Sunday last I found myself watching, enthralled, as the camogie players of Galway and Kilkenny played out a thrill-a-minute All-Ireland senior camogie final, which the Galway girls won by a flattering six points, but it was the quality, commitment and intensity that both teams brought to the table that amazed me.

  At the risk of being deemed sexist, I would have expected loads of skill, with maybe not as much physicality, but the exchanges were every bit as tough as any man’s game, and a wonderful advertisement for camogie. Why they don’t just call it hurling, I don’t know.

  Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and full credit to the Galway girls. A couple of their players were just fantastic, especially Niamh Kilkenny and captain Sarah Dervin, but in a tiny way my heart went out to the Kilkenny team who were losing their third final in a row.  Mind you, when I thought of all their men have won under Brian Cody, I lost whatever bit of sympathy that I had.

  Staying with the camogie, and Galway were on the receiving end of a terrific comeback in the intermediate final, when Westmeath overturned a seven-point half-time deficit to win their first ever title at that grade (by two points).

  It was however the reaction of their manager, Johnny Greville, that made it so memorable, as his delight and sheer joy at the victory was just magical. I can’t do it justice in a few written words, but I’m sure you’ll find it somewhere in the land of social media, and, if you do find it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Anyway for me it was my first time to watch the camogie finals, but after Sunday, it won’t be the last.

 

Happy to hear the cuckoo!

 

Recently I have watched television programmes which have highlighted the damage being done to our natural habitats, and how birds like the corncrake, curlew and the cuckoo have more or less disappeared from our countryside. And so it was with a large amount of joy that, this morning, at about 7.15 am, I heard the unmistakable sound of the cuckoo.

  I know that sometimes she can sound a bit like a pigeon, but this morning there was no doubt – the sound was perfectly clear, and could not have been anything other than the sound of a bird that we tend to regard as a bit of a parasite. (This is because the cuckoo has the reputation of taking over the nests of other birds). That may or may not be true, but regardless, I definitely heard a cuckoo this morning – and was delighted to do so. A sceptic (or two) wondered if I was dreaming, as 7.15 am is a bit early for me, but I have no doubt…I was wide awake and heard what I heard. Wouldn’t it be great if they were to make a comeback?

And finally…

Finally for this week, we have only four weeks to the big dance in Dowd’s of Glinsk…so from Monday next we will be hitting the highways and the byways, and calling to as many doors as we can get to. Hopefully your generosity will be as good as it has been for so many years now.

  Two great causes, Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund, have benefitted greatly over the years, so please God we can once again dig deep and help people who are less fortunate than we are.

  The Lancers are all set for the night, which, by the way, is October 12th, so put it in your diary…and we look forward to seeing you all over the next week or two.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

 

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