Many years ago on the 14th of April, a baby boy was born in Portiuncula Hospital to my dad, Bill, and my mother, Terry, and I, Francis Anthony Brandon was that child, and so it came to pass that last Friday, which happened to be Good Friday, I celebrated my 66th birthday, which simultaneously made me eligible for the old age pension and the free bus pass.
Now normally that would have been enough to have a few pints in celebration, partly because of the free travel, but more particularly because I never thought I’d get anywhere near 66, but of course no pubs (not even Mikeen’s) were open, and so I had no option except to look at the Late Late Show. And, as luck would have it, it turned out to be the second big Country Music Late Late – and, as an unashamed lover of country music, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Everyone in Irish country music was there except maybe Ray Lynam, Roly Daniels and Joe Finnegan, but, apart from those few, it seemed like the cream of the entertainment scene was present, topped off by the appearance of American superstar Charley Pride. I have got very fond of wee Daniel and his wife, Majella, on their bed and breakfast tour round Ireland, and you could see on Friday night that, big and all as Nathan Carter, Mike Denver, Jimmy Buckley, and all the rest have become, the Donegal crooner is still way out there ahead of them and, Big Tom aside, he is definitely our biggest and brightest star. I also liked the appearance of Charlie Landsborough, a lovely gentle singer, who also came across as a lovely gentleman.
The three ladies (grannies) of country brought the show to an end and Margo (you could see where Daniel got his drollness from), Philomena Begley, and Susan McCann, were just so much fun, and still able to wallop out the old hits! It was a great show and nearly took my mind off being an old-age pensioner.
However, the good news is that the following night, members of my family thought I was looking a bit thin and so a few of us headed off to the Abbey Hotel in Roscommon to belatedly have a birthday dinner, and try and put on a bit of weight. Now I praise the Abbey so much in this column, that you would nearly swear I am on their payroll, but honestly I am not (yet), but once again the whole experience was delightful, and the food was even better. The hotel was absolutely buzzing as they had the Rose of Tralee selection on that night in the ballroom, as well as a large number of out of town residents, and, all told, we really enjoyed our visit.
Thankfully, we had a designated driver – thanks Tara – and we decided that, as it’s seldom we hit town, we’d pay a visit to the Hatch, and if Saturday night was anything to go by, the demise of the local pub may not just yet be a done deal. The Hatch was wedged with revellers of all ages. I met up with Tommy Joe Leonard, who used to play full-back for St. Joseph’s when I was trying to play at full-forward for Creggs, and it was the first time that I left him still able to walk and without every bone in my body shaking.
Tommy Joe was the old-style full-back, as hard as nails but fair, but if you strayed into his area you’d better be able to look after yourself. He looked as fit on Saturday night as he did the last time I played against him and it was great to catch up over a couple of quiet pints.
However, we had to try and catch up with the goings-on in Castlecoote, where the County Fleadh was taking place. Having paid a flying visit to all three pubs, it was obvious that it too was an enormous success.
A final visit to Mikeen’s – he was open Saturday night – brought the curtain down on my birthday celebrations, and as I write this on Monday evening I have not been outside the door since. The big sign of advancing age is when you can’t do two nights in a row and despite the great plans I had at the end of Saturday of going to the Fleadh again on Sunday and finishing the weekend off at Jason Curran and Reigning Day in Mikeen’s, the old body gave up and I failed to get off the couch on Sunday at all.
It’s now, as I’ve told you, Monday evening and I’ve just got a text message from a friend of ours who asked me to highlight the terrible overcrowding on the train back to Dublin from Roscommon on this Bank Holiday Monday.
Apparently there were hundreds of train passengers who had to stand all the way to the city and I have lost count of the number of times I have heard Barry Kenny, the spokesperson for Irish Rail, make all kinds of excuses in the national media for overcrowding on their trains. Now it’s usually the Sligo-Dublin train that seems to have problems, and I know he would talk his way out of this one as well, but for someone with a simple mind (that’s me), surely on a bank holiday weekend it should be possible to forecast that there might be extra passengers on the train and another carriage or two would not have gone amiss? Now that I have my free travel, the price won’t bother me, but I’m told train travel is quite expensive, and surely if you pay big money, the least you would expect is a bit of comfort. If those who had to stand all the way to Dublin demanded refunds, maybe in time Irish Rail might just sort out the situation.
Supporting local causes
Back to last week’s piece about the fundraising efforts for the refurbishment of the Church in Newbridge. I made a slight error in telling you where the contributions are to go to; all donations to Fr. Louis Lohan, St. Patrick’s Church, Newbridge. As I said if you have any few bob to spare, please send them to Fr. Louis.
Shave or Dye in Creggs!
Finally for this week, out here in Creggs we are getting ready for a big shave, dye, and wax night, which is taking place in Mikeen’s on Sunday night, 30th of April.
As of now, John Small, Eugene Hanley, Laura Keegan and yours truly (who is losing his beard but not his hair or moustache, just so you know) are going under the scissors, or the knife, and all proceeds go to Cancer Care West. There will be music and a raffle on the night, and it’s all for a great cause, so once again, give what you can; it promises to be great craic, so make sure you don’t miss it!
'Till next week, Bye for now!