It has to be almost forty years since I saw Brendan Grace play to full houses in Bradley’s in Creggs and Dowd’s in Glinsk. At that time I must admit I thought he was the greatest thing since the sliced pan, and just the very sight of him would have me bursting out in laughter; however, I had not seen him live for about 25 years or so, and in truth I wondered whether the great man still had it, or had ill health and advancing years taken its toll and dulled the edge off his performances?
And so, on Thursday night of last week, four of us left Creggs, heading for The Radisson in Athlone, where the Brendan Grace Show was taking place at 8 pm. As we headed up the country, I was hoping that we would find the magic was still there. A huge crowd was already seated when we got there, and we found ourselves right at the back. It goes without saying that there was a fellow who must have been more than six and a half foot tall sitting straight in front of the five foot eight me, and I spent the next almost three hours trying to peer around the back of his head.
A trio called Showband Nostalgia – featuring Frankie McDonald (who spent 39 years with the great Joe Dolan), fellow Athlone man Dessie Egan, and a singer called Caitlin, who I have seen a lot on some of the many Country music stations – started the ball rolling. In fairness, they went down well with the large crowd, many of whom were quite young, with a selection of tunes that were big Showband hits back in the 1960s or so. Then at 9 o’clock the big moment arrived, and the white-suited star made his way to the stage.
It is fair to say that my initial reaction to his arrival was somewhat muted, as he was obviously in some discomfort walking, and needed the support of a walking stick, and had to sit down. As he said himself “for 48 of my 49 years I was a stand-up comedian but…” However, the good news for me and for everyone else is that the show was thoroughly enjoyable, and Brendan showed that he is still more than capable of holding an audience in the palm of his hand. For just under two hours he rolled the clock back – and it was every bit as entertaining as it was all those years ago. He had a lot of new stuff, but when, towards the end of the night he rolled out the Father of the Bride, followed by Ireland’s oldest schoolboy, Bottler, the place went wild, and it was obvious to us that no matter what other characters come or go, those two must be there forever.
Just before 11 pm the curtain came down (not literally), and Brendan must have fairly shifted, even with the stick, because by the time we got to the hotel foyer he was already out there meeting and greeting his fans, posing for pictures and selling his merchandise. He had a great offer of three CDs and a DVD for €10, and I’d say everyone bought one on the way out. He signed ours… and I have to say we all headed home in a very happy state. For me, the big test was that my youngest son, Paul, and his girlfriend, Fiona, who were seeing him live for the first time, enjoyed him as much as my wife Carol and I did.
On the night I realised that, stick or no stick, Brendan Grace is still my King of Comedy. He is on a nationwide tour at present, and while I have no idea where he’s going to be, if you see him advertised anywhere near you, buy the tickets and go and see him. You won’t be disappointed.
Beware of ‘scam artists’
I suppose as long as mankind has existed there are always people out there who try to figure out ways to get their hands on other people’s money, and nowadays we hear about what we like to call scammers or scam artists, which really are glorified names for thieves or gangs of thieves. It seems those scambags (that’s my own new word) are extremely active at the moment.
On Tuesday of last week a reader of this column received a phone call from a Dublin number, supposedly about trouble he was having with his computer. As luck would have it he was having problems with Eir 1, the television channel, and when the guy said he was going to sort out his Eir Broadband, like most of us, my reader assumed it was to do with his TV channel.
The guy on the other end of the phone talked his way through our man’s computer for almost a half an hour, and made loads of changes to it, which information was apparently being recorded by other gang members, until finally he said the fee was only €5, but that it had to be paid on the spot by credit card. At last alarm bells started to ring, and my friend said he didn’t have his card with him, but would send on the details when his wife came home. Needless to say when she did come home, they checked out the number and found out that it was a scam. They rang Eir, who confirmed that they never ring anyone without having being contacted by their customer, and that basically the gang were trying to get hold of all the man’s financial records.
Since Tuesday of last week, (I am writing this on Monday) – presumably because he answered the call in the first place – no fewer than 21 spurious calls have been made to his landline, and the numbers are so like our Irish numbers that you would almost certainly answer them.
For example, there are loads of 090 numbers, including 0906608687, which could easily be mistaken for our own local code, and while I was actually in the house talking to this man, a call came in from what appeared to be an Athlone number (0906440649); every one of those calls were scam calls from foreign numbers, and we could get no real information about them. So the main thing is to exercise great caution when answering any unfamiliar phone numbers, be on your guard at all times, and tell no-one anything about you, your bank cards, your personal details, and especially anything about your financial records. There are no guidelines as to what to do when you are targeted in this way, so my unfortunate readers had to get his computer completely cleared and are considering parting with their landline, which they have had for fifty years or so.
All I can say is beware, and don’t answer any call that you are not sure about. It could save you a lot of stress, hardship, and even money.
Where’s The Gunner off to?
Back to local matters, and on Saturday night there is a party in Mikeen’s to say goodbye to Mikeen’s brother, Jim, known affectionately as The Gunner, who is heading off on a road trip around Europe for an indefinite period, to nowhere in particular and to more or less wherever he ends up.
Himself and his new camper van are hitting the road next week, so to make sure he goes, his friends are having a party for him.
There will be music by Sean Donoghue, and it is sure to be a good night’s craic, everyone is invited and all I can do is wish The Gunner well, and may the road rise with him. We will miss him round the place, but as they say ‘When you gotta go you gotta go’. Hopefully we will see you all there on Saturday night, and we’ll send Jim on his merry way.
And finally…when Michael met Philip
Finally for this week, whether you like them or loathe them, you have to admit that the Healy-Raes as a family have livened up our political system, since Jackie Senior arrived into the Dáil in 1997. In recent days (I’m not sure which day) Michael’s interview on Liveline was pure radio gold.
Apparently we had some report out in connection with our carbon footprint (whatever that is) that more or less said the cattle herd in Ireland has to be got rid of, and, as a nation we have to reduce our intake of beef, and red meat, by a massive 90%.
Philip Boucher-Hayes was standing in for Joe Duffy, and the sparks fairly flew between the pair with the double barrelled names, but no matter whar scientific facts Boucher-Hayes put to the Kerry man, Healy-Rae was having none of it, and no report was going to stop him from having his daily feed of beef or steak.
I’m sure you can listen to it on some modern media platform. All I can tell you is the tears were rolling down my face with the laughter, and I realised that even in the modern world where everything is backed up by facts and figures, it’s refreshing to think that no matter what, you have a man like Michael Healy-Rae who simply won’t be turned from his long-held beliefs. Good on you, Mick!
Till next week, Bye for now!