It’s one of the busiest Friday evenings of the whole shopping year in Athlone. As I’m making my way home, the traffic is mental, and everything (including myself, and the up-to-now-not-so-trusty-new-old Volvo) is moving at a snail’s pace. Then, just as I get to the big roundabout near Monksland, it decides to pack up completely and more or less die. Somehow I get about ten yards past the roundabout, put on my flashers and watch in horror as the built-up traffic attempts to get past in the little space that was available on my outside. I wonder what in God's name will be the eventual outcome of my serious dilemma.
As I am sitting there, feeling like a prize twat, a knock comes to the passenger window and a young lad says to me that I’m in a very dangerous place, and that I had better get out of there as quick as I can. When I told him that there was no power coming through – except maybe enough to boil a kettle – he said he would stop the traffic, which was coming both ways, and that I was to try to get across the busy road to the safety of a big, open gateway. You could only say that I limped across to the gateway, and having got there, the car died completely – not a meg of any description.
And so the young lad, and another man who was with him, got jump leads and started me up. In the meantime, the second lad had rang a mechanic, and asked him to come our way. A few minutes later the mechanic arrived, had a look at the car, did something to it and told me that it needed a couple of things done, but that it would get me home.
So off I headed. My good Samaritans wouldn’t take anything for their help, and the elder of the first two lads gave me his phone number and said to ring him if I broke down again, and he would run me home. As it happened, I made it home safely and in one piece, but I will never forget the incredible kindness shown me by three complete strangers on that Friday evening. I will not deny that when the first knock came on the window, I wondered was I about to be mugged, because sadly that's how we tend to react in this modern society, but I have to say the experience has really restored my faith in human nature (not so much in Volvos), and all I can say is thanks a million to the three lads. I will forever be in your debt. I now know who the three were, but I don’t want to embarrass them by naming them, but you know yourselves who you are.
Anyway, you would think that that would be enough excitement for one day, but later on that evening I was a bit away from home, and went into a shop for a couple of bits and pieces. Unfortunately, I had unknowingly left a bunch of keys –including those for my shop – behind me, and had travelled home blissfully unaware that my keys were now quite a bit away. I’d settled down to watch the Toy Show, and just as it was about to start, I got a phone call on my mobile from a strange number. It was a young girl from the shop, who had managed to trace me through all the yokes we now carry on our key rings, and who went the extra mile to ring to let me know that she had my keys. I headed off straight away, collected my bunch, and the shop was opened on time on Saturday morning.
So was it karma that turned two potentially disastrous incidents into two special memories? I don't know, but I would say I was just lucky to meet good people at the right time, and it proves, despite all we hear, that kindness and generosity of spirit is still alive and well.
A great win in Castlebar, great memories of Cloonfad
On Saturday evening we went to Creggs Rugby Club’s huge game in Castlebar, a top of the league clash against a home side that had come to The Green earlier in the year, and had won a hard-fought encounter by a ten-point margin.
I’d headed off straight from work (this time, not in the not-so-trusty-old Volvo) and arrived just in time for the 7.30 kick-off. I’m sure there is a report elsewhere in the paper on a famous victory for our lads, so all I will say is that the present team embodies everything that is good about sport: heart, guts, bravery, commitment and a tremendous work ethic. And I have to say that all these traits are there in abundance within the team, and they truly are a credit to Pat Cunningham (their coach) and to themselves and their club. Next Saturday night in Creggs they have another massive game, against Tuam, and I just hope the local support is as big as this team deserves.
As for my wife Carol and me – we were both banished from the environs of the pitch for cheering on Creggs in a forbidden area! I’ve been going to matches for a long time now, and this is the first time I got sent off (as a supporter), but, as with a lot of things, political correctness is gone a bit too far.
On our way to Castlebar, it was sad to drive through the village of Cloonfad and realise that Keane’s pub, a place with huge Creggs connections, is no longer open. I have told you before of travelling back from big GAA matches in the Mayo Capital, and no-one from our side could pass through Cloonfad without a visit to Keane’s – and oftentimes the visits would last for several hours. I suppose it’s a sign of the times, but I was a little sad to realise that one of the great traditional watering holes is no more, although I will admit that many a time as a gasun, waiting for the adults to come out of it while I was being stuffed with minerals and crisps, I wished it never opened!
Finally for this week…it’s hard to believe it but it’s time again for the Senior Citizens Party, which takes place next Sunday, 10th of December, in Kilbegnet Hall. It all kicks off at 2 pm, and everyone is welcome.
Last weekend the Pride of Place Awards – which honour the efforts of communities to make their own places better places to live in – took place, and at least one of the nominees was lauded for holding an annual senior citizens party. I thought to myself they could not hold a party near as good as the ones that have taken place in this area for many years now.
Our senior citizens are the people who have laid the foundations for the new generation to follow, and it’s only right that they should have their day out. In fairness, the local committee make sure the annual party is one of the great days of the year. Everything is laid on: the best of food, drink, music and craic – all free gratis – and it all adds up to a special occasion.
So, if you are free to go on Sunday afternoon, even if you aren’t fully qualified as a senior citizen, head for Kilbegnet and I guarantee you will have a day to remember!
Each year there are a few faces missing from the previous year, so think of them on Sunday, but turn up all the same to keep a fabulous tradition alive – and enjoy yourselves!
‘Til next week, Bye for now