It’s a pleasant enough Monday morning, and unusually for me, myself and the now trusty old Volvo are heading off to work in Athlone (just me, not the Volvo), and my mind drifts back to the days before electric window winders, and computers, and all the new-fangled gadgets that are part and parcel of the modern car.
The reason it’s unusual for me to be heading for Athlone is that, nowadays, I only do three days – Thursday, Friday and Saturday – but as one of the lads (Paul) is off gallivanting round Latvia on his holidays, I am covering for him for this coming week.
Anyway, as I’m driving to Athlone, I’m thinking of the fact that, even in the now trusty old Volvo, the teething problems that I had at the start were all due to problems with the computer, and apparently it was coming up with all kind of mixed messages, all of which meant that the car would decide to stop for no reason – or not start at all. Until I got it sorted I had a very frustrating and annoying time.
Anyway, it all made me think back to the days of my first cars, one of the first being a Hillman Avenger that needed one wheel on the front to be bigger than the other three to compensate for the knock on the steering; a beautiful Sunbeam Vogue that I bought before I knew how to drive at all (it had the most amazing walnut interior); a Vauxhall Viva the driver’s window of which was held in place with a couple of blocks of wood…and an Opel Ascona, whose back door fell off while we were coming back from holidays in Donegal. My wife Carol had to hold it in place all the way back to Creggs.
The funny thing about all the cars back then was that everything was so simple. There were no electronic yokes to worry about, and if there was petrol in them, more often than not they would go. If not, it was nearly always the starter, or the alternator, or the distributor cap, things you never hear about any more.
Generally, no matter how big the problem was, our two (at the time) local garage men – Barry Harris and Jimmy Connelly – would have you back on the road in no time.
It all made me think of an old friend and brother-in-law, Tom Bracken, who usually managed to have even worse cars than I had. Among his many bangers was what we, Tom included, agreed was the worst of all – a rear-engined Skoda that gave more trouble than the worst ever juvenile delinquent.
At the time, the Lada, as far as I remember a Russian-made car, was the supposed worst one on the road (and the subject of many jokes) but the Skoda was easily the next most denigrated.
When Tom had it, it more than lived up to its woeful reputation. So to read in all today’s papers that Pope Francis is to be driven around Ireland in a Skoda, suggests to me that this must constitute the greatest of all comebacks – well, since Lazarus or Tiger Woods.
No-one yet knows what model he will be driven in, but it is unlikely to have an engine in the back, and even more unlikely to break down. Sadly my brother-in-law is no longer with us, but if he was he would take great pleasure in telling us he was a great judge of a car, and if it was good enough for the Pope, it was good enough for him!
It’s only a couple of weeks now ‘till the Pontiff arrives on our shores, and I just hope the visit goes well. While the excitement of 1979 is unlikely to be repeated, it should still be an occasion to be remembered.
Country stars and festivals: Are (some) prices too high?
As the summer comes to an end, and all the local committees who ran festivals begin to tot up the figures, I wonder if it’s true that some country and western artists – who are capitalising on the new upsurge in popularity of country music – are in danger of pricing themselves out of what seems to be a very lucrative market.
At least two local festivals that I know of have totally ‘downsized’ this last year or so, and I understand that a big factor was because of the prices headline acts are charging. Inevitably the prices being paid to artists are having a big impact on profits (for the festivals). I have heard reports of one artist (and band) allegedly costing €15,000.
Now nobody is saying that these artists are not deserving of big paydays, but bearing in mind that there are only so many country music venues – unlike in the showband era when every crossroads had a carnival – surely there should be a limit on the percentage breakdown in favour of the bands, in order to give the local festivals a chance to make some money.
Insurance costs for any public event are enormous and it would be a shame if any more of these local events were forced out of business. As a follower of country music, I am glad to see there are more and more artists appearing almost every week. That’s great, but don’t let greed kill the golden goose.
Walk the walk with Suck Valley Walking Club
On to local matters…the Suck Valley Walking Club are holding a Walk from Ballygar to Creggs on Saturday, 18th of August, with registration at the Heritage Centre in Creggs at 9.30 am.
The distance is approximately 16km, transport will be provided to the start of the Walk, and there will be refreshments provided on return to Creggs. You are advised to wear appropriate footwear and clothing, cover charge is €10, and you will enjoy a nice chat, a bit of craic, and get yourself a bit fitter.
Also, the Suck Valley Way website is being launched, and they would like to hear from anyone who would like to provide accommodation in the locality (for inclusion on the new website). Contact Kathy at suckvalleyway.com or text 086-8725445.
Finally for this week, we have only five weeks left to the fundraising dance in Dowd’s in Glinsk. We will be out and about selling the tickets, so hopefully we will see you soon, and we look forward to your continuing support.
Till next week, Bye for now!