Our man Frank on keeping the Sabbath special, lessons in construction from the Three Little Pigs, and working up the confidence to meet GAA legend Joe Brolly…
It’s Sunday morning, January 2nd, and we’ve just had the sort of shower that would strip the paint off the house (that’s if there was any paint on the house). Thankfully, I am indoors sitting at the kitchen table, glad that I have escaped the worst of the absolutely horrible weather.
I am dressed in what I would charitably call my old duds, and for some reason my mind takes me back to the days of my childhood, all the way down to County Tipperary to my uncle Michael’s place. His was a place I was lucky enough to spend most of my school holidays in, a place I still have very fond memories of.
Uncle Michael was a fairly substantial farmer. He sowed lots of wheat and barley, and always had a field or two of sugar beet, as well as loads of hay fields. For six days a week he was the typical farmer. He worked hard at his business, and dressed accordingly, in what he used call his working clothes.
However, on Sunday everything changed. He would dress up in his Sunday best, his shoes polished so well that you could shave yourself in the shine. He’d put on his best shirt and tie, and while he wasn’t really a suit man, he would look resplendent in his tweed jacket and perfectly creased flannel trousers.
10 o’clock Mass in Barna Church was always on the agenda, and after getting the papers in Sonny Deane’s shop in Barna (the shop and the church was all that was in Barna), Michael would head for home, where he would park himself in his favourite armchair and sit in total peace, reading the Sunday papers, but especially the Sunday Press. His sister Ettie would be getting the dinner ready, which was always a roast of some sort, and on most Sunday afternoons the parish priest (Fr. Kenny) would arrive down for the spuds.
For a couple of hours afterwards, they would chat about all the things Michael had read about earlier in the papers. However, being a farmer, work still had to be done, and later in the afternoon when Fr. Kenny would take his leave, Michael would change into his working clothes, and (unless there was a funeral or some other occasion coming up) his Sunday clothes would be put carefully away, not to be disturbed until the following week.
As I thought back to those days, I wondered why I no longer dress up on a Sunday. I felt a certain pang of regret when I realised that somewhere along the line, I lost the feeling of Sunday being a special day. The Lord himself said we should rest on the Sabbath day, but being retired, I suppose I now rest every day (except the day I write this).
Anyway, as people look for New Year resolutions, I have decided that for 2022, I am going to put on my Sunday best every Sunday, go to Mass as often as Covid allows, and go back to regarding the Sabbath as a special day. If Uncle Michael could do it all those years ago, surely I too can do it.
My New Year resolutions usually only last a week or two, so this new enthusiasm might not last very long, but I am now off to the wardrobe to dig out a suit (if I have one!). If you meet me next Sunday, I will be looking like a million dollars (well, maybe fifty) with my suit and polished shoes.
The good news is that after a couple of years of Covid deprivation, I no longer need to give anything else up, as I have long since given up any minor vices. So, for this year at least, it’s back to my Sunday best.
Constructive lessons from the Three Little Pigs
As we start off this New Year, I find myself going back through the years gone by. I think back to the well-known bedtime story about the Three Little Pigs, who, having lived with their poor mother, eventually have to leave their modest home and fend for themselves.
The first piglet was notoriously lazy and built himself a house of straw. The second was a bit more industrious but still inclined to be lazy, so he built himself a house of sticks. Meanwhile, the third piglet worked hard and built himself a house of bricks, complete with a fine fireplace and chimney.
The first two spent their time playing and lazing around and all was well until the Big Bad Wolf came calling. To make a long story short, he huffed and he puffed and blew the two houses down. However, he failed in his attempt to have pig for dinner as they both escaped and ran down the road to their brother’s brick house. The wolf now had three little pigs in his sights for dinner, but no matter how much he huffed and puffed, he couldn’t blow the brick house down.
Frustrated, he climbed up on the roof and decided to get into the house through the chimney. However, the third little piggy put on a blazing fire, and boiled up a big pot of water, into which the big bad wolf fell. When he was boiled up, in a reversal of fortunes, the little piggies ate him for supper.
Now, I would never have told you about this bedtime story if it wasn’t for a climate change guru, named James Drinkwater, who took issue with the story for ‘belittling eco-friendly building materials’. He claimed that building houses with straw and sticks is perfectly okay, and said there is a need to change perceptions.
Maybe he’s right, but for me, I prefer to go along with the original tale. Nothing he says will convince me that the big bad wolf didn’t blow down the first two houses and fail to blow down the brick one, before falling down the chimney to a red hot reception and ending up as a roast (boiled) supper for our three little heroes.
Finally for this week…
For me, one of the most interesting (if not, the absolute most interesting) of all the GAA personalities that I have seen and heard down through the years, is Derry’s Joe Brolly. Like Eamon Dunphy, Pat Spillane and George Hook, Brolly always courts controversy and divides the Irish public into those who hate him and those who love him.
A few years ago at an event in Co. Roscommon, I found myself standing about a yard from the genial Joe, and watched as person after person (before Covid) came over to him, shook his hand, and engaged him in animated conversation. He was friendly and courteous and happily shook every hand that came his way.
I wanted to join with all the others as they talked to the great man, but shyness took over, and I didn’t make the effort. I will always regret that I didn’t have the nerve to reach out, shake his hand, and even have a few words with him.
Anyway, that was a few years ago, and, in the meantime, Joe has moved on to have a controversial but very entertaining stint on The Sunday Game, and continues to write a superb article for the Sunday Independent. He also made international headlines when he donated a kidney to a clubmate, Shane Finnegan, and he has continued to promote organ donation on a large scale.
So, when I saw that he was featuring in an hour-long interview on TV3 over Christmas, it was definitely on my must-watch schedule. I can only say it reinforced my opinion that Brolly is a true GAA legend – he has very different views on a lot of subjects compared to most GAA followers and is not afraid to express his opinions, but his love of the game supersedes everything else. All I can say is, if you get a chance to see the interview, don’t miss it.
As for me, if I ever find myself within a yard or two of him again, the chances are that I will once again freeze, and miss out on an opportunity to have a word with one of my unlikely heroes…I must take a few self-confidence classes in 2022!