Of course I’m enjoying Euro 2020. The saddest sentence I heard all weekend was when Peter Collins (RTE) said on Sunday night: “Just two matches tomorrow…” It’s a terrifying sign of things to come, that awful point in a tournament when the group stages are over and the knockout phase signals the move to one match a day (even less when you get to the last eight).
Still, we’re grateful for what we have, and a major football tournament is just what many of us needed. For now, the games are coming thick and fast. Netherlands’ 3-2 win over Ukraine was a thriller. Italy have impressed, while Spain merely drew 0-0 with Sweden, despite having 85% of the possession. Possession may be nine-tenths of the law; not scoring with 85% of it is criminal. England got off to a winning start against Croatia. Sterling scored, but our neighbours are still committed to ‘the Euro’!
In studio, Damien Duff is testing my patience, Liam Brady is a welcome blast from the past, Alan Shearer and Rio Ferdinand are decent but dull, and I haven’t seen Roy Keane, because for some reason we simply don’t have ITV.
Unsurprisingly, the BBC saw the Euro 2020 kick-off (a year late, due to Covid) as a perfect opportunity to repeat a documentary on England’s memorable (and heartbreaking) Euro 96 campaign.
Made a few years ago (and presented by Shearer) this was an excellent documentary, a warm-hearted nostalgia trip. It told the story of England’s rollercoaster campaign in the 1996 finals, played on home soil to the soundtrack of ‘Football’s Coming Home’, a new feelgood anthem which defined an era of short-lived national optimism.
There were poignant contributions from the charismatic Terry Venables (manager) and Paul Gascoigne, the latter a gifted and much-loved maestro on the pitch and a tormented, self-destructive soul off it. England seemed destined to win the tournament, to bring football ‘home’, but the great adventure ended in tears, with defeat to Germany in a penalty shoot-out in the semi-final. Watching this nostalgic documentary, I felt sadness and affection for England’s nearly men of ’96.
Roscommon senior footballers’ dispiriting league campaign ended with another defeat, and relegation. It was a dismal day for the Rossies in Armagh. Thus ends a forgettable campaign, with four defeats from four outings. As ever, we’ll keep the faith. Roscommon will now be heavy underdogs when they play Galway in the Connacht Championship. Our lads need to make a positive from that reality – and plan a coup. To paraphrase Baldrick in Blackadder, we need ‘A Cunning(ham) plan’!
Spare a thought this week for Zionnghaka Chana, who has departed this world at the age of 76. He’s deeply mourned by his children and grandchildren, and of course by his wives…all 39 of them.
There I was this morning, browsing, when I clicked on the RTE website to see if there’s any breaking news/what’s been happening. The most prominent headline (on rte.ie) is ‘Man with 39 wives dies in India’.
Across from that startling headline was a photo of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. My eyes darted from ‘Man with 39 wives dies…’ to the photo of the mischievous PM. But I knew it couldn’t be Boris that had died, as he’s not in India, he’s been hosting the G7 summit in Cornwall. Besides, as far as I’m aware, he’s only been married three times.
It was time to find out more about the woman-magnet/sect leader (Zionnghaka Chana, not Boris). The news agencies report that he was a sect leader and polygamist who lived in a remote state in northeast India.
First married at the age of 17, he had 39 wives at the time of his death, as well as “at least” 127 children and grandchildren. Mind you, the ‘chief minister’ of his state tweeted condolences to Chana’s ‘38 wives’. I guess it’s hard to keep count. Chana’s home village in the state of Mizoram became a tourist attraction because of the family, considered to be one of the largest in the world.
We will leave the last word to Mr. Chana, who never got to find out if life begins at 40 (wives): “‘I am ever ready for more matrimonial alliances” he once declared.
*Boris is alive and well.
Of course we’ve been living at Laptop Lane since long before Covid. Call it what you will: Laptop Lane, Tablet Terrace, Computer Corner…our lives almost dictated by digital media and the devices that (usually) link us with it. Now, since the pandemic, we seem to spend most of our waking hours on Laptop Lane.
Often, it all works out fine, but sometimes it’s as frustrating as listening to Stephen Donnelly in full condescending mode, as infuriating as a Boris Johnson press conference.
The problem in our house, as in much of rural Ireland, is that the broadband connection has a mind of its own, and, like an irresponsible party animal with a stubborn streak, often it doesn’t feel like working.
Often, it feels like we’re actually living on WiFi Wasteland. Some days, with six people seeking online access in our house – for work and study purposes – the only sound you will hear are resigned cries of anguish at the wilting WiFi, the bewildering broadband. That, followed by the calming whistle of the kettle, loyal saviour in times of stress.
Meanwhile, compounding our technological trauma is the fact that we live in a phone signal blackspot. Often, a call to one of our mobiles simply won’t register until several hours later. Yet, step into the garden, and the signal is fine. But it sometimes gives new meaning to cold calling…
We are at the mercy of the erratic broadband connection. Today, as I write, I just cannot get internet access. It’s chronically slow. Loading at a snail’s pace, and a tired snail at that. A snail that’s has a long season. This moody and unreliable broadband is such a real threat to the grand dream of seamlessly successful remote working becoming the norm in rural Ireland.
Staring at a frozen screen earlier, I was left to my imagination. I wondered if, somewhere in a remote corner of the remotest part of Siberia, there is, this very morning, a stoic bachelor preparing his lunch in a ramshackle, storm-battered abode, isolated amongst rugged mountains and thousands of acres of sparsely populated terrain.
As his food cooks in the background, our friend checks his Twitter account, has a quick Zoom meeting, does some online research for his book ‘Self-isolating in Siberia: The early years’, and watches a couple of football videos on YouTube. This evening, he will watch Roy Keane on ITV. Later, when the meat is cooked, today’s culinary delight will be shared…on Instagram.
If such a man exists, just now on Laptop Lane – or rather on WiFi Wasteland – I can’t even fire him a quick email (or ‘like’ his lunch).
I see the new DUP leader, Edwin Poots, is suddenly very much at ease pouring praise on his deposed predecessor, Arlene Foster. It’s only a few weeks since Ms. Foster, in the nature of politics, was ruthlessly thrown overboard by plotters, as Poots (to put it at its eh…kindest) stood idly by. Now, Edwin cheerily declares that “history will be very kind to Arlene”. Unlike Edwin!