Publicans and restaurant owners have been hit so hard by this wretched pandemic. Many times in this column I’ve expressed solidarity with them, a sentiment which I’m sure is shared by our thousands of readers.
Not only have they not been able to reopen indoors, they’ve been tormented by the saga of date changes. It really is the hope that kills you. And many of those business people who have some outdoor hospitality option have had to somehow muster the enthusiasm and finance to make the required investment.
A number of premises’ countywide have – despite the unpredictability facing their industry, the chronic loss of income over 16 months, and the erratic Irish summer weather – bravely taken the plunge and reopened outdoors.
I am aware of numerous venues that have been creative and courageous in providing safe and welcoming facilities. They are all to be commended and hopefully they will be well supported as this deeply challenging time for the hospitality industry.
Tonight we had a few drinks in Paddy Finn’s (Kilteevan), where proprietor Claudia has excellent outdoor facilities in place. There was a nice crowd of locals presents, all socialising in safe conditions. It was a reminder of times past, and very enjoyable!
As a player, Rio Ferdinand was a star for ‘United’. Then he left Leeds and joined another ‘United’ (Manchester). He’s a nice guy too, but Rio’s getting very, very confident/arrogant about England’s Euro 2020 chances!
Tonight, England qualified for the semi-finals of the Euros with a very comfortable 4-0 win over Ukraine. Rio (one of the BBC’s pundits) is falling into the potential trap of getting much too cocky (Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker looking on warily). England were quite impressive against a limited Ukraine team.
I feel myself effortlessly moving into ‘supporting England mode’. I assume that annoying radio DJs are still lazily asking Irish people to text in and say whether or not they can find it in their hearts to support ‘the auld enemy’.
It is of course a tricky one for Irish people. There have certainly been times in the past when I’ve enjoyed England’s sporting discomfort. It’s somewhere in our DNA. But is it mature? They are our neighbours. The English players are a nice bunch. The Brits appear to support our sportstars (granted they try to claim some of them too). The vast majority of the English fans are the finest of people, and I certainly don’t begrudge them their run in the Euros. Some in the English media, retired footballers who are now pundits included, can however be very arrogant and over-confident.
On Wednesday, England face Denmark in the second semi-final. Personally, I’d like to see our neighbours reach the final. (To be continued!).
A confession: I watched about ten minutes of the RTE ‘debate’ on Thursday’s Dublin Bay South by-election. Halfway through those ten minutes (and already wilting), I actually browsed the channels, and almost stopped on a repeat of a repeat of Mrs Brown’s Boys. Instead (and I’m not proud of it), I returned to The Week In Politics for another five minutes.
There were about eight candidates surrounding presenter Áine Lawlor. I actually listened to three or four of the candidates earnestly rattling off what they reckon should be done to solve the housing crisis. Then, presenter Áine looked directly at me – solemn-faced and with no warning to any children who might be accidentally looking in – and announced that there would be more questions after the ad break, with even more candidates.
I am probably doing a disservice to Áine. The way she looked directly at me may have been a coded warning…that there was more of this tedious non-debate to come. The dog and I looked at one another, and before the first ad had come on, we’d both scarpered.
Still, it was an error of judgement on my part to have exposed myself to even ten minutes of a ‘debate’ on a by-election. I can only sincerely apologise to both myself and to my loyal readers for this uncharacteristic lapse. While I can’t speak for her, I must say our dog looks suitably embarrassed too.
Later on Sunday
Watching Roscommon v Galway was a very, very frustrating experience. Galway deserved their win. Our ‘all men behind the ball’ approach was reasonably effective but awful to watch. When we broke upfield, most of our key shooters were not at their best. We stayed in touch with Galway for much of the match, but the visitors nudged a few in front, and then a messy second goal ended our hopes of a late comeback. It was a muted end to a very disappointing season.
Across the water, dramatic news as Boris declares he’s had enough. Or words to that effect. England will effectively scrap lockdown on July 19th. You never know what to expect from Boris. Flanked by an apprehensive looking Chief Medical Officer (Professor Chris Whitty) and an equally sombre Chief Scientist (Sir Patrick Valance), Boris confirmed at a news conference that the leaks to the media were spot on…England was going for broke.
Boris is taking a huge gamble. Professor Chris and Sir Patrick looked like quiet schoolboys who had been talked into a revolt by the class extrovert.
It was quite a shock to hear the UK Prime Minister unveiling his latest plan. No more social distancing from July 19th. Face coverings will no longer be mandatory. All businesses can reopen. Crowds will be able to attend sporting events, concerts, etc. Nightclubs will reopen. Attendance limits will be lifted for funerals, weddings, etc. The guidance on working from home will no longer apply. And on and on and on…
Professor Chris and Sir Patrick were pretty solemn, as well they might be. Infection levels in the UK are soaring, mainly due to the Delta variant. Of course the vaccination roll-out is very successful. Also, Boris argues that as it’s summer, and with vaccination going so well, now is the time to try and live with Covid-19, to rely on people exercising personal responsibility. But he did not rule out a return of lockdown in the autumn (depending on the prevailing circumstances).
It’s a big gamble by Boris, and a sharp contrast with our very cautious approach in the Republic of Ireland.
In Euro 2020, Italy beat Spain on penalties in the first semi-final (after a 1-1 draw). This is an excellent Italian side. They will almost certainly start favourites against Denmark or England in the final (result of second semi-final not known as we go to press). The final is this Sunday. There is no confirmation yet on how many official days of mourning will follow for soon-to-be bereft soccer fans…
Wednesday (7.30 pm)
I’m going home to see if football’s coming home…(Rio and I will make our views known in due course).