It is so good to be able to get into the car and drive off somewhere, even a few miles, look at the River Shannon and think long thoughts.
Looking back over the last while, the date that springs out to me is the date of May 25, because that was when we were told there had been no new deaths reported in the 24 hours preceding. It was a marvellous bit of news to hear. Now of course in the days afterwards there were some deaths, but they never again rose to huge heights, and it is my fervent hope that the time will soon come when there will be no new deaths day after day.
Last Friday was a really important day for me. The doorbell went, and I knew it was Lisa (married to Aengus ) because she always gives two rings on it. I went to the door, and there were Lisa and Scott, their youngest child, peeping in over the glass. The look on his face was amazing; he was half fearful would I come to the door, would I let him in, talk with him, and half anticipation, and then full delight when I opened the door and said “Lisa and Scott, come in, you’re welcome.” I will never forget the look on his little face.
Here in Athlone, for the whole month of May, we have the wonderful mayfly fishing. It lasts for the whole month, and wherever you stop at the River Shannon, you can see the boats all over the river and the lake. I understand that the mayfly was very good this year, and that the catches were plentiful, and I’m glad of that. It’s one of the earliest memories I have of living in Athlone when we lived in Gentex, to see all the boats pushing off every day for their mayfly fishing, and realising that for many people the pastime of fishing was a wonderful event, and in particular the mayfly.
When I was observing all that, it was amazing to see how the flood waters in Athlone have receded. When you are coming back over the bridge you can see how far it has receded, in that the big ESB poles that were in the middle of the flood are now way back into the grassy pastures. The River Shannon flows on its proper course, and the floods are a distant memory.
But that is nature; in a similar fashion we have had nature giving us the coronavirus, but at the same time the benign side of nature comes out, in that the worst of the coronavirus here in Ireland has been during weather of unparalleled beauty. Sunshine from morning till night, and knowing that every night you go to bed you can wake up again to sunshine the next morning. It’s quite an amazing phenomenon and apparently since 1860 there has not been a month of May like the one we have just had – tribulations and all interlaced with the most magical of summer-like weather.
In the last few days, we have had the death of Brendan Bowyer. In the 60s, he and the Royal Showband used to come and play in the Crescent Ballroom when the late Sid Shine was the owner and himself a band leader. How well I remember my early days of marriage, when Enda and I would go in to hear Brendan Bowyer. I marvelled then, and I continued to marvel, at his wonderful exuberance as he belted out the ‘Hucklebuck’ and various other songs which he made his own.
But I have retained the very best until last. Last Sunday, May 31, was my birthday, and it marked my first visit to Aengus and Lisa at their home with their four children. We had a wonderful birthday barbeque picnic, and yes we all kept a suitable social distance. But oh, it was so wonderful to see each of them, to listen to their chat and talk, find out what they had been doing or not doing, marvel at the way they had grown, and in particular hear their talk and worries about exams.
Each of the four of them had been swimming in various locations during the hot weather – Barrymore, the Hodson Bay, the Yacht Club and other chosen spots. It was truly wonderful to be in their company again, and to have a memorable birthday with all of them. Feargal and Maeve in Dublin and their children all rang through with their good wishes, but of course they couldn’t travel because of the mileage restrictions.
Next weekend will see a further lifting of the lockdown. Already, there are numerous calls to have the later dates accelerated so that hotels, hairdressers, shops and other areas of life can come back into play.
Of course, the Medical Committee is absolutely right to stress that there could well be a second wave of the killer coronavirus lurking around, waiting to pounce. But in the meantime, life goes on and risks are around everywhere, no matter what way we turn.
Newspapers have been brilliant (including the Advertiser ) in ensuring the news keeps pumping out, despite the fact that there is a great loss in income from diminished advertising budget. I get the newspaper every day during the lockdown through the good offices of a friend of mine who made sure it was put through the letterbox every day. Of course you can read your paper online, of course you can get it in so many other formats, but to me there is nothing to equal the newspaper untouched, with its headlines and its subtitles, its writers and its wits, and above all the tactile joy of opening the newspaper and going through it page by page, noting something that you want to go back and check up on again, and all of the rest of it. Yes of course people will tell you, oh they read it online, they saw it online. Let me tell you, there is nothing to beat a pristine newspaper, fresh from the newsagent, and within its pages all the stories of the day and in particular the stories to come.
It is the same way with books: I have no time at all for how books can now be read online. What is to beat the pleasure of a brand new book in your hand, turning the pages, reading about the author, thinking about the chapters, and starting to read?
I may be very old-fashioned, but these are my views and I thought I would like to share them.
That’s my lot for this week.
Hope you continue to mind yourself, stay home as often as you can, and stay well.
Talk with you all next week.
Slán go fóill.