Cheerful thoughts of annual festive family interactions as vaccine positivity emerges

What a marvellous weekend of sports we had, and all available on TV. It was really a great indulgence, but I spent ages looking at the ones I was following.

My first choice, of course, was the rugby game on Saturday between Ireland and Scotland. Our feelings about Ireland had been so negative that we didn’t know quite what to expect. Well, the Irish team played really well and the end score of Ireland 31 Scotland 16 didn’t truly reflect the great encounters there were throughout the game.

Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw were both back in action, though Sexton went off sometime in the second half with a knee injury. Robbie Henshaw was just dramatic. What I love about him is he has a great sense of adventure. Out of the blue, he will just take off and either make a marvellous try himself or ensure that he passes a brilliant ball to somebody who is making the try.

Equally effective and brilliant was Caelan Doris, who has just seven caps to his name but is really a clever player, and there’s no doubt he shone last Saturday.

Andy Farrell, the head coach of the Irish team, was no doubt pleased with the outcome as there has been much debate about whether he is succeeding in his role. But I think the play and the result on Saturday put a lot of the bad feeling to one side. However, it is early times yet and we hope that the good form displayed last Saturday will continue in the games to come.

Then we had the two GAA football games, Cavan versus Dublin and Mayo versus Tipperary. Now we all know that Cavan didn’t have a chance but I wish the pundits who were giving their views before and after the match would give some credit to Cavan, who went in and played their hearts out. It could not have been easy when they were facing Dublin, but they were determined that they would make their mark, and to my mind they did so. But I couldn’t get over the feeling that Dublin were just playing in their minds with them. The real problem, of course, is Dublin, and that’s a national GAA problem which they will have to face up to and to resolve at HQ level.

Then there was all the fuss of the women’s football, Cork versus Galway, on Sunday. We have heard all versions of it, from Morning Ireland to Claire Byrne Live, and then on to Bryan Dobson on the News at One. The ladies’ football teams had to put up with three changes of venues and then being given seven minutes for a warm-up when they finally landed in Croke Park. The final suggestion was that they should all merge, men’s football, ladies’ football, hurling and camogie into one national body. Will that come about? I don’t think so, but it’s certainly worth considering.

We had our first allowable Christmas outing last Sunday, when Aengus, Lisa and their family and myself gathered to celebrate their eldest Luke’s 18th birthday.

We had a lovely time and kept our social distance; there was plenty of room as we were in a room on our own, nicely heated but with good ventilation. Most of all, it was terrific to be out together. I particularly noted changes in the children. James got so tall, Sarah had become so socially interesting, and the youngest, Scott, well he just likes to keep talking and tell us all about himself. All in all, it was a very entertaining and lovely day together.

Next up, of course, is Christmas Day, and hopefully all the readers will have access to be with family on that day.

The following day, St Stephen’s Day, Feargal and Maeve in Dublin with Jennifer and Sam are coming down to stay for that night and the next day. So we will be doing some family celebration, which is lovely because usually St Stephen’s Day can be quiet and I had been thinking I would be reading alone on that day. But now here I am, looking forward in anticipation to another lovely allowable family day.

I wonder did the readers note the effect that the opening of the hairdressers and barbers had on our presenters and politicians on TV? I certainly did; many of the male and female politicians had lovely new hairdos, particularly the men who were sporting tight haircuts, looking as if they didn’t quite know when the barber shop/salon would be open again.

Of course, all this joyful talk of happy Christmas gatherings is not without the accompanying doom-laden utterances on TV and radio. All the presenters and the various professors we meet from time to time seem intent upon promoting the idea that Christmas will be only over and done with, when we will immediately be imprisoned again in another lockdown.

Oh please, let that not happen. I hope everyone who is going to be out and about, either shopping or going for coffee or having a meal out in the weeks ahead, will be careful of themselves and careful of those they meet; wear your masks, as we did last Sunday until we were ready to eat our meal and put them on again straight away, keep your distance from everyone, and most of all stay at home as much as you can.

Yes, we want the joyful family occasions, but we want them to be done in the proper way. By so doing, we could avoid bringing upon ourselves another lockdown.

Then of course, there is now the constant vaccine discussion and chat. I see President Higgins said he would, if necessary, take the vaccine in public on TV, so that people would learn from his good example to the nation.

I intend to take it, quietly I hope. Now I know there are many who have doubts about the speed with which these vaccines have been produced. But listening to the various debates and arguments, it seems to me that the exploration and research needed has been very thoroughly carried out, and that the vaccines, as produced, will be safe and reliable.

I particularly like Professor Luke O’Neill, who always seems to be able to manage a note of optimism, even in very difficult times. He has looked into the research and development behind the vaccines, and he is absolutely sure that they have been done in a correct and positive fashion.

The Christmas cards are the next item on the agenda. Already, a few have popped into the letterbox, and I am making my lists as usual. I retain a great affection for Christmas cards, because somehow they bring back to mind people you might not have encountered for some time, and suddenly there they are in an envelope with their best wishes.

That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, stay safe and enjoy, I hope, the family occasions you are already having, particularly those with grandchildren to savour and to love.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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