Hello to all the Advertiser readers.
I am compiling this on Tuesday, and the Advertiser issues on Thursday. So when I say it is glorious, sunny, bright weather outside, I know it could well have changed by Thursday. However, for the last two to three weeks, we have had the most amazing sunny days, bright days, long evenings and all that goes with being a good summer. I am sure you all join with me in being so glad to have had this wonderful June.
Looking at the TV over the weekend, we saw Cornwall in the UK in all its beauty: Falmouth, St Ives, and Penzance all arrayed in glorious June sunshine, magnificent beaches, seas and greenery. Cornwall is truly a beautiful place and was the venue for the G7 Summit over last weekend. We saw Joe Biden accompanied by his wife Jill Biden, and Boris Johnson whose wife now wishes to be called Carrie Johnson, parading, as were all the other leaders of those countries.
To go back to Cornwall and its beauty. In 2011, after Brian Jr passed away, Anita, Ann and I decided we would go for a week somewhere and we looked at the idea of Cornwall. None of the three of us had ever been there, only to know of its beauty. We made various enquiries and you just could not go; there was, at that time anyway, no direct Dublin-Cornwall flight. You could go to an airport some distance away and then take further road transport to your destination. Anyway, we decided that it was all too much and instead we went for our week somewhere else.
All the heads of the G7 countries were ferried there by car from the major airport, and we saw various cars rolling into Cornwall. Boris Johnson felt the full weight of the disapproval of Joe Biden, and indeed some of the other leaders including Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, at what they saw as the very slow behaviour of Boris in dealing with the Northern Ireland Protocol. It was good to see approval for it so vehemently expressed at the highest world level. I sometimes feel it all washes off Boris; he makes a very enthusiastic response and you feel momentarily that it will be okay with him, and then a few days later the old rows come up again regarding the Protocol. Let’s hope the disapproval he felt in the lovely Cornwall sunshine will have made an impression on this occasion.
I hope many of the readers saw the wonderful documentary on RTÉ1 on Monday night of this week. It was titled Partition and hosted by Michael Portillo. It was a marvellous exposition of what is, to all of us, a painful legacy of British rule. I know Michael Portillo because when I was made Minister for Education in 1987, and started to go to the Brussels meetings of Education Ministers, Michael Portillo was the UK representative for education. We always had a great rapport together, and he would say “Breakfast tomorrow, Mary? That would be wonderful.” You can imagine that ever since I have followed his career.
In particular, I love his railway journeys all over the world, delivered in such an outgoing style with his different-coloured jackets and trousers and perfectly groomed persona as he strides the history halls of Europe and beyond, clutching his Bradshaw’s Guide to Railway Journeys. He was such good company then and he retains that persona.
The Leaving Cert is in full swing and, in keeping with all previous years, it is being conducted in glorious weather. I am keeping my eye, of course on Jennifer in Dublin and Luke in Athlone. Jennifer is sitting each of the examinations; Luke is sitting three of his. The students have a choice this year and it will be very interesting to see what the outcome will be. So far, so good. They appear to be adapting to the rigours of the examination hall, imbued, I am sure, with the comforting assurance that there are always the predicted grades which may tell a similar, or in some cases better, tale. So all in all, so far all is good.
All over Athlone, and I’m sure it is the same in every village and town in Ireland, there is such an air of festivity with the outdoor dining. Even the smallest of restaurants has managed to get a space on a pavement, erect a canopy and – hey presto – serve lovely food. We really have to say ‘well done’ to all of them for making the huge effort to get that part of the opening up nailed down in such a satisfactory way. All the hotels in Athlone in particular have really put on their bright new clothes and are busy serving outdoor appetites. We are all awaiting, of course, the July opening of indoor restaurants and pubs. Let’s hope that will all proceed as planned.
This brings me exactly to the point I want to raise now, and I hate being in castigatory or warning mode when everything is going so well. The new coronavirus variant called Delta is now causing concern. It has already done so in the UK where it has forced a change in the reopening date from June to July. Already they are talking about it here in Ireland, even though we have received assurances that the July date for our indoor reopening will go ahead.
The worry of Delta, and whatever other new variant will appear, goes on and on. We are lucky that the vaccination programme is really at full throttle. This week they are registering people in their 30s for the vaccine, and the figures each night are promising. Let’s hope it continues, but let’s also hope that we all continue to observe the daily health warnings about the necessary health arrangements which have become so commonplace to us, but which we must continue to do. There is no point in feeling that all is over and we are free, free, free; we are not, we are subject to continuous observance and a watchful eye and ear from everyone.
I would like to end on a congratulatory note to former St Brigid’s and Roscommon GAA notable Frankie Dolan, who this week launched his autobiography Outside of the Right, written in conjunction with Dan Dooner. I always like to hear of people who are writing and I am sure his book will be very well received in the Midlands and further afield. Well done Frankie.
That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, stay safe.
Slán go fóill.