I have always been fascinated by the audio offerings that come with whatever car I have had. From the first cassette players to the smoothness of the CD drives, sucking in the discs; to the Pioneer speakers which I had drilled into the doors. As times has gone by, what passed as extraordinary in those cars are now de rigeur, the norm. This year when I changed my car in Galway, I discovered that my new car and its complicated audio system had an even newer feature that ordinarily would be like a lighthouse in the Bog of Allen, brilliant but useless.
But in this year, in this time, perhaps this feature had its use. Under the button marked media, comes up on the screen sights and sounds of walking in snow; the crackling of a winter fire, the images of a forest under birdsong...and perhaps the most unusual one, the full sound and clatter of a cafe with the hum of conversation, the banging of cups and saucers, the tinkling of cutlery.
Perhaps the designers of the car had Covid and Lockdown in mind when they put this into my Kia. Because in all those months when cafes were sad empty places full of what might have beens, one push of this button gave me the cafe sights and sounds, if not an actual coffee.
But now, with cafes back in action, there is no need for me to have this fake cafe anymore and what a joy it is to be able to sit outside a real one and not feel like an intruder.
It was Napoleon Bonaparte who said that an army marches on its stomach and if that is the case, then the vast army that makes up the population of this country could have been drowned out by the sound of rumbling tummies over the past six months. Through the streets of our city and towns this week came the familiar aroma of coffee being served in a proper cup, of soup being allowed to send its seductive smells up over its bowl and into the air.
I love cafes — I normally find a nook in one, whip out the laptop and work away on something or other. They are places where you learn the sound of people, you hear the intonations of love and life and gossip and sadness, as wise and weary words pass over sandwiches and coffees and sumptous cream cakes. They are places where the pulse of the nation is taken. They are places where people throw shapes and have notions. And how we have all deserved it.
Our cities, towns and villages are blessed to have at least one good cafe and it is up to us to support these enterprises so that the sector can recover with confidence, so that jobs can be recreated in the hearts of our own places.
It was so refreshing this week to feel the heartbeat of the country be restored, like the throbbing red light in ET's chest. With people able to meet and drink in safety, to share the loads of the past year, to remember those who have gone, and to play their part in rebuilding this country. Welcome back to all in the hospitality trade. I hope you will have many wonderful seasons ahead.