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The Grand National returns next month in April after it was called off last year for the first time since World War Two due to the outbreak of the COVOD-19 pandemic.
Looking back 12 months at Insider’s preview of 2020, the danger of making even short-term predictions is starkly illustrated! The upcoming General Election, a post-Brexit trade deal, and the ongoing housing crisis were cited as the issues likely to dominate the political year; as it turned out, all featured but there was not one word about the issue that dominated the year - Covid-19.
This is the first column of 2021 and I share all of your hopes that this year will be a better year than 2020.
Well readers, so much happening, so much going right, so much going wrong, where to begin?
I expect that many people were able to look at the debate between Senator Kamala Harris for the Democratic Party and Mike Pence, the vice-president, for the Republican Party. It was on TV the morning after the debate, when RTÉ ran it for an hour and a half.
The things we want to talk about this week are mostly the same as those of last week, because they keep re-occurring and they keep being interesting and demanding attention and discussion.
Ordinarily, at this time of year, there is a sense of renewal as politicians, with their batteries recharged, return to work and a new Dáil term begins.
Am here for the races…In Galway... there’s no kapin’ me away from Galway at this time of the year…Social distancing me…whole summer I’d been planning me stay…near panicked when thought it mightn’t be on…savin’ since I got back from Cheltingham so I was…never said I was ovah cos everyone was looking me quare like as if I had some sort of disease… but am here now, like that Boris Johnson lad, head on me like an explosion in a bloody mattress factory…normally mad for road I am……this year mad for cycling lane more like...The clobber on me right out of Peaky Blinders, the kinda clothes me fadder’s fodder would have worn like 150 year ago…looking like an extra on the Irish RM…town is strange…something strange about every wan in the streets like, as if they’re kinda sober or something. Haven’t seen anyone throw a slap at all at all...Families and foreign tourists from overseas like; what are they doing here in Race Week…do they not know ‘tis a week for the likes o’ me having a serious blow-out like...total carnage...a week like for showing after the watershed...sort of Normal People without the Leaving Cert and Trinity...sort of like the lads who were yer man’s friends back home in Normal People...not the soppy stuff like. So anyways here I am...sun rises in the capital of culture…ate a clock in the mornin’…I wake up with a head on me…flat out like Eamonn Ryan during a vote…in a crumpled hape...Went to bed looking like Donal Og Cusack, woke up looking like Dunphy...open shirt buttons and spray deodorant under arms one squirt for each oxter and one for the road with a shot for the lads below…ya can never take any chances like at the Galway Races…could be hit by a bus or a quare wan…make me way around the square…no buses heading out to Ballybrit…Invite only...Did ya ever hear the likes...Town all zoned off into different zones - Serious Drinkers; Maggoty Drunk Drinkers; Absolute Beginners; and Pioneers...One of the lads said he was goin’ to rock up to Ballybrit with a horse and trailer and see if he’d get in...crazy idea to kape us out...’twould never have happened if Fianna Fail were in by themselves...so have to find a base for meself in town like…to watch it on a screen...the new normal…the new nonsense more like...I’m RacingMan…RacingMan…seriously discommoded like by these restrictions but am making the best of it...thinking of me country...pulling on me green jersey and all that...fellas in welder’s helmets pullin’ your pint like…where’s your mask mate, he says to me and I never meetin’ him before in me life…no masks with me, so next day I use a pair of the spare jocks, get a scissors and a stapler and I’ve me mask with a big Y on the front…why would ya be wasting money on a blue nappy for your face when ya could be spending it on skullin’ pints and lashing into beef rolls...Starving…looking at the menu boards outside like… rakes and rakes o’ hummus everywhere cos those woolly feckers in the arts festival and the film thingy were not here this year… hipster fella with a beard asks me do I want brunch like. Says he can do me advocate toast or something strange sounding like that...throw back the lugs and dive in...twas muck...like eating a squashed apple through a sock...try to walk sober like, wan foot then the udder, repeat...I’m Racingman, I’m wide out…I’m part of Galway. I’m Racingman, the boyoh, unleashed for the week…the Welder, I’ll call him Dermot... served me another pint…I asks him are there any quare wans in town this year…jockeying for position for the best apartments…the dominatrix like…Lads have quare wans’ mobile numbers from the Google… A wan called Ivana Legova tells them she want 200 notes for an hour of the socially distanced bould thing...lads laugh when I ask for group discount and take out me social services card….an hour I laugh, an hour of drinking time wasted...she says for 400 she’ll bate me with a whip ’til I cry and give me a happy ending…told her I can get a batin’ for nawthing outside the chipper…and if I want a happy ending, I can watch a video of the 2017 hurling final…and the lads laugh…Am great for the auld repartee, me, cos I’m Racingman. I walk down the street like Travolta in Saturday Night Fever ‘cept without the can o’ paint…baby shakin that ass... they’re looking at me, the wimmen, can’t get enough of me...nawthing like a pair of skinny jeans (no ballroom dancing for me) and a mismatched jacket and tweed jacket and braces and cap to get them going...down the square check out paddys ladbrokes boyles get the odds... and ends..too early to go out to Ballybrit yet...then I remember I can’t, so I sit on bench and look at the pretend fountain that’s never on…sit on steps, legs sprawled...what’s Galway city centre in race week unless ya can get out of it...Galway without getting to the races is like getting to Pisa and finding a pile of rubble; or going to EuroDisney and not matin’ Mickey Mouse. I’ll do it this year...for me country...but next year I want to be out there in person, the sound of the horses, the smell of the people...Hear a shout...Mon is it you...Am hailed by my taxi lad friend from Lagos, sitting bored at the rank, says he’ll me take out to Ballybrit anyway for a look at the gate and then back again, for auld time’s sake...says he knows a farm shed and a ladder at Castlegar where we can go up on the roof and watch the racing and bet online with the wifi from the passing buses...so here we are...not in the Moet or the Killanin but the Corrugated Stand holding me phone to the sky and roaring me head off. See ye next year...because what do they do say, like ya feel after a bad curry, remember, this too will pass. G’luck.
I want to especially say hello and Godspeed to people who, like myself, have come out of lockdown and who are experiencing the bit of freedom, small as it is, which we have now got.
Hello to all the readers of this fine newspaper, which has kept going despite the difficulties we are all encountering.