A diary of the times that are (part 6)



Trying to work from home has highlighted for me just how unreliable our broadband service is. Last week I speculated here that there are probably undiscovered African tribes which have better broadband than us.

I assume that some of the tribe members in those African rainforests have seen the digital edition of last week’s Roscommon People by now, and are suitably unimpressed by my patronising and lazy characterisation of them. My defence? I was just trying to use dramatic/humourous effect to make my point.

Seriously, if rural Ireland is to have any chance of prospering in the coming years, we simply have to get this broadband deficit addressed. It’s obviously even more urgent now (in the Covid era) than it was just a couple of months’ ago.

Rebuilding our local economy when this virus crisis has passed is going to be a huge challenge. Good broadband will be essential, particularly if remote working is to be embraced.




The famous fall too. To coronavirus. There was Eddie Large, to whom I paid tribute in a previous column. And this week, we lost another name from the popular culture of the past. Tim Brooke Taylor, best known as one of the comedy trio ‘The Goodies’, has sadly passed from the virus.

‘The Goodies’ were very popular in their heyday. They were utterly daft, and all the better for that. For many years ‘The Goodies’ were an unmissable comedy team, with Tim Brooke Taylor at the heart of their madcap mayhem.

On Friday, came the sad news that the Leeds United legend Norman Hunter had also died from Covid-19. I don’t really remember his playing days, but when we were young he was spoken of in reverential terms by those who had seen him. Many’s a time I’d mention that great Leeds team, and as soon as I’d listed ‘Giles, Bremner’ and maybe ‘Eddie Gray’, an old-timer would wistfully add: “…and Norman Hunter”. His reputation was as a hard man (‘Bite yer legs’ being his nickname) but he could certainly play too. On the RTE website they had a nice video tribute to him. I found it not just nostalgic, but poignant and emotional too. May the great Norman Hunter rest in peace.




The hair-growing crisis continues. With our friendly barbers and hairdressers in lockdown, the ‘hairier than before’ citizens tiptoe around their houses, dodging mirrors, ignoring the undiplomatic stares of bemused family pets.

We all have decisions to make. Do we wait for the barbers/hairdressers to re-open…and then basically storm them? Even then, given social distancing, we might have to queue down the street, with our long faces and our longer hair.

Or do we trust that family member who (inevitably there will be one) now claims that they can cut/style hair “no problem”? Is this a sincerely held view, or could it be that they are so bored with Facebook/baking/The Kardashians/The News that they are prepared to volunteer to do anything – even if it means experimenting with your hair – to get through another day of lockdown?

Then there is the nuclear option – cutting your own hair. This precarious DIY act, which parents traditionally scold young children for indulging in, has apparently already been attempted by some desperate people (to be honest, you’ll probably be able to tell who has succumbed).




In the Sunday Independent, beside photographs of Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, is the headline: ‘New era, new politics’.

Presumably this ‘new politics’ which is apparently close to being ushered in is not to be confused with that other new politics, the one that we were all told to embrace a mere four years ago (after the last but one election).

One could easily get confused. Is the pending union of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael a new ‘new politics’, or should we call it ‘new, new politics’? And there is a difference. Because while new politics was obviously new, ‘new, new politics’ would be even more radical, certainly newer.

It really is confusing. After all, the upcoming twinning (while admittedly historic) of FF and FG will be an alliance of the old and the old, in that these two parties have (between them) governed the state since independence. Maybe when you cross old politics with old politics you get new politics, or even new, new politics?

And if this is new politics, where does that leave the old new politics, the one where an FG/Independent alliance was propped up by FF’s gracious supply and confidence initiative? Oh I forgot, this probably is a step beyond new politics, this is new, new politics.

If Denis Naughten or Michael Fitzmaurice (or both) lead a merry band of Independents in with FF/FG, will that be ‘Even newer politics’ (especially if a smaller party joins up too)?

So, while it’s not absolutely clear what seismic shift is happening, the impression I’m getting is: (1) The old politics is gone forever. (2) It was replaced by new politics. (3) Now that we have the old linking up with the old, it’s even more new politics – but so new, that it really ought to become known as new, new politics.

Anyways, I’m sure Mary Lou will have something to say about it.




Having relaxed at the weekend, it’s back to work, back to the office. The town remains very quiet, eerily so in the evenings. People are moving through the shops pretty quickly, still friendly, but not so keen (with good reason) on stopping and talking. Nervousness dominates our world.

The relentless blah blah of it all, if I may coin that phrase, can be demoralising. On radio, TV and social media, it’s non-stop Covid. I’m dipping in and out of Donald Trump’s press conferences, rather like the man himself. I feel guilty saying they are entertaining…let’s go with an American version of GUBU…grotestque, unruly, bizarre and un-Presidential!




Political/current affairs enthusiasts will surely agree if I deem Sean O’Rourke – who announced today that he will retire on May 8th – to be a superb journalist. On form, the RTE man was brilliant. Readers may recall his gentle yet clinical filleting of the ‘swing lady’ Maria Bailey (yeah, innocent times). That’s not so long ago; O’Rourke’s been on this beat since back in the Haughey/Fitzgerald days. I’m sorry to see him go, but I wish him the very best. And I am really looking forward to the inevitable book!

In the meantime, if you think you heard a few champagne corks popping, that will have been the leading politicians in the country reacting to the news that ‘Bite yer egos’ O’Rourke is hanging up his boots…