A diary of the times that are (part 9)



On the beautiful bog road near our house, you can go back in time…

On the bog road, all you see is the beauty of nature, an open span of gorze and furze and heather waiting for new generations to call and gaze.

I imagine two farmers meeting here, say 100 years ago.

They might have shaken hands; they’d almost certainly have paused and nodded and drifted closer and reflected on the day.

There would have been no talk of social distancing or cocooning or flattening the curve, or for that matter of Facebook, Instagram or Tik Tok, or of Brexit either, or, God forbid, political correctness. They’d have left Zoom for again too.

A few months ago, we didn’t really have time for the bog road. Now we do. And, for all the turmoil of these times, we’re all the better for that at least.

On the bog road, you can’t hear the traffic from the Athlone Road, you can’t hear the world at all. All you can hear is silence, punctuated by birds chirping and the rustle of some wildlife in the drains and bushes. Just doing their thing, living their lives.

And this morning, more clearly and for longer than ever before, I heard a relentless and magnificent and defiant call of the Cuckoo. That beauty too had eluded me in recent years…until lockdown, aided by glorious weather, opened my eyes and ears a little more!

On the bog road, all around you, that stunning furze and gorse stretches out in a magnificent tapestry of colours, nature with its chest out proudly, welcoming us now, while waiting for new generations.

100 years ago, the two farmers might have talked of the weather, the stock, the neighbours, a letter from America perhaps, the fair, the political turmoil.

And then they would have gone on their way, perhaps wondering what life would be like 100 years from then.




Lapsing from the beauty of nature back into the mad social media maze, I see where some annoying celebrity couple have caused a stir with their choice of name for their new baby.

Top entrepreneur extraordinaire Elon Musk and his partner, pop star Grimes, have named their baby son X Æ A-12.

That’s X Æ A-12. Seriously! Still, it’s lovely to see the old names coming back into fashion…




The world is in turmoil. But, on a positive note, Bernard O’Shea and Marty Morrissey are back with a new RTE TV series.

According to a gushing Irish Independent Weekend magazine interview – conducted via an “unusually entertaining Zoom call” – Bernard and Marty are now officially an “unlikely comedy duo”.

Hot on the heels of their last televised escapades, apparently they’ve been roaming the country again, doing something. And, barring someone taking out an injunction (Gemma? John? Anyone?), their ‘exploits’ are going to be presented on our screens, every Wednesday night.

Oh dear, just when we were finally getting used to Lockdown…




We’ve all been celebrating the great Bono’s (60th) birthday, as you know. But something a journalist wrote in the Sunday Independent’s LIFE magazine worried me. She wrote: “Then I moved to Ireland and my feelings became complicated. Living here demanded I develop the same difficult relationship with Bono as everyone else had…”

In the same publication, a second journalist wrote: “Bono is a figure who allows us to perform our own Irishness”.

Well, when I read all that, naturally I immediately recalled a conversation I’d had with an old farmer when I was passing Roscommon Mart about six months ago.

The farmer and I initially engaged in small talk (weather, etc.). Then, when we got on to international rock stars/unofficial ambassadors, I specifically remember the farmer saying that he had not developed a relationship, difficult or otherwise, with Bono. At the time, I let it pass…

But, in light of the LIFE magazine reminder that we all have to develop a relationship, difficult or otherwise, with Bono, I contacted that farmer this week (Zoom).

Cocooning, he was holding the Farmers Journal in one hand, with a calculator in the other…he mumbled something about checking cattle prices.

After a bit of small talk, as ever we quickly got around to international rock stars. He was coy about whether or not he had remembered Bono’s birthday (“Mary may have got a card, she normally deals with birthdays”). No matter.

Then I asked my farmer friend if he agreed that Bono allows us to perform our own Irishness. “We were just saying that here last night” he replied, quick as a flash.

Then I went for it…I gently advised my friend that he needed to be clear in his mind as to his relationship, difficult or otherwise, with Bono. (That, after all, is what the Dublin 4 set said).

“You’re a good family man, you’re a small farmer, you’re trying to make a living, I know you’re worried about prices, but the intelligentsia need to know. Have you developed a relationship, difficult or otherwise, with Bono?”

He went silent. He held the Farmers Journal up in one hand and tipped his glasses closer to his forehead (very artsy, to be fair).

When he said “Paul, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”, I relaxed. I knew what he meant, on so many levels. I just knew that everything was going to be alright.




Watching a recording of The Sunday Game (yeah, I know!). Des Cahill asked great questions of the impressive GAA President John Horan, during which interview the latter effectively ruled out any GAA action this year. Extraordinary times. Sad times.

My only slightly negative comment on the programme would be that, at two hours, it was much too long. Still, it was nice to see it back, even in these surreal circumstances. It may not have been nice for Mayo fans, who were ‘treated’ to highlights and panel discussion (Stephen Rochford and Ciaran Whelan) on the one that really got away – the 2017 All-Ireland senior football final. I was in Croke Park that day; the agony (for Mayo) of those final minutes is almost as raw now as it was then.

It was strange – after less than three months of this Covid pandemic – seeing players embracing, and thousands of fans gathered together. It all seemed odd…which is a worrying sign of how we are already becoming used to this wretched social distancing.