Finally making use of the bus pass!

Our man Frank…on finally making use of his bus pass, meeting Paddy Joe, enjoying live music again…and no Cuban cigars for Boris Becker…

One of the few things that’s good about growing old is the fact that one qualifies for the bus pass, or the free travel as it is popularly called. Invariably, when people reach the magic age of 66, the first thing they promise themselves is that they will use the free travel to visit every corner of our little island. And, just as invariably, when you meet them again – sometimes years later – you will find that most of the ‘new pensioners’ will have actually made very little use of the free travel!

One of the big problems – particularly for country folk – is the lack of a nationwide public transport system. For example, if someone from Creggs wants to go anywhere by train or bus, they first have to get to Athleague, Ballygar, Roscommon or Athlone, and on their return from wherever they went to they then have to make their way home again, either by getting a family member to pick them up or by driving themselves.

If they drive themselves, it of course means that even if they were at a concert or a match, they couldn’t have any alcoholic drink (an important consideration to some people). There is no doubt that the lack of a really efficient rural public transport system is a massive drawback to the free travel pass bonus. Probably reflecting the experience of most of my fellow pensioners, despite having the pension for five years up ‘till this week I had only ever used the free travel pass on three occasions. All involved going to Dublin Airport (pre-Covid of course). If ever any benefit was being wasted, my bus pass certainly was.

However, the huge rise in diesel costs has made me see the light, and therefore last Friday myself and Carol bit the bullet and travelled by train to Dublin to visit our daughter Lisa, her husband Brian, and their daughter Riley. The truth is it was a lovely relaxing way to travel.

There were no tolls to pay, no filling up with diesel at almost €2 a litre, no worries about breaking down on the motorway, no delays on the M50 – where there are always tailbacks – and, most importantly, no fear about missing my turn-off and having to travel for mile after mile before being permitted to make a u-turn. Leaving Roscommon at half-past two, we landed in Heuston about two hours later, hopped on the Luas outside the station, and met our daughter outside her place of work in less than five minutes. The following morning we got the train at 12.45 pm and were back in Roscommon by 2.30.

As we got to Heuston on Saturday, the place was a sea of red with all the Munster fans arriving for their big match with Toulouse. Now, if two weeks ago I expressed misgivings about the Munster supporters and whether or not they would flock to the Aviva, I was completely wrong. They came in their thousands and there was no question but that that they turned the venue into a Dublin 4 version of Thomond Park. While they lost out to the French giants in a unique penalty shootout, it was no fault of the travelling army, or indeed of their heavily depleted team, who did themselves proud and restored the pride in Munster rugby.

Anyway, as those supporters headed for the Aviva, we set off for Roscommon, and I can tell you that five years after making the bus pass cut, I am finally going to make full and proper use of it!


Belated congratulations to Paddy Joe…and enjoying live music again!

One of the most famous, if not the most famous, of all the Rossies is the legendary Paddy Joe Burke, the best-known barber in the world, and a man whom I used to visit regularly enough many years ago…before deciding that I would let my hair grow and no longer needed the services of the great Paddy Joe.

Anyway, I was delighted to see the big feature in the Roscommon People a few weeks ago, published to celebrate his extraordinary 50 years in business. I was even more delighted to run into him in person in Roscommon town last Friday week, because one thing for sure about meeting Paddy Joe is you will leave in much better form than you were in before you met him. He is just one of those people who lifts your spirits.

While it is a little belated, congrats to Paddy Joe on the wonderful achievement of being in business for 50 years. As a little bonus, we (us Galway folk) might let you have another Connacht title to celebrate your half-century. However, I cannot guarantee that part, as Padraic Joyce might have something to say about it, but whatever happens Paddy Joe will continue to fly his Roscommon flag as he has done for so long. Win or lose, his Church Street shop will be the focal point for many a footballing (and any other topical) chat, for hopefully many years to come.

As it happened, that was the Friday of the Bank Holiday weekend, and for the first time in a long, long time, I decided to do a bit of old-type socialising. On the Saturday night I went for a couple of quiet pints to Mikeen’s in Creggs, where Mary Jo Connolly was celebrating a significant (but not such a big) birthday. Most of her family were there and the craic was 90, although Mary Jo was a long way short of that figure.

I enjoyed myself so much that on Sunday night I went back again to Mikeen’s where live music returned with the wonderful Sean Donoghue. It is more than two years (obviously due to Covid) since I was at any sort of a music gig, and I have to say it was great to have it back. Sean is a great entertainer (with my favourite song being The Joyce Country Ceili Band) and the large crowd thoroughly enjoyed his set. So all I can say is: go to see Sean if he’s anywhere near, tell him I sent you, and ask him for my favourite song.


And finally…

Finally for this week, my thoughts are with tennis legend Boris Becker who is spending some time in Wandsworth Prison in England after being found guilty of hiding some €3 million of assets from the ‘bankruptcy people’. Personally, I think a jail sentence is of no great benefit to anyone in this case, but for whatever reason, the judge saw fit to send him away for two and a half years.

Poor Boris, who enjoyed large Cuban cigars, fine wines and fillet steak on the outside, is reportedly unhappy with the prison food – where he was served a small portion of corned beef – the cramped conditions, and the poor hygiene – and is spending his £10 daily allowance on chocolates, biscuits and bananas.

Soon he may be transferred to a less difficult prison, but no matter where he goes it’s a huge fall from grace for a man who seemed to have it all. Once upon a time he ruled the court (tennis), while for now a different type of court rules him. I for one hope the German superstar doesn’t have to wait too long ‘till he can once again have a nice fillet steak, a couple of glasses of good wine, and a Cuban cigar. It’s not a great time to be called Boris.