Frank Brandon column

Back on the road…


It’s Saturday evening and I’m giddy with excitement – like a young child on Christmas morning who can’t wait to get to the tree to see what goodies Santa has left during the night, or a club footballer who, after all the uncertainty about whether or not they would see any action at all this summer, has woken up to the realisation that today they are going to play in the first round of the championship.

I can hear you ask yourself what was it that had me in such a state of excitement. In normal times, it would hardly have rated at all. However, in these times of recent travel restrictions and all kinds of rules and regulations, the fact that we were heading off to Dublin for the first time since Christmas was just so wonderful – almost as good as going on holidays.

Now I have to admit that during the last five months or so I was nowhere at all – well, except walking up the road to Lenamarla. However, when we started to get into the various phases, eventually I got to Castlerea (for the golf), Roscommon, Glenamaddy, Ballygar, and even Mountbellew, but I had never managed to get out of the province of Connacht.

As Carol was working, it was after 7 pm before we hit the road, and it was on the road that we could see one of the big consequences of Covid-19. The motorway was quieter than we would have been used to, but it was when we got to the M50 towards the airport that the difference really hit home. Our daughter Lisa, whom we were going to visit, lives out past the airport, and every time I have driven out that way before, traffic would be almost bumper to bumper. As a driver who prefers nice quiet country roads, I would be as tense as a coiled spring, but on Saturday evening it was so quiet it was hard to believe that we were on the airport motorway.

Bearing in mind that we are in the middle of July, the prime time for holidays, it was obvious that the people are definitely not flying anywhere, and the road traffic – or lack thereof – certainly reflected the lack of airplanes in the sky. I know it would be better for us all if the airlines were still flat out as the holiday season hit full throttle, but for me at least, it meant a much less stressful journey, and for Carol it meant she didn’t have any panic attacks as I tried to keep to the proper lanes, stay in position, and most importantly, try not to miss my turn-off (I did it once and nearly ended up in Drogheda).


Flight of fancy:

My new hobby


Staying with flights and airports, I have to admit that I have always been interested in both. Recently I came across an app called Flighttracker/Flightradar (not sure which) that can tell you everything you want to know about any airplane in the sky. If there is one flying over you now, you can check it out and it will tell you where the plane is coming from, where it’s going to, what height it’s flying at, what airline the plane belongs to, what time it took off at, and what time it’s due to land. It’s almost as if you are in the plane itself. I find myself looking up every flight that goes overhead (one of the great things about being retired).

At this point I am nearly able to tell exactly where they are going before I look them up at all. Of course I never realised it before, but almost all the traffic that comes this way is either going to or coming from America. Most of them are cargo carriers, like UPS, DPD or Fedex, as the passenger flights are so few and far between, but if and when it all goes back to normal, I will have loads of fun on my new-found app, following the adventures of the many airlines and their thousands of daily passengers. I know it’s a bit loopy, but I really enjoy it.


Farewell to ‘Basher’,

a true gentleman


Back to Sunday, and on my way home from Dublin I stopped in Ballymahon to say goodbye to an old school pal, Kevin ‘Basher’ Canavan, who sadly passed away suddenly last week.

Myself and Basher go back all the way to secondary school in Roscrea, where I made him Vice Captain of the school’s league winning team, Creggs Thunderbolts (in 1968). Later, I was to cross paths with him on many occasions, and he used call in to see me in my workplace in Athlone on a regular basis.

For some reason, although we were the same age, he used always address me as ‘Young Brandon’. I have told you before of the belt he hit me many years ago (totally fair I have to admit) during a rugby cup match up in Athlone, from which I still maintain that most of my insides never made it back to their original positions. Foolishly, I tried to sell him a dummy, but the Basher had seen it all before, and he definitely didn’t buy it, and was waiting for me like a heavyweight boxer for a flyweight. There could be only one winner.

As a rugby player he was good enough to play at senior level for Connacht, as well as for the Buccs and Athlone, but it was as a person that Basher stood out. He was a true gentleman, genuine as the day is long, and he will be sadly missed by his wife and family and by his huge circle of friends. May he rest in peace.


And finally…


Finally for this week, as our local football team looks forward to their opening championship game on Saturday afternoon against old rivals Kilbride, it’s hard to understand the 200-person limit (including teams, management, officials and stewards) that has been imposed on open-air gatherings.

I can’t understand how contact sports can take place, with players marking each other tightly on the pitch, while in the area the all around the pitch only 200 people can be in attendance.

It certainly puts unfair pressure on clubs to decide who can get their allocated tickets, and I can only sympathise with local club committees who may have to tell some disappointed supporters that they can’t get tickets.

Thankfully, as I write this I have got the good news that I have made the top 50, and will, please God, be in Oran on Saturday to cheer on our lads to a hoped for win.