Frank Brandon’s Column

Signs of normality…but Covid hasn’t gone away!

Our man Frank on life returning to some sort of normality, injured Lions, a Connacht championship showdown, dodging the bog, and show jumping success for daughter Tara…

It’s a lovely, bright Monday morning and I am reflecting on a Sunday spent doing stuff that, if I didn’t know any better, would almost convince you that our Covid journey was over, and that our lives had finally gone back to normality.

  My first port of call on Sunday morning was a beautiful coffee shop called Esquires in Roscommon. After plenty of threatening, my wife Carol and I finally joined my sister-in-law Bonnie for a cup of the delicious coffee she’d been telling us about. Having ordered our different beverages (I’m a tea man), we sat out in the lovely sunshine and enjoyed the chat and craic with some of the people who were also enjoying a coffee in the sun.

  At the next socially distanced table were a couple from Frenchpark, who were returning from getting their second jabs in the Abbey Hotel. They told us that it had been very busy, but very well organised, and we chatted about everything from football to politics and the effect Covid has had on all our lives. We also had the craic with a lady called Liz, who told me not to mention her name in the paper – a promise that I have pretty much kept.

  When all that was done, we left the lovely secluded outdoor area of Esquires (where Carol told me the coffee lived up to its reputation), and later in the afternoon headed off to Galway to meet up with our son Mark and his wife Aoife. Galway was absolutely buzzing, so we left the city and headed out to a quiet beach for a walk and a chat. After a bite to eat, it was time to say our goodbyes and head back to Creggs, where we rounded off the day with a couple of drinks in the very fresh air at Mikeen’s.

  After such a day, you would be forgiven for thinking that the worst is over. Maybe because we both have had the second jab, it is for us, but back in Creggs, we heard about several young people who have recently contracted the virus. While they may not be as badly affected as the elderly, nonetheless some of them are quite unwell, and the sad news is that this thing has not gone away.

  We now know that indoor dining and drinking is not going to happen as planned, and so once again, the publicans will be left facing an uncertain future. Those that have been unable to open so far must be despairing of ever getting back to business.

  It is more apparent now than ever that until everyone has been vaccinated, life will continue to have difficulties for many strands of society. Thankfully, the vaccination programme seems to be going along very well. The quicker our youth get sorted, the better for everyone.


Cruel world of sport strikes again!

I mentioned last week how cruel sport can be, speaking about how testing positive for Covid had cost John Rahm an almost certain victory in a major golf tournament in America. This week in rugby, Alan Wyn Jones (captain of the Lions touring party who are heading to South Africa) is another example, as he sustained an injury in their warm-up game against Japan in Edinburgh on Saturday.

  So, instead of having the massive honour of leading the Lions, he won’t even be on the plane. Another Welsh player, Justin Tipuric, suffered a similar injury, and he too is staying at home.

  Of course, one man’s misfortune is another man’s gain, and two lads who were probably thinking they would never be Lions will be leaving for South Africa in their places. For Ireland’s Conor Murray, it has resulted in an honour he never would’ve imagined coming his way, as he has been elevated to captain of the Lions – an even bigger surprise for a player that to my knowledge, has never even captained his country.

  Anyway, along with this, and with the Olympics, and the Euros coming nicely to the boil, we can look forward to a summer of top-class international sport. And at home, the GAA championships will really take off next Sunday – at least in Creggs, where most of us can have one leg on either side of the border when Galway take on the Rossies in Dr. Hyde Park.

  Despite the fact that only a few supporters will be allowed in, the rivalry will be as intense as ever, and with no back door, it will be the end of the line for one of the teams. As to who will win, I have no idea, with both teams coming in under a bit of a cloud.

  As a Galway man I have to hope for a win for the Tribesmen, but if the Rossies do beat us once again, I will be gracious in defeat…and hide in my bedroom for a week at least!


First bog visit in over fifty years…

One of the things I’ve managed to avoid for more than fifty years is going to the bog. This year however I have gone back to my youth and cut turf for the first time in more than half a century.

  In fact, it could well be the first time ever that I’ve ever cut turf at all, because the last time I remember working in the bog was as a 13 or 14-year-old, when myself and my three older brothers used to do piece work footing turf for the ESB down in the bogs around Lanesboro. Piece work meant we only got paid for whatever amount of turf we footed, and sadly, the summer we were there was one of the hottest and driest in years, which meant that I spent more time lying in the sun than working. If memory serves me right, I got dropped off the turf footing team for a complete lack of interest and effort.

  To this day, I can remember a fellow we knew as Big Jim, who looked to me to be about ten feet tall, and as big as half a house. If ever a man dispelled the popular myth that a long back is a hindrance to footing turf, Big Jim did; he got more done than the four of us (until I got dropped) put together, and I always wondered how much he was earning every week.

  Our first cheque came to 2 pounds 14 and a penny, and my brothers reckoned my contribution was the penny. After careful consideration, it was decided that I would be better off lying in the sun at home, and less expensive to run. So until last week, that was my last visit to the bog.

  I have to say that this time I enjoyed it. I have actually got the turf turned – although I am leaving it to my sons to do the footing, as bending down at this stage in my life is not advisable and it’s possible I might never again straighten out.

  People always talk about the peace, quiet and relaxation qualities of the bog, and I have to say that on a nice day, with the birds singing and the sun shining, it’s hard to beat. It’s great to be back after fifty years or more, and I look forward to enjoying the fruits of the boys’ work later on in the year when the snow is on the ground, turf is blazing in the open fire, and us as warm as wool – can’t wait.


Finally for this week…

Out here in Crosswell we are celebrating the fact that our daughter Tara has qualified for the National Show Jumping Championships, which take place in the RDS in August, after finishing second out of 98 entries in a qualifier last weekend.

  To qualify for the RDS is almost like qualifying for the Olympics, and for us, it is even more special as Tara is following in the footsteps of her mother, the then Carol Kelly, who also qualified for the national finals some years back. For Tara it has been a long road to get there, so we are all very proud of her, and wish her well in the finals in August!

  ‘Till next week, Bye for now!