Frank spent some of the festive season assessing our driving habits; Muses (again) on the scourge of gangland-related crime; And our columnist celebrates the rise and rise of darts sensation, 16-year-old Luke Littler…
It’s Monday, the 1st of January as I write, and as I look forward to 2024 I find myself reflecting on a Christmas that for a number of reasons has been very different to our usual ones.
As someone who would normally socialise quite a bit around the festive season, I gave Christmas Eve, St Stephen’s Night, and New Year’s Eve a miss – and feel all the better for that. But one thing I did do a good deal of over the period was drive, and it’s amazing what you can observe when you are almost constantly on the road.
In a year where we have seen quite an upsurge in accidents and fatalities, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many drivers actually obey the speed limits, and even though the recent one-day crackdown on speeding caught a number of errant drivers, I have to say I saw very little evidence of any reckless disregard of the speed limits myself.
On December 21st, National Slow Down Day, over 400 drivers were caught speeding, with some of them seeming to think they were Formula 1 race drivers, but overall I didn’t observe any of that stupid behaviour on my travels.
However, as the speed limit review comes down the line, I would have to say that in a lot of places, the present limits are ridiculous – some of them are way too high and others way too low – but hopefully the new review body will rectify any obvious mistakes.
My regular Christmas journeys were up and down to Galway, and as anyone who lives in Ireland will know, the Christmas weather was pretty dire, with loads of wind and rain and very dark days – and at times driving conditions were pretty terrible.
However, on one of those horrible evenings, as I drove out by Corinthians Rugby Club grounds on the Tuam Road, I came across a cyclist who was all dressed in black, with black hoodie and pants, no sign of hi viz jacket or any type of light. If ever someone was at risk of being hit this fellow was, as it was almost impossible to see him.
I don’t give out any awards at the end of the year, but if I did, I would give that cyclist my award for being the most stupid road user of the year.
Pedestrians too came under my watchful eye, and while most of them had proper vests and lights, there were a few who took to the roads in the darkest possible clothes.
However, overall, the vast majority of road users – pedestrians, cyclists and motorists – mostly seemed to be aware of their responsibilities. After the worst year in a decade for road fatalities, maybe we should all make New Year resolutions to slow down, take more care on the roads, and make 2024 safer for everyone who uses them.
Our society must stand up to vicious criminal gangs
A few years ago, our daughter Lisa used to live in the Blanchardstown area of Dublin, and occasionally we would visit her and invariably end up in some of the almost 200 shops that make up Blanchardstown shopping centre.
At the time Lisa would tell us of various criminal acts that used to take place in the area, but thankfully we never saw any sign of even a minor disturbance.
Now I am the first to admit that we are not the greatest people for eating out, but there are certain events that we have always celebrated by going out for a nice meal, and the truth is that going out for a meal with family or friends is something that everyone would look forward to.
And so on Christmas Eve, as families went to Browne’s Steakhouse in Blanchardstown, with children and grandparents in tow, the excitement would understandably be at an intense level and the spirit of Christmas in much evidence. Or at least it would have been, that is until Dublin gangland showed its brutal face and Tristan Sherry burst in, armed with an automatic weapon, and opened fire, allegedly intent on killing a father and son who were dining there at the time.
After shooting and critically wounding the father in front of terrified children and parents, the gunman himself was set upon and stabbed to death by associates of the targeted pair – it is understood that he received more than 30 stab wounds. While all this was going on, families were fleeing in terror from the very popular eating house.
Now I don’t know that awful much about the drugs feud that is reported to be at the centre of all of this, but one would have to ask if Minister for Justice Helen McEntee still believes that Dublin is a safe place to live.
Of course it is impossible to put a stop to every crime, and as I have said before, the scum involved have no respect for life or law, but at the same time something has to be done to put an end to the drug gangs and their lawlessness. I cannot even begin to imagine the impact those horrific events will have on all those (young and old) who happened to see them, but for innocent people who were out for a festive meal, it is likely that Christmas Eve will never be the same again.
The murder of Veronica Guerin all those years ago set a train of action in motion that turned the lucrative criminal world upside down. It’s time something similar occurred again to show the criminal gangs that their number is up.
Darts ‘wonderkid’ captures imagination
Not since the great days (and nights) of the Crafty Cockney, Eric Bristow, and the legendary pint-swilling scot Jocky Wilson nearly 40 years ago, have I had any interest in darts – not even the extraordinary exploits of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor could re-light the fire for the sport in me.
Taylor totally dominated the darts world for more than 20 years, winning an amazing 16 world titles, but despite him being a wonderful player and a thoroughly nice guy, I was never inspired to make a reappearance on the oche.
That was until this week, when the oldest looking 16-year-old I have ever seen, Luke Littler, made the whole world sit up and take notice. As the youngest player to ever win a proper match in the senior PDF world championships, he has now (sensationally) reached the final of the tournament (indeed, by the time you read this, he may well be the new world champion; either that, or runner-up). Already he has won £100,000 and stands to win half a million if he wins the title outright, but regardless of what happens in Wednesday night’s final, he will be a multimillionaire and a superstar of the sport.
Icons like Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Muhammad Ali all have, or had, the X factor that made them stand out from the rest, and young Littler has it as well. He also seems to be a thoroughly grounded young lad, and hopefully fame and great wealth won’t change him too much – although needless to say it will have to be a life-changing experience for him.
Last night I dug out the darts board after a long hiatus, and in three darts I hit the magic 180 – I got a 1, an 8 and a 0 (missed the board entirely), so I proudly announced ‘one hundred and eighty’ to my disbelieving audience, which happened to be our Jack Russell, Hope.
Anyway, the good news for Mikeen’s darts team is I am back, and he has a lot to thank Luke Littler for.
I usually ignore New Year resolutions, but after twice successfully managing to stop during Covid, I have decided that in 2024 I am going to stop biting my nails!