Our much-missed ‘normal’ Christmas is back, so shop smart and shop local!

I love Christmas. However for me, this year the festive glow has been somewhat dimmed; and I’m not just talking about the rising cost of electricity – although we are using energy-efficient lights on our tree.

Nevertheless, ‘tis the season for giving, and as we’ve officially entered into the yuletide spirit, I have a favour to ask, and it’s this: instead of clicking for Christmas gifts, please stop and consider all of our local business owners who need our support, and spend your money with them.

I do know how easy it is to pick up that phone and Google, but when you have a fantastic selection of boutiques, florists, off-licences, jewellers, pharmacies, gift shops, bars and restaurants, etc., on your own doorstep, there’s absolutely no reason to bankroll these faceless, impersonal e-tailers!

Don’t forget: these local business owners are the very ones who worked ‘round the clock behind closed doors, grafting away at all hours of the day and night during those miserable pandemic months in an effort to devise innovative ways to serve us, their clients and customers. They manned (or for the politically correct snowflakes, they ‘woman-ed’) the phones, took our orders, packed them and delivered them straight to our doors.

As we were all forced to remain within our five-kilometre travel limit, our local business owners and service providers, i.e. the beating hearts of every small Roscommon town and village, spared no effort to keep our fridges full and our medicine cabinets stocked.

The ghost of Christmas past is still very much loitering around many a small Roscommon enterprise, haunting those who’ve been forced to either close or lay off staff during the harsh Covid lockdowns. However, as the season of goodwill approaches, it’s hoped that this year, with restrictions being lifted, business will not just return to normal, it’ll actually be more buoyant than ever.

With that in mind, we must not only applaud our local shops, services and staff for their valiant efforts, we must also champion them as they plug away at aiming towards reaching for their pre-pandemic peak. Of course it’s obvious that depending on their particular services, many small enterprises may still likely see themselves facing varying degrees of difficulty, especially the rural ones who’ll find their bounce-back-ability isn’t as swift as larger retailer, or indeed online ones. So please make that special effort to support them.

It’s the small, out-of-the-way, hidden-down-the-lane, arty, crafty, creative family-owned, family-run, community-focused little enterprises (like this very newspaper) who’ve always been the first to support and sponsor their parishes and their neighbourhoods.

They’re the ones who put their hands in their pockets to sponsor your kids’ team jerseys and kits. They’re the ones who allow you to paper their windows with posters and their counters with business cards to publicise your own ventures and your kids’ nativity plays. They’re the ones who’re first to donate a prize for your club’s Christmas raffle or charity event. In short, they were – and are – there when you need them most: when the detached, passionless conglomerates and their online marketing algorithms desperate to predict your purchasing behaviour and push their products on you, rather than pamper and please you, didn’t give a damn!

Local businesses provide local employment to you and yours, and to me and mine, paying us a wage we can then spend at other local businesses, enabling us all to share the wealth (as it were), thus underpinning a sustainable economy for our beautiful county of Roscommon.


Why are women’s looks tried in the court of public opinion?

Brace yourselves readers, because I’m going to address a subject that’s absolutely terrifying for many (especially those waging war on Madonna’s latest ‘look’), and it’s this – women age… but apparently men don’t.

Men are not scheduled to be cast off and disappear into oblivion at 40! But women, well it appears when we hit middle-age ladies (aka our sell-by date), we’re not just criticised for developing enough crow’s feet to open a bird sanctuary, and we’re tried in the court of public opinion by ageists and misogynists if we dare to try and do something about it!

I’m referring to the current witch-hunting, the psychological stoning, the burning at the stake and the nasty mocking levelled at Madonna, a woman in her 60s who chooses not to ‘age gracefully’.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t rate Madonna as a singer, but who am I to judge? Neither am I a fan of the ‘Material Girl’s’ current music, rather I prefer her earlier hits simply because I can dance to them – oh and I love to ‘get into the groove’ (sorry), belting them out after a few G&Ts at a karaoke seisiún.

Nevertheless, I do have a certain amount of respect for a woman who’s not only hard-core, but who, once she reached her 40s (she’s now 64), wore ‘inappropriate’ clothing, underwent ‘cosmetic surgery’, and brazenly flipped the finger at so-called ‘appropriate behaviours’ for women of ‘a certain vintage’. You go girl!

Showcasing her latest ‘look’ online, Madonna has left many fans feeling ‘unsettled’ with nasty comments regarding her ‘over-botoxed’ face, her ‘eye-work’, ‘lip augmentation’, ‘fillers and implants’ being opined by trolls whose IQ levels are clearly lower than their shoe sizes.

Whose business is it if any woman (whether it’s Madonna or the woman down the road) wants to spend her hard-earned cash to try and transform a dried raisin into a smooth grape? (I’m speaking metaphorically of course). Why should any woman, once she’s reached ‘a certain age’, be tossed aside and shuffled off into obscurity? Why shouldn’t we (if we can afford it and if we so choose) do all we can to hold back the cruel hand of time?

I often say if the old adage ‘time flies’ was true, my wrinkles would’ve amassed so many frequent flyer miles, I’d be permanently writing this column from some far-flung exotic destination! I’m not a massive fan of cosmetic surgery, especially invasive ones that may pose a health risk, but here’s the thing, if I could afford it and if my autoimmune disorder allowed it, my face would be lifted so high, I’d probably look like I was wearing an expressionless mask! Would I care? Nope! Why? Because, like Madonna and every other woman who chooses to undergo certain ‘procedures’, it’d be my choice and my business.


If someone you know is in an abusive relationship, reach out and offer help

The 16 Days of Action campaign (running November 25th to December 10th) to raise awareness and put an end to gender-based violence perpetrated against women happening across this so-called progressive country of ours is underway.

However, while domestic violence occurs all year round, it seems the narcissistic, gutless wimp who abuses women likes to use the festive season and all it entails as the ideal excuse to level violence against his petrified partner (and in some instances children).

Domestic violence is not just the victim’s problem, nor is it just the Gardaí’s problem – rather it’s a pervasive and serious public health and community problem. Therefore, if we suspect something is amiss, we must, as family, friends, neighbours, and as a community, gently, encouragingly and non-judgementally help victims to become survivors.

For anyone who needs help or advice regarding gender-based, intimate-partner violence, I implore you to please seek confidential support from Women’s Aid on their 24-hour National Freephone Helpline, 1800 341 900. In an emergency, please don’t hesitate to dial 999.