The weather is glorious. I buy some petrol for the lawnmower. “Everyone is mowing their lawn” says the friendly man behind the counter, smiling broadly. Oddly, he doesn’t appear to be grumpy about being stuck behind the counter on such a hot day. Maybe he’s on commission for petrol sales!
Mowing the lawn is generally enjoyable. While giving the impression of being busy, you can actually relax and avail of valuable time to think. You can even listen to music or podcasts or rambling radio DJs. Usually, I just think about life, in between bouts of frustration at the sometimes erratic conduct of our occasionally moody mower.
By 3 o’clock the grass is cut, and without any mower mishap. Over the years I’ve learnt that you have to be gentle with these machines – or else they can revolt.
Taking a break, I check the news websites, and am shocked to read that England football captain Harry Kane has decided to stay at Spurs, where he earns in excess of 200,000 pounds sterling per week. (I’m assuming he has the very latest ride-on mower). Meanwhile, there’s speculation that Manchester City, no doubt privately miffed at failing to sign Kane, may be about to coax Cristiano Ronaldo back to the Premier League. The veteran superstar earns a reputed 950,000 pounds sterling each week at Juventus. Presumably he has a team of gardeners.
Back in the real world, I return to the garden. Now I’m wielding our old friend, the strimmer. For some of us, keeping the two pieces of string/cord jutting out (not to mention of similar length) almost becomes the entire purpose of this exercise. It’s a bonus if you actually successfully chop most of the offensive weeds/grass, etc. Usually, I’m just happy if the strimmer string survives a session.
Later, when it’s no longer sinful to be inside on such a beautiful day, I’m pleased to see Rory McIllroy rolling in the birdies (and a sensational eagle) on his way to joint top of the leaderboard in the BMW Championship. Hopefully he can maintain this promising form over the weekend. McIllroy in full pomp is box office.
Later on Thursday
Sadly, a beautiful day here is shadowed by the awful events in Afghanistan, where a crisis that became a catastrophe is now sheer horror.
I’m switching between the various news channels. Reports of sickening bomb attacks at Kabul Airport today are heartbreaking, but also stir emotions of anger. I accept that President Biden made it clear he’d be withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, but his administration is guilty of handling this exit appallingly badly. It is clear that there was no proper planning, that a resurgent Taliban was underestimated.
A deflated President Biden makes an uninspiring address, high on empathy but low on credible leadership. His handling of the situation in Afghanistan has been awful. He is a weak President. This is a disaster, and one fears for what the future holds.
Deep down, most us suspected it mightn’t work out between Ronaldo and Manchester City. ‘They have nothing in common, I’d never have put them together’ territory. Mind you, City would have come to the altar with a nice dowry (younger readers might want to turn to Google). Now Ronaldo has instead turned his attention to an old flame.
It’s quite a story, with Manchester United swooping in under City’s noses (if you’re to believe the narrative) and re-signing the superstar who left Old Trafford in 2009. In Sky Sports-land, one assumes there are dozens of graphics people already working overtime.
The transfer is an unexpected boost for Manchester United supporters. As for neutrals, most won’t be particularly excited in the short-term, but will watch developments with interest. On the excellent Off The Ball this evening, Ger Gilroy goes as far as suggesting that we are experiencing a bizarre period of ‘cartoon transfers’.
Ronaldo is 36 – clearly not the force he was –
and while he will contribute positively on the pitch, there’s a sense that this is almost a form of showbiz, a clever signing with very lucrative commercial gains (including through sale of merchandise and other income streams). It’s good for Ronaldo too.
These megabucks transfers – cartoon transfers if you want to go that far – have to be financed. If your son or daughter is a Manchester United supporter, you’ll probably be making your contribution soon.
Today’s contest at Croke Park went to the wire, a good old-style tussle between two fiercely combative opponents. It was, in the great tradition of Kerry-Tyrone showdowns, aggressive, uncompromising, at times below the belt. With some seriously tough exchanges, it wasn’t for the faint-hearted. In the end, with his greater experience and well honed grasp of hyperbole, I thought that Pat Spillane edged it over a shell-shocked Sean Cavanagh.
Also on Saturday
In the other contest at Croke Park (which followed the spat between pundits), Tyrone footballers staged a classic ambush of hot favourites, Kerry.
Tyrone suffocated their opponents in a performance marked by typically ferocious tackling, every turnover making new dents in Kerry’s confidence levels. At the other end, Tyrone scored game-defining goals, Kerry unusually impotent on that front.
While their shock win was thoroughly deserved, disquiet remains over Tyrone’s approach to the Covid-19 outbreak in their panel (which had led to the semi-final being postponed twice).
The conspiracy theories will remain – certainly aspects of the saga sit uneasily with many of us – but at the end of the day it was 15 men against 15 men, and Kerry just have to accept that they were outplayed and outfought.
It’s not easy to like the Tyrone football team, but if you were going into battle you would be very, very happy to see them lining up beside you.
The finale of the golf was absorbing. Rory (see Thursday) had a great tournament, but the honours went to Patrick Cantlay, who won a 6-hole play-off against Bryson DeChambeau.
DeChambeau may be a divisive figure, but not liking him is to reject individualism and originality! I think he’s brilliant, a superstar with a certain unique charisma. Maybe the fact that many people dislike him is part of the appeal.
It’s a privileged world of private jets and bulging bank accounts, but the weekly (PGA) golf is invariably gripping entertainment.
‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ (Sky Comedy on Monday nights) is well worth a watch. Openly biased in favour of US Democrats, and obsessively anti-Trump, the host is a veteran comedian and a passionate political commentator.
There are times when Bill’s bias is just annoying; even worse, times when his humour falls flat. But the show is usually a riveting exchange of views, with Maher an entertaining, provocative and mischievous host.
RTE reporter Mícheál Lehane might be forgiven for wondering if that other Micheál – Taoiseach Martin – is trying to sabotage his burgeoning career. The pattern is clear. Every ‘Big Covid Announcement Day’ on the RTE Six One News, Mr. Lehane is just getting into his summary of leaked changes to restrictions, and then the anchor has to interrupt him to go live to Mr. Martin at the podium.
That of course is minor enough stuff compared with the content of the Taoiseach’s speech. Today, Mr. Martin brought a message of great hope. Over the coming weeks, most restrictions will be lifted.
The road ahead will still have many twists and turns, but at least all roadblocks and barriers are being removed. It’s a happy day, even for Mr. Lehane.