Return of live entertainment in pubs is music to my ears

Our man Frank on savouring the return of live entertainment in pubs; some weather musings from his kitchen table; putting the Christmas tree up (early); movies on Netflix… and our columnist’s imminent bingo comeback!

As we look forward to yet another Christmas, one of the joys that I hope will fully return – after two very different Covid-impacted Christmases – is live entertainment in the pubs.

It would be nice to see some of the local bands and musicians returning to the stage after a couple of very difficult years for all concerned. We all hear about the Nathan Carters and Mike Denvers of the Irish country music scene, and they are indeed the closest things to superstars that we have here, but for every one of those major figures there are many more ploughing away earning a decent living, providing great entertainment, but never quite making it to the highest level.

One of those top quality consistent performers is Strokestown’s own Frank Nelson, who for more than 30 years has been playing all over Ireland, England and even America, and who told me the other day that he is busier now than ever.

Frank is touring England on a regular basis, and this weekend is on a three-night tour of the south-east, after which he is back to Ireland for a couple of gigs before returning to England next week for more appearances.

As well as being an excellent performer and singer, Frank is a noted songwriter who has written any amount of well-known and hugely popular original songs. Presently he has a new CD on the go – ‘I’ll put the kettle on’ – which features 14 superb songs, including the title track. Frank tells me the CD is doing very well and the title track is going down a storm with his dancing punters. I’m sure Frank and his band will be performing locally over the festive period, so if you can, go along and see him, tell him I sent you – and just maybe he’ll put the kettle on!

Talking of entertainment and entertainers, on Saturday night last myself and Carol found ourselves in Terry & Mary Leyden’s Dáil Bar, and were royally entertained by a very youthful guitarist and singer, Kenneth McCormack. He put on a lovely, varied programme, doing a lot of the old country classics, some Joe Dolan, and some more modern stuff (which of course I knew straight away). I have to say we thoroughly enjoyed Kenneth’s set. He also encouraged participation from the audience – and so we had something that we hadn’t seen for a long time – an old-fashioned singsong, which was just great to see. There were several singers from the floor, each one better than the next. The standard was so high that, despite a couple of requests, I felt it wiser to keep silent.

As we reluctantly left Terry’s behind us, it was great to have heard good music, good singing and, most importantly, have had good craic. Sadly we were gone before Indian Mick did his Joe Dolan medley (I’m sure he did it). I didn’t get to talk to young Kenneth on this occasion, but if you hear or see of him performing anywhere near you, head along and you will see a future star in action.

Why my big bingo comeback is imminent!

On Thursday last I filled in for the day in Lynn Antiques in Athlone (as they prepare to close down) where one of my customers told me about all the nights, and occasional days, that she spends playing bingo.

As I listened to her, I realised how popular the game still is. She told me of a bingo game in Athlone where the players play from their cars, and blow the horn when they have a winning line. On Sunday last she was thrilled to win a very welcome €100.

As this woman spoke, it reminded me of the last time I played bingo, which was at least 40 years ago when Carol and myself were on holidays in Ballybunion. On one particularly wet day, the only choice was bingo or the pub, and we chose the bingo. I don’t remember whether we won anything or not, but the truth is that we actually enjoyed it.

Anyway, I came home on Thursday evening and I suppose I would never have given bingo another thought if I didn’t receive a WhatsApp message from our friend and neighbour, Olivia Harris, telling me about a big Bingo night this Friday, 9th of December in the School Hall in Creggs (at 8 pm). It’s all in aid of Creggs National School, one of the best schools in the country, and Olivia tells me there will be a big raffle with great prizes. A single book is €10, a double book is €15, and flyers are €2.

As I said, Creggs National School is a really top class facility, so come along, have a great night, support the school and enjoy a very popular pastime! It may have taken me 40 years, but on Friday night I will be back at bingo again. I hope I win something this time.


In praise of Netflix

I have to admit that my knowledge of anything technical is very limited, and people talking about Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat or Instagram is way over my head. Until recently, I thought Netflix belonged in the same ‘No go’ area.

However, in the last while I have learnt how to turn Netflix on and am sort of able to suss out the various types of programmes that are being shown on the very popular network. I have to say that there is some selection of Christmas movies on at the moment.

Now they are all unashamedly feel-good films with guaranteed happy endings, but in these times of war, rising prices, and a controversial soccer World Cup, isn’t it good to have something to lighten the mood and make us forget, at least for a time, all the bad things that are happening around us?

And so I am not ashamed to say that we have watched a number of these movies over the last week or so. All I can say is…if you have Netflix, settle down some night, light the fire (if you can afford to), get warm and cosy, maybe have a glass of wine, watch one of the many offerings that Netflix provides, and get yourself into the Christmas spirit. I just know the next time we meet you’ll thank me for the recommendation.


Weather musings

Sitting at our kitchen table as I write this on Monday morning, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was a summer’s day. Looking out the window, all I can see are blue skies and bright sunshine. Considering there is less than three weeks to Christmas, you would have to wonder if nature really has done an about-turn.

Now I am no great authority on plants or flowers or any gardening stuff, but out in our garden there are, remarkably, still loads of flowers in full bloom. We have yellow, red and pink roses, primroses that should be long gone, and, for the time of year, there is still an unusual array of colours to be seen.

Now of course I am not complaining – as we all love to see the vibrancy that flowers can bring to a garden –  but as everyone is talking about climate change, surely the evidence is right before our eyes in every garden round the country.

The weather people are telling us that we are about to have real winter weather for the next few days, and in truth it might be no harm, as the cold might kill off a load of the bugs that have so many of our population suffering from colds and flus. And so long as the road conditions don’t get too bad, and it doesn’t cause too much disruption to our motorists, and provided it doesn’t kill off our remaining roses, I think I would actually welcome a bit of Christmassy weather.


And finally…

I have to admit that I am a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas, and have always believed that the tree should go up on the 8th of December. However, today, Monday the 5th, our tree is being put in position. After resisting for very many years, I have given in.

Therefore if you passed by tonight (Monday) – or since – hopefully Carol has it fully done (she refuses any help) and you will see our Christmas tree fully lit, even if it is three days early!