Rubbing shoulders with the stars in Athlone!

It’s Thursday of last week and I’m working in the shop in Athlone, when a lady, whom I know and who is an infrequent, though sort of regular visitor to our shop, comes in, accompanied by a tall, striking type of a lad, who I assumed to be somewhere in his mid-twenties.

  I get talking to him and he tells me he’s from Dublin but is doing some work for the week with the lady who is with him. I think to myself he must be a plumber or an electrician and leave him to potter around the place and think no further about him.

  He then calls me to ask about a particular piece. As we’re talking I decide to dig a bit deeper and find out that he’s neither a plumber or an electrician, but a musician. I ask him if he plays in a band or if he’s a solo artist and he says he’s in a band but he says I’d never have heard of them. I say ‘try me!’ and he tells me he’s the guitarist in a band called Kodaline and it’s what happened next that amazes me – I am well into my sixties and have met an awful lot of people through those years and have only seldom been overawed and shell-shocked, but yesterday I was totally starstruck, and I had to talk to myself to make myself act any way normally with, who I now know was Mark Prendergast, the band’s guitarist.  

  Now, in case you don’t know, Kodaline are a huge Irish band and my two daughters, Tara and Lisa, are massive fans and go to all their concerts. When I told him about them he told me to make sure I thanked them for their support and in fairness, I have to say he was a really nice fellow. And yet, I wonder what is it that causes us (me) to react the way we do when we meet someone famous – we are all supposed to be equal, but, as they say, some are more equal than others.

  As for me, the girls are mad at me for not getting a selfie (what do they expect with a €29 Nokia?), and I am going to get myself a Kodaline album for Christmas. I have also resolved that if I ever meet another famous person, not to be starstruck and overawed.

Creggs Harvest Festival the best yet!

It’s a beautiful Tuesday morning and I have the day off. Out here in Creggs there is the unmistakable feeling of a job well done – the annual harvest festival has come and gone and in my opinion, it was one of the best, if not the best in nearly forty years of festivals.

  It had all the usual events over the Bank Holiday with great attendances at the dog show, the junior and senior table quizzes, the Mad Hatters Ball, and the Tidy Towns dance while I’m told the wonderful White Cakes brought the house down in Mikeen’s on Saturday night.

  However, it was the new events on the Bank Holiday Monday, particularly a wonderful, colourful parade along with a 1916 play enactment, which attracted a huge crowd to the village and created an atmosphere that had not been seen since the great days of the 1980s. 

  Among the many exhibits there on the day, we had three cups on display that showed the great sporting success we have had in our own and in neighbouring parishes over the last couple of weeks – from our neighbours, Oran, it was a great pleasure to see the Senior Hurling Championship trophy (well done to them) while our lads had the junior championship on show as well. Also there was the cup won by the St. Ciaran’s minors over the weekend, when they defeated St. Faithleach’s in the final (congrats to them also), so we had a great collection of silverware on display in the village. Long may it last! 

  There was music on the street all day and myself and Jim Roarke, better known as ‘The Gunner’, spent hours peeling spuds and preparing, what we were told, was the best ‘cally’ ever – along with loads of black and white pudding and homemade soup. We did our best to keep at least some of the large crowd foddered and fed.

  After peeling away for ages, I was told last night (a bit late), that it’s possible to get bags of peeled spuds. So, if God spares me and hopefully The Gunner as well, I promise all the disappointed punters – including Michael Fitzmaurice TD – who didn’t get to sample our wonderful creation, that next Harvest Festival there will be enough cally to feed everyone, and who knows, myself and The Gunner could have our cally on sale in all the best supermarkets.

  Down in the school, the craft fair was expertly run by Bina and her team and there seemed to be loads of people making their way up and down to the venue all day long. There were a number of stalls on the street and hopefully they were well supported, as without them it wouldn’t be the same. We had the usual number of horses, ponies, foals and asses, and one of the great sources of entertainment and wonderment was a miniature fallabella pony, owned by Gerry and Sue Duke, and ridden by their two-year-old son, Cameron.

  After all that it, was back into Mikeen’s, where Tommy Donlon and his son Calvin were in full flow and, as they say, had the packed house rocking. I am not the man I was, and I was safe home and tucked in my bed before ten o’clock, but I’m told my departure didn’t dampen the enthusiasm and the festival went out with a bang.

  Before I leave this year’s events, I have to go back to Friday night and the announcement, well due, that the very popular Tom Connolly is this year’s Personality of the Year. He was presented with the cup and scroll after Mass in the heritage centre and there has never, in my opinion, been a more worthy or well-deserved winner. Everyone knows Tom, but in case you don’t, he is a real livewire and involved in everything in the parish – a driving force behind everything that’s good in our area. Well done Tom, enjoy the honour and keep up the good work! 

Expenses investigation is rather expensive!

Changing subjects entirely, and to the eye of a normal (nearly) everyday two and sixpence, it would appear that we are in an unprecedented – at least in recent years – period of unrest in the public sector, with the guards, nurses and teachers all talking about, or actually taking industrial action, so you would think that some care might be taken with the purse strings of the nation.

  However, there you would be wrong, because a recent case in Donegal where local councillor, Brian O’Domhnaill, had some of his expense claims investigated by the Standards in Public Office Commission, shows there is still something very wrong with the nation’s bookkeeping. The amount that was under investigation was somewhere in the region of €2,000.

  I admit it is important to have somebody monitoring politicians’ expenses, but when we are told that to date, the investigation into O’Domhnaill’s two grand has cost us, the taxpayer, €360,000, there has to be something wrong. Now I don’t have the answer, and I suppose there was a job to be done, but for the country to spend so much money on the trail of so little looks like bad business to me.

Creggs set to take on Connacht!

Finally for this week, on Sunday next, our local football team travel to Markievicz Park in Sligo, to take on the Sligo junior football champions, St. Michael’s, in the Connacht Club Championship. Now I am well aware that celebrations have been very well attended over the last week or two, as indeed, after 33 years they should, but it’s back to business next Sunday. Hopefully the lads will be sufficiently motivated to win what I expect to be a very tough battle!

Till next week, bye for now