Rugby thrills and (unwelcome) spills!

Our man Frank on how another trip to Knock Shrine proved enlightening; Ireland’s great win over South Africa (with some unwelcome spills); A last hurrah in the antique store…and the Drumshanbo company that floored ‘The Rock’!

 Anyone who follows rugby will know that the world champions, South Africa, were in town on Saturday. I actually had a ticket for the game, but something cropped up and I found myself watching it in the quiet of my sitting room. The truth is I was more than happy to be ‘parked’ in front of the telly. There is no doubt that when you are actually at a game, whereas the atmosphere can be brilliant, you can miss a lot of the live action. In contrast, you simply cannot miss a thing while relaxing on your (hopefully) comfortable couch.

And if ever a game needed to be watched in its entirety, this was it – because it turned out to be one of the most compelling games I have ever seen. The Irish victory was a fitting reward for each and every one of the players on a team that simply refused to be either beaten or bullied.

Irish coach Andy Farrell was correct when he said that even if they had lost he would have been just as proud of his team. Despite everyone knowing that nothing is won in November, it was a powerful marker laid down by Ireland with the World Cup coming in September 2023.

Meanwhile, on Monday’s newspapers there is a lot about the new type of rugby followers, who seem to be only there for the beer, and who, with their constant visits to the bars, make life very difficult for the ‘true blue’ diehard supporters.

I don’t know the answer to this annoyance, but something needs to be done, as this type of conduct is rife in all the big stadia! I told you before of my friend, the late Jim O’Rourke, who got soaked in Cardiff when a supporter sitting behind him toppled over and sprayed ‘The Gunner’ with several pints of some type of beer, thereby ruining the whole experience for Jim.

Tickets to these games are outrageously expensive so the least one can expect is to be able to watch a game in comfort.

Glencar Waterfall (Part 2)

Staying with rugby and you may recall that I told you last week of our trip to Clogher Valley and our ill-fated detour to take in the beautiful Glencar Waterfall.

A reader called Gerry Taylor (from Carrick-on-Shannon) has kindly got in touch to tell us that the Waterfall is only five minutes’ walk from the car park. Gerry adds that it is really beautiful and well worth a visit. He says it was a huge opportunity missed.

So all I can say is we were a little rushed because of the rugby game, and had to cut our visit short – but I promise him that we will return some day soon. We will bring the original line-up back, i.e. my brother Duff, my son Mark and myself, and maybe even one or two more, and we will finally get to experience the fabulous wonder of nature that is Glencar Waterfall. It has long been on my bucket list – so hopefully this time we will actually see it.

Still learning about the wonders of Knock!

It’s Friday morning and Carol and myself decide to hit for Knock, a journey that we have often undertaken down through the years. Even I would admit that there can hardly be anything new about our visit to the Co. Mayo shrine. And yet there was, because firstly we attended the midday Mass for the first time ever, and I have to say it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and the priest had a very pleasant interaction with the reasonably big attendance.

At the close of the Mass he told us of the various places of interest around the Shrine. When he mentioned the museum and its treasures, we realised we had never once visited it, and so decided there was no time like the present. What an eye-opener it was.

There was all kinds of stuff from way back in the old days, including a fully authentic old-style kitchen, a properly equipped forge, loads of old farm implements, a Penny Farthing bike, and a huge array of further interesting artefacts. There was loads of stuff dealing with the airport, and the two Papal visits, and several letters from pilgrims who claimed to have experienced different types of cures in Knock.

There was also an area where we learnt about the 15 local people (and their very ordinary backgrounds) who witnessed the apparition way back in August 1879. I have to say I was delighted to have visited the museum. How we had never been there before is a bit of a mystery, but at least we’ve had the experience now.

We then paid the almost mandatory visit to the shops which really have an extraordinary range of religious goods on sale, and to round off the day we dropped into Val’s Bar & Bistro in Ballyhaunis for the lunch.

Now I have to admit that we don’t eat out very often, but on Friday Val’s was extremely busy, underlining the fact that other people obviously dine out quite a bit!

The lunch was served up quite quickly and both of us agreed the fare was excellent and really good value. When next you go to Knock (if you ever do; if you don’t, you should) make sure you visit the museum – and if you are hungry on the way home, Val’s is definitely worth a visit.

Braving elements for a last hurrah in antique store!

It’s Wednesday morning of last week, and I am heading for Athlone to give my old employer, Lynn Antiques, a dig-out as they prepare to host what will sadly be a  closing down sale. One of the sales lads is on a day off and it shows how hard it is to get retail staff when they have to turn to me to give a hand.

Indeed the difficulty in getting staff is one of the main factors in the decision to close down (in Athlone). After almost 12 years they are going back to their original home in Mullingar. Everyone else in the company, apart from me, was from Mullingar and it became increasingly difficult to run the two stores.

Anyway, I agreed to help out for the day, and what a day I picked! For more than 20 years I worked in Athlone and I never ever experienced driving conditions like it. If you can remember, Wednesday of last week was the day when we had everything that the weather could throw at us…with gale-force winds, torrential rain, frightening thunderstorms, and occasional falls of hailstones (even a tornado in Wexford) all leading to chaos on our roads.

There were floods everywhere. At times it was almost impossible to keep going. A journey which used to take me 35 minutes lasted an hour and a bit. To tell the truth, the driver (that’s me) that finally arrived in Athlone was a nervous wreck. Thankfully we had loads of customers, despite the horrific weather, and meeting and greeting a number of old friends made it all worthwhile and I thoroughly enjoyed my return to the workforce, even if only for a day.

(The good news for our customers is that we have to be out by the end of the month, so there are lots of bargains available. So, call in to Lynn Antiques, and who knows what you might find!).


And finally…

The Wine Enthusiasts Wine Star Awards are literally the Oscars of the drinks world. Drumshanbo’s Gunpowder Gin recently won the International Spirit Brand of the Year, beating – among others – Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s own Teremana Tequila.

The gin from the little Leitrim town was the only Irish entry. To take the top prize was an amazing achievement for the small Irish distillery. The Rock  himself congratulated the Drumshanbo company, and has promised to try out their very popular product, so well done to all concerned – it’s a real good local success story.