Shop ‘alive with the sound of music’ last week

Every week, for five out of the seven days, you will find me at work (although a good few people wouldn’t agree with that description) in the shop in Athlone and most of the time I spend going from one channel to the next, looking for what I would call ‘nice’ music on the radio.

  Now I must make it clear that I listen to the two Joes, Finnegan and Duffy, fairly regularly and I actually enjoy their shows most days and occasionally I tune in to presenters like Johnny O’Keefe on Shannonside and Ronan Collins on RTE One. However, being of a certain advanced age a lot of the music that is being played nowadays does nothing for me and I would long for the days of the old sponsored programmes and the sounds of the showbands and the brilliant groups of the sixties.

  However, I wasn’t too bothered but last week my niece, Aoife Bracken, (she’s my niece on Carol’s side) arrived up to my house with a load of CDs and cassette tapes which she no longer had any use for and I gladly accepted them, but really had no idea what to do with them. There were more than 60 cassette tapes and a number of CDs but it was when I had a look at what they were and who they were by that I realised I had the answer to my music problem. I can’t tell you all the artists but among them were Declan Nerney, Big Tom, Garth Brooks, Joe Dolan, Athlone stars, Donna and Joe, the Showband Show and probably a collector’s item; a CD from the very short-lived Louis Walsh creation, ‘Six’. All week people coming in have commented favorably on my selection of background music!

  The remarkable thing was that I actually had a cassette player for sale in the shop, (it’s off the market now) and until Aoife’s kind intervention, it had never uttered a sound of any kind since it arrived. This week it’s flat out, so if you happen to call to me in the future, bring along your jiving shoes and we might just hit the floor to Stop The World and Let Me Off or Sweet Little Rock and Roller! Anyway, thanks a million Aoife, you have brightened up my working life considerably and I will always be in your debt.

Great Irish summer rolls on!

From early in the week the good people in the meteorological service (that’s the weather people) were telling us that Saturday was going to be one of the best days of the year and Sunday would be nice and dry but a little bit windy.

  So with this in mind I got up early on Saturday morning to go to work, and without looking out the window, put on my sandals, no socks, – one of my pet hates is lads wearing socks with sandals – had a quick breakfast and headed out to the promised, scorching sunshine. Unfortunately it was freezing cold, spilling rain, wild and windy and I had to make a quick change, take out the aforementioned socks, put on my shoes and head off to Athlone while wondering to myself how the weather people could have got it so wrong! Pretty much all day it stayed that way, wind and rain, but I wasn’t too put out because it was Sunday that I wanted the fine weather as our local football team had a championship match in Ballyforan at 2 pm against St. Brigid’s.

  So once again I got up bright and early Sunday morning, alas the wind and rain was still there. However, we are made of stern stuff and we went off to Ballyforan where the good folks of St. Aidan’s had their pitch and surroundings in pristine shape and where Creggs were to have a good win in the junior championship by a few points. I like to watch matches on my own so I went to the side of the pitch away from the stand and by the time the final whistle came if anyone was looking for a drowned rat, I would have done.

  However, we won and all was well but if I could have met Gerard Fleming or Nuala Carey I would have asked them what happened to the glorious weekend we had been promised. The good news is, as I am writing this on Monday, the pneumonia or at least the ‘flu hasn’t arrived yet so it looks like the soaking I got was truly only skin deep!

Leo: Defender of the self-employed

As you know by now; I am a very lukewarm political person and in truth apart from supporting our own local independent TD, Michael Fitzmaurice, – mainly because he’s local and because he appears to have a mind of his own – I wouldn’t have a lot of time for anyone else, but if I was to be impressed by any of the main party people, it would have to be the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar.

  One of my biggest gripes over the years and particularly after the demise of the Celtic Tiger is the fact that self-employed people have no entitlements to unemployment benefits (dole to me and you) if their businesses fail. Their employees can get some payment, including statutory redundancy from the state, yet the person that paid all the wages and kept many workers in employment is effectively left high and dry with nothing to fall back on. The Minister has now indicated that he plans major changes in the system for the self-employed and while it’s still in its infancy and subject to a massive survey of self-employed people to assess what changes they want, it’s a very positive move by a man who seems to have his finger on the social welfare pulse.

  I have met many self-employed people whose businesses went to the wall in recent years and I have heard many sad and distressing tales of financial hardship, and while access to the dole wouldn’t solve everything it would be of some help or at least buy some time (and groceries) until things improved again. I certainly welcome this move by Minister Varadkar and I hope something good comes out of it.

Gardaí can’t stomach ‘Doughnuts’!

Finally for this week, and to follow up on my ‘doughnuts’ story of last week; our local Garda, Brian Neilan, tells me he’s hot on the heels of the perpetrators (or should that be hot on the wheels) so my advice to them would be to give up the doughnuts, find a new hobby or as they say; the long arm of the law will catch up with you!

Till next week, bye for now.