With household prices going up, no wonder outings to the pub are down!

Our columnist Frank on the inescapably higher cost of living today – and how this feeds into the quieter local pub scene – air travel, ‘The Parish’ coming to Creggs, and a weekend of highs and lows on the sporting front…

One of the subjects that would often crop up over a few quiet pints is the fact that back in the 1950s and 1960s when we were supposed to be living in very poor times, our village (Creggs) had six pubs – and every one of them was busy!

Not only that, but where most country pubs nowadays only open at 5 or 6 pm in the evening, and a lot of them close on at least one midweek night, in my younger days the pubs opened in the mornings and stayed open all day, every day, until closing time – except on Sundays, when you had Holy hour between two and four o’clock. The idea behind that, as far as I know, was to make sure that the lads who went in for a few pints after Mass (opening time on a Sunday was 12 midday) would have to go home in time to have the Sunday dinner.

Anyway, we often discussed how the pubs were busy all the time, and one of the factors that influenced that situation was the fact that there were a lot of bachelors living around the parish. As any of us married men will know, particularly those with young families, in the present financial climate there isn’t quite the scope there used to be to go to the pub and there isn’t quite the same pressure on the single men and women.

However, the biggest difference is that back then there were much fewer bills. Water, waste, electricity, all kinds of insurance, car running costs, big mortgages, energy costs, television and broadband, childcare and house taxes – among others – were all either non-existent or particularly low – whereas nowadays we seem to face a never-ending stream of bills!

The worst feature of all the service providers is that they are almost impossible to contact, and the bottom line seems to be that they will do everything to maximise what they can get from their customers.

During the last week, I have contacted Sky, Eir, and Electric Ireland in efforts to get various contracts reduced, and the bottom line is that I might as well have been trying to push a ten-ton truck up a hill.

The lady I spoke to from Sky, who was very pleasant and friendly but unable to help me in any way, was based in India. Meanwhile, after going through several different operators, my EIR contact told me that as my previous contract had expired last month, I now had to pay the full amount, which was an increase from €54 a month to €93 a month. She insisted that there was no onus on them to notify me of the increase, but as I had now rang them, she could do a new contract for €56 a month. I asked her what would happen if I pulled out of the contract early and she laughed and said that wouldn’t happen as I would have to pay them €1,700 for early release.

Then I rang Electric Ireland to chat about my newest bill, which despite us having signed up for a smart meter, had shown a significant increase, and at the end of it all, despite what seemed like endless hours on the phone, I hadn’t achieved any reductions of note. To cap it all, I have since seen that electricity wholesale costs have come down by 30%… it certainly hasn’t applied to me.

Anyway, with all the bills that arrive every single week and month, is it any wonder we have a lot less money left for socialising?

Unflappable flyer

I have never had a fear of flying; while others would be feasting on Xanax and such medicines to settle their nerves, I would happily hop on board the plane without even the slightest hesitation. I wouldn’t even have to suck on a hard sweet during take-off, and I am normally so relaxed that I sleep for large parts of whatever journey I’m on.

Way back in the 1980s, when Ryanair was in its infancy, I flew from Shannon to London in one of its ‘early’ planes – one with propellers – which almost shook the life out of all the passengers. The lad that was with me turned every colour of the rainbow. By the time we landed in London, he was as white as a sheet, but I was as sound as a bell.

Anyway, since then, while by no means a frequent flyer, I have been airborne a good few times, and have never experienced any major inconvenience – except for having to stay on the plane on the runway in Dublin for hours because of a volcanic eruption over in Iceland.

But all of a sudden, turbulence on flights seems to be becoming a big problem, and after last week’s terrifying incident involving Singapore Airlines, in which an English passenger had a heart attack and died (and a large number were injured, of whom 48 are still having medical treatment), we now had something similar on a flight from Qatar to Dublin.

Without being an expert on such stuff, it seems that global warming is playing a part in the increased risk of turbulence, but despite these two high profile incidents, the risk of severe turbulence damage is still relatively low.

As of now, I have no plans to fly anywhere in the near future, but when I do, I hope to travel exactly as before – no Xanax or ‘sucky sweets’ required.

The parish raves about ‘The Parish’

Out here in Creggs, over the weekend we had an unusual occurrence, when a large portion of the parish went to the Parish Hall to see ‘The Parish’ on Saturday night.

‘The Parish’ in question was a play written and performed by two Cork lads, Michael Ryan and Sean Kelleher, and while I couldn’t make it, by all accounts it was an absolutely hilarious production. Basically, the two lads bring to life various characters that can be found in every parish in the country, and the huge crowd that turned up thoroughly enjoyed it.

The local community development people were responsible for putting on the show, and as it was such a success, hopefully they will bring more and more acts to the parish.

It all reminds me of my young days when there were all kinds of travelling shows, including Punch and Judy, magicians, comedians and even mini-circuses calling to the schools. Sadly all those type of things have disappeared, but at least on Saturday night last we were privileged to have something different brought to the parish!

Here’s to the next one!

And finally…

It would be hard for me not to mention the huge weekend of sport we just had.

For all of us long-suffering Manchester United supporters, the winning of the FA Cup, and in doing so beating the almost invincible Manchester City, still has me buzzing on this Monday morning.

However, Leinster’s losing streak in Champions Cup finals, coupled with the departure of our Galway hurlers from the championship, has reduced the euphoric feeling. I wonder if ‘King’ Henry Shefflin will consider walking away from his contract with the Tribesmen.

And then there was the tragic death of PGA golfer Grayson Murray at 30 years of age, which puts sport into perspective and reminds us all that there are many more important things out there; mental health is such an important subject, and despite great forward strides having been made, there is still a lot to be done.

And so, after such a massive sporting weekend, with great successes and joy for lots of different teams, and the consequent disappointment and sorrow for others, it’s only right that the biggest impact of all is the sad passing of Grayson Murray. May he rest in peace.