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December 12th 2001

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And Another Thing... by J.R.


At the time of the writing we are in the middle of the cold dark days of winter. A hateful time for some but don’t forget that the days after this newspaper hits the shelves we will be at the shortest day and from then on things normally take a turn for the better, approaching the beginning of Spring. But maybe we shouldn’t be rushing our lives away. It would seem the older you get, the faster goes the time. It’s not unlike comparing it to a very large egg timer with the salt running out at a fearful pace. The trick is this, get as much into your life as you possibly can and let tomorrow look after itself. It always does just that.


I was feeling hungry one day. It was, to be exact, the Saturday of the weekend of the Bridge Congress. I ventured into a well known eatery in this town and took my place meekly in the queue. The service was excellent but the customers would have broken the heart of a Saint. I’m no Saint, I can tell you, but eventually I found myself almost at the place you have to pay your money. I had mine in my fist but not so for the lady immediately in front of me. When she was told the price, it almost seemed to startle her. I wondered in my impatience did she expect to get it for nothing. Then the search began and my dinner started to cool. She rummaged deep in some sort of shoulder bag and from its depth she brought forth a purse. It was, don’t you know, one of the zip around jobs where the zip meets itself coming back. From this thing she extracted some money and when she got her change, the whole thing started again in reverse. I was seething with bad humour and hunger and the fact that, by now, my dinner was several degrees cooler than it should have been. If the lady knew this she gave no sign and disappeared from my view. I know, maybe it’s the wrong thing to say at this time, but women can test your patience and your understanding. How many times I have overheard women say - there is nothing in McElhinney’s of Ballybofey. Sweet God, any time I was in McElhinney’s there was clothes of all descriptions from the front door to the back wall, but nothing apparently for women. It would make you think. I’m of the variety of people who for example goes into a shop to buy a pair of shoes. I have in my mind what I want and so I describe what I want to the assistant. They might bring out three or four pairs of shoes and I can immediately select what I want. I don’t bother to try on others of different shapes or colours that I have no intention of buying. But a woman will try on almost every shoe in the shop that she has no intention of buying. What the hell comes over them? Other times they are as right as rain.


I would hate to be a parent again at Christmas time. The pressure that these unfortunate people must be under is considerable. Walk into any shop and the array of modern day toys is mind boggling. And added to this is the constant bombardment in the media to buy, buy, buy. And at grossly inflated prices too. There can be little doubt that, in many cases, Christmas will be far from happy. When I think back to the innocence of my youth, it’s far removed from the so called Celtic Tiger society of today. There was huge anticipation and appreciation of the little we received. When we talked of hanging up our stockings, that’s exactly what we did and that to a great extent was what we got. That, of course, would not do now. Nowadays it has to be the most expensive thing that money can buy or you’re not at the races. Surely there must come a time when all this carry-on will have to stop. In my day it was great to get an apple or an orange and a bar of chocolate in your stocking. There wasn’t many of them about in those days and if there was a toy cap- gun you could be sheriff all over Christmas. That would not be sufficient now. More’s the pity.


Staying with this Christmas thing for another while, I went to buy my off-springs their Christmas cards. Whoever thought up the card business was very, very smart. There are cards for every occasion that you could think of and ones you couldn’t think of. I selected the few that I wanted and was completely astounded at the prices. By good luck I had managed to sell the fatted calf that I had secretly reared since last January and was able to pay for the cards. The way things are going I will have to rear two calves to pay for next year’s Christmas cards. Know something, it’s hardly worth it. There they will be for a couple of days around Christmas and by the 6th of January they will most probably end up in the back of Ballintra. What, you might ask, is it all for? Answers please on a Christmas card - and a cheap one too- if there is such a thing.


There has just got to be more to the Tom Gildea affair, (if I might call it that) than meets the eye. The Dublin media has him dubbed a fool but I have it on very good authority that no fool he. It may not be over yet and we could very well see a return to this saga at some later date. Apart from the Dail speech itself, there was the usual hyprocisy from Fine Gael. Look at the way Michael Noonan attacked Tom Gildea in defence of Nora Owen, a woman well able to defend herself. Isn’t it a great pity that he didn’t apply the same level of defence to the late Bridget McCole when she was in fact on her death bed. If he had any shame at all he would be going around with his head in a bag.

Then we had the spectacle of former leader John Bruton informing everyone at large that Tom Gildea was a bad man for saying what he did. He has a damned short memory when it suits him. It is not so long ago that he made allegations, completely without foundation, against Dr. Jim Mc Daid in Letterkenny that cost that man his ministerial position, and as a direct consequence, his marriage. Where was the fairness then? They have no shame.

Then on the other hand, and maybe by pure coincidence, there was our present Taoiseach as far away from Dail Eireann as it was nearly possible to get on this island. He was to be sure in Co. Kerry and far away from troublesome speeches. It was good timing. Old C. J. didn’t dub him the most cunning of all for nothing. And he should know.


My walking spree continues unabated and has had some very good results. I stood sideways the other day in a supermarket and a woman I know well passed me by and didn’t see me. If this trend continues I will be in danger of going up with the blinds by the end of March. But, of course, there are dangers ahead with the usual gorging that goes on around Christmas time. I may have to extend that end of March deadline to mid-Summer’s night. I surely hope not!

My walking takes me to all sorts of places and everywhere I go I see signs of development. For instance out on the Corveen road there is application for several houses and in the town Johnston’s garage, that has lain derelict for some time, has now been repainted and rumour has it that it’s going to be a car showroom again. It’s good to see. Also there is quite a large development of houses at Drumrooske which is good news for the town also. By the way, when is work going to start near the Clar Road roundabout that we heard so much about some time ago? Will there be another announcement about this development just before the general election? It would not surprise me one bit if this was the case.

When you get down to it walking is not so unpleasant and of course you reap the benefits in all sorts of ways, but there are times when I’m heading out from the Clar Road roundabout in the direction of Mountcharles and a squall of sleet and wind that would deaden your jaw strikes with a fierce intensity that I begin to think that if I could get the same benefit from a bottle in the chemist then that’s what I would be doing. But it’s not to be and so I plod on.


So there is a God after all. Yes, there is only to be the one “Times” this month and so a well earned rest is about to be bestowed on us poor simple scribes until January. Maybe it’s time to soften just a little and so I would like once again to thank the people in G.H.Q for their patience in trying to decipher this scrawl on a twice monthly basis. It can’t be easy. Also to welcome home all the readers of the “Times” who live far away and especially Isobel who reads this in far-off Boston on the internet. She will be home to visit the family in Sandfield just outside Ardara. Maybe she and I might have a hot whiskey before she goes back. Just a wee reminder here that we will be playing at the Old Time Dance in the Central Hotel on Boxing night. Don’t miss it. And finally I take this opportunity to wish all the readers of this column a very happy Christmas. All others will have to do without.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

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