ROLLING DOWN MEMORY LANE – EP. 7

DON’T PANIC! WE HAVEN’T REACHED THE LAST OF THE WINE YET…

What you are about to read should actually have been included in the last spin down the Lane. However, two factors interjected. Firstly, the preceding perambulation ended up becoming a much bigger and deeper affair than was originally envisioned. And secondly because there’s enough in what follows hereafter to justify a whole reminiscing ramble all to itself. Now read on…

If you’ve been reading in these parts for a while, you’ll know the following. If you’re new to the scene you’re very welcome. Thank you for stopping by, and here’s a little bit of my back story to get you going. When I was growing up, we only had the two Irish stations – RTE 1 and Network 2 – from which to choose viewing. In fairness, even at that there were always bits and pieces of decent programming with which to put in the hours.

Apart from the kids programmes, this corner would generally always look in the direction of quizzes. And thankfully, there was no shortage of same on the Irish stations in those days from Know Your Sport to Where In The World, The Lyrics Board, Play The Game, Blackboard Jungle and Challenging Times.

However, and again this goes back to hearing chatter in school, there was always a sense that I was missing out on something by not having ‘all’ the stations. Principally, Match Of The Day and Grandstand in the beginning at least. Not to mention that at that time there used to be a fair bit of live football shown on television.

Six of The ‘Magnificent’ Seven: Jones, Pike, Mainwairing, Wilson, Frazer and Godfrey

Which leads me nicely to the point where a whole new world opened up to me. At some stage what must be 30 years ago, my sister and brother-in-law, as he is now, used to bring me up to his parents’ place every Saturday. Apart from the fact that dinner was always part of the day’s itinerary, the undoubtedly highlight of the weekly excursions was getting to see some programmes on the other channels which were eventually fallen in love with.

The likes of the two sports programmes mentioned above but, maybe even more so, shows such as Noel Edmonds’ House Party, Big Break, and Gladiators. Topping any such list, though, then and forever, is Dad’s Army. I just absolutely fell in love with the show. The pomposity of Mainwairing, Wilson having notions about himself , the spirited, lovable dithering of Jones, Godfrey was the grandfather everybody wanted while Frazer was like a bear with a sore backside and Pike was, well, a “Stupid boy”!

As Jonathon Ross said in a documentary produced to mark the 40th anniversary of the show’s beginning, the seventh unlikely hero, Private Joe Walker “Was the Dellboy of his day, using the war to his advantage, hawking lotions, potions and such”.

Private Walker actually doing what he was supposed to

Owing to the Captain’s uppity snobbishness, it’s hard to know were any of the platoon close to him. Plainly because he considered them all subservient to him. Wilson would like to think he was on a par with him, but, if Hitler had invaded, you suspect the Bank Clerk might have been a bit too dozy and the Germans may have got the jump on them!

Frazer might have fancied himself as a leader – in fact there’s no might about it – but gut feeling always was that serving under the gruff Scotsman would have been near on a par with being commanded by the little trouble maker with the mustache. If it came down to it, and if enthusiasm and bravery were principal among the criteria, Jones would win pulling up. However, given that his catchphrase was “Don’t Panic!” and his personality was totally eschew with it given his alacrity at doing exactly that, giving him the reins would surely have ended in a disaster. An entertaining one, but a disaster nonetheless.

Once my sister got married, naturally, the Saturday trips were no longer on the menu so after much (not so) gentle persuasion, the powers-that-be eventually gave in and got the rest of the stations in with CableLink as it was then. Part of the deal was that we got the Sky Sports channels – I think there were two at the time – free for a month.

Right now of all times proves there’s never a good time to be sick, but, during the week the aerial and box – as it was then – were being installed I happened to in sickbay. For once it was just pure coincidence. On Sky that week, the International Open in Snooker was on from Bournemouth was broadcast all day and most of the night.

OPENING UP A WHOLE NEW WORLD

Now, eventually of course, the free trial period expired, however, after more incessant pleadings, the sports stations were retained full time. Such was akin to bringing a kid into a sweet shop and telling them they could pick an item from every shelf in the place. What it also did, in the longer term, was facilitate the opening up of a whole new world by way of enabling the garnering knowledge on a vast array of different sports. Which has been an incalculable blessing in this profession.

There’s no contest, though, as to what the most treasured addition to the sporting repertoire was – and continues to be. The near constant availability of football to watch. Back then, it was only Premiership matches which tended to be shown live. On Super Sunday and Monday Night Football. Both of which have stood the test of time well. In fact, it would be ventured that the latter has improved with age.

Andy Grey (left) and Richard Keys – the original and best Sky Sports football presenters

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Sunday equivalent has never been the same since the services of both Andy Grey and Richard Keys were dispensed with. I’ll refrain from articulating my thoughts on that whole scenario as it is a topic which could take on a whole new life all on its own.

Anyway, other than soccer, Rugby League was actually one of the first ‘new’ sport taken in. On a Friday night especially. Where the dulcet tones of Eddie Hemmings and Mike ‘Stevo’ Stevenson became familiar voices and, more pointedly, gave a novice in their area of expertise a good grounding therein.

At the time, as far as can be recalled, Martin Offiah was coming to the end of his time at Wigan, meanwhile at the same club Kris Radlinski was only starting out on a career that would see him become a legend at the club and in the game in general. Around the same time, Ireland’s Brian Carney was also with the Warriors before going on to play Rugby Union with Munster and the national team and latterly becoming the anchor for Sky’s GAA coverage.

BACK TO THE OLD DAYS

For whatever reason, for a long time after the extra viewing material was acquired, a lot of the old shows which used to be such a focal point of the Saturday afternoon road trips fell out of favour in this seat. Part of that was, I think, part of a growing up thing. Leaving a certain phase of my life behind. Maybe, I don’t know.

There’s a Compo, Clegg and Foggy in every town in Ireland.

The wheel forever keeps turning. When my life eventually got back on track after the rough times in school etc and actually fell into the pattern where things were at their best for me, the routine was to roll down to Brady’s three nights a week – Sunday, Monday and Wednesday.

During the summer months, an extra outing was often added to the schedule. Particularly if one had been out farming. One thing which very seldom changed, mind you, was the company – Sean Nealon Snr (the owner), Aidan Ward, Declan D’Arcy and myself.

Of the four walls of my ‘Safe House’, I’m the last one still on the go. Though a fair bit of time has passed in all cases, I can’t tell you how gut wrenching it is to be writing those last few lines, let alone thinking about it. Whatever about the company, topics of conversation could often change quicker than Bruce Wayne became Batman. In the course of one night, never mind a week.

Sport was an absolute given. So too farming. Depending on the time of year, there could be game shooting or fishing or Irish Dancing or politics. Once the winter months crept in, television programmes were guaranteed their run out.

Often, it might be current affairs shows. With the wrong ‘extras’ in attendance things could get very firey very fast. Which would be when some of the old comedies that inspired what you are reading would be brought into play.

Dad’s Army would supersede any others which might be afforded a mention. Not just with me either. You see, Sean’s late father-in-law, Tom Dillon, was a Sgt. Major in the army who saw service in what is now DR Congo. Possibly on more than one occasion.

Add to that the fact Aidan’s occupation often brought him into contact with the military, and that Declan fancied himself as a bit of a Capt. Mainwairing figure when in fact Jones would have been a much better comparison and had a mix guarenteed to deliver hundreds of hours of hillarity.

Old television comedies were such a speciality that there were an array of them that often got an airing. Along with the lads from Walmington-On-Sea, a trip might also be taken to Fawlty Towers – as long as you “Don’t Mention The War! – or there might be inquiries to the effect of Are You Being Served? with The Last Of The Summer Wine

You know, even though the comings and goings of the Home Guard platoon will take precedence over all comers, the last-mentioned feast of laughter could very easily have been based around around the four walls that made up The Corner in Brady’s. Often dubbed liars corner by some less charitable souls!

We definitely would have Compo, Clegg and Foggy covered. For the latter, see the Capt. Mainwairing wannabe above. As for me, there’s no way I could have been Howard – he’s far too cowardly. No, I’d say if I was anybody, it would have been either Barry Wilkinson, the well intended but slightly dim husband of Glenda or her grease-monkey mechanic father, Wesley Pegden. I think we all have an Edie in our lives too!

There’s a bit of Manuel in all of us…

GOING BACK TO TRY INCHING FORWARD

After my mother fell ill some years ago, my world as it was then was turned upside down. The first and most heartbreaking change was that the pints a few nights a week were out the window quicker than Speedy Gonzales gave Sylvster the slip!

That would have been hard enough to take at any time, but, factor in that, hours before ma went into hospital, Aidan Ward had passed away peacefully in the Mater and it was like an earthquake exploding through my entire life. The first of the four walls to go.

Consider now that within 16 months Declan and Sean would also have departed to the bar counter up yonder. Is it any wonder my life went into a tailspin worse than that which confronted Captain C. B. Sullenberger the day he had to bring his aircraft down on the Hudson River?

The world works in mysterious ways. There’s a strange comfort in knowing that Sean stood alongside me at the last GAA game he attended before his death. Ten days after Dunboyne had advanced to the last four of the Meath SFC, he was admitted to hosptal, never to return.

REBUILDING MY WALLS

Sean got every bit as big a kick out of Andy McEntee being appointed Meath manager as anyone. Thus, the kick in the guts it was when Longford eliminated our lads from the Leinster SFC of 2018 carried through to a lot of people.

Knowing what transpired only a few months thereafter, I firmly believe it was fate that myself and my beloved Susie met for the first time in person that day. Every cloud, silver lining and all that!

You may think that seems and sounds a bit daft, but please stay with me here. We’d been chatting online since early April after ‘meeting’ (very fittingly) on a Meath GAA fan forum. And, if my theory that Susie entering my life was Sean in spirit sending somebody to look after me (before he had devastatingly left us) comes across as scarcely believable, for me at least, the fact that we had our first proper ‘date’ – in Brady’s of course – on the day he went into hospital for the last time says far too much than could simply be coincidence.

The journey we have been blessed to share as a couple since could easily fill another book and may well do so someday. However, the greatest chapters may still be unwritten. She has very much become part of our family, and I hope that means as much to her and my family as it does to me.

Hope would be that it might not be too long until we’ll have an important fixture with a prominent figure in black calling the shots that will be sure to attract a large attendance!

As it is, we have, to a point, started out on our own journey. Or at least we had, until that pest Corona started turning up everywhere even though nobody anywhere wanted anything to do with her.

Having longed to get my life to the location where it currently resides for what felt like an eternity, the realisation has dawned that the most powerful healing is often attained via the simplest route.

In this case, that has simply meant having somebody special to spend time with. Something which never would’ve been envisaged, though was the cooker in my flat actually being used. Yes, it was included when my quarters were built 24 years ago, but in all honesty the thought was that it might never be put to use.

You are no doubt wondering why the above was including in a post that has basically been about television comedies. Simply because it has all formed part of rebuilding the four walls of security around me. Around both of us, actually.

Allow me to explain. Apart from all of what has already been outlined here, today and previously about the differences Susie has brought to my life, one of the most treasured and, honestly, unexpected, has been that watching television enjoyable again. Other than sport, that is.

Admittedly, it must be confessed that I probably drove her mad when falling in love all over again with Mainwairing’s misfiring mob. Not the mention to wine men, Jim Bowen overseeing slinging arrows and Manuel the Fawlty waiter!

On target for a laugh: Former Bullseye host Jim Bowen with darts legend Jockie Wilson

Putting up with all that would, in fairness, be admirable enough but the beautiful lady has gone even further. Any remaining doubt (not with either of us) as to whether we are made for each other is surely removed by the fact that we are both quiz nuts.

So, as well as my own old favourites Bullseye and Wheel Of Fortune and Family Fortunes, my better half has introduced me to new brain testers like The Chase, Tipping Point, Who Wants To Be A Millonaire and Tennable.

Getting to this juncture has has been quite the journey so far. To employ a bit of quiz parlance, what happens next? Stay tuned to find out…

FOGRA: In Stage 8 of our Tour De Past, it’ll be a trot through a few local derbies that were horses of occasions.

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