I am not going to say anything at all about the weather other than expressing the hope that the worst is over on both sides of the Atlantic and that all of you survived unscathed.
That is quite enough for now about a matter over which we have no control, though I have to add that I was intrigued by the yarn about the town of Hell freezing over in Montana. Some cute wordsmith with a good eye for an angle made the price of 10 tanks of heating oil out of that one.
I was up in Mayo briefly last week. There is a district called Furnace up there, and by heavens the furnace was out when I was passing through. Enough.
Intriguingly the issue which was battling for the top headlines over here and, I think, on the international scale too, was the once taboo subject of homosexuality.
Our formidable and impressive former President Mary McAleese asked the Catholic Church, especially its Scottish leaders, to come clean on the problems created by gay clergy there and elsewhere.
At the same time every news bulletin you switched on had stories of major star footballers and other top athletes outing themselves as being gay.
The only time that word was mentioned in Ireland 30 years ago was in relation to the Gay Bachelors Festival in Ballybunion in the County Kerry, and none of those wild boyos were gay in the modern usage of the word and that’s for sure.
But overall, despite the storms, it sure has been a gay January so far!
Nationally, in a more informed and liberal Ireland, and in a more educated and tolerant society, it can be said accurately that the lot of our gay brothers and sisters has improved sharply, especially in the cities and larger towns, over the past decade.
Their fundamental rights as equal citizens are being recognized, and properly so of course, by the kind of legislation which was undreamt of in the past. They are being respected at last, and not before time either.
In the Ireland of my lifetime they have had to walk the hardest of roads, often alone and fearful of being outed, often even physically and verbally abused and marginalized. There was a time when it seemed that only the infinitely courageous (though irritating) Senator David Norris was the only gay man in the Republic.
Sadly, I believe, as is so often the case, many areas of the rural Ireland that I know and love in all its counties and regions is still lagging far behind metropolitan society in its acceptance and tolerance of the new reality.
I am so grateful today that none of my children are gay because, living as most of them do in rural areas, they would find the road is still a harsh and hidden one.
There are no gay pubs where they could meet, they would have to travel to the nearest big towns or cities. There are no rural gay clubs that I am aware of, no provision in the overall rural society for organized meeting places for those with a different kind of sexuality.
In rural Ireland, sadly, you will still too often hear the old hateful words like “quare fella” or “queer” or “faggot” or “bumboy” or worse. I fear it would be no easier today, in 2014, for a young man or woman to come out than it was 20 years ago. That is very sad.
I know that there is a significant enough fraction of our rising rural suicide rate which is related to the problem. Every weekend we hear of single-vehicle fatal accidents on remote roads in the small hours of the mornings, the victims usually being young men.
I know of at least two such incidents in this region where the victims were probably gay. How many of the others through the country fall into the same category?
I just don’t know, but what I do know is that despite all the developing national recognition and acceptance for gay folk, it is still most certainly a terribly difficult rural road to follow. A thousand potholes of bigotry and ignorance mark the way.
Hopefully things will improve in the brighter times ahead. And, for a start, I will write something to make ye smile next week.
And, as a teaser, before the year is much older, I am going to write a column for my darling Debbie which will intrigue at least dozens of you, tantalize and torment many more, and maybe even provide a life-changing week for a minority.
That’s a promise...
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