We’re shaking off the winter - Ireland prepares for spring

Image by Caty Bartholomew
Hello again! Another week gone of a mild season on the west coast, the daffodils flaunting themselves shamelessly on every side, brighter and longer evenings over Clare, magpies flying overhead with twigs for the foundations of this year's nests, fat sparrows and finches not needing to bother about the crumbs on the cottage windowsills.

There are more new jobs being announced on the radio bulletins than old ones lost, and God rest the maestro actor David Kelly who slipped away quietly at the age of 83. He brought us all a lot of laughs in his time and that's for sure. I hope you all keep well.

There's hope for ye too. Following your developing election battles recently and listening to some of the related debates I often wondered if there was any blackish humor involved in the fashion we relish that element over here.

There clearly is. My whimsical friend Dave Clark sent me the following story which will appeal to the Republicans in your ranks. It certainly appealed to me. I don't know how widespread this one has been, but I'm sure not all of you have chuckled at it.

It seems that George Bush and Putin of Russia and Queen Elizabeth died recently, and all of them were consigned down to hell. After two days Putin wanted to phone Russia and the devil said okay, but he would have to pay for the call.

Putin spoke to aides in Moscow for 10 minutes only. He asked the devil how much he had to pay. The devil charged him a million dollars. Putin wrote a check for that amount without question.

Later in the day Queen Elizabeth wanted to talk to the royal family in London and the process was repeated.

She stayed on the line for 20 minutes and the devil charged her two million pounds. Again she wrote a check for that amount without question.

Then immediately afterwards George Bush wanted to call Washington. He stayed on the phone for no less than four hours!

However, when he asked what that cost the devil said just two dollars!

An enraged Putin demanded to know why there was such a difference in the bills and the devil replied, "Well since Obama took over down there it is only a local call!"

I don't hear too many Democrats chuckling!

But I have the outline of a real good news story here in Clare now for those of you planning to visit Ireland later this year. I don't have firm details yet, just the broad outline, but I promise to flesh it out later when I get them and already I can promise those of you who can make it will enjoy the weekend of a lifetime.

What is going to happen is an organized gathering of bards and poets and singers and musicians and genuine Knights of the Road in the heart of the Burren of Clare before the year is much older.
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If the Burren is special, and it definitely is, then this will be extra special altogether. The extrovert Bards of Armagh, for example, are sending an eloquent delegation and some of the top poets in the entire land will be there in full flow.

If there was a trigger for the idea it came from the gentle visits over many years of the gentle and articulate man called Francis Kendall-Husband, now deceased, who was known throughout Ireland as the last of the Wandering Bards, the last pair of sturdy boots walking a timeless road of tradition.

He was an intelligent and articulate and deeply devout man that people respected and remembered, and he loved coming to the Burren and especially the village of Carron on its rocky brow. Here he was never short of a bed and food.

I knew him quite well. He slept under my roof several times when I lived in Connemara.

He had a powerful presence, a gentle way about him, a rich poetic gift, a man you would never forget.

He told me some of his realities one night. He said that the county homes which developed out of the dreaded workhouses of the past were always friendlier and warmer in the poorer counties along the west coast. He often slept a night in them and knew the difference.

And he said that though Galway Bay divided them the plain people of Clare and Galway were the friendliest of all.

Two other small things I remember about Francis. If you gave him a cigarette he would always break off the tip. And he was always gone in the morning before the rest of the house awoke, a thank you note left behind, his wandering boots off on his life road again.

When I have definite details I will let ye know them, and some of you will be thanking me warmly before the year is over.

Finally, crowning a fine week so far, my own county of Fermanagh met my adopted county of Clare in the new Gaelic football league a couple of weekends ago. Neither side will win the league, but I have been delighted since because Fermanagh (now under the tutelage of the great Peter Canavan of Tyrone) were clear winners.

I have been strutting abroad since and talking football every chance that arises. We don't win too often you see.

Hope you all win your games this week as well.

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