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No duvet days in Cavan!

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 18th February, 2009 12:00pm

I flew over to see my mother two weeks ago. It snowed. It snowed a lot. But I still managed to collect her from Esker Lodge, where the excellent staff obviously thought it was safe enough to release her into my care and take her out and about.

In the frosty and snow strewn days I chauffeured my wonderful mam to Butlersbridge, Belturbet, Ballyhaise, Annagh Lake, Killigary, Lavey with pit stops at the Derragara Inn, Kilmore Hotel and Farnham Arms Hotel.

The car radio advised of dangerous conditions. I managed to navigate back to Dublin Airport. Flights fine. I shuffled off the Aer Lingus flight almost on time. London Underground delivered me safely to Gloucester Road. Cut to a fortnight later. Snow descends on London. The same white stuff that flutters down on Cavan, Monaghan, Westmeath and Longford when the weather forecast dictates.

The difference? London grinds to a halt. Buses and tubes simply stop. Schools close. Government ceases. Everyone has what critics of the old London Transport use to call Duvet Days.

Shuffling up Kensington High Street towards an aborted lunch with my daughter Laura (Dad I"m snowbound in St. Albans), I happened upon a charity shop. It was open. Inside they offered a pair of brand new knee-length, brown leather lace-up boots. The price? £20. What Cavanman could resist?

I sat down, discarded my sodden shoes and started to untangle the laces. Now I"m not exaggerating when I say the laces, stretched out, could have reached from my mother"s house in Church Street, Cavan to my brother"s hacienda in Ballyhaise.

Finally with help from the easy-on-the-eye female Indian shop assistant I managed to stomp out of the shop into the swirling snow resembling one of Mein Fuhrer Adolf"s storm troopers. I will spare you the horrified reaction on my arrival home.

Bearing in mind that I"m off to fulfil a lifetime ambition this month to see the Niagara Falls, I thought these boots might suit. Those I share a home with disagreed. They thought I looked ridiculous. My case was not helped by the fact that it took most of 15 minutes to unravel the laces and have my size eleven feet extracted from the boots (size twelve as you ask, and probably owned by someone who had popped his clogs - or size twelve footwear at least).

Mercifully adjacent to my bookmaker Ladbrokes there is a brilliant Chinaman who is almost as good a cobbler as my namesake Seamus McEntee, who modestly works his magic with leather off Cavan"s Main Street. I took my Third Reich-like boots to my Chinese friend. It was a coincidence that as I trundled in with my boots to see (a) if he"d cut them down and (b) how much it would cost me, a car pulled up alongside.

It was Anne Robinson of the Weakest Link. She was on her way home and barked: "McEntee, Who"s life are your ruining today?" I showed her my new boots and explained how my Chinese friend was about to cut them to ankle length for me so I could trudge about Buffalo not looking like a Hell"s Angel.

Anne smiled and invited me to her nearby home for tea. I declined as I was still bartering with Mr. Chinaman. How much to cut my boots? £50 he offered. I desisted, insisting that I had only paid £20 for them in the first place.

He agreed £20 but grimaced when I added: "Could you make me a wallet with the leather left over?" He said no. Sometimes you can take being a Cavanman just a bit too far.

Gerry Higgins

When I was growing up in Cavan in the 60s and 70s there was one contemporary who was decent, true and kind. He was Gerry Higgins from Bridge Street. We went to the De La Salle Brothers together and then to St. Patrick"s College. We shared the notorious Class 13 and were, I hope Gerry won"t mind me saying, considered not only dim but a waste of time. Gerry certainly was not a waste of time. Quite the opposite. And he most certainly wasn"t dim. I"m sorry he is no longer around to tell him what a good friend he was. May he rest in peace.

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