Monday 18 December 2017

It's a diamond life in a small country town

Fiona O'Connell

Life is considered tough in "the concrete jungle". Yet a city allows you carte blanche to avoid - or associate - with particular people in your places of preference. You can largely live a la carte - or a la cosmopolitan.

In contrast, life in the country confines you to a set menu. It's almost impossible to be anonymous. While 'wacky', 'weird' or 'downright wrong' may be your private opinions on some of the people in town, they may feel the same about you. More importantly, you may also find that country neighbours - meaning not just the folk next door, but a wider community - will be there for you in times of need.

Maybe it's healthier for humans to be forced to find a way to live side by side, rather than opting out of the challenge by cleaving to cliques, as can be the case with city dwellers. Because you are more likely to bump into each other in a not- so-big-smoke, you have to learn how to live together in relative harmony.

As such, country life is something of a metaphor for marriage. For you share living in the same sticks for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness or health, till death do you part. Making all who manage it diamond geezers.

So it was a pleasure to be part of a celebration for my neighbours' diamond wedding anniversary. According to their parish priest, Anna and Walter Walsh were one of nine couples that got hitched here 60 years ago. Now they are the last pair standing. But it's likely many more will fall like skittles before this devoted duo drop their double act.

The elegant Anna, nee Farrell, aka the wondrous Mrs Walsh, combines charisma with shyness to such a degree that her offspring decided the shindig had better not be a complete surprise.

Forewarned is forearmed. For this formidable female marked six decades of domestic bliss by appropriately power-dressing in a pillar-box-red, tailored jacket over a black-and-white ensemble. She looked, as the kids might say, awesome.

I asked what 60 years felt like. "Sometimes it feels like 80," she replied, laughing.

Plenty at the party would have to take her word for it. One expressed relief to have got past newly wed, having found that no mean feat. Others were widowed, and others were still waiting to meet 'the one'.

But there were copious country town couples happily clocking up the years on their own marriage meter.

The drinks were free, the piled-high platters kept coming. The fires were roaring and the radiators roasting - while a live band ensured it was all electrifying.

As I told Martin Walsh, when I thanked him a few days after the brilliant bash.

"Ah, sure," he smiled. "We know how to throw a party."

And plenty more besides.

Sunday Independent

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