Did you know that Cork is the biggest county in Ireland? If you have ever met a Cork person in your life, you probably did know that, as it would have been relayed to you in their opening salvo of agitprop. It is the solemn duty of every Corkonian to spread the gospel of our county, no matter how unenlightened the ear that it falls upon - sit next to us on a train, plane, or stadium terrace and we will be there to share the joy of all things Cork with you.
Except obviously, these days many of you will have been sadly deprived of the opportunity to sit anywhere near us, thanks to the coronavirus. But as our lockdown eases and we are given free movement within the bounds of our gloriously plus-sized county, it is time to remind you all that we are now the most free-range people in Ireland. From the gentle plains of the east to the startling glory of the west; from the mountains of the north to the pharmaceutical monoliths of Cork harbour (the second largest natural harbour in the world, I will have you know), Cork is, in every way, the greatest.
I gave this speech to my kids to try and interest them in a bit of a day trip. I got to the third sentence before they all walked off, so instead I just shouted 'get in the car' and we were off. I can see why they were reticent about going anywhere - they have spent three months isolated in our house and I think the outside world might have lost its appeal. They have VR, who needs actual R anymore?
Of all the places I missed the most during lockdown, the coast was the main one. I have a slightly Victorian mindset when it comes to the seaside - a vague notion that sea air heals all ills. So when we were liberated from our domestic prisons, I bundled the kids in the car and made straight for the sea to let the air bring some colour back to their pallid cheeks. Time for a saline solution of briny air, bad parking, abandoned diapers, and a wind chill which, much like Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition, nobody expects.
The beach is always a good, cost-neutral bet for children - exercise, a good blast of fresh air, and the joys of looking for crabs in rock pools, something which still delights me now as it did when I was a kid. Granted, I have nearly put my back out a few times trying to lift boulders to check under them, but to see little faces light up when we find a few good-sized ones is something you cannot put a price on. You might as well have dug up a live velociraptor and dunked it into their bucket.
The returning tide chased us home, with the youngest sobbing for a full 25 minutes over Crabby, his pet crab, who had met and fallen in love with about 45 minutes earlier and then bade a tearful farewell to when I informed him that I was not going home to my long-suffering wife with a load of crabs.
What was most curious was how emotional it was to simply see other people out enjoying life - living in the countryside, we didn't have the benefit of just looking out the window and waving to others. I realised that we had all been deprived of these simple things - to see other people, to see the sea, to run full pelt up the beach, skip stones, get soaked, get pinched by a crab, transfer four metric tonnes of sand into the back of my car - for four months.
At one point in the freshly de-barricaded playground a little girl wandered up to us and, gesturing around her, chirped, 'isn't this amazing?' Yes, yes it is. And even better, it's in Cork.