Back from a visit to London -- I hasten to say before the recent riot scenes -- and we were most taken with the level of courtesy shown to us by people in the street. You know -- 'How do you get to...?' 'Which bus do we take to...?' 'Which tube station to get us to...?' The ordinary, everyday, gob-smacked visitors' queries. And everywhere, people went out of their way to be as helpful as they could. Not just the cops, who were terrific, and not just the jobsworths with the caps, but everyone.
I know that sounds strange, in light of the awful scenes on our tv screens subsequently, but that's what we experienced. And I fell to wondering were we as good in this matter, with visitors to Ireland? I hope we are but I've no way of knowing -- let's face it, how often do I ask for directions in Dublin? And if I did, they'd probably want to bring me home to meet the Granny. Maybe we wuz just plain lucky, but the Londoners surprised us.
It is, however, heartening in Dublin to notice how many people, getting off the bus, say thank you to the driver. I always do, and they always acknowledge it. Nice little touch.
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I HAD heard for many years about the walk from Graiguenamanagh to St Mullins, and it featured in many walking guides. At last, this year, we did it and it was one of the highlights of my life in the past year. Park at the bridge in Graigue and just start walking -- right there, by the river and canal -- and do a gentle five miles on the flat, amidst lush green foliage; the water by your side, the superbly maintained lock-keepers' houses and the utter peace and quiet of the countryside.
St Mullins is a quaint backwater, tiny and quiet, with eatery/cafe/relaxation area, a place just to do nothing in. It's a boat-park, resting-place and graveyard, which all adds to its charm. If you can, take a break and then do the return trip, making a delightful 10-miler of the day, but the whingers, cribbers and moaners I was with on the day didn't feel up to it, so we'd positioned cars.
I do assure you, this walk is one of the real treats of life -- winter or summer -- and I beg you not to miss it. And dammit, it's completely free, it's just there!
Hesitate not -- just go.
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I AM a RosPA Gold Medal Advanced Driver and one must take the test every three years to ensure that the standard is maintained and to retain the gold medal.
I did my repeat test recently and got through. So there I was this week, driving back from Donegal, and trying to see for how long I could drive to the Gold Medal standard.
Human nature being what it is, and distractions being what they are, I fell to musing about my recent skirmish with the Presidency and the contrast of emotions it provoked.
On the one hand, there was the overwhelming outpouring of kindness, generosity, goodwill and offers of help and backing that came from all over the country and from people I had never heard of, simply willing to do anything to get me into the Aras.
On the other hand, there was the truculence and general destructive instincts of so much of the media -- and I've been part of that media for 50 years, although I hope not that part.
The print medium has within its ranks a large number of good, decent, competent people who constantly strive to do a fair job, but there sure are some malevolent, malice-filled, dangerous souls who delight in the chance to destroy, undermine and denigrate -- what I'd call the News of the World mentality -- do anything for a story, and you end up with the hacking scandal.
In my case, these people had 40 years of Late Late Show and 30 years of The Gay Byrne Show to fall back on for ammunition, and they went scurrying to it with gusto.
Every five minutes there was some clown on the phone asking me could I stand over what I said on either show about such-and-such in 1976? 1983? 1968?
Since I have considerable trouble remembering what I said about anything yesterday, this is a kind of sticky wicket for me.
I've been accustomed to pretty regular mauling by the press through the years, and I've always considered it part of the job, but for anyone new to the game it must be deeply upsetting.
Every election campaign is a circus, a spectator sport, for the enjoyment and entertainment of the general public, and that's how they regard it.
It's a bit trickier for those involved. The level of misinformation, half-baked conjecture and loony theorising that goes on is breathtaking. (One panelist on the Clare Byrne Show gave forth the riveting statement that "the trouble with Gay Byrne is that he's used to being adored and admired all the time". Cripes! Where has he been the past 50 years?)
So, c has finally declared; he'd asked for precisely the same thing I asked for, and for which I got beaten about the head and shoulders -- time to consult, take advice and consider. Like me, he decided not to run. It's a pity.
I've repeatedly said that he's the most loved man on the Montrose campus, and I think that regard extends nationwide.
He's not only respected, he's loved, and that's pretty important. In fact, I'll tell you now something in confidence, and I don't want you to pass this on to anyone. It's irrelevant, but, if I'd gone ahead to contest the election and if, subsequently, Micheal had joined the race, I would have instantly withdrawn and left it to him, because he would not have been beaten, and the others would have been wasting their time.
But the Irish version of his name would have had to go: God almighty, think what foreign newsdesks would have made of it: Mee-hawl O Mure-chart-taig? Naw, I think not. President Michael Moriarty would have sounded nice. Nice, easy, simple. Pronounceable.
Mind you, in the midst of all the adulation, there's always a crippler: it is unsigned, of course, but it says: "Would you ever cop on, you're an old old man. Everybody is laughing at you. There's no fool like an old fool. Nearly 78 -- Ha! Ha! Ha!"
I think it's a disgraceful letter, and I'm passing it on to Micheal at once. I think he should get the guards onto it.
Not only that, but to add to my depression, I was cycling in St Anne's Park yesterday, and a man approached me to say how much he admired me and how he longed to see Kathleen and me in the Aras. He said that everyone loved me, although, he added, he'd just been talking to another man as I passed by on my bike, and he pointed me out to him. He'd said: "That chap on the bike there -- that's Gay Byrne." And the other man said: "That b****x! I f*****g hate him!"
You see -- there goes another vote. I knew I was in the wrong shop.
By far and away the best piece about the Presidency was in this newspaper last Sunday, by Eilis O'Hanlon. Brilliant, funny and accurate.
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Apart from all that, two TV shows in the Top Ten in the same week (current issue of the RTE Guide ) one at No. 1 and the other -- in its 97th repeat -- at No. 7.
Not bad for a grey-haired old loon, eh? And someone tell that oul bitch I'm 77, not 78.
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Spent the morning working with John McColgan, who has persuaded, beaten and forced me into doing a one-man show in The Gate on Sunday, September 18, in aid of The Irish Cancer Society.
It's to be called An Evening with Gay Byrne. Well, have you any better ideas? And please don't be nasty.
They've booked the hall. May the Lord have mercy on all our souls.