My mother was envious of those of you who live in what she called "private houses".
We lived in a public house. And it was very public. My Dad liked a bit of peace and quiet while he was eating the dinner.
He was a fast eater. The dinner was hardly on the plate before it was gone. Ten people could come in and out of the kitchen while he was eating. It was too much for him. Dad was a celebrity and some of the people who were in and out used to stop to watch him eat.
"This is like living in a railway station," he declared, before bolting for the relative sanctuary of the upstairs.
Dad loved the pub. He only had to climb the stairs to get to bed but I think he would have liked more solitude near the end of his days. Poor old Dad. Mam and himself bought a small house just across the road from where I live, less than a mile from our pub.
They never got to live there. Dad died and Mam stayed put over the pub. I think she was fairly sure that's where his spirit lives.
Dad wouldn't have been able for the quiet of suburbia. We have lovely neighbours but living here is sedentary compared to the hustle and bustle of downtown Listowel.
There is a sound to silence and sometimes it wakes me up in the middle of the night. Much easier it was to nod off when there was a 10-piece trad session belting out jigs and reels under your bed. My Mam and Dad often found me asleep with my ear to the floor.
Us kids wouldn't hear a note once we dropped off.
However, the ear trains itself to sense a change of mood, especially when danger is in the air.
There was a big fight one night in our pub. It must have been well over 50 years ago. Dad had a fierce temper and he was well able to fight if he had to. And he had to. He barred a man and his friends tried to break in through the back door.
I slipped downstairs. I was maybe five, and I was invisible.
Mam was standing not by Dad's side but right there in front of him. There were a good few punches thrown.
Dad spotted me and nearly died of the shock. His white shirt was torn. I think there might have been blood on the shirt but, after all these years, I can't be sure about that part.
I had completely forgotten about the fight until 5am on this Friday morning. I am not sure how this could be.
Maybe it came from the subconscious realisation that my family literally had to fight to keep the doors open.
I often think the tiny pub kingdom of a few hundred square feet is the only place I can make my own and keep up our tradition of having fun.
The Cowens are from a pub background. There is no better training for politics. Brian would never pass our door. He knew well that we were Fine Gael, even though I make up my own mind these days on every issue. Brian couldn't care less what political party you were aligned with.
His brother Barry got himself into a lot of trouble when it was discovered he was disqualified from driving for three months for drink-driving.
Barry brought 40 Fianna Fáil councillors to our pub one time after a conference. They were great company, though some of the old-timers were somewhat uncomfortable in a pub with two statues of Michael Collins.
Barry Cowen should have told the Taoiseach of the offence. The matter was compounded when it emerged Barry was driving around for years on a learner permit. I have never heard a politician make such a heartfelt apology and Barry just about held on to his job.
I am told, by those who know him better than I do, that his failure to get his full licence was down to carelessness more than any arrogance.
A sort of a "I must do that next week" attitude.
"Stupid", as he said himself.
It was a bad week for Sinn Féin. It broke the rules and many people who were not allowed to be present at cremations of loved ones were hurt and angry. But Belfast is not Dublin, and Sinn Féin did the wrong thing for what it considered to be the right reason. I would not condone any violence and the big funeral was peaceful, and peace takes minding.
The immediate reaction when politicians make an error of judgment is to condemn without context.
Barry Cowen is well able, and rural Ireland needs a backer-upper in Cabinet.
The facts are he was disqualified for drink-driving but he was not drunk. Barry Cowen would have been entitled to drive on twice as high a reading if he had passed his test, which he now has done. His own fault? Yes.
Barry Cowen was not a danger to the public as he was an experienced driver. His error was more clerical than cynical, and it was terribly unfair to compare Cowen's case to that of an inexperienced unaccompanied driver who was responsible for the death of an innocent person in a road traffic accident.
But let's go back to survival of John B's in the time of Covid.
I think the story of when I was a boy on the night of the fight came from the worry of being under siege once again from those who put their own selfishness before the common good. There is no such thing as absolute power anywhere and especially so in a pub. Your customers are not subjects but allies and friends but I have the final say as to how we go about serving them.
You cannot run a pub if the customers do not back you. Some Dublin pubs and restaurants behaved appallingly last weekend. As did some members of the public.
The selfishness was not confined to Dublin. The pick of the menu in a country pub was the culinary delight of chicken nuggets (6). No chips. There was no food either. But the rest of us behaved. The compliance rate among pubs was very high.
I had to leave a major department store in a large country town because it was packed and dangerous.
But no one called for the closure of the compliant shops. Pubs should be treated no differently. There should be no blanket ban. We need your help for the small boy who watched his Mam and Dad fight for their very survival all those years ago.