In Irish mythology, Fionn mac Cumhaill and Na Fianna always enjoyed an invigorating swim in the wild Atlantic waves from Slea Head to Erris head on summer solstice, the day when the sun god was closest to Ireland.
On that day, Manannán mac Lir, the god of the sea, lavished his bounty of minerals, iodines and nutrients on those who swam in the Atlantic Ocean, thereby bestowing on them the virility of youth, which they needed in battle. Many of Na Fianna died far too young, but Fionn's son Oisín did reach Tír na nÓg, where he spent 300 years with the beautiful Niamh Chinn Ór.
It's a charming story based on myth more than fact. Still, I must admit that I enjoy a long refreshing sea swim on June 21 each year in the hope that some of that youthful vigour is still floating around. So far I've been out of luck and have resigned myself to growing old gracefully!
Summer solstice, which falls tomorrow, is the longest day of the year. To be meteorologically accurate, summer solstice is the day with the greatest amount of daylight. In this glorious weather, we can expect more than 17 hours of daylight tomorrow.
The next three months leading up to mid-September is the period when nature is most active in all its glory.
The trees are in full foliage, plants and shrubs are blooming, hay and silage is being saved and the Wild Atlantic Way is at its magnificent best.
Incidentally, the concept of the Wild Atlantic Way has its origins in a spontaneous comment by Michael Ring TD, when he was extolling the rugged beauty of the west of Ireland in one of his fiery speeches.
Mr Ring is deservedly the new Rural Affairs Minister. He is passionate about rural Ireland, so I'm expecting post offices, Garda stations and tourist information offices to re-open along the western seaboard all the way from Mizen Head to Malin Head.
Indeed, Mr Ring is so energetic and virile that he might be a direct descendant of Fionn mac Cumhaill himself!
Tralee, Co Kerry
Taoiseach must tackle health
The recent report that key time deadlines for the assessment and treatment of patients attending cancer services are not being met by the HSE (Irish Independent, June 15) is very disturbing and most alarming. The report also indicates that figures for the first three months of the current year reveal less than half the men with suspected prostate cancer are undergoing diagnostic tests within the 20-day target.
The time frame recommended to provide patients already diagnosed with the disease with radiotherapy treatment is 15 days, and this is also being missed in almost one-third of cases.
The deadline of 10 days to assess patients with suspected lung cancer, and to check women referred for routine breast cancer X-rays, is also not being met. The report also suggests the hospitals which are struggling manfully to meet the targets are badly hampered by the shortage of qualified staff, and an inadequate number of beds, to cater for an ever-increasing number of patients. A number of hospitals, including University Hospital Galway and Letterkenny Hospital, are unable to see a majority of women referred for a mammogram within the required 12-week timeline.
These breast cancer services were removed from University Hospital Sligo a number of years ago amid huge protests, and if the powers that be can now be convinced to reverse that decision, it would help to alleviate this potential life-threatening situation for a great many very anxious people.
It would also free up many of our overcrowded hospitals north of a Galway-Dublin line. A number of emergency departments have suffered ongoing gridlock during the first three months of the year, with many patients leaving before getting treatment. All the while, the number of managers appointed by the HSE continues to increase, while our young healthcare professionals emigrate to foreign lands to seek better pay and conditions.
Our new Taoiseach, a former health minister, is now in a unique position to address the problems in our health services, and deliver much needed improvements for some of the most vulnerable in our society.
Cloonacool, Co Sligo
Sending a clear signal to cyclists
As a driver, I wish to thank cyclists for their courtesy in signalling when the road ahead is free for overtaking. I would also like to remind them that final responsibility for this decision rests with the driver of the vehicle, and not with cyclists.
Many of our roads are narrow, winding and potholed. If cyclists expect drivers to give them a 1.5m berth, overtaking usually means moving entirely over to the other lane; especially as many cyclists continue to cycle two abreast. A driver may not have the visibility ahead enjoyed by cyclists in front of them. They may not be as free to hear the sound of oncoming vehicles. A driver may be more aware of the vagaries of their vehicle, whether it has the capacity to accelerate quickly enough to pass safely in the distance offered. Cyclists need to stick to cycling their bikes and stop being back- seat drivers as well.
It is truly irritating to observe cyclists getting impatient with drivers for not overtaking when the cyclist says so. If cyclists have any spare change left over after buying all the neon silks, tinted glasses, water bottles, bum bags etc, perhaps they could pick up a copy of the 'Rules of the Road'. They may learn that cyclists' hand signals to drivers are a courtesy - and not a legal imperative. If drivers feel it is safe to overtake you, they will.
Few drivers enjoy being stuck behind cyclists freewheeling along at 15kmh for mile after mile. Indeed, one might think cyclists would be thankful for drivers who don't race past.
Cyclists can also help by cycling single file, or best of all slowing down and pulling in so drivers can pass. Do please spread the word among your fellow cyclists. And if that's not enough, perhaps cyclists need to take up a different sport.
Name and Address with Editor
The same old tune
The 'new' Cabinet compared to a rock band...Status Quo?
Beaumont, Dublin 9
Take the hint, Commissioner
Now that it has reopened, maybe the Garda Commissioner should seek a transfer to Stepaside station (the clue is in the name).
Clonsilla, Dublin 15