Mam is adamant.

“I want a sup of tea with my friend Bridie while she’s still alive. Bring me up to the Loop, Ann, before I go ‘round the bend. We both have the two jabs so what are we going to get off each other only the gossip?”

The Loop is Kilsudgeon’s greenway. After they took away the bad bend near the river, there was a shkelp of old road left and a path along the bank. But it was held up for years because about a foot of it cuts through Mitchy Mooney’s lower yard and he wanted big money. It even made The News.

We park in the lay-by at one end of it and walk down towards the river to where there are a few benches and an horsebox thing that Johnny The Pub has set up. He got raided when the guards found out the “Entrepreneurship Hub” he set up in the Lounge was only oul lads drinking pints next to computers. He’s on the coffee now.

We sit down and I get the tea and an apple turnover for Mam. She’s mad for sweet things these days.

“What’s the point in me minding my health,” she says, “if I can be snuffed out like that because of some oul virus that you’d get off a sheep.”

I don’t know where she’s getting sheep from. Maybe that’s next year’s one.

Coffee, it looks like. On a whim, I take a sniff of it. Dhrink

Bridie arrives and they hug. It’s fierce odd to see it. Like they’re mauling each other. But it isn’t just Bridie. Before long, I see more and more of the over 75s. Skipping in, nearly. Who’s after organising this? Do they have a WhatsApp group or what? It can’t be Mam. She calls it WhatIsIt. When I look back, someone has put a new cup in front of Mam. Coffee, it looks like. On a whim, I take a sniff of it. Dhrink.

“Hold your whisht, Ann,” says Mam.

I look at the horsebox. Sure enough, Johnny is putting a dash of something into nearly every cup. The volume of talk goes louder. A banjo starts up. It’s Felix Fuohy. He starts out low, but soon he’s belting out The Brave Boys of Kilsudgeon.

I get a WhatsApp myself. It’s Denis.

“Ann, Ronan Tunley on the way to the loop to do a report about vaccine bonus.”

RTÉ’s fecking Middle of Nowhere correspondent on his way here! And he specialises in sniffing out people who aren’t keeping to the rules. He was in Clannwelsh last month talking to a fella about illegal tennis and your man sweating away in shorts trying to hide a racket. There’s a full scale over-75s hooley going on here. There’s even a set dance starting up.

Ronan is starting the loop. He can’t see the craic yet, but he will soon

I scuttle up towards the carpark and, sure enough, five minutes later, there’s an RTÉ van pulling in. Feck. We’re trapped.

I go back down the road, looking over my shoulder. Ronan is starting the loop. He can’t see the craic yet, but he will soon. Maybe I can get Mam out of it and save what’s left of the family name.

“WE’RE ON THE ONE ROAD,” sings Felix. Then I hear the roar of an engine. Mitchy Mooney is driving a slurry spreader up towards Ronan. He gets out.


Mitchy is not happy about something.

“YE SAID I WAS BLOCKING THE GREENWAY. I WAS NOT,” says Mitchy, with his tractor blocking the greenway.

Ronan is pure distracted now. I get down and gently ease Mam out of the Kenmare Polka and tell her the fun police are here. The word spreads. Johnny starts handing out real coffee. By the time Ronan gets down to us, we’re all socially distant and you could put the slurring down to age. Ronan mustn’t be happy with what he gets from us. We don’t make The News tonight.