For the last long few months we as a nation have been drowned in ghoulish details of COVID-19 related deaths and case numbers.
We’ve been alarmed by the reproduction number and saddened to hear stories we never envisaged about death, loss and smothered grief.
Being selfish about it, as my family and I are living in the countryside; on a superficial level, at least we’re sheltered from the virus and its variants.
It’s nature and the weather that pokes us in the ribs rather than COVID-19. We stayed within the 5km, but what a 5km it is. The sky is different every day and I’ve come to realise there are a million shades of green rather than the prescribed 40.
The pizzas themselves are to die for but the COVID-19 dagger to my heart strikes when I pass Cooney’s, a pub in the nearest townland
No, the only time I get really upset about COVID-19 is on Saturday evenings. It hits me when I go outside the 5km on the pizza run. When I leave the house the car smells like a hotel and on the return trip it stinks like a greasy spoon diner on a back street in Perugia, Italy.
The pizzas themselves are to die for but the COVID-19 dagger to my heart strikes when I pass Cooney’s, a pub in the nearest townland. There’s a church, a school, a huge GAA grounds and – nestled to the right on the road in, the left on the way home – there’s Cooney’s.
I’ve a funny attitude to the drink myself
It’s shut up, dark and dreary, and it would break your heart to see it. Up to just over a year ago it was the home of solace, a place that could make people make sense of suffering, but also a place of fun. Not now.
I’ve a funny attitude to the drink myself. When I was a young man I was, as the Aussies would put it, “a none or gutful type”, but these days I know my limits. Still though, for a split second as I pass Cooney’s I have a thirst on me I would not sell for all the tea in China.
I’ve never actually been inside Cooney’s myself, but as I drive past I can picture myself walking in there. I reckon there’s a little porch you walk through and when you push open the second door there’s a bar, beer taps, beer mats on table and lots of drinky smells.
If and when I do walk in I know a few heads will turn. Its clientele is almost entirely made up of farmers and I know I would stick out like a sore thumb townie.
Folks in these parts respect the soil and love it too, but love can break your heart
When I was in Dublin I was aware of farmers but it’s only since I moved here that my admiration for them has grown. It was written that: “It is impossible to have a healthy and sound society without respect for the soil.”
Folks in these parts respect the soil and love it too, but love can break your heart. Hardy men and women ploughing lonely furrows. I can’t imagine how much they miss Cooney’s of a Saturday, or indeed, any other night.
Days gone by
I often wonder too what stories are hidden in the walls of that little place. By the look of the house it’s there over a hundred years. A men only bar at first, you’d think. The only draught was the one that came under the door.
Young enlisted local lads would have had their last pints in there before they were shipped off to the horrors of the front in Flanders, everyone supping and looking at their shoes and sawdust.
You’d have thought too that the place was turned over a few times by the forces of the Crown and defiantly put back together again.
Over the years Cooney’s must have been hopping when the hurlers and footballers brought home the trophies
There would have been wakes too: “Taken too early, God bless her,” and pints the night before the wedding, the groom nervous about the first dance and the first night.
There would have been the ‘put the world to rights’ evenings when everything was sorted but the solutions were lost the following day with the hangover.
Over the years Cooney’s must have been hopping when the hurlers and footballers brought home the trophies. Blood spilt on the turf and drink flowing in the bar.
Not just pints though, you’d have your Taylor Keith drinkers too, they didn’t need the grape or the grain.
There would have been the awkward “it’s not you it’s me” drinks and the blissful marriage proposal rounds too.
Smiles, tears and silence all played out on this tiny stage
Sadly too there would have been the nights when folks drank alone in a corner, drinking too well and not too wisely, when the drink ruled the drinker, rather than the other way around. This all happened within Cooney’s walls. Smiles, tears and silence all played out on this tiny stage.
Days yet to come
When I pass Cooney’s on the way into town it looks sad and lonely but when you see it on the road back it’s utterly consumed by shadow. Darkness and shadow where there should be laughter, gossip and grouching about the crops and adjusted acres, but, most of all, fun.
It’ll all change, but change won’t come soon enough.
I never cared for the bucket list notion but I know what’s top of my list: a pint in Cooney’s on a Saturday evening.
I want to be there when the general conversation pauses as people here the Match of the Day theme and then the noise rises up again, returning to the bangs and lols once Gary Lineker starts talking.
A pint. And, God willing, maybe another.
After all, a bird never flew on one wing.
Anthony Morrissey is a retired civil servant who started out writing about cricket, but now writes about what’s outside his front door – the Irish countryside. He moved from Dublin some 18 months ago to Wexford and he and his family love their new life there.