Cassidy is the columnist who occupies page three and has been sometimes called The Voice of Ireland’s Own. He makes observations on life and death and all matters in between. He has his own down to earth wisdom and offers some homespun truths on characters and events that he comes across. He often offers some pearls of wisdom from his better half and from the Canon’s Sunday homilies. He touches on everything in its season – Christmas, Easter, planting and digging the spuds, the annual First Holy Communion and Confirmation rituals, the examinations, some of the current news controversies, and the big sporting events, with hurling holding a special place in his heart, all come under his scrutiny.

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My Purgatory

If I fail to dodge purgatory, I suspect I will be sentenced to one or more of the following: stuck in traffic jam for hours on end; put on a committee; or lined up in an endless queue.
Sometimes people say about the sick that they have put their purgatory over on ‘this side’, and when it comes to committees I have paid my dues. However, I’ve still to reconcile myself to the fact of traffic jams and queues of various sorts, finding it hard to describe them as anything but a shocking robbing of time, and designed to raise the blood pressure.

“I’ve a lot to learn,” says she, because “you don’t know how lucky you are with what passes for a traffic jam around here”, and “I’ve never know you to be in a queue for more than one hour.”

So you see, I’ve no ally there, and what she says is true, but there are different strokes for different folks.

First the traffic jam. Have you noticed Olwyn Foley and others on the traffic bulletins in the morning: ‘slow off the M50 at such-and-such an exit’, ‘horses causing delay on the Childers’ Road in Limerick’, ‘traffic heavy at the Jack Lynch tunnel’, in Cork.

Sometimes, even with their matter-of-fact voices, you’d think that it was a privilege to be in a car getting news that you are about to be caught in a traffic jam.

It happened to me on the N11, where they are doing a stretch to make it the M11. It’s a nice piece of engineering, but, on the day we had to cross it en route to Wicklow, it just happened that a ‘stop-go’ system went all ‘stop’ on our side.
Herself started to ‘hum hum’, and fiddle with the radio until she got Ronan Collins. I was fidgety and hot and sighing those deep sighs you make when you are highly frustrated. We were held up for forty minutes, to which she said ‘it could have been an hour’, but I felt I had put over another slice of my purgatory.

The last queue which I had to endure involved the local doctor, David.

The ‘Movember’ awareness of men’s health prompted me to go for the check-up. I wasn’t sick, as other poor cratures in the waiting room were. But I found the waiting frustrating. There was no cure, I had nothing to give out about, because a nicer middle-aged doctor you wouldn’t fine the length of the country.

Herself warned me I could be about an hour, so ‘bring a book, and don’t be annoying yourself’. Which I did, and as usual, she was right. And I got superb advice, and went home happy.

But I still hate queues. Or maybe it’s the waiting I hate, feeling I could be doing good and useful things instead of hanging about. I have a strategy now, thanks to herself: a relaxation tape in the car, a book in the waiting room. Purgatory still!

Read Cassidy every week in Ireland’s Own

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Walking the beach is good for my bodily and mental health. It’s a bit of a drive to get there, but I make a project of it maybe twice a month.

I prefer the morning, before the sand is disturbed by lots of walkers, and when the sun is dancing among the waves. And I like it when the tide is about half in, so that I can walk on firm sand.

This day anyway, a Monday, I took myself off early and arrived to see the waves still churning after the stormy winds of the night before.

The rumbling white horses were exhilarating, and the wind, though strong, felt warmer I think than it was because the sun was bouncing off me.

I stepped out vigorously, (maybe not so vigorously as I was ten years ago!), and headed off face against the wind. The tide was low, so there was no problem with firmness underfoot.

On I went with the sound of the ocean in my ears, and without a thought; I was right in the ‘now’. There is something very soothing about walking to the sound of waves, with an awareness of the wind and sun about you. I must have been totally absorbed in the walk because suddenly I was brought back to earth by the clumsy flapping of a wounded cormorant.

Poor creature. I thought at first he was resting, and that my absentminded arrival had panicked him, but no: he was in a bad shape, and was trying to make it back to the sea. Here’s how bad he was: his wings seemed as if they had been twisted back against the shoulder joints, and he tried to make forward progress by pushing with these and digging with his beak into the wet sand.

He was in bad shape, and I wished I had the guts to put him out of his misery by wrenching his neck: to tell the truth I was afraid of his beak. I left him, knowing nature will take its course. But that was only half the drama.

If I found the sick bird interesting, I got a positive treat from the antics of a seal trying to get back out to the deeper water. He or she wasn’t a pup, but was even less of an adult, a big pup if you like. He was a beautiful silvery grey creature, and I watched closely as he snuck down facing the breakers.

He had to get beyond the first two surges, and many times he was simply washed back in. He wasn’t aware of me, and the intensity of his focus on the task in hand intrigued me. It took fifteen minutes, and I saw him use a stronger back wash to give him the necessary traction to get out, and then he was gone.

Only on the way home did the thoughts kick in. How life is sprinkled with tough situations, like that of the bird, and successful achievements like that of the seal. And how we can be sad at the pain of the world, and joyful at the happy endings. 

Read Cassidy every week in Ireland’s Own