Ten wonderful things that happened – and I didn’t need a bucket list. I was just lucky. Charmed. Blessed.

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That hot air balloon trip in South Africa was extraordinary

If I had had a bucket list 50 years ago, these are some of the things I would have put on it.

 

  1. To stand on the roof of the World Trade Centre. I did that in 1980. We were told that visitors could only stand outside on the roof if the wind was below, I think he said, 4mph. So we stood there, looking at the electric fence which was, in fairness, quite a distance from the edge. It was all going fine until someone asked the guard about Philippe Petit who had walked from one tower to the other on a tightrope six years earlier. The guard began to describe it. My knees started shaking and I left.
  2. We were in South Africa for the Rugby World Cup of 1995. We stayed briefly in at Sun City which was as boring a place as I’ve ever been in. Someone mentioned a hot air balloon trip over a nearby safari park. It was £100 a head and it would be our own money, not expenses, which funded it. Really. We did it and it was absolute magic. But when we started to descend and suddenly the pilot shouted: “Sit down, sit down, sit facing the rear, backs facing the front. Hurry, hurry. I think we might clip a tree, we’re very low.” Sure enough, we heard branches scrape the bottom of the balloon’s basket as we came in to land. We landed safely and thanked the pilot. And then I said I had one question. “Fire ahead Paddy.” “Do you always clip the tree?” I asked him. He looked away and he looked back and he stared me in the eye. And he smiled. “Yep. Whenever we can, we clip the tree!” Ah, sure don’t we love the bit of drama.
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The road from Louisburgh to Leenane – simply breathtaking.

3. It was only a couple of years ago that a few of us went to stay in a house in Louisburgh County Mayo. A beautiful park of the world. Old Head Beach, the Reek – just stunning scenery everywhere. Then one day, we decided to drive from Louisburgh to Leenane. God Almighty. Talk about stunning, beautiful, breathtaking. That road is all of those things.

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Sunset in Renvyle. Almost indescribable

4. The following year we stayed for a week in Renvyle. We were lucky. The weather was beautiful. One evening, we went for a walk. It was just sunset. And, to be honest, all I can say is that I hope you get to see it sometime.

5. A friend loaned us a holiday home in a place called Aniane in the Languedoc region of France for a couple of weeks for a few summers. Unspoilt. In the beautiful Herault valley. A couple of brilliant vineyards nearby. One good pub. A couple of nice café/restaurant. And the people, so friendly and helpful (once they established you were “Irlandais” and not “Anglaise.”)

6. On the same trip to South Africa as the hot air balloon flight myself and Mick Mackey took the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. And having gone all that way we felt obliged to have a beer in the little café/bar at the top. The waiter who served us told us he was from Nenagh. Turned out, my aunt had taught him in school. Small world. And the view? Defines indescribable!

7. It was the late eighties when Gay Byrne announced that he would be doing a week of shows from Australia. I was despatched to do stories about the stories he was doing. Apart from getting the scoop about his crew almost drowning and having to be rescued off Bondi Beach, I got the chance to stand with Gay and have a chat with him on Sydney Harbour Bridge. Memorable.

8. Mid sixties and my scout troop, the 77th Blackrock College Troop took us on a summer trip. We went to London, Munich, Innsbruck, La Spezia in Italy, Greenoble and home. Magic. Five countries in two weeks for a bunch of 14 year olds. We even survived getting split up on our way from Innsbruck to La Spezia – because we didn’t realise that the train split up in Milan. Even without mobiles, which were forty years away, we managed to reunite and get on with the trip.

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The Blaskets. Take the day trip. You won’t regret it.

9. The Blasket Islands. I always had a fascination with the islands. I read all the books – in Irish! Not sure I could do that now! Anyway I finally got to go there a few years ago which is just as well because I’m not sure health would allow a trip now. Memorable. What a place. Mind boggling that people lived there and worked there and spent winters there. Bleak. Remote. Cut off for months. But oh, how beautiful the islands are. And how beautiful the “mainland” looks from An Blascóid Mór. Take the day trip if you get the chance. You will definitely not regret it.

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The Beatles plaque. Lord Mayor Nial Ring with the late, great Gay Byrne

10. Very personal…I’m a Beatles fan and I never understood why there was no plaque on the old Adelphi building – now Arnotts on Middle Abbey Street – to commemorate the one and only time the biggest band in history played in Dublin. I mean, there’s a plaque to Handel on Fishamble Street commemorating the first performance of the Messiah and rightly so. Well, there’s a plaque to the Beatles now because with the help of Mary Freehil and the co-operation of Arnott’s it was unveiled 18 months ago by Lord Mayor Nial Ring and Gay Byrne, the first man to interview them on television and the man who told us after unveiling the plaque, he turned down the chance to be their manager.

 

That’s the list that might have been.

I am blessed that I didn’t need a bucket to put it in, everything on it just happened.

 

(Just by the way, I have a separate bucket for the best sporting moments I’ve seen live. And NONE of my buckets are full.  If I have one ambition, it’s to find lots more to put in them! And of course, if I was to include the arrival of Charlotte into my life – she’d be 1-10 inclusive!)

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