Recently, a piece was encountered somewhere which described depression as the ‘black dog’. Having all too regularly and exasperatingly been visited by bouts of the oppressive condition, cognisance of the difficulty that exists in even attempting to affix rational explanations to matters when under what would more aptly be titled the ‘black cloud’ is readily available.
Associating canines with its negative constraints doesn’t sit well however. For, my dearly beloved Labrador Buddy is not only one of my strongest allies but also my secret – or not so much – weapon in keeping the battle towards emerging from under cloud cover in perpetual motion.
There are others, of course. Regular visitors to this space will hardly require reminding as to the other significant ones. Writing, sport and farming. Perhaps relief is attained best when all three ingredients are infused into an omelette which is not so much tasty as nourishing to the mind.
Overlapping of interests between sporting codes is nothing new. Michael Lyster, who referees, eh, anchors, The Sunday Game is an avid motorsport enthusiast while several other influential figures from GAA and various other sports are known to be more than partial to a bit of interest in the bloodstock sector.
Now, it’s probable – though highly uncertain – that in terms of farming the strongest binds are to our national games. Known to me, there are several current and former Meath players actively involved in the agriculture sector. It was often said that every team needs a farmer and, if the following yarn is true, it’d be interesting to see has anyone put in as good a dual shift in a day as did Liam Harnan who – allegedly at least – turned hay on the morning of the fourth game with Dublin in 1991.
It came back to mind recently that, locally at least, there once existed equally strong links between gardening and GAA. Terming it vegetable or fruit farming would equate in most cases to the application of an unnecessary amount of elastic. That said, none other than Sean Boylan provided bountiful employment in times past at the time of fruit harvest while at least one local farmer did likewise at a time when potatoes were lifted by hand.
On a smaller scale, there were a number of people who, as far as can be recalled, provided sustenance to a considerable swathe of the local community via the contents of their respective gardens. In this instance, I need look no further than the garden of the ancestral family home.
It, in memory only now sadly, remains one of my favourite places on earth. The old apple tree and the two stone gate peers are all that remain. At its peak though, my late uncle Jimmy kept a renowned garden from which many feasts for family and friends and neighbours alike were generated. All manner of vegetables seemingly populated the spacious garden at its zenith. Most profound memories abide of the apple tree and the seemingly never ending supply of rhubarb therein.
To my profound regret, Jimmy – who was Treasurer of St Peter’s GAA Club for 33 years – passed on a year and a bit before I parked up on the planet. His legacy was undoubtedly the reason the role as club PRO – which was my life’s blood for 11 treasured years – was taken on. Setting out, the initial intention was to try and better Jimmy’s longevity of service, but, then, nobody knows what way the road will turn.
Apart from the GAA aspect however, it’s probably the case that the vegetable garden which once dominated part of the homestead after his passing owed its existence to his tradition of doing so. A tractor and plough would be borrowed from Pat Clarke (apparently, my grandfather, Patsy Geoghegan originally ploughed it with a grey Ferguson 20) to ready the garden for the planting of potatoes, cabbage, turnips, onions, lettuce, scallions and possibly other delectable things.
Indeed, the greatest clarity of memory surrounds scallions and lettuce being grown under disused windows surrounding by a border of concrete blocks and polythene. Those very recollections were actually what turned thoughts to another link between GAA and gardening. Namely, the late Jim Reilly, All Ireland winner of 1954, maintaining a greenhouse that was famed locally.
Well now, it’s a case of going back to the past to look after the future. Future meals at least. A patch of grass has been tilled and spuds, scallions and lettuce sown thence. Hope would be that things might be expanded a bit further, relatively speaking, so as to facilitate a more active interest therein for yours truly. Greatest satisfaction, mind you, is derived from the upkeep of a family tradition into another generation.