Four walls with shaky foundations

Friday the 13th, we should have bloody known. Especially given my penchant for often being ridiculously superstitious. Once that was the day when what used to be considered normal was halted quicker than rain stops hay, never mind play, gut feeling was that things might never be the same again.

Knowing that fact and accepting it, though, are twi astronomically different things. Did I take the situation well? Am I proud of the way it hit me? Absolutely not. However, considering that what have been the two most steadfast tenets of my life for as long as can be recalled – sport and farming – were more or less wiped from the agenda completely, hopefully there would at least some understanding of why the chaos caused by Corona would cause such emotional turmoil in this seat.

At this juncture, it should probably be pointed out that there were a multiplicity of extenuating circumstances which necessitated the drystock enterprise at home being put on ice. However, that does not make the sense of upset, withdrawal and, yes, failure, any less burdensome to carry. This should be the busiest and thus happiest time of the year. Alas, it is a world I don’t feel part of anymore, and though part of myself wants to believe I’ll get back to it, with every day that passes the reality is the likelihood of that happening becomes ever more remote.

Those were the days my friends…I thought they’d never end

People have always, out of kindness, and, doubtless, will continue by way of offering crumbs of comfort in this direction, insisted that x, y or z setback wasn’t my fault. In this case, though, their well intentioned interjections ring hollow.

Granted, others could and should have played their part a whole lot differently. And a lot sooner. But, as somebody that can read a football match better than Fergus Gibson can tell the future, I should’ve heard the train a-coming.

Had that been the case, or had the road ahead been clearer, structures could and would have been put in place to stabilise the locomotive on the tracks. Failing that, measures could’ve been taken to make the road less travelled at least seem more enticing.

Instead, there is nothing. Well, technically nothing. There have been diversions and they will be arrived at in due course. The point, though, is that, all my life, all I ever wanted to be was a farmer. Having that dream come true prompted the happiest seven years of my life.

There will eternally be gratitude to those who made it possible – Einstein wouldn’t be required to figure that out – but there is also very deep sadness now that the dream has been killed off by factors outside of my control. And without the opportunity to explore keeping the ship afloat even being explored. A case of people not seeing past the wheelchair in the most hurtful manner possible.

I won’t give up on the dream. I can’t. To do that would be the most devastating capitulation of all. Self inflicted too. They, whoever they may be, say that far away hills aren’t always greener. Mind you, right now, this corner would give anything to be anywhere away from base camp. A sort of ‘What I can’t see won’t hurt me’ smokescreen.

Not alone, I must add rapidly. The support, understanding and boundless patience of my beloved lady are a few of a handful of factors keeping these wheels just about turning. Among the others has been the fact that horse racing has returned – though even that has been bittersweet with spectators still prohibiited even though they are gradually being re-admitted in the UK.

BACK TO THE PAST TO FIND A WAY FORWARD

Come to think of it, the absurdity of not letting patrons return to the races is only magnified by the fact that spectators are allowed attend GAA matches. Those grounds are much more compromised for space than racecourses. Having said that, for once I find myself agreeing with the often irritating GAA President John Horan in his call for the minnimum number permitted to attend games to be increased.

While there may not be space commensurate with a race track, there would certainly be enough to allow increased numbers attend games. Especially given that medical sources yours truly was in contact with suggested that people were 17 to 20 times less likely to contract the virus if outdoors.

Anyway, even with GAA back but for me at least still not on the menu and racing still off limits, other avenues to maintaining some degree of sanity have had to be explored. Aside from the local RehabCare centre blessedly re-opening, it has been two cases of going back to the past to find a way forward.

Firstly, in the guise of the ROLLING DOWN MEMORY LANE series which was only meant to be one article but took on a whole life of its own. The other saving grace, made possible only due to the seemingly unending patience, support and inspiration of Mrs Boylan to be has been another instance of reviving an old family tradition.

If you haven’t twigged already from the direction of today’s journey, the devastation felt at being withdrawn from farming has been hard to quantify, never mind express. Nobody copped that more than Susie. Now, while searching through photos to put into an album for a family occasion not all that long ago, a few snaps of what was once the vegetable garden at home – and is now the premises in which what you are reading was produced were unearthed.

The said images appeares in this space not that long ago. Detailing how, as a means of easing the blow of other things that were going on, or more pointedly, weren’t, the good lady copped that something about the idea of growing vegetables lit a spark in the occupant of this seat.

Until, that is, silage season rolled around again. It may have been mentioned here previously that at the time the farming neighbours with whom greatest affinity always has been and God willing always will be maintained were at the first cut, I was prostrate in bed with the worst bout of illness to ever befall these creaky old bones. That’s saying something. Again, I’m drawn to an old adage gained from reading the masterly musings of the great Mr Houlihan – Those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. As if missing the first cut wasn’t bad enough, a mechanical failure in my own machine precluded me from rambling up as the follow-up harvest was being stowed away.

Given the tone our story so far has taken, the climatic change which facilitated the burgeoning of grass crops in the last few weeks gave rise to an emotionally harrowing situation whereby a visit had to be made to the neighbours – which never is, never has been and hopefully never will be an issue – by way of dealing with the overgrowth!

Cue a volcano of ruminating thoughts. Getting the lads to mow and deal with the crop was never going to be a problem. The tangle, however, arrived with the pondering as to whether it will ever be cut for self-use again.

Which is where the vegetables come in. Notwithstanding the fact that everybody needs some form of an outlet, an escape route, somewhere or something to get away from everything, the idea of veg growing seemed to double as not only doing that but also softening the blow of the stock being gone by thinking of it as vegetable farming. Farm diversification if you like. Which, worst case scenario, hopefully it might be going forward.

Many times over the years, mention has been made here of how the concept of the four walls of a house have offered this wordsmith strength and security at times when playing into the wind. The fact that the makeup of the walls can change and has had to in very poignant circumstances over the years has never been hidden either.

However, with farming and horse racing and GAA and, for a time, Rehab off the agenda, the four walls found themselves on very shaky foundations. Hence the veg growing quickly graduated from idea to passtime to vital refuge. Next step business opportunity? Let’s see.

GETTING BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY ‘OTHER FAMILY’

By now, most of you will know that, having been separated for the first eight weeks of the Lockdown, when Susie and I were reunited I wanted to make sure we would never be apart like that again. So a certain auld question was popped, and, blessedly the desirable response was instantly forthcoming!

That in itself promulgated a unique scenario meaning that what was once a calf shed was transformed into an unusual but terrific venue for an impromptu celebratory barbecue. The effect seeing all traces of agriculture forensically removed from the place had on your columnist hardly requires any further elaboration, but, what it also did was create an opportunity. From a personal perspective, all the available space planted the seed of developing a workshop type space for oneself.

To do what exactly? That still has to be decided but nothing is off the table at present. Speaking of which, in the very early stages of putting the new bolthole to use, some of the left-behind furniture from the shindig came in very handy when the first steps at decorating the place were being undertaken.

Boylan Talks Sport HQ – The Calfshed Inn

However, naturally enough, said garden furniture had to be returned to its rightful home. Well, most of it. Aside from one table, that is. Rather than being a problem, though, it presented a challenge to be embraced and attacked. Simply as accessible work space and indeed storage are an absolute necessity no matter what work we’ll be doing thence.

Initial inclinations were to shop online but, while there were a vast array of options out there which certainly would’ve catered for our needs, logistical harangues borne out of Corona related disruption necessitated thinking outside what are considered to be ‘normal’ – whatever that is – parameters.

The vegetable operation is a growing business venture

Or perhaps in this case it would be more appropriate to say inside the box. The above box, that is. Except, in the conventional sense, it’s not really a box. More a grow station or planter bench. A few lines back, no secret was made of the fact that the re-opening of the RehabCare centre was both needed and cherished. Very quickly after eventually giving in to the persuasion of my Occupational Therapist, Megan, and beginning to attend RehabCare, it became clear what I had in fact done was envelope myself in the care, support and assistance of another family.

A clan of which the Chieftain was the late Donie Fitzpatrick, who slipped away to the dart room in the sky just over a year ago. Having him there allowed me to settle in like a kid in a sweet shop. His passing left a void in my ‘other family’ that is difficult to articulate and impossible to fill. I also told ye about how the service being closed added incalculably to the sense of displacement felt when the Corona restrictions were at their worst.

Evidently though, the staff and some of my fellow service users have been following my gardening/vegetable adventures during lockdown because, minutes after my wheels rolled back in the door for the first time since Friday, March 13th, Declan Lynch, the handyman cum Jack-of-all-trades and his chief sidekick Tom Dunne suggested it would be possible to make not only a workbench similar to what I’d been looking online for but better, and also a planter box like the one pictured above.

Admittedly, the concept had never been heard of. But, in view of the fact that all of the crops planted by yours truly and partner were already in boxes and buckets and tubs, there was no discernible reason why what is basically a bigger version of same shouldn’t work similarly. In fact, hope and expectation would be that it should make the whole experience more authentic.

Reason being that what the planter basically is amounts to a larger, off-the-ground veg (or flower) growing box, in this case more than likely on wheels. Which, when full with top soil, or compost in our case, will greatly resemble a growing bed on the ground in a ‘normal’ garden. And, just as on a normal such plot or allotment, hopefully there might be an opportunity to divide up the growing space. Thus it will just afford us the opportunity to sow multiple crops in the same area, as with a regular tilled area in a garden. Or, put in a way more relatable to matters here at home, something like dad’s old vegetable garden which the boss had for many years taken exceptional pride in maintaining which was featured in this space not all that long ago https://boylantalkssport.com/2020/06/10/rolling-down-memory-lane-ep-12/

Anybody who has followed my vegetable-related output which began when the Corona-related restrictions were at their most debilitating will know that starting out on this particular journey the idea was to develop a hobby and/or possible business idea that could fill as much of the void left by sport and farming being both off the agenda in this corner at the moment.

Adding the workbench and planter only broadens such aspirations as – with both going to be mobile it means, naturally, they will be able to be put to use inside and outside the shed. Which is not only ideal but sort of essential as it means, akin to farming, I will have something to keep me occupied and distracted all year round.

THIS LEOPARD HAS NO INTENTION OF CHANGING HIS SPOTS

The following lines were actually meant to appear in the last section but I was infected by not so much writer’s block as a brain freeze. One which staring at the laptop for several of the early hours failed to remedy.

Anybody who saw the last VLOG posted here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ae3eXSnaGzM&t=9s hardly needs any further illustration of what farming means to me. Always has done. Always will. This Leopard has no intention of ever changing his spots.

Andrew Clarke cutting winter barley on the first day of the 2020 Harvest

However, the poignancy of getting out to see a bit of this year’s action will never be lost on me. As if the change in my own farming circumstances wouldn’t be enough for me to process in the mind at present, the fact that this will most likely be the final time the rattle of trailers will be heard in the location in question compounded what can only be described as the emotional devastation at the aforementioned turn of events.

Yes, similar sentiments were felt and expressed in this space exactly a year back, but, seeing certain parcels of land now infestesd with gawdy looking constructions underpins the gut feeling that this time we may be at the point of no return.

That realisation in itself germinated the same inner conundrum which prevailed this time last year. Wanting to be out in the middle of it all but overcome with heartache knowing it will most likely be the final fling in the dearly loved old spot. At least this year, with the help of upgraded technology and a wonderful woman that has made my life enjoyable and taken it to places never considered possible, if it turns out that the abomination that will be another swarm of houses transforms the grand old spot to a swamp of concrete ugliness, at least there will be moving and fitting reminders of the way it used to be and still should be.

Gold dust…

That, however, doesn’t fill the indescribable void left by farming being out of the picture for me. As the headline over the piece produced this time last year said, soon all I’ll have left are the memories. And, treasured as the recollections are and forever will be, to even contemplate that whole part of my life being permanently over would leave me heartbroken in such a manner that nothing would ever be likely to come close to.

For that reason it won’t be allowed to happen. It can’t. What form my farming life will take hereafter I’ve about as much idea as a cow has about Bank Holidays. But there will be a future in that facet of life no more what it takes to bring it to fruition because proceeding upon life’s journey without farming therein isn’t about to even be pondered.

PICKING TEAMS FOR THE MOST IMPORTANT MATCH OF ALL

In the meantime, mercifully, it appears there will be plenty to keep the mind and body occupied. Whether that involves actually going to sporting events or not remains to be seen. Obviously, finishing off the shed and getting as much value as is possible via veg growing and Lord knows what other business ventures can emerge from within.

There’s also the daunting yet intoxicating prospect of getting not one but what has now become two more books published sooner rather than later. Then, of course, there’s the not so small matter of picking the teams for the most important match of all. And putting the best foot – or wheel in my case – forward for that.

Having said that, all of the above seems a good bit away yet. Not just for what might be deemed the obvious reason either. Unlike Colm O’Rourke, I wouldn’t be mentally or physically strong enough to go into an All Ireland Final half fit.

Before any of that appears on the menu though, what can be only described as reclaiming some of the past which was stolen by circumstance looms on the horizon. The four walls are being rebuilt again. These wheels will keep on turning.

At peace in the fields of gold

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