COLM TOBIN: Watch out, cos Wild Atlantic Wally is coming to a head near you this summer

May 1st, 2022 5:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

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WHERE exactly is the line when you know you have crossed the threshold from youth to middle age? How do you know it, what are the telltale signs and how do you ward against it? Is it when you start licking your thumb to turn the page of a newspaper? Is it when you give up on your dreams to play for Cork, even if you’re already fifteen years beyond your sell-by-date? Is it when you start investigating more radicalised forms of yoga?

Every second newspaper article these days seems to point to the fact that fifty is the new forty. Or sixty is the new fifty. Or eighty is actually now the new thirty because you’ll need to live to be eighty in order to cobble together a deposit for that one-bedroom apartment in the outskirts of Bandon. So it’s harder all the time to figure out exactly when middle age begins.

I remember when each passing year became a thing of horror, specifically around the late twenties, and 27 seemed oceans away from 25. You’d be frantically googling what other people had achieved at that point in their lives and feverishly comparing it to your own inadequate career trajectory. Brian Wilson was 23 when he wrote and produced Pet Sounds and there I was wandering the roads of West Cork in a knackered Ford Fiesta trying to figure out what to do next.

But as the years go by, the numbers become less important. I am now at the ripe old age when I genuinely have to Google my date of birth every year to figure out what age I am. This might seem pathetic to you. But to me, the freedom from the tyranny of the number is a beautiful thing.

I have, though, begun to notice middle age creeping in via the back door, and it pops up in ways you’d never quite expect. These are signs to watch out for.

Firstly, it was the gardening and the cultivation of vegetables. Now, this might seem like a healthy, innocuous thing that a person of any age could enjoy. But there’s something about being out in nature with your hands in the dirt, noticing the minute changes in light from season to season, losing yourself in the weeds, that makes more sense as you get older and wiser.

It starts with a parsley plant here, and a well-tended flower bed there. But before you know it, you are scaling walls to prune clematis and creating your own plant feed from comfrey leaves while the rest of your peers roam half-cut around the grounds of the Electric Picnic.

And even more concerning is how happy you are about it.

Another worrying development to watch out for is when you begin to nurture an interest in local history. In my case, this symptom has emerged in the form of a renewed interest in the history of the place where I grew up. This has now developed to such an extent that I have been dragging my poor wife and children around the furthest reaches of West Cork whenever the schools close, to satisfy my new addiction to learning more about the fascinating history of this little corner of Ireland. Wild Atlantic Wally is how I’ve come to refer to myself, with little objection from the family.

And so it was, this Easter holidays, that we decamped to wonderful Sheep’s Head Peninsula where I could indulge my urge to wax lyrical about the O’Mahonys of Dunmanus Castle or the calamitous French invasion of Bantry Bay in 1796. The kids were happy to listen to me in exchange for ice cream and lots of beach time and my wife patiently patted me on the head as I enthusiastically recounted tales of pirate ships alighting in Baltimore. She understands I need to work through whatever it is I’m experiencing, and I suppose it’s better than leather pants.

I’m not writing off going back to Electric Picnic one day to relive my youth, or maybe even quitting the day job and buying a Ford Fiesta to make a break for Ahakista for old time’s sake.

Knowing me, and Patridge

SPEAKING of middle-aged oddballs, I had the pleasure of going to see Steve Coogan playing Alan Partridge in the 3 Arena last weekend, where I proceeded to laugh like a drain for two hours. What a show.

Fans of the TV series were not disappointed and there was even a special guest appearance by Coogan’s amazing Irish rebel character Martin Brennan, who tore the house down.

On my way home, I happened to read online that Macron had defeated Le Pen in the French Presidential election, a much-needed boost for the middle ground of politics across Europe, and a sigh of relief for those of us worried about the extremist threats of Le Pen, Putin and, heaven forbid, Trump Mark II.

A good night for centrist Dads then.

But you’d wonder, how long the centre can really hold for in a world as fractured as ours? I’m not worrying about it today though, I don’t have the time for all that.

If you want him, Wild Atlantic Wally will be in the garden planting Japanese kale and planning his next trip out West


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