Marks & Spencer is set to open the doors of its new store in the Showgrounds Shopping Centre in Clonmel on Thursday, 25 June. The 23,000 sq ft facility will be the 20th Marks & Spencer in the Republic of Ireland and will be the company’s 40th store across the 32 counties. But not one of those stores is in Waterford even though the company was very keen to set up in the capital of the South East.

Marks & Spencer wanted to open a big store on the outer ring road but, in an effort to protect shopping in the city centre, the city council refused to alter its plans to permit food to be sold. The shop could sell clothes and all sorts of household goods on the outer ring road but not food. It is understood that Marks & Spencer offered to open a small store in the city centre to complement the bigger operation on the ring road but that compromise was rejected. It remains to be seen whether or not the city council was very wise or very foolish but I bet there will be no shortage of ‘W’ registered cars to be seen in the Clonmel car park throughout the summer.

No joy for Sinead and Black Daisy

And so, another year when Ireland failed to make it to the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. I felt sorry for Sinead Mulvey and Black Daisy because their song was quite good and they looked and sounded well. Of course I am old fashioned but I still think all the glitz, glitter and hectic razzamatazz could be overcome with a really good singer and a really good song. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, the people in RTE who organise the national competition don’t really facilitate the unearthing of such a song. They might well come up with one some year soon but I honestly believe there are fertile avenues not being explored.

Of course there was one huge Irish success at this year’s contest because the fabulous, breathtaking sets on the Moscow stage were designed and created by Irishman John Casey who began his career in RTE but is now based in New York.

Incidentally, Paddy Power Bookmakers revealed that only €7,000 in total was placed on Ireland to win this year compared to last year’s figure of over €100,000 on Dustin the Turkey! In a decent gesture, Paddy Power has decided to refund all the bets as some consolation to the patriotic punters who got behind Ireland. Meanwhile, Boylesports are offering odds of just 4/1 for Ireland to win the contest within the next five years and 12/1 for Johnny Logan to represent us next year.

Delinquent behaviour from protesting farmers

About seventy farmers converged on a Tesco supermarket in Tullamore last week where they disrupted the store’s business for a short period of time. The liquid milk producers arrived en masse and removed dairy products from fridge shelves dumping them into a large number of trolleys that were then chained together. When the protest was over, the supermarket staff was left with the tedious task of unlocking the trolleys and restocking the shelves.

The Chairman of Offaly IFA, Aidan Larkin, described the episode as ‘a minor token’ of their frustration and anger. Pointing out that farmers needed at least 32 cent a litre to break even, Mr. Larkin said his members were only being paid 26 or 27 cent a litre at present. As far as protests were concerned, people had seen nothing yet, he warned. Their backs were against the wall and, like any good hurling team, they would come out fighting, he vowed.

I can understand the frustration of the farmers in question and they would have my support and sympathy in their battle for a better deal for their milk. But the supermarket protest was wrong and does them no credit. They have done it many times before in various parts of the country and there is never a consequence in court because of it. However, if a couple of young lads from a local housing estate caused even half the same disruption, they would be branded as delinquents and the gardai would haul them up before the District Court in no time. It is very unfair but it appears that might is right and, while I’m at it, the same tolerance seems to apply to a number of other groups when it enters their heads to be stroppy towards the long-suffering general public. That old fashioned logic which says, if you upset the public enough they will put pressure on the government, simply doesn’t work anymore.

An alibi at any cost!

A well-heeled Waterford businessman developed a big interest in flying and it quickly became his passion, even more important in his life than golf that had been his previous No 1 pastime. So enthusiastic was he that he quickly passed all his pilot exams and, two weeks ago, he was presented with his ‘wings’. The very next day, he took delivery of his very own Cessna aircraft and, on Saturday last, he prepared to embark on his first solo flight in his very own plane.

Thomas thought long and hard about his flight-path and decided that he would fly over the Comeraghs as he had never seen the beautiful mountains from the air. Everything went according to plan but, to his amazement, as he zoomed in low over a little valley in the upper reaches of the mountains, he saw a landing strip. It was camouflaged on both sides and he only spotted it because of the particular angle he was negotiating at the time. “Bloody hell”, he thought, “this will be some story to tell the lads back at the airport.”

But then, Thomas reckoned his friends wouldn’t believe him without some proof so he took a decision to land on the airstrip and see at first hand what it was all about. It was a big mistake because, no sooner had he landed, than he was surrounded by soldiers pointing guns in his direction while, at the same time, a canopy was drawn over the landing strip. From the air, or from any other point in the Comeraghs, nothing could be seen.

Thomas was quickly handcuffed and frog-marched into a military base that had been dug into the side of the mountain where he learned that he had stumbled across a top-secret military installation run by the Irish Rangers in conjunction with the United Nations. He was interrogated and grilled while a garda check into his background was carried out and it was Sunday morning before the military chiefs were satisfied that Thomas was indeed a civilian pilot who just chanced upon the landing strip and not a spy or terrorist. He was then permitted to leave but not before he was threatened with spending the rest of his life in prison if he ever breathed a word about what he had seen.

Later that afternoon, the soldiers on duty were amazed when Thomas’ Cessna dropped out of the clouds again and landed on the supposedly top-secret landing strip. Again, the aircraft was surrounded by heavily armed Rangers who observed that there were two people in the cockpit, the pilot and a woman.

Emerging with his hands in the air, Thomas shouted at the commanding officer: “I don’t care what you do to me, you can torture me and put me in jail if you like but my wife is in the plane and I really need you to tell her where I spent last night.”