A sad day yesterday. We gathered to say our farewells to Andy who died long, long before his time. We … we means Andy’s wife, Nicola, and his two little girls .. and the group of friends with whom Andy and Nicola went to university .. and the friends from the Mother and Toddler Group who wheeled their buggies into church .. and Andy’s parents Leslie and Maureen .. and Nicola’s family ..
And because Andy grew up in Portadown, we sort of encountered a solid wall of Portadown at its best. I don’t know whether Easyjet put on an extra flight. But they were all there. And I thought again about the specialness of a stable community. Forget the bad stuff for which Portadown used to be famous. A settled community – big enough not to be claustrophobic and small enough for close friendships to be nurtured over 20 or 30 years. And it is gifted with humour which makes no attempt to blunt the impact of a dreadful moment but somehow makes it bearable. When you see that kind of unconditional friendship, there is nothing to compare with it.
To move sideways for a moment, this must be one of the first funerals at which both ‘Once in Royal’ and ‘The Fields of Athenry’ were sung. But then one of the wonderful paradoxes of Ireland is that, while rugby is strong in the protestant community in Northern Ireland, it is an all-Ireland game. So Portadown Rugby Club has been a model of cross-community enterprise. And when Lansdowne Road reopens, they’ll all be there cheering for the men in green. You couldn’t invent it.
As I have been emerging from the sporadic feverishness of the flu, I thought you might be interested in some of my more interesting dreams – but maybe that will be too much information.