My career as a journalist has been, em, unspectacular. The time I was sent to cover the racing festival at Cheltenham and missed the fact that half the grandstand collapsed is somehow typical.
Whatever facility I have for writing and editing, no one would accuse me of being a threat to the reputations of Woodward and/or Bernstein.
It’s not that I haven’t been in the right place at the right time, because I have. It’s just that I never seem to have the right accreditation, or no one tells me what’s happening, or I’m looking the other way at the time.
Take the time a few years back, in Connemara. There I was, just outside Clifden, resting, yet alert to any newsworthy occurrence.
Yet somehow, Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson were in and out like a shot, and I didn’t hear about it until they were safely on the plane back to the States.
At one stage, we even drove past their movie set, in Roundstone. “Oh look, some sort of film thing is going on,” said my wife.
“Blocking up the bloody road,” I said, looking the other way.
Then I hear that the Friends star, plus three friends and a minder, arrived in Shannon by private jet, took a helicopter to Connemara, stayed for a two-day shoot and then left by chopper again.
It gets worse. She, her three friends and the minder stayed in Ballinahinch Castle. Yes, that’s the same Ballinahinch bloody Castle I was just at that very moment doing some research into regarding its connections to the glorious game of cricket.
I was practically a world expert on the place. I felt like I should have been asked up to dinner, to provide sparkling conversation sprinkled with historical allusions.
I could have told her about the great Indian Prince Ranjitsinghi, who bought Ballinahinch after spending a summer there in 1924.
She would have listened, enthralled, as I explained that Ranji, as he was known locally, was once a great batsman, taking the world of English Test and county cricket by storm in the 1890s and early 1900s.
She would have let her hand linger on my forearm as I described Ranji’s meeting with the Irish delegation at the League of Nations, his subsequent visit to Ballinahinch, and his many summers fishing the streams and rivers of the fishery there.
A gasp would have escaped her lips as I mentioned the mysterious Mrs Williams, “companion” to Ranji for 13 years, who accompanied him to Ballinahinch in the summer, and returned with him every winter to the Indian state of Nawanagar, where he bore the magnificent title of Jam Saheb.
She would have gestured with her head towards the stairs. But I, of course, would have been looking the wrong way
Firelight would have played on her upturned face (we have moved to the drawing room now) as I told of Ranji’s generosity to the locals, his support for the Galway-Clifden railway (which stopped at Ballinahinch), and the great hauls of fish he cajoled from the river – 154 salmon and 504 sea trout in the summer of 1926, according to Ranji’s own fishing log, many caught from the spot that is now known as Ranji’s rock.
A tear would have slid down her cheek as I described Ranji’s political and financial problems in India, the descent into madness of his great friend and fellow batsman C B Fry, and finally his own death at Jamnagar Palace in 1933.
Then she would have gestured with her head towards the stairs. But I, of course, would have been looking the wrong way.