My ears pricked up this week when I heard the news that the first ever commercial flight into outer space had been completed successfully but, incredibly, one of the fully paid up passengers had to miss out because of a prior engagement.
How can someone reportedly pay millions of dollars to be on that trip only to pull out because their diary was double booked for that particular day!?
During the radio coverage, the presenter asked if any listeners ever had to miss a special occasion for a similar reason and my mind immediately swung to the Isle Of Man TT races in the early 90s.
As per usual, I was there with my late great friend Robert Dunlop and one morning a guy called at our workshop at the bottom of Bray Hill in Douglas with a strange but lovely request.
It so happened that Status Quo — one of our favourite bands at the time — were also on the island to play a massive one-night outdoor gig at Nobles Park. It transpired that Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt were big motorbike and Dunlop fans and they wanted Robert down for a photoshoot the day before the gig.
So, with our Honda RC30 superbike in full race mode, minted and polished to perfection, off Rob and I went on the short journey with the bike in the back of the van and, once we got through security, there were the ‘Quo’ lads standing waiting and I honestly believe they were even more excited than we were.
After the normal intros and formalities, out came the superbike and from memory it was Francis Rossi who first sat on it for the photographer quickly followed by Rick Parfitt and, believe me, those lads were like kids in a sweetie shop.
Then it was our turn and we got on stage with Rob perched on the drums and me strumming a guitar and the craic was 90 — they were truly superb and grounded, normal lads.
It was when we were getting ready to leave that they asked if Rob and I would like to be special VIP back stage guests for the gig and, of course, the answer was an emphatic yes!
However, the day of the show was also the day we were due to go testing our temperamental and somewhat problematic 250cc machine at Jurby airfield and, as fate would have it, we experienced an engine seizure, so it was back to the garage in Douglas for a full engine strip down and rebuild so that we’d be ready for the following day’s 250TT race.
With the clock ticking, time was obviously of the essence.
I will never forget Rob and I working away on what was a glorious summer’s evening spent outside the garage listening to the distant sound of the Quo blasting out one hit after another... all the while our VIP passes hung side by side on a nail above the garage bench.
We never ever got the chance to see the lads again to apologise for our non-appearance so, in a funny old way, I suppose I can identify with the guy who missed out on his history making flight to space — just about.
I’m delighted to see my good friend Roy Carroll installed as the Northern Ireland international goalkeeping coach following the departure of Steve Harper.
This is a great appointment by the Irish Football Association because not only is Roy qualified on the coaching theory side of the game but he has also served his country with great distinction on the playing front as well — and that matters to me.
The big Enniskillen lad has also played club football at the very highest level for a lengthy time, so it really was a no brainer as far as I’m concerned.
I don’t mind admitting I was somewhat surprised that he didn’t get the post first time round when Harper got the nod instead. I thought then that Roy would have been the perfect fit.
I don’t give a damn who it angers or pleases but it’s my firm belief that, provided a local man ticks all the boxes and meets all of the criteria on the candidacy papers, then give him the job.
As that old saying goes, however, if at first you don’t succeed then try and try again — and that’s exactly what Roy did, and I know he will carry out his new duties with great pride and passion.
Make no mistake about it, the players will totally respect Roy, as will the Green and White Army. They will all know where his heart lies.
We now also have the likes of highly respected former internationals Aaron Hughes and Gareth McAuley involved within the coaching infrastructure in our international scene and surely that has to make sense and be good for the future.
It was an honour and an absolute pleasure for me to be asked to host the official opening of the new state-of-the-art clubhouse and dressing room facilities at Ballyvea Football Club on Friday.
Nestled at the foot of the Mourne mountains on the outskirts of Kilkeel, the picturesque setting for this junior club and its football teams is absolutely stunning. I was blown away by its beauty.
It was so refreshing to marvel at what can be achieved by hard work and then to avail of the superb hospitality that you always tend to get at this level of football and the clubs involved — and at Ballyvea on Friday, it was par excellence.
This club is full of good people, genuine football people who are doing their absolute best on a voluntary basis to provide the best sport and community hub facilities they possibly can — and by goodness Ballyvea have really excelled in this department with their magnificent newly completed project.
It was also nice that such a large crowd turned up for the occasion, which showed a ringing endorsement and appreciation by the local community, and boy can they be proud of the club’s achievement.
The official opening itself was performed by the new Irish Football Association President Conrad Kirkwood and I was also mightily impressed by how he handled himself on what I gather was his very first official engagement in his new role.
Judging by the reaction to what he had to say in his Q&A with me afterwards, he was more than well received by everyone present.
It’s only right that I say a big thank you to club Chairman Trevor McConnell, secretary David Crutchley and indeed everyone at Ballyvea FC for their extremely warm welcome.
I wish them all every success, they certainly deserve it.