John Arnold: Watch Love Island? No thank- you — I’m already spoken for!

Maybe it’s light entertainment and only escapism of a simple nature, but John Arnold says he won't be watching Love Island this summer
John Arnold: Watch Love Island? No thank- you — I’m already spoken for!

Love Island 2021 contestants. Picture: ©ITV. 

IF I was 48 years younger, would I try and get on Love Island?

Somehow I doubt it, ’cause in the first place islands conjure up a lot of water in my mind and I wouldn’t be the greatest advocate of deep water at all, at all. Driving under the River Lee gives me palpitations and complications.

Apparently they (whoever ‘they’ are!) call it reality television though, and again I speak in total ignorance here, but it’s anything but realistic.

Now, let me confess at the outset that I wouldn’t be a great television viewer at the best or worst of times. OK, over the years, if I was unable to attend major GAA games around the country, I’d be satisfied to be an armchair viewer. Take next Saturday night’s hurling match between Cork and Limerick for example.

Due to the ongoing Covid restrictions, a crowd of just over 2,000 will be in attendance in what they call ‘a trial event’.

I looked forward to being stowed early and watching the Rebels take on the All Ireland Champions in the safety and comfort of our own home. Sadly, though, I’ll have to do with the wireless commentary as the game is not available as they say ‘free to air’.

I think we have about six television channels, plenty really, but the Munster semi-final is not on any of these. Sure, that’s how the GAA treat us, like dirt really, but then I suppose us grassroots should be used to dirt and plenty of it!

I digress, however, from the possibility that in my youth I could have been on Love Island. I must make a frank and open disclosure at this stage — I have never seen an episode of Big Brother, Love Hate, Normal People or the aforementioned Love Island.

It’s not that I’m prudish, straight-laced or have a censorial attitude. No, not at all, but programmes that sensationalise normality with copious does of effing and blinding, too much exposed flesh and blood-letting are not just my cup of tea.

I’m not taking the moral high ground or anything like that, nor moralising on right and wrong and good end evil. The old sayings that ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ and ‘each to his own’ come to mind here, and I wouldn’t for a second tell any grown, adult person what they can or cannot view.

But it still puzzles me to think that for six nights a week for the next two months — two summer months — this country will be sated by steamy sex scenes as couples couple up, break up, decouple and try and win a large sum of cash.

Maybe it’s light entertainment and only escapism of a simple nature, but why call it reality TV when it’s just fantasy?

I know readers might say, ‘yerra John lighten up’ and ‘get a life’ — fair enough comment — but it cuts no ice with me. Yah, I suppose I am very conservative in my outlook on life, and trying to conserve ideas and values can often be misconstrued as being archaic and ‘living in the past’, but sticks and stones could break my bones but names can never hurt you!

Forty-eight years ago, I clapped my eyes on a beautiful young woman and was enthralled but not entrapped, then eight years later we married.

I had a fine mop of foxy, curly hair back then to match my freckly face — I recall one time while answering Mass for a visiting priest, a grand man with local ‘roots’, and laughingly he compared me to ‘ a freckled tomato’. Was I upset or did it cause me to develop a personality deficiency complex? Yerra no, not a bother on me.

A great friend of mine, and an avid Love Island devotee, was telling me a few years back about the honed, tanned beautiful and bronzed bodies — and she said the girls weren’t bad-looking either!

I dunno but the closest I got to a Love Island situation was when I was 12 or so. That summer I had got my appendix out in the Bons in Cork. They often say if a child eats too many green apples, it can cause the problem. Well, I don’t know what was my medical background to the operation. They say rabbits still use their appendixes to help digest the chlorophyll in grass, so unless we go back to grazing, the appendix is a spare and unwanted appendage.

Anyway, I think it was that glorious summer of 1969 when I had my surgery. About 14 stitches I got — the scar still looks like a section of railway track!

About a month later, I was on an Irish Course in Fermoy with a lot of extra-curricular activities, all tri Gaeilge. One day we went by bus out to a ‘swimming pool’ on the river between Kilworth and Araglen.

We were a mixed group of buachaillí agus cailinì all aged ’tween 12 and 14. Now, I couldn’t swim then, still can’t, but I still had the togs on — just to do a bit of paddling I suppose. In reality, the surgeon had probably warned me off strenuous exercises like swimming anyway,

Well, I recall the girls all coming over to me ‘to have a look’ — at my stitches. With my red head, red face and lily-white limbs, I looked like an inverted Cork flag. 

The actual stitches were well gone by now and I felt kinda strange as the cailinì — the boys had no interest — looked closely at my special markings . I think some few even wanted to touch the wound — a kind of a rub of the relic!

I think that day on the bank of the river was the only occasion I got a glimpse of what life must be like for an Eastern mogul with a harem as they oogled and googled me, and I blushing up to the sky!

In fairness, there was little or no sexual inclination or anticipation amongst my riverbank ‘fans’. 

Shure the word hormone wasn’t even in our dictionary at that stage, never mind on our thoughts! No, twas more curiosity — I was probably the first boy these girls had seen who had no appendix!

As ‘mature’ teenagers of 18 or 19, six or eight of us often went to a dance or a Macra na Feirme Field Day in the one car, in the era of bellbottom trousers and mini skirts, but though we fretted and sweated a lot there was no more to it.

People say those were innocent times, and we were innocent teenagers — all true of course, but boys oh boys, and lads and lassies, we had great fun with a fair modicum of respect for each other.

Now, I’m not getting hot and bothered about the Love Island inhabitants and their so-called amorous shenanigans over the next two months. Let them at it, and if that’s what ‘turns you on’, don’t let me put a damper on your nightly dose of fantasy.

I’ll stick to the matches, a bit of walking, and a realistic attitude to my recently initiated weight loss campaign. I know, I know I’ve tried it before but if at once you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Seriously though, you may ask, wouldn’t I love to be lazing by the pool with nubile, scantily clad femme fatales drooling over me? Not really!


Because all those years ago when I asked...

“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now

Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four

She answered “Yes”!

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