Liam Farrell: Galileo, what did he know? Not as much as Joe

The Irish mammy places her son upon a pedestal, indulges his every whim, sees to his every comfort, worships and venerates him, all of which leaves him totally unfit for the real world.

These men, especially if they have no siblings, have an air of sleek and offensive contentment, but the experienced GP will also detect a quiet desperation, as if they know deep down that their potential will never be realised, that their chains are too heavy; being the centre of the universe is a tough job.

Comet Hale-Bopp blazed across the skies in 1997, but I wasn't interested, because I remembered all too clearly the bitter disappointment of comet Kohoutek in the 1970s (and also, a sheer coincidence, that no girls would go out with me).

'It'll be half the size of the moon,' enthused Patrick Moore, who had never lied to me before and whom I, still just a kid with stars in my eyes, really believed.

But my faith in him and my boyhood dreams were to be utterly betrayed, for when comet Kohoutek eventually arrived it was but a pinhead in the sky.

So I had no hopes for comet Hale-Bopp whatsoever. I'd heard that song before, and it had broken my youthful heart.

Until one day when I was lamenting my disenchantment (consultations should be a two-way process) to Joe, the quintessential mammy's Boy.

'You mean you haven't seen it yet?' he said in surprise. 'It's been up there for two months now.'

'Well, where is it then?' I said, wondering when exactly Joe had become such an astronomical expert, if he was as busy looking after his cows as he said he was.

'It's right over my house,' he said with that air of sleek contentment.

'More centre of the universe stuff', I thought, but the very next night I was travelling over the mountains and I stopped the car to look, and ... there it was, shining like a beacon in the sky, tail streaming out like a little piece of heaven, comet Hale-Bopp and, as promised, right above Joe's house.

Maybe Galileo was wrong after all.

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