Tag Archives: Ireland

Erin Go Bragh: Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day

Beannacht La Fheile Padraig

Beannacht La Fheile Padraig

Yay! It’s St. Patrick’s Weekend again. (It used to be just the one day, until the marketers, the Irish Tourism Board, and the drinks companies got their hands on it. Now it’s a five-day festival.) So it’s time to celebrate Ireland and the Irish. But please do it right, okay?

John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952)  has a lot to answer for; and the less said about Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) the better. Hollywood has always had a slightly different view on Ireland than the rest of us. I suppose marketing what the country is really like is difficult, and not as profitable for the movie studios. But this is a country that has given the world Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne, Brenda Fricker, Ruth Negga, and the Cusack family among others.

Wrong on so many levels

Wrong on so many levels

We have gifted the world the collective genius of Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Roddy Doyle and Maeve Binchy. To the music world, no better luminaries than Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison and, um, Westlife have graced concert stages and turntables.

(We do, however, offer our humblest apologies for James Joyce and Bono. Although I suppose it’s part payback for EL James and Justin Bieber. Ain’t nobody got time for these!)

Our sports stars regularly attend major events, such as the Olympic Games and soccer tournaments, and while we may sometimes over-achieve (except for Katie Taylor, who is made of pure awesomeness), we’re normally good value for money.

Van the Man

Van the Man

Yes, we do have our celebrated alcohol afficionados: George Best, Brendan Behan, Shane MacGowan to name but three. But overall, our contribution to the world of arts and entertainment should more than surpass whatever stereotype and cliched viewpoint there is of us. And while I agree that my country is awash with alcohol and drugs, and that far too many of our youth are following in the footsteps of their elders – thereby running headfirst into a health crisis – I sense a small level of change in our society. It is my hope that in, say, ten or twenty years time, we will have outgrown our addiction to alcohol and perhaps embraced our cultural heritage rather than our history of oppression.

While it’s always important to remember our past, it’s more important to learn from it so we don’t fall into the same traps our ancestors did. We’re better than that. Ireland is better than that. The world deserves and needs what we can offer.

 

The Daily Rant: ON Windfalls.

Imagine you’re cleaning your house or apartment (which is something I do, by the way: I imagine I clean; I rarely do it in real life), when all of a sudden you find some money, money you never knew you had. It’s a substantial wad of cash and it could come in very handy in these times of severe austerity. You’d make use of it, wouldn’t you? Like pay off a few bills and treat yourself to a holiday or other such luxury. In other words, you wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, right?

Due to an accounting error and human error (with the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing), it appears Ireland isn’t as broke as it was previously thought. We are now richer to the tune of 3.5 billion euro, an amount of money that was found by accident. So what will our government do with this windfall? Wouldn’t it be a wonderful gesture if every tax-paying adult got a little something extra this December in the Budget? Say about €10000 each?

As Eliza Doolittle sang in My Fair Lady, “Wouldn’t this be lovely?”

Write Here, Write Now: “Wish” – A NaNoWriMo Update

At the risk of disappointing some of my friends and readers, (Scott Perkins being one of them), I have at almost the last minute changed tack on this year’s NaNoWriMo project. I had mentioned previously that I was going to take on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Miserables and revisit parts of the story from the viewpoint of the supporting characters, the Thernardiers. And indeed I was building up a head of steam, what with reading the novel and brushing up on some French history.

But then I had a dream (though not the same one Fantine had) which really put the mockers on my original plan. I can’t describe the dream because I don’t really remember too much of it. All I was left with was a feeling that reality had somehow shifted. When I picked up a copy of Haruki Murakami’s new novel 1Q84, I took this as a sign that I was on the right track again.

My new project is called Wish and this is the synopsis you’ll find on my NaNoWriMo profile page.

“After breaking up with his long-time girlfriend, Steven Pepper is attacked by a group of boozed-up teenagers. Left licking his wounds, he wishes for a different life, one where he makes the right choices and is rewarded for being a good person.

On the cusp of achieving what many thought was impossible, Terry Gall wishes for the one thing he lacks: immortality.

It is 2014. Ireland is the one country left standing after a global recession has all but shut down the world’s financial markets. Someone, somewhere, made the right decision: a first for a country used to following rather than leading. Journalist Louise Harrigan wishes she knew who it was.

All three get their wish — and nothing will be the same again.”

 

We’ll see what happens.

The Daily Rant: On Halloween.

I just don’t get it, this Halloween business. No, seriously, it’s not because I’m all curmudgeonly or anything. Even as a kid I couldn’t catch on to it.

Maybe it’s because of where I come from and where I live: in Ireland and particularly Dublin, Halloween doesn’t appear to be about children any more. It has been hijacked by adults for games only they can partake in – like drinking, dressing in an overly provocative fashion (there is a time and place for these activities), and acts of wanton violence.

It is the night where all fire and emergency service leave is cancelled. Depending on the weather there can be anything up to a hundred reported incidents of accidents involving fire, theft, and drunk and disorderly behaviour. Just another weekend night, you may say, and I would agree with you – but with a proviso. Most incidents on Halloween are on a larger scale than weekends and our emergency services often find themselves stretched to capacity and sometimes are unable to respond to calls as quickly as they would under normal circumstances. It seems that every idiot comes out on Halloween.

It’s not about Trick and Treat anymore, I fear. It’s all about a minority of imbeciles out to cause the greatest damage in the shortest possible time. I hope parents and guardians keep their young ones safe and sound. I hope it’s a dry evening so they can call on neighbours and friends and play as children should be allowed to. But when the sun sets, you had best lock yourself in, keep your pets indoors if possible, and hope that no one gets hurt. Because someone usually does.

I don’t like Halloween. People can be scarier than the movies. But I do hope you yourself have an enjoyable time out there. Just be careful, okay?

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 79. On Poetry.

The Waterboys: An Appointment with Mr Yeats

I’m not as well up on poetry as I should be. If I’m to be any sort of writer, I should appreciate all forms, right? Perhaps – but not always. When it comes to poetry, I do know what I like. Ireland is renowned for its poets: the most famous, in my mind at least, is William Butler (WB) Yeats.

When I heard that a favourite musical group of mine, The Waterboys, had recorded an album set to Yeats’ lyrics, I had to have it. So I downloaded it from iTunes and I have to tell you: it’s wonderful.

Get it.

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 76. On Politics.

Ireland is currently in the process of electing its new president. By now we will know who exactly has thrown their hopeful hat into the ring. I’m hoping that Senator David Norris has made the cut, personally. But if there’s one thing that riles me it’s ignorance.

Statements like “we don’t need a president” and “we can’t afford a president” say to me that some people don’t know their constitution from their elbows. Ireland is a republic; republics require presidents. Anything else requires changing our constitution and political identity.

Maybe they want a return to monarchy, I don’t know. Dictatorship maybe?

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 71. On Nice.

Wish You Were Here?

One of my least favourite sayings currently doing the rounds, especially in the bar trade, is “It’s nice to be nice.” Really…is it? Sometimes it’s nicer not to be nice. Sometimes you can get a hell of a lot of satisfaction just by being rude to people who deserve it. Of course, you can turn the other cheek – but why leave yourself open to another assault. It doesn’t make sense.

There is another nice – Nice, in the South of France. If you’re looking for me in the coming week, that’s where you’ll find me, lying on a beach, having fun.

 

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 63. On a Sense of Community.

Dublin supporters on Hill 16 at Croke Park.

Nothing brings a community together better than a sporting occasion. And nothing unites a community more uniquely than a victory. In much the same way a country can celebrate a major win in competition (Ireland beating England in this year’s Cricket World Cup springs to mind), Dublin’s All-Ireland success over their arch-rivals Kerry last Sunday has brought a smile to the brow-beaten face of Dubliners.

Whether your a fan of GAA or not (I’m ambivalent most of the time), it’s hard not to get caught up in the euphoria a victory can bring. Already we’re looking forward to next year.

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 61. On History.

I mentioned to a customer the other night that I was taking a weekend trip to London in a couple of weeks. He liked England, he said, it is steeped in history. Ireland, on the other hand, has no real history to speak of.

I disagreed. Ireland has a fascinating history because of its ties with England. For better or worse, our relationship with our closest neighbour is an essential part of our history.

Can you imagine someone writing an autobiography that didn’t include any relationships or active engagement with another living soul? It would be boring and isolationist. People need people.

 

All-Ireland Mayhem: God Help Us All.

For all but a few of you reading this post, the All-Ireland series means very little. But if you’re Irish, like your GAA, and your county winning the Sam Maguire Cup means more to you than life itself, then the All-Ireland is where it’s at this weekend.

It’s the Battle Royale: The Dubs versus the Kingdom; Dublin against Kerry. The Blues are searching for their first title since 1995, while Kerry are the reigning champions. (Stay awake at the back there, I’ll be asking questions later.) If the Capital City triumph this Sunday, then 16 years of hurt will disappear like cider down a football supporter’s gullet. If they lose, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

You're not a Dub if you don't drink cider.

For me – and for the rest of my workmates – it will be a day that will go down in infamy. Throngs of supporters will convene at Croke Park and its surroundings like Muslims at Mecca. They will be excited, nervous, full of hopes and anticipation, and they will have throats drier than a camel’s arse in a sandstorm. Which is where we bartenders come in. For most of the morning, afternoon and evening (all bloody day actually) we will pump out enough booze to fill the Grand Canyon ten times over: these Dubs are a thirsty lot, let me tell you.

We will be busier than St. Peter on Judgement Day. We’ll be working flat out to ensure that no thirst goes unquenched because this is what we bartenders do. We will listen to the crap that drunks come out with when one too many has been consumed; we will mop up vomit that’s had the indecency to spew out at importune times; we will smile when we’re abused – because that’s what we bartenders do. We will take money and give out correct change, as well as making sure there’s plenty of ice and bandages, because accidents may happen.

We will open early and close late. We don’t expect to be thanked for our endeavours because we know the boss will look after us after he’s lodged the day’s takings with Brinks Allied.

The Girls in Blue

We will listen patiently to the hundred-and-first rendition of “Come On Ye Boys In Blue” and not complain when another glass is smashed against the wall. We will not laugh when security escort an unruly supporter off the premises (usually head first) and into a waiting police car. We will hope the judge goes easy on him the next morning. We will say prayers when we go to bed that night.

If we make it to bed, that is.

We look forward to doing an honest day’s trade when Dublin win the All-Ireland (which we hope they do). But we hope the supporters make life easy for us and not start any fights. Because we bartenders don’t like fights. We like the simple life. Here’s your pint, there’s your change, now fuck off and leave us alone.

Dublin for Sam!