Ireland is many things. Stereotypes, truths, connotations-you know all of those. For those of you who want to see beyond the leprechauns and ceilí, here are a few more charms to imagine.
Being on first name terms with the person who will bury you. Our local undertaker is famous and we all knew him from the time we were born. For most of the town, it is he or his kin who will be your funeral manager. This is the way all across Ireland.
Dodgy sunburn. Pale and white like an Austrian Edelweiss, we scauld in heat. Farmer’s tan. Bog burn. You end up looking like a half eaten, chewy Drumstick.
A terror of getting wet. The TB days have a fear driven into our parents’ generation that may only be slipping away now. Considering we are a country that could give Alaska a run for its money when it rains, a phobia of ‘getting drenched’ can be a tough deal. My father can list the specific days he got soaked in the rain in order of torrential- ness. I have overheard many conversations of this ilk. This to me is Ireland.
Meat, spuds and two veg. The dinner of kings. No matter how long a true Irish person is away, no matter how much they loved the Amalfi coast or the Florida beaches, they all crave the traditional Mammy dinner of spuds, meat and two veg. Followed by rhubarb tart and ice cream if you are lucky.
Zig and Zag, Zuppy, Zogabombs, that creepy Podge and Rodge and of course Dustin the turkey. Our eighties entertainment was very localised and much loved. Even when Zig and Zig migrated to the Bold Boy’s Corner (the BBC) we still hold their fluffy, cheeky, sellotaped on headgear deep in our hearts.
Ireland is asking did you prefer Ian Dempsey or Ray Darcy, back in the day, and which one would you marry. Marry, now, not snog or avoid.
It is the guy who spends the day in the pub wearing a Liverpool jersey, who will die for for the reds and Will Never Walk Alone, but will stand in front of the live band in the same pub five hours and seven pints later singing Go on home British soldiers, Go on Home with the same die-hard vengeance he once showed for Anfield. Ireland is paradox.
It is a country with an obesity problem that once experienced the hell of horrific famine.
Flat, warm, six month old, red lemonade from your Granny’s good room presented to you with a jammie Wagon Wheel and you are lucky to get it with all the starving people in the world or so you were told repeatedly.
It is the The Stations Mass. Blessing yourself when you pass a graveyard, a church, a Supermacs or a spot in the road that may only mean something to you. Communions. Confessions. Confirmations.
It is events only we understand such as the annual Ballinasloe horse fair.
It is the whole wedding party attempting Riverdance at two am with no care for dignity, make up or designer material.
It is listening to Marty Whelan commenting on the Eurovision and switching over to BBC in the good old days to hear Terry Wogan’s wonderfully dry commentary on the same.
It is knowing every line of Father Ted. A quote for every life experience. Losing your life with excitement when you spot a hen party of Lovely Girls. Likening every not-so-chatty person to Fr Stone, every gullible one to Fr Dougal and every sarcastic bast**d to Fr Jessop.
Remembering when Miley cheated on wife Biddy and rolled in the hay with Fidelma- her cousin. Your mother telling you to leave the room to get something totally unnecessary so you wouldn’t see ‘that dirt‘ and they wouldn’t miss it. Click here to see the day Catholic Ireland died a little bit more on soap Glenroe.
It is the Saturday night bath, a scalp scalding with a dodgy hair dryer while your mother was absorbed in Dallas and the knowledge that Sunday morning mass was afoot.
It was the same TRAMP Fidelma attempting to sell some sort of chicken seasoning powder (many moons later on an advert) but we all still remembered her SHAME because this is how Ireland rolls. Never mind your shake it up chicken.
It is your man staying up on the surfboard after forty pints of stout.
It is the allowing of satire to destroy character (love Mario Rosenstock (impersonator)). It is a politician allowing character assassination on TV but then trying to put a youngster in jail for throwing eggs in a protest. (Don’t forget Swift’s ‘modest’ proposal for Ireland also.)
It is government officials who believe in fairies. Away with the Fairies: Danny Healy- Rae. Ireland is a country where I still kind of like Danny Healy-Rae even if he shouldn’t be in the Dáil, but then again there is a lot like that.
It is the weather. Our obsession with it. 2018 has given us a lot to talk about. Heatwaves. Storms. Hurricanes. It has been insane. It is poor Teresa Mannion’s legendary news report from Salthill during Storm Desmond and how she enjoyed the craic talking about it after.
It is laughing at the good of a fella who nearly killed himself acting the egot (eejit- Irish idiot) on on a stag/ in the pub/ anywhere really but actually survived so we can laugh about it.
It is blasphemy all day and all night, part of the vernacular and making a cod of all the sanctimonious crossing yourself. It is the Catholic country where we use contraception, have sex before marriage, read Dan Browne and still fast on Good Friday (I even capitalise it). It is the least properly practising Catholic country that is predominantly Catholic. Sure it is all a bit of craic really. Christ on a bike.
It is thinking we all live in thatch cottages but in reality have a countryside full of mini mansions.
It is saluting single magpies for luck, random people waving at you on the road and never being more than three questions away from a link with a stranger.
It is grown men taking sharp turns in cars with one hand on the wheel because they are holding ninety nines (ice cream cones) with the other.
It is curing all ills with tea and flat seven up. It is guilt, stigma, shame, jokes, food, belly laughs at a funeral and choking tears at a wedding. It is the most small-minded open-minded place on the planet. It is the place I need to live my entire life even when when wanderlust laps at my freckled milky-white legs.
It is the Ireland I know best.
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