Sunday, 8 May 2016

A Day Out that Left me Jet-Lagged

A photo of a man next to the Enniscrone baths taking a photo of a baby in front of Stand Up Paddlers in front of a plane on a barge being towed by a tug (not too much going on in this picture is there??) 

If ever there was a topic to wake me from my blog-writing slumber, it's the story of David McGowan and his QuirkyGlamping village.  David, a local undertaker, has a dream, nay a vision, to bring a new accommodation concept to an empty field in his sleepy beachside town of Enniscrone, County Sligo. His vision includes the creation of sleeping berths on boats, London taxicabs, double-decker busses, a three carriage train, and last, but by no means least, a decommissioned Russian Boeing 767.

For those of you who have been following David's story on the Today FM's Anton Savage show, I won't repeat the hilarious trials and tribulations that David has encountered getting his precious cargo to Enniscrone. You can check out the chats between David and Anton, leading right up to yesterday here.

Suffice it to say, David is a born story-teller and can talk the hind legs off a donkey.

In the end, the only way to bring the plane from Shannon airport to David's field was on the back of a barge towed by a tug, and then brought on to Enniscrone beach at high tide.  Now, before you say, 'Only in Ireland,'  it turns out almost every single Irish person (except David McGowan) thought this madness too.  But it captured the imagination of a Nation and people couldn't wait to see it for themselves. 

As the big day approached, I wondered if there would be the same excitement for such an event if it occurred in Australia. Then I remembered the thousands of tourists who flocked to Nobby's Beach in Newcastle in the middle of a severe storm to see the grounded tanker, the Pasha Bulker in 2007. Turns out people really like to look at big things on a beach.

As it turns out, I'm also one of those people.

At Sparrow's Fart yesterday morning, my friend Val (aka Magnumlady) and I headed down to Enniscrone beach.  She had already been to Eniscrone the night before, when the plane 'sailed' into the harbour.  Based on the traffic that evening, we decided the best thing would be to get there before anyone else on the Island of Ireland woke up. 

When we arrived in town, we were greeted not only with parked cars as far as our eyes could see, but also the news that the plane's landing had been delayed until later that evening.  Had we slept in until a decent time, we would have woken up to this news, so the saying 'the early bird catches the plane landing on the beach' doesn't quite work.

We both had other things on in the afternoon and couldn't stay for the big moment.  As discourteous as it was for David not to take the risk with his €20 000 load in high swells for our convenience, we decided to forgive him and stay on for a few hours, to soak in the atmosphere.

After breakfast of waffles and nutella (which weren't totally necessary for me after the slow release porridge I'd had just before leaving home) we walked down to the old Baths; a great spot to watch the plane bob about in the water.  It was around this time that I discovered that neither Val nor I, as Gen Xers, can take a good selfie. Actually, I already knew I couldn't take a decent selfie, after this photo of my great friend Kerry and I in front of the Statue of Liberty about five years ago.  

Makes you feel like you were there with us, right? 
However, as the best photographer I know, I figured Val could manage to take a decent selfie of the both of us, with a plane in the background.  Turns out I was wrong.  As she pointed her phone in the general direction of the ocean, and tried in vain to get our two heads into shot, she kept screaming 'Where's the plane, Where's the plane?'  I was just waiting for a passer-by to yell out 'It's behind you, you eedjit.'

Then it was my turn to have a's my first attempt of the two of us. I should probably mention Val is a little bit shorter than me and was standing on a slope.

Where's Val?  Where's Val?

And here is our final attempt, which made me laugh until I discovered my stomach muscles again.

That's Val's attempt to help me take the photo.  She thinks I look like Donkey in a scene from Shrek.
I just didn't know I could even go cross-eyed!!
When I was certain I wasn't going to wee myself from laughing so much, we decided to take a short stroll across the beach, where they were recording the Anton Savage radio show.  It was at about this time that I started regretting my habit of coming to every event prepared for the apocalypse. Before leaving home, I had packed a 'light backpack,' which included a thermos full of hot chocolate, a two litre bottle of sparking water, Brendan's famous fruit cake, an umbrella, my make up bag, my wallet, glasses, keys, scarf and gloves. I was also wearing my woollen coat and carrying my wet weather, high vis vest.  

It was also at about this time that I realised that my high-vis vest was exactly the same as the ones worn by the official marshalls.  We did contemplate whether I should run down the beach, screaming 'THE BIG YOKE'S COMING IN FAST, GET OUTTA THE WAY' but decided I'd limit my efforts to directing traffic on the way home.

When we got to where they were recording, Val scrambled up the embankment like a mountain goat.  I knew that, despite looking like I could take on an Everest Hike, I would end up on my back like a stranded turtle if I even attempted the same thing.  Thankfully, less than two metres away was a very gentle slope and I took that instead.

We then sat on the grass and enjoyed a very pleasant hour and a bit, eating Cake By the Ocean while listening to Cake by the Ocean (which Val insists is a euphemism for something else, but would Ellen Degeneres really let a seven year old sing it on her show if that were the case?).

We talked about how the simple things in life can really make you the happiest, and right there, watching the world go by and listening to other people's running commentary, featuring, of all things, a plane on a barge being towed by a tug, I really felt this to be the case.

It then started to rain (surprise, surprise) and we decided to head back to the car, which by now was sitting all on its own at the end of a very long hill.  The journey back to the car was at least twice as long as the journey from it, and despite the depletion of hot chocolate and cake, my back pack was at least twice as heavy.  

Over lunch in the nearby town of Easkey, a slightly deaf fellow at the table next to us (and I'm being diplomatic) regaled his companions with everything he knew about David McGowan and his plane.  Turned out to be quite a lot, and if we hadn't seen it for ourselves, we wouldn't have needed to!  It seems that people from far and wide are very passionate about this highly ambitious project, which bodes very well for the long term success of QuirkyGlamping.

After a few more hours back at work, I came home and conked out, missing the moments when the plane did land on the beach and was taken to its final resting place.   I hadn't felt so exhausted since I was last jet-lagged (co-incidence?) and cannot even fathom how tired David and his team must be after days of bringing his dreams to fruition. 

David's vision also included putting Enniscrone on the map. It's true to say he's done that, and done it in spades.

You can check out his facebook page here and Val (aka Magnumlady's) blogpost about our day here.

Until next time, happy travels!  


Sunday, 5 April 2015

A blog about religion on Easter Sunday

On this, the most significant day of the year to Christians, I thought I would write my most controversial blog to date.  Let's talk about the differences in how religious views are practiced and preached in Australia and Ireland.  Why, yes, won't that be fun!

I preface this by saying these are only my opinions, based on fairly limited experience, and everyone is entitled to see things completely differently. Most importantly, I must say that overall, my experiences in Ireland have been very positive.

I have to admit that I did harbour some small concerns about moving to a country where faith is much more front and centre in people's lives than it is in Australia. I had thought that this might impact on my own, non-practicing life, and I might be forced to defend my lack of faith on a regular basis.

To the contrary, not only do the people of Sligo practice their beliefs in a humble and respectful way, they do not, in my experience, cast judgement on those who do not share their views.  My husband once told someone that I was a Heathen, and the reply was 'Yes, but is she a Catholic Heathen, or a Protestant one?'

The topics below are not all directly related to the practice of religion.  However, I think at the core of any religion is how people treat each other and wish to be treated.  I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions about what any of my personal observations about these topics might mean.

Marriage equality

All the polls suggest a large majority of the Irish population will vote 'Yes' in the upcoming Referendum on Marriage Equality.  While I have of course heard some opposition to Marriage Equality on religious grounds, it has been expressed in ways far less inflammatory than the hatred spewed forth by opponents of gay marriage in Australia. As a non-Irish citizen, I won't be able to vote in the Referendum.  However, I trust that the Irish people will demonstrate their strong belief in humanity first, and demonstrate to Australia that the sky does not fall in when you treat everybody as equal under the law.

Violence against women and victim blaming

At a time when violence against women seems to be at an all time high, recent cases of victim blaming in Australia are inconceivable.  First, a Victorian Homicide Chief Detective Inspector warned women that they should not walk alone in parks at night (after a 17 year old girl was violently murdered while out running at 7pm).  Then, an Australian Catholic Priest told a primary school meeting that if Jill Meagher had had more 'faith' she would have been home in bed and not walking home from a Melbourne pub at 2am when she was abducted and murdered.

At the same time, in Ireland, Graeme Dwyer had just been found guilty of the murder of Elaine O'Hara.  Those commenting on this case have, by all accounts, accepted that Mr Dwyer was a violent and dangerous man who took advantage of a lonely and vulnerable women. After the verdict was announced, Mr Dwyer's wife was widely praised for providing a short but moving statement, in which she offered her condolences to the O'Hara family. I have followed closely the reporting of all the sordid details of this awful crime, yet haven't read a single instance of victim blaming. There has been no 'why did she agree to meet him/keep seeing him' in relation to Ms O'Hara and no 'she must have known something' in relation to Ms Dwyer.

The compassion that people have shown for the true victims in this case is in stark contrast to the victim blaming that has been going on in Australia, and suggests that, at least in this regard, the Irish are more progressive than their Antipodean counterparts.

Abortion laws

This one is a tougher one to raise, and something I haven't sought to debate much in public.

My understanding is that abortion is illegal in Ireland under any circumstances, and that it is the Irish Constitution that prevents even a women carrying a child with no prospects of surviving at birth to have an abortion. At Christmas, there was the horrendous story of a brain-dead woman who could not be turned off life support without a High Court order, because of the paramount interests of her unborn child, who had no prospects of surviving birth.

And then you hear stories like that of a woman and her husband who decided to forgo a trip across the Irish sea to have an abortion in England, and continue with the birth of their baby, simply so that the baby's organs could be donated to others. Such selflessness and generosity of spirit is simply hard to fathom.

Funerals and Condolences

There is both good and bad about the way death is acknowledged in Ireland.  The Irish, at least in the North West, are very comfortable with the traditions and ceremonies that surround death. They think nothing of going up to a neighbour's house to pay their last respects while the neighbour is reposing in her open coffin in the front room of the house.  As a result, they appear much more 'comfortable' around death, and it is second nature for them to express their condolences in a short but heartfelt manner when someone close to you dies.

Australians aren't so good with death.  Or maybe we just aren't so good at being neighbours in the bigger cities.  When asked by an Irish family member what I myself did when a close neighbour died, I had to admit that I usually didn't know it had even happened until about six months later, when I hadn't seen them in their garden for a while.

And many Australians have not learnt that saying something (anything) to someone when they have lost a loved one is better than saying nothing at all.  I remember that only two people out of a workplace of 70 said anything to me when I returned to work after my father died. The rest preferred to live with awkward silence than acknowledge the situation.

The downside with the Irish's 'familiarity' with death is that it seems, at least to me, a bit intrusive for those in deepest mourning.  I imagine that when you are grieving your loved one, the last thing you might feel like doing for long stretches of the day would be entertaining your neighbours with cups of tea. I have noticed many death notices stipulate that houses are 'private only,' no doubt for this reason.  Having said that, it must also be nice to know that your community is really rallying around you in your time of need.

So, in summary, for a country with long held religious traditions and beliefs, Ireland seems not to be as conservative as it is often portrayed.  It is, put simply, a great place to live.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Mountains and Stairs

There are two main differences between the house we now live in Ireland's North West, and any Australian house I've lived in.  

1.  I haven't ever had a mountain in my backyard before, and
2. I've never lived in a two story house, with a flight of stairs.

Both of these things have taken more getting used to than you would imagine.

The first adjustment was a very pleasant one. That's only when I remembered I had a mountain in the backyard, and the weather was kind enough to allow me to see it.

During the recent winter months, I would leave work when it was dark and return home again in the darkness.  I was conscious of an imposing large object looming over us, but without seeing it, there was just a strange sense of calm and some slight shelter from the strong winds that battered the coast a short distance away before they hit dry land.

Yesterday was the Equinox, and boy, am I pleased to see some serious daylight.  There is something special about the light in this part of the world.  I am not sure if it is because I have hung out all winter to see the sun, or whether being this far North provides for a particularly luminous horizon.  Either way, my backyard fully lit brings me much joy; I understand why so many great photographers come here to capture the landscape.

I don't profess to be anywhere near as good as any of the professionals. All my photos are taken using my camera phone and I am very lazy....I take a lot of photos from my back step.  The photo above was taken five minutes ago.  The one on the right was taken when a low lying cloud meandered in from the sea, and then just as quietly, meandered away again. The photo below is the only one slightly altered, to bring out the rainbow.  And the last is the rear view as you leave our place.

I love listening to the sheep bleating in the mornings as they cling on with their sheepy toenails to the side of the mountain.  Watching sheep dogs-; flecks of black among the white-, round the sheep up and bring them safely down the mountain has helped me truly appreciate the scale of this place, as well as the challenges of farming the land. Paragliders have floated into line of sight from the comfort of our kitchen table, and then drifted away to the right, following the wind currents as far as they will take them, and away from our own peace of paradise.

I can't wax as lyrical about the stairs in the house- they are a pain in the arse.  While the second storey helps me see the mountain from a different perspective, I still haven't learnt to take everything with me when I need it. I am sure that I am not the only resident of a two storey house to consider buying two of everything, just to avoid that extra journey up the stairs.

My main grievance at the moment is hairbands.  I am sure I have accumulated hundreds of them over the years.  But for some reason, I can never find one on the bottom floor when I am heading out the door. I'm pretty sure this is the absolute definition of a First World Problem, equivalent to finding that two loops of the said headband is too loose for your hair, while three loops is too tight.

On that profound note, I will sign off to go and enjoy more of the one view I hope I never tire of seeing.  

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The fine art of speaking like a local

In his excellent book, 'Death Sentence,' Australian speech writer Don Watson mourns the death of the English language in Australia, killed off by bureaucrats and advertising executives alike.  He writes:

'Ireland remains a place where there is pleasure in hearing public language spoken.  It is a pocket of resistance in the empire of the English language.  On the upholstery of Aer Lingus planes, slices of Ulysses and poems have been embroidered.  William Butler Yeats's 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree' spills over the back of the seat in front of you - truly a beautiful arrangement of words. With the plane going down, what would you like to enter your head in the moment before you realise death is coming at a thousand miles an hour, Hugh Grant, or:

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the heart's deep core.

On the planes and in Irish airports, announcements are made in full, flowing sentences with living words; passengers may close their eyes and think they are arriving in a hay-wain.  The words draw you in, at least partly because the speaker appears to take pleasure in speaking them.'

Watson's words were written in 2003 and they struck a chord with me then.  By that time, I had already visited Ireland several times, and had always felt at home, with the country, its people, and their love of the spoken word. In 2015, I sit in my new living room, within a stone's throw of W.B Yeat's final resting place, and in the 150th year since his birth. And I sincerely hope that the least relevant part of the passage above is the reference to Hugh Grant.

I am sure that Ireland has not been immune in recent years, and that bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo has slowly infiltrated the Irish use of English. (Of course, this can in no way be compared with the displacement of the beautiful Irish language by the English language itself, a point that is not covered by Watson, and one which I am also not qualified to discuss). That point aside, from an outsider's perspective, there is still poetry everywhere, including in common words and phrases spoken daily. Here are just a few of my favourites, with no surprise that the weather features prominently in some of them:

'I have a strong weakness for chocolate/coffee' (substitute vice of choice)

'I'm just after doing it/telling you'  (I've just finished doing it/telling you)

'Gone Doolally'  (Gone mad, as in 'Those young wans have gone Doolally for Ed Sheeran)

'Wee dote' (good child, of kind disposition)

'It's a nice soft morning' (Translation: 'It's been raining since 2 am with no sign of letting up any time soon)

'There's a nice long stretch in the evenings'  (Translation:  It is no longer dark at 3.30 pm and before you know it, it'll be summer, when it won't be dark until midnight)

'Sure if it isn't'...(to begin a sentence)....and...

' it is'  (to end a sentence).   Contrary to the popular view of many Australians, the Irish do not go around saying 'To be Sure, To be Sure'  (or 'Potatoes!!') after every sentence.  I have only ever heard 'To be Sure To be Sure' said once and it was completely in context- the woman in the print shop was going to print something twice for me, to be sure (and sure again).  There is, however, still room to begin and end a sentence with superfluous words that somehow add rather than detract from any conversation.

'Ah, would you stop'  (I have struggled a bit with this one, but in context it seems to mean 'you must be kidding/well aren't you the one for stating the bleeding obvious?'  For example,  Question: 'Have you any sweets left over since Christmas'  Answer 'Ah, would you stop'.  It usually has the desired effect, as you do stop, and move onto some other, less controversial conversation, usually about the weather).

And, my personal favourite:

'he could hear a fly fart on Knocknarea'  (Translation- he had excellent can probably guess that it's very windy at the top of that mountain).

So, there you have it, a good turn of phrase is still alive and well in the North West of Ireland.  I am sure there are a lot more fantastic phrases out there that I am yet to pick up.  And when I do, I am sure they will be grand, so they will.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Gaelic Games and Gravestones

They say that you don't really know the community you live in until you attend one of their sporting events.  I am not sure who 'they' are, and what 'they' had in mind when they said it, but this week, we decided to put this theory to the test.

I was born into a Rugby League family in a sports mad nation, and followed football with a passion bordering on the obsessive in my earlier years.  League is not a big sport here, so in order to fit in to any pub discussion focusing on what is on Sky TV at that moment in time, it has been necessary to learn the fundamentals of sports such as Hurling and Gaelic football (aka GAA).   I still have a way to go before I would feel comfortable correcting a referee's call from my armchair.  However, having won two tickets to the GAA game between Sligo and Fermanagh earlier in the week, we decided to put my new found understanding of the game that inspired the Australian Football League to good use.

We parked in town and walked the short distance uphill to the match.  I had been told to rug up, so was wearing pantyhose and leggings under my jeans, three pairs of socks, a vest, thermal shirt, jumper, jacket, and scarf, beanie and gloves.  My bottom half constricted my movement to the point that the thrombosis on my leg (ironically enough sustained during an all in brawl/human landslide at the Rugby League Grand Final between Canterbury and St George in 1980) started to throb.  My top half made me look like a Michelin Man, and I was certain I would get stuck in the head to toe turnstile in the extremely narrow tunnel that was the entrance to the ground.  As it was, I had to turn side on, and had it not been for my husband's gentle shove from behind, I may still be there, blocking the entrance for many home games to come.

The first thing I noticed was that the cafeteria only sold 'tea, coffee, soup and sandwiches' No cold beer, No meat pies. No Dagwood Dogs.  Oh the humanity!!!

The next thing I noticed was the great view from the stands of the cemetery next to the ground.

Then I noticed the handy little arm rests, that made chatting to friends all that more comfortable. (and they are pretty good for watching the football too!!)

Then I noticed the absence of any decent heckling from the fans around me.  Growing up, my dad used to take me to all the Canberra Raiders home games.  He had a mate, Mick, who could have made a living as a professional heckler.  In the politically incorrect 80s, some of his remarks would reference the referee and his mother/sister/grandmother's sexual proclivities, although most times, he was smarter than that, and his comments, puns and put downs were pure comedy gold. Unfortunately, these jibes have been lost in the mists of time. However, it is a known fact that people chose their season ticket seats in order to be within earshot of Mick's genius, and by the tenth home season, he had his own fanbase, which outnumbered the Raiderettes (and they had pom poms).  Unfortunately, good natured banter seems to be a dying art, and I didn't hear one amusing shout out the entire game.

Then I noticed, it wasn't really that cold after all. We had rugged up well, but I certainly remember being a hell of a lot colder in the stadium during Canberra winters, first at Seiffort Oval in Queanbeyan, and later, at the Canberra Stadium.  Here's a selfie anyway, just to prove how good we look when rugged up:

During the game, I kept thinking about that meat pie. You can't go to a football game and not enjoy the experience of having luke warm chunks of something that may once have come from a part of a cow fall in your lap, covered in tomato sauce.  So, at half time, rather than line up with the hundreds of others for the ever- enticing 'soup and sandwiches', I suggested to Brendan that we travel down the street to a local service station, where surely they would do a good Servo meat pie.  Here's the closest thing I could find:

I have had some very good meals since moving to Ireland.  This wasn't one of them.

Turns out the humble Aussie Meat Pie is only available in Oz.

Anyway, back to the game.  The local lads played well, but were beaten by the more aggressive side on the day (insert appropriate sporting cliches here).  Here is the best action shot I could get with my camera phone.

On the way home, we decided to visit that cemetery next to the sporting ground.  The place was beautiful, eerily deserted, but many of the very old gravesites were in a state of disrepair.  One of the many reasons I want to be cremated rather than buried is so that in 150 years time, no one will have occasion to stop past my grave and say 'gee, no one has been here to pay their respects in a very long time.  I wonder when people stopped thinking about 'what's her name....I can barely read it out...'

If you can learn about a community from their sporting matches, what do you learn from their cemeteries?

New ideas for differences between Oz and IRE always welcome!!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

I won't be a local until...

When I think about the things that make me stand out from the locals here, it is not just my jarring accent and my (relatively) large stature. When I really think about it, there are three things that I will need to learn to do before I am accepted as a Sligonian, or at least a respectable ring in.

1. Learn to talk about the weather

Unlike Australians, the Irish don't post on Facebook about how hot it is (ha!) or how cold it is, or about the thunderstorm that is about to/is/has just rolled through town. No, the weather is a subject still best discussed face to face.

When an Australian friend was in town in October, she and I were walking around town in 15 degree temperatures. The wind picked up a bit and she mentioned she was cold. I said 'You watch, the next place we go into will mention how great the weather is.' Sure enough, like clockwork, each shop assistant we saw that afternoon greated us with a version of the following 'It's great weather we've been having at the moment don'tcha think?...It's a lovely day out there today is it not?....You've been lucky with the weather, so you have...its been at least a week since we've seen any real rain.'

And it is not just a one liner to get the conversation started either. There are some shopkeepers who could win an Olympic Medal for discussing the weather (yes, I know that would be an obscure and very dull sport, but so is synchronised swimming and curling).

We were in Ireland in July 2013, when temperatures reached a scorching 27 degrees for a record 5 days in a row and drought conditions were declared in parts of the country. I did not come prepared for such balmy weather and had to go shopping for lighter clothes that didn't cover my whole body in wool. All the occupants in the cubicles of one changing area started spontaneously talking through the walls about the highest temperatures they had ever experienced. These people didn't even need to see each others faces to join in (a bit like Facebook Live I guess).

For some occupants of the change rooms, that day's weather was close to the maximum they had ever experienced. So, when I piped up with my own '47.5 degrees' the room of strangers stopped talking to each other altogether. There was just dead silence. It was like I had tried to break some secret code about the weather that only the Irish were allowed in on. The tension was only broken as the sales assistant said 'sure enough, wouldn't it be nice if we just had a little bit'o rain?'

2. Share intimate personal details in public settings

As a lifetime over-sharer, this one is a bit like the pot telling the kettle to lighten up a bit, but alongside their wonderful gift of the gab comes the Irish propensity to share their soul with every passing stranger.

I think Australians have become  more uptight with every passing generation. Most would rather bite off their own lip than make so much as eye contact with the person sitting next to them on the boat, train, ferry, bus or tram. And if those of you in Australia reading this are thinking 'yep, that's just the way we like it' then you may not be destined to move to  Ireland.  On Irish transport, I have been shown appendix scars, tattoos not usually visible under an ordinary amount of Irish clothing, and not one, not two, but three sets of molars (what is with the obsession for good oral hygeine?). I have received the medical histories of every  member of one woman's family since the Spanish Armada and have heard what it is like to be imprisoned as a result of being set up by the Gardai for drug dealing (in case you were wondering, it 'ain't no Disneyland').

Only at an Irish wedding would the Father of the Bride tell an amusing anecdote about the time the bride almost drowned as a child, and would the Father of the Groom thank his son profusely for only ever breaking one tooth on the hay baler. I am pretty sure that last one was an Irish farmer's joke, but with so much sharing, it is hard for me to gauge sometimes.

If you think I am annoyed by these interactions, you couldn't be more wrong. That wedding was one of the nicest Ive been to in a long time, filled to the brim with people who shared a mutual love and affection for the happiest of couples. And some of my best conversations ever have been with total strangers on Irish transport (the aint-no-Disneyland drug dealer a notable exception).

3. Don't hang up until you've said a proper goodbye.

When I first heard the way people in the North West end a phone call, I presumed it was a joke. You see, you can never hang up just with one goodbye. You need to continually repeat the words 'bye, bye, ba-ba bye bye bye ba-ba by-eeee' until the other person has hung up at their end or the phone is at the end of your own very  well stretched arm, and they can't hear you anymore.

The problem for us non-locals is that to repeat this pattern of stuttering farewells in even a semi-convincing manner sounds like the worst form of mockery. The couple of times I've tried it, I am sure the person on the other end of the phone heard the mirth in my voice and muttered 'feckin' gobshite' before hanging up. But, to not at least add one extra goodbye makes me feel almost as bad as if I'd just flat out hung up on the person, without any effort at closure at all. My 'okay goodbye then' just hangs in the air like a single pathetic sock on a washing line, while the other person continues to make so much effort to let me know just how much they want to end the phone call.

So, until I am accepted or can better camouflage myself as a local, I will continue to poorly join in on the fine art of weather-talking, listen to an assortment of woes and wonders on public transport and end each telephone conversation with a mash up of words vaguely resembling a goodbye.

Until next time.....bye ba bye..see ya...bless.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Radio and Television Irish Style

These blogs, when I finally get around to them, (sorry about the long break) are meant to highlight the differences between living in Australia and Ireland.

And I don’t think there could be anything more different than local Irish radio.

Disclaimer: I need to say from the outset that I love local Irish radio.  It has become a part of our lives and I would be lost without it.  I would miss it terribly if I didn’t have it to wake up to, eat porridge over or work alongside all day.  Unlike Australian radio DJs, the radio hosts are genuinely engaging, and don’t have to resort to cheap tricks like employing their mother to read the weather or their father to review the latest album to get a laugh.  My two favourite jokes so far have also  been on Irish radio:

Her: ‘I hear that during her current pregnancy, Katherine Middleton is only eating raw food.’
Him: ‘What, doesn’t she have an oven?’ ; and

‘I bought a packet of sausages from Sainsburys with a picture of Jamie Oliver on the front.  And on the back it said ‘prick with a fork’ and I thought…they got that right!’

(Another disclaimer: I also like Jamie Oliver, but it is a funny joke)

So everything I say from this point forward is meant with the greatest respect to those who work so hard to bring me so much joy every day.

8 things I have learnt from local Irish radio:

1. Traffic conditions, and how many people have died in those conditions IS the most important thing that has happened in the world overnight.  Wars in the middle east, landslides in Asia and mass murders in the US all have their place, but not until a report on the roadworks on the Stranorlar to Strabane Road, between Killygordon and Liscooley.

2.  When a DJ refers to four seasons in one day, he is referring to rain, hail, sleet AND snow. (On the subject of weather, I could write an entire blog on weather as a conversation starter here, and may well do so one day.  In the meantime, just take my word that the expression ‘phew, what a scorcher’ is not an expression that starts many conversations in the grocers or beauticians).

3.  DJs can avoid too much repetition of current hits by constantly playing old hits. And if those hits are from some obscure Irish/Northern Irish artist from the late 80s, early 90s, even better.  I thought I had heard the last of the Waterboys ‘Whole of the Moon’ and Fergal Sharkey’s ‘A Good Heart (Is Hard to Find)’ in my early 20s.  How wrong did I turn out to be?

4. In Ireland, Christmas songs must be played, every hour, on the hour, and every minute in between, between 1 and 27 December or until someone drives off the Stranorlar to Strabane road in despair.  Who would have thought I would be sick of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ when woken by those dulcet tones every morning for a month?  (Truth be told, once was too often).  Then just to mix it up, the DJ will throw in ‘All I Want for Christmas is….My Two Front Teeth’   My father used to sing that to me as a child, and I thought it was something he made up.  Nope, it’s a real thing, and they play it on the radio here, together with Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and ‘Santa Baby.’ That last one is sung by some sultry minx and she sing/whispers ala Marilyn Monroe to President Kennedy about Santa hurrying down the chimney with a 54 Cadillac, suggesting it may not be the newest of releases.  I have to admit liking that last one, at least until the hundredth play.  

5.  Country music is not only a genre that still exists, but should be put on a pedestal and worshipped, particularly during peak radio times.  What other country would feature, as the top news item in the yearly round up, the controversial cancellation of a series of concerts in Dublin by a country and western star who hasn’t been heard of in the rest of the world outside America since 1993 (Sorry, Garth Brooks fans, apparently you are out there in abundance, I just haven’t met anyone prepared to admit it yet).

6. There is such a thing as ‘Dead and Worn out Animal Services’   This is not just a figment of my imagination, although my imagination does run wild, if I think about it too long or too hard upon hearing the morning’s Services Directory bulletin.

7.  There are English words that cannot be translated to Irish. I love listening to the morning bulletin for Irish speakers, not only because I love the sound of Irish spoken fluently, but because I can make out the occasional English word that has no Irish equivalent, such as ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Miley Cyrus’  It is somehow reassuring to know that the people of the Gaelteacht don’t miss out on trivial entertainment ‘news’ either.

And last, but by no means least,

8.  Death Notices are the most important thing on local Irish radio. These must be reported at least twice a day, from a man or woman speaking in the most reverent of tones, so you could be mistaken for thinking they knew the deceased.  In this part of the world, there is a good possibility they did.   

I had titled this blogpost ‘Radio and Television Irish Style.’  However, I can’t really comment on the television.  You see, we haven’t been able to get our television to work at home, due to a number of factors, including our location under a mountain, and the fact our television is already pre-set to search for channels, but only in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.  (very convenient).  At least this saves us the Television Licence Fee; another difference with Australia, where the government doesn’t charge you to enjoy your favourite pastime of sitting on your bum doing nothing.

From the snippets of Irish television we have caught, and with a few notable exceptions, I am pretty sure we are not missing too much. Please feel free to comment on this blog if I have got that wrong.

As I finish this, I am tapping my feet to Glenn Miller’s ‘In the Mood’ on the radio….Until next time…..