Tag Archives: Irish

Hey Mumble, Mumble Italiano

Two Fridays ago, I felt the need for a good night out; a few drinks, laughs and a dance. A few texts later, it transpired my friends, Shane and Brian, intended doing the same. I agreed to join them later that night. To offset the calorie value of a night on the beer, I decided to hit the gym before joining my friends. One must watch those sneaky beer-calories, y’know.

Following a brisk workout, I marched home to shower and change. Brian and Shane, already in town, instructed me to join them at my leisure. I showered, shaved and rifled through my wardrobe. I had few clean clothes. I threw on a shirt – too tight for my liking – that I had acquired in a sale for €7. I pulled on my jeans, tucking in the shirt, and fastened my ensemble with a brown studded belt. I ran for the door in untied brown shoes, intending to tie my laces in the lift.

Hogan’s was busy, filled with its usual mish mash of well dressed and funky characters. Shane and Brian were, as usual, in good form. We chatted, howling with laughter regularly. Two “swiftys” later, I crossed the road to the Dragon, to boogie until the wee hours.

Shane and I performed our usual ritual of flamboyant dance moves on a sparsely occupied dance floor. Brian watched and giggled. Now and again, I left the company of Shane and Brian to scope out the talent on offer. While standing on my own near the dance floor, a guy approached from my right and tapped my shoulder. He was average looking. His wrinkled shirt, which he had nicely paired with bad shoes, hung loose over his jeans.

“Hi,” I said in expectation.

“Hi,” he replied loudly, to compensate for the loud music. He moved in front of me, obviously determined to have a deep and meaningful. Despite his close proximity, he continued to shout. He bellowed “where are you from?”

“Ireland,” I replied shyly.

“Ireland?” he responded with obvious surprise. “You look Italian. Your clothes and dark hair make you look Italian.”

“Oh right.”

He attempted to quash my obvious confusion with a compliment. “It’s a good thing.”

I side stepped to the left. Fighting the urge to sprint, I maintained eye contact and smiled. “Grazie mille,” I called as I moved away from him.

I shared the details of this interaction with Shane and Brian. “Why would he think I’m Italian?” I asked.

“It’s the hair,” answered Shane.

Within an hour of my awkward deflection, another man approached me. This fellow was much younger than the last guy. He was tall and gangly, demonstrating a slight stoop as he leaned in to talk. He seemed inebriated. He blasted words into my ear as we made tedious conversation.

“Your English is really good.” He leaned back, smiling, in expectation of some appreciation for his kind words.

“I told you I’m Irish,” I said in an unfriendly tone. “I’m from Dublin.”

“I know, but I don’t believe you.”

We continued to talk for a minute more, before I used a well-practised dismissal. I touched his forearm and smiled warmly. “It was nice talking to you. Have a good evening.”

“Same to you.” He turned and rejoined his friends in the corner.

I remained near the dance floor. What the fuck? I asked myself. Am I giving off some Italiano vibe or wha? I ventured to the bathroom to make sure I hadn’t subconsciously painted the Italian flag to my face. I checked myself in the mirror. My hair, which I had earlier spent seconds spiking, sagged and appeared slicked back. This particular hair product has a habit of making my hair look darker. The ill-fitting, tight shirt, tucked into my jeans compounded my Italian appearance. I shrugged. Meh, what of it? I thought. I returned to my standing place near the dance floor.

Within minutes, another potential suitor, a man in his early thirties, greeted me. I checked him out. His cheeks were flushed and rosy. His hair had no particular style. I knew he was in the club alone. He resembled someone separated from his friends, during a night out in the “Big Shhmoke”, who happened to stumble upon a gay bar. I looked down at his feet, expecting to find wellies.

“Hello,” I said in return of  his greeting.

He leaned in. He shaped his mouth into an “O”, as he over-pronounced his words, loudly, and slowly, in that unmistakeable manner only used by English speakers when addressing foreigners. “Where are you from?” I sighed and thought for a second.

“I am-a frrrrom Rrrroma” I cried enthusiastically in my best Italian accent, ensuring I used stereotyped hand gestures.

“Really?” he asked with raised eye brows.

I rounded my answer with a higher pitch. “Yesss-a.”

“Why are you in Dublin?”

“I am-a ‘ere for learrrrning my English-a.”

“Your English is very good.”

If I genuinely were foreign, I would definitely be insulted by this condescending fucker. I smiled proudly. “Grazie,” I said. “I learn-a my English-a in schooool-a forrrr five-a yearrrs-a”. I held five fingers in front of his face.

“It’s really very good. How long have you been in Dublin for? Are you in college?”

“I ‘ave-a been in Dublino forrrr two months-a. I am-a working ‘ere.”

“Do you work in a restaurant?”

“Yesss-a!” I exclaimed loudly, to stifle a laugh. “I work-a in-a restaurrrrant-a.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

I nodded. “Yesss-a, I ‘ave-a an Boyfrrrriend at home-a in Rrrroma.”

“Do you? And do you like Irish men?”

I held myself for a moment to give the impression of a pensive stance. I flicked my hand in front of me with an extended finger. “I like-a Irish men not-a-so-much-a.”

My new friend looked curious. He came closer. “Why is that?”

With my arms stretched both sides of me, as if delivering an operatic finalé,  I proclaimed “they drrrink-a toooo-much-a”.

My companion, with no good bye or parting words, turned and left my side.

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English Lessons in the Canteen

The yellow part of an egg is called the yolk and the white part is the egg-white.

There is a word with the same pronunciation, but it is spelt Y-O-K-E. This is a very funny word. Traditionally, a yoke is a collar for oxen pulling a plough or cart. Irish people tend to use this word in a variety of ways.

Well, Irish people might refer to “that yoke”, to identify an object whose noun eludes them. A humorous example of this is “yoke-a-me-bob”. This term can be applied to an array of items for complicated gadgetry or simple forgetfulness.

“Yoke” can also be used in a derogatory context. See our colleague over there playing a game of pool? I could refer to him as “that yoke over there”. This would imply that I think him to be useless or not worthy of a name.

“Yoke” might be used to describe certain anatomy. If my friend refused to come out for a pint, I might question the benefit of staying in and playing with his yoke. Do you get the application of the word in this context?

No, it isn’t a good thing to play with your yoke. And no, you shouldn’t do it in public.

Making a Bags of It

Plastic bags have been a contentious issue in Ireland for the last ten years. For too long the people of Ireland were viewed as having abused plastic bags to no end. Back in the 90s, were one to buy an apple, the generous staff member on the checkout would throw three or four plastic bags your way. Environmentalists complained that our countryside was littered with plastic bags. They claimed our national flag should be replaced with a plastic bag. The Government took action in 2003 by placing a tax on plastic bags. The once generous checkout assistant was now forced to charge €0.15 per plastic bag. The result was a drastic increase in the re-use of carrier bags and eventual disappearance of plastic bags from hedgerows throughout the Irish countryside. Some money was even added to the public coffers. “Hoorah,” everyone cheered.  The plastic bag tax was eventually increased to €0.22 with little quibbling.

Additional controversy was added to the subject of plastic bags this week, when the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) announced it was to commence charging €1.00 for plastic bags. In 2006, EU Regulations restricted air travellers to taking on board toiletries, liquids and gels that did not exceed 100ml in volume. Containers not exceeding 100ml were placed in a clear plastic bag and carried through security. Since the introduction of this regulation, the DAA claims to have provided seven million plastic bags to travellers flying from Dublin free of charge at a cost of €70,000 per annum. It now wants to dispense plastic bags through vending machines at a cost of €1.00 for two bags. If one were to make a calculation, the cost of the plastic bags to the DAA until now was around €0.03 per bag. It now wishes to charge €0.50 per bag. This equates to €0.47 profit on the sale of each bag. Is this not exorbitant?

I can foresee a sort of black market for plastic bags coming about in our country. Bags will become a sort of commodity. The Government and the DAA will set up patrols of the coast to prevent smuggling of bags into the State. Our international reputation will be viewed not only as a nation of alcoholics, but also as a nation who are obsessed with plastic bags. Plastic bags will become the new status symbol. The use of plastic bags as hoods, which until now was only done by old ladies, will become de rigueur among the masses of Ireland. Slits for arms and a heads will be made in plastic bags to allow them to be used as ponchos. Yes, that’s right; the DAA and Irish Government will be responsible for the return of the poncho. They will have an awful lot to answer for.  To quote a spokesperson who issued Ryanair’s opinion on the matter, “they certainly have made a bags of it”.

RED

I’m not a sentimental person. I’ve thrown school yearbooks out without the bat of an eye lid.  I once laughed at Boyfriend, when he told me he had the ticket stubs to our first trip to the cinema. I can be a harsh fucker sometimes. Lately, I’ve noticed, I’ve softened with age. I’m even getting  a little sentimental.

Two Christmases ago, Boyfriend bought me the RED IPod. It has to be one of the best presents I’ve ever received.  I absolutely love Felicity the RED IPod. I use it every day of the week. On the back of the IPod there is an inscription. It reads, “M-People, the definitive band of the 90s”. A far from credible claim, you might think.

This quote originates from one of our first few dates. Boyfriend and I were in a dodgy pub in town far too early in the morning. I was a little drunk. We discussed our musical preferences. I proceeded to tell him I loved “M-People”. When he laughed, I took the hump. I argued that M-People were the definitive band of the 90s. This claim made him laugh harder.

The next morning, while I had a sore head, he quoted my opinion of M-People. It was a hilarious claim. We still laugh about it to this very day. One morning this week, when I saw the inscription, I smiled to myself.

RED Ipod Nano - perfect for listening to M-People

Beautiful Irish Expression

My Dad, for all his faults is a funny fucker. For all the issues I had with him in the past, my mates loved him. To them he was clever and funny. He was good for the critical one liner that would cause a congregation to erupt into laughter. Outside of home, those critical comments were entertaining. At home among the family, those comments were hurtful and perpetuated major self-esteem issues. He isn’t a bad man. He just knows no different.

When Dad changed jobs in 1987, the family packed up and moved to the UK. Dad took a job at the Beeb. Working in the UK during the 80s was difficult for the Irish. The Brits didn’t understand the feud in Northern Island. Maybe they didn’t need to. The loss of life from the bombings was tragic. My parents, like other Irish in the UK at the time, faced critical comments and bad jokes in work and their daily lives.

Dad seemed to get on OK at the Beeb. I recall one story when a colleague of his asked for advice on how he should ask an Irish girl on a date. Dad taught him a “beautiful Irish expression” that would make her go weak at the knees. Dad’s colleague was chuffed. He learned this greeting off by heart and checked in now and again to ensure his pronunciation was correct. He couldn’t wait to impress the knickers off her.

The Irish expression Dad taught his English colleague was, “An bhfuil aon gruaige ar do bhosca?” Any Irish reading this will immediately understand its meaning. For those of you not blessed with the native Irish tongue, you will have to read on for its meaning to be revealed. In my own way of phonetically explaining how it is pronounced, it is “an will ayn grew-a-gah air deh vusca”. Don’t go casually throwing this at Irish women. 

The big day came. Dad’s colleague was going to ask the Irish girl out through this “beautiful Irish expression”. Dad encountered his colleague in the canteen later that day. Dad asked if he was successful. His colleague responded sharply. “You’re a fucking bollox,” he said and stormed off. When he was out of ear shot, Dad explained the meaning of the expression. The occupancy of the lunch table burst out laughing.

The expression, “An bhfuil aon gruaige ar do bhosca?” is in fact a question. It means “Have you any hair on your box?” Charming I think you’ll agree.

Crossing the (White) Line

I had a memorable bus journey this morning.

This morning, I stood at the bus stop for ten minutes. The number of people waiting had almost doubled by the time the bus arrived. The empty bus rolled up, boasting empty seats and room to swing many cats. The automated doors opened with a “whisht”. The attendants at the bus stop clambered aboard. Two minutes later, people still boarded. I was second last to get on. I swiped my card. The bus was swollen full at this stage. I was forced to stand near the entrance beside the controversial white line. For those of you from ‘down the country’ or outside of Ireland, the white line is the all important line for safety on Dublin buses. It lies two or three feet from the entrance/exit of the bus. Passengers should never cross the white line until the bus has come to a complete stop. The bus brimmed to capacity. We were squished up, praying no one would fart or sneeze. It was then that the bus driver added some excitement.

“If you’re over the white line, you’ll have to get off the bus,” he shouted abruptly, looking the tightly packed congregation up and down.

The passengers demonstrated team work and camaraderie by contracting. With a little shuffling and sacrificing of personal space, all the passengers were brought behind the white line. I clung on to the edge of the crowd like a cat up the highest of trees. Each time the bus stopped, the group of tightly packed passengers were thrown forward. Since the passengers down the back refused to crowd surf or leave via the window, we were forced to alight the bus to allow them dismount. Once everyone had disembarked at their desired stop, we re-boarded the bus to set off on the next stage of the journey The process of getting off and getting back on the bus was re-enacted three or four times over. The usual five minute journey took nearly fifteen minutes. When it was time to disembark the bus, I was a little sad. I felt sad for leaving these people with whom I had shared an intimate journey; intimate in the sense that their body parts had brushed against body parts of mine that my friends had not even come into close confines with.

The bus stopped. It was time to say farewell to my fellow passengers. I thanked the bus driver – like Irish people tend to do – for bringing the other passengers and I together for that brief moment in time.

Grand Slam Champions

Less than one hour ago, the Irish rugby team delivered a victory in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Ireland  now hold the Grand Slam title, which they’ve not done for sixty one long years. History has been made.

My heart was in my throat during the final ten minutes of the game. I had to call the RSPCA to home the litter of kittens I gave birth to during the match. Serious stress fest!

The sight of President McAleese celebrating with the Irish team brought tears to my eyes. I’m proud to be Irish.

Oh and Prince William’s hair is noticeably getting thinner. Move over William and make room for Harry.

rugby-celebrations

Weathering Irish Weather

Yesterday evening, at around five o’clock, I took a bench in Stephen’s Green, a park in Dublin’s city centre. In the diminishing evening sunlight, I enjoyed eyeing passersby; a mixture of shoppers and workers journeying home.  The sun descended beneath the low-rise buildings, blanketing the world in a warm neon glow. A chill gradually set in. After a long, cold winter, a warm evening acts as a formal reception for the oncoming summer months. From my bench, I relished it. Just as Jetset said in her entry on “Thoughts from the Edge” yesterday, Irish people are funny about the weather. Not only do we Irish talk about the weather incessantly, but at the first sight of sunshine, we remove layers of clothing as a snake sheds layers of skin.

Bad weather generally doesn’t bother me to the extent it does most Irish people. Irish people endlessly complain about the weather. They take the Goldilocks approach; it’s either too cold or too wet, but never just right. My mother is a prime culprit. When it rains, she takes up a position by the window overlooking the field next to our house. From this location the overhanging grey sky and sheets of rain are most visible. She folds her arms in a standoffish manner, frowns heavily and curses the rain as if it were an unreliable best-friend. “We can’t do anything in this feckin’ weather. It’s terrible!” she’d proclaim, her frustration clearly evident. Chances are, if it the weather was dry, her and I would sit on the couch flicking through Sky Digital, complaining about the hundred channels of nothing to watch.

Recently, my overly extroverted friend, Joanne, and I recalled last year’s summer. She longed for the approaching summer months and spoke of it with fondness.  

“I can’t wait for the summer” she announced in her contagious, cheery tone. “We can hang out in Stephen’s Green like we used to. Remember how we rate people and their outfits?”

I laughed a little condescendingly. “If that is as exciting as our summer gets, we’ve a few quiet months ahead of us.”

This evening reminded me that we did in fact spend many a summer day and evening hanging out in Stephen’s Green. I recalled one such day in June when Joanne and I lay on a grassy patch, soaking up the sunshine, sprawled among an eclectic mix of people. A homeless man, familiar to Joanne, plonked himself down on the grass and nestled down for a sleep. Joanne volunteered to buy him a coffee, chocolate bar and muffin. Returning from the shop, she approached him. She gave him her charitable donation. The homeless man thanked her and requested that she place the generous offering on the ground next to him. Joanne returned to my side and observed him as he appeared to disregard her donation by returning to his slumber. She complained at his apparent snub towards her offering. I explained that he wasn’t obliged to eat her gift just because he is homeless.

I owe Joanne an apology for dismissing her accurate remembrance of our fondness for Stephen’s Green. She’s right. I can’t wait to reconvene on the Green as soon as the weather permits. I should acknowledge Jetset’s discovery of the gene she has branded “Irishness”. I embrace my Irishness. I, too, can’t wait to cast off my excessive layers of clothing. Deep down, I desire to act out some form of faux-Paganist summer worship by dancing naked in Stephen’s Green. Perhaps, Joanne might join me. Certain parties, such as the police and park wardens, probably won’t be so keen to witness this ritual. On second thoughts, the entire idea could be a little risky. I’ll just commit myself to spending time on the same bench as I did today. The prospects of ogling the scantily clad men playing soccer are all too appealing. A warm dry summer would be most welcome. If not for the sake of my pale, blue-veiny skin, let it be to spare me the incessant moans of my fellow Irish.

 

Stephen's Green on a March evening

Stephen's Green on a March evening

My First Serious Blog: Gays and “Marriage” in Ireland

On Saturday morning, instead of lying in and stewing in my duvet, I got up and about and made Boyfriend some breakfast in bed. He considered it a wondrous surprise even though he had in fact asked for it. I recall answering his request with explicit language and accusations of laziness. While I was up and about, my housemate, who prefers the company of ladies, informed me there was a Civil Rights demonstration on in town. Apparently, the gays, those who managed to overcome their Friday night hangovers, were holding a demonstration outside the Central Bank. Its aim was to create awareness of “Civil Marriage” for same sex couples. We decided we would attend the rally in support of our fellow gay brethren.

The speakers at the Rally were a little uninspiring. The first speaker, Mr. Gay World 2008, who is Irish, signed off by saying “equality costs nothing”. Apparently, the Irish government have done a costing on introducing tax free transfers of assets between same sex couples*. The cost was estimated at around €2BN. Mr. Gay Ireland believes €2BN to be nothing in this economic environment. Do you take cheques Mr. Cowen? The second speaker, Tony Walsh, was next on the bill. Overall, he was tolerable. One notable item he mentioned was that same sex couples will pay higher rates of tax than their heterosexual counterparts. This can’t – correct me, if I am wrong on this – be true. The EU courts would be all over this like Burberry on a knack. If you are going to have a rally on something, be sure to have claims and facts that are 100% credible.

The next issue, that clearly irked Mr. Walsh, was the opposition to same sex marriage posed by the Roman Catholic Church. He claimed this establishment, who have been associated with sexual abuse, should not be so active in condemning the lifestyles of same sex couples. As soon as Mr. Walsh departed on this course of debate, I wanted to leave the rally. I believe the nation of Ireland is more than aware of the appalling atrocities that were carried out by/within religious institutions. Reminders are not needed. Nor should such a sensitive subject be thrown around in a mud slinging match. Why can’t the gay community just campaign on what they are more than entitled to and rise above a smear campaign? The Catholic Church are more than capable of showing themselves as out of date and antiquated without the help of the gay community.

*I had heard this fact thrown around numerous times. This amount was used by the LGBT Group, Noise. Since researching it properly, it would appear the amount of €2BN refers to all co-habiting couples and not just same sex couples.

This awaits me someday

This awaits me someday

Metric, it will change your life

I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, but this year I decided to make two. One of them is to make peace with the people I fell out with during 2008. That will probably take all of 2009. The other resolution is to go metric. I work with loads of continentals who don’t understand the concept of a miles, pounds etc. I’m forced to translate on a regular basis. I used to be fluent in metric until I moved home to Ireland in the 90s. For this reason I have made a conscious decision to revert back to it. I intend to embrace the change. The first change is my height. Firstly, I have to admit I don’t even know how many inches are in a foot. How bad is that? When someone asks me my height, I tell them I am 6’ 1”. My height is now altrered; I am now 185 centimetres tall. Don’t I sound taller? I exercise a lot. I used to run five miles three times a week, but I am giving this up. I will replace my five mile runs with 8 kilometre runs. This sounds much longer. I already feel so much fitter. I exercise hard to reduce body fat, but since going metric I feel so much lighter. I used to weigh fourteen and a half stone. I now weigh 93 kilos. Metric has made me feel so much healthier. I am just not sure where I should stop though. The other night in the pub we were having a bit of a sing song. An old favourite by the Proclaimers came on. I just couldn’t stick to the correct words – “and I would walk eight hundred and four kilometres and I would walk eight hundred and four kilometres more, just to be that man …” I did get a few looks, but I realise one has to suffer this when a pioneer. Metric has drastically improved my life. I think you should try it, too.