Don’t get me wrong, the (Irish) country side is very pretty, but I really am a city girl. Dublin just puts a smile on my face. I feel much more at home here now that I was traipsing around sheep dung in the Gaeltacht. Though I did pick up a fetching Northern twang.
Dublin is about chance meetings and surprising conversation.
Yesterday, as I walked by the set of Breakfast on Pluto at the Ierne on Parnell Square, I saw two blokes that looked like gaffers outside on the doorstep. I thought, sure, I’ll walk up and ask if himself is around. As I approached and looked the one guy in the face I realised the ‘gaffer’ was none other than Neil Jordan himself.
I think I just about pulled off the ‘I have no idea who you are’ look on my face.
Later it was business as usual, old friends in the Library bar, talking about the ones that went before us and dissecting Hot Press with one of its writers. And me downing the vodka & tonics without getting a hint of a buzz.
(part I) (part II)
Seamus is a big elderly American of Irish descent. He is in level 2. Of course he takes the car to drive around the corner to go shopping. On the third day he has a puncture. One of the locals helps him out. In the shop I hear him, his voice booming, ask the shopkeeper how to thank his benefactor. ‘So what would he like? Shall I buy him a bottle of whiskey?‘ The shopkeeper and his son don’t say much. ‘He doesn’t drink,’ their answer is barely audible. ‘Well how about a box of chocolates?‘ Shoulders are shrugged. ‘Well, should I give him money? How much would be appropriate?‘ Seamus is at a loss. He doesn’t understand that you don’t talk about such things. His best bet would have been to pay the man a visit, and quietly leave a small present on the table.
Seamus takes Birgitta and myself for a drive around the area. We go up Bun Glas, a pass over the mountains. It is a scary drive, the fog is out and thick as peasoup. On the summit you’re supposed to have a beautiful view of the cliffs of Slieve League. But today we can hardly see the back of our hands. Seamus takes pictures of everything he sees. Even the fog doesn’t escape from his viewer. ‘I brought plenty of film, so I can show the folks at home.‘ His wife did not want to come along. Later in the Rusty Mackerel in Teelin – a famous pub the heart of the Gaeltacht – he starts telling us about how he used to beat his children. He didn’t know any better, he says, his father used to beat him too, and the nuns were no better. He confesses some more. Both Birgitta and I feel a little embarrassed. We feel we’ve just arrived in an Oprah Winfrey show. We’re not used to this American frankness. On the way back he asks us what language we speak in our countries. Dutch and Swedish, of course. ‘And do you speak it well, with your parents?’ He thinks the entire world speaks English. A few days later we take him along to see a formation of three pre-Celtic passage graves. When the sun sets, the light shines through the openings of the three graves. ‘Is that a fort?‘ he asks. ‘It’s a grave. Two thousand b.c., Seamus!‘ ‘Oh really?‘ he says and takes a picture. Then he’s off. Pre celtic times don’t mean much to someone whose own constitution’s just a quarter of a century old.
(Peter made the mistake of mentioning Glencolmcille in the comments of my previous entry. I wrote this ten years ago.)
‘It’s the dialect!‘ Mary says. Originally from Dublin, she has lived in Leicester for the past 30 years. She’s in her fifties now and she is sitting with us in front of the fireplace of our little cottage. ‘It’s not fair. They’re not accommodating us at all. I don’t understand the teacher, she is yapping away with her the people from her area.’ Thomas and I listen to her lamentations and feel for her. For us ‘absolute beginners’, Mary is a wealth of knowledge. We practice during breakfast, asking each other for milk, butter and sugar in Irish. I’ve only been here a day.
‘Here’ is Glencolmcille, the most western tip of county Donegal in Ireland, the heart of the Gaeltacht – the name given to the Irish speaking communities in Ireland. In the Foras Cultuir Uladh, Oideas Gael have been giving Irish courses for ten years now. Liam ó Cuinneagean, teacher in Dublin but originally from the area, is the organizer and instigator of the courses. He stands before us on the first day, his voice thick with the cold he’s got. The group is quite big, half of us are there for the language course, the other half will go hill-walking, supervised by Tony, a Mancunian who has perfect Irish, hates England and looks like a paratrooper if I ever saw one. He seems difficult to approach, but is nevertheless pursued by several women that week.