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Posts tagged ‘Ireland’

The Fish That Got Away All Because Of Dad

As a child, I wasn’t given much opportunity to demonstrate my breathtaking skill with a fishing rod.

My journey to expert angler commenced when my father took the family up to Curraghmore Lake, one of the dark pockets of water in the Magillycuddy Reeks. He also brought a fishing rod which was no doubt state of the art circa 1940.

I believe my mother and I were expected to pick flowers and/or watch admiringly from a rock, while Dad introduced his sons to the noble art of fishing. He probably envisioned bonding with his sons, you know: back-slapping, telling dirty jokes and smoking cigars while providing for his family.

In retrospect, the expedition was doomed. Dad’s really more a finger-pointer than a back-slapper, and he’s never told a joke any dirtier than mildly smutty, and not only does he not smoke but Eoin and Daire would have been about 7 and 3 years old respectively so the whole chomping cigars thing would have been somewhat inappropriate.

To seal his doom, I’ve never been much into picking flowers or, for that matter, being told what to do (these conditions persist to this day). So after about half an hour impatiently watching Dad, Eoin and Daire, I demanded a go.

Dad finally succumbed when I threatened to cry.

We stood on a large rock overlooking the lake and Dad reluctantly handed over the rod. I cast inexpertly and the sullen waters of Curraghmore Lake swallowed the lure without a sound.

At this point I got a little flustered because I had no idea what I was supposed to do next. Dad was getting over-excited about winding in the reel, whatever THAT was. Also, because I was about 9, my attention span was pretty much fully occupied with whining.

Dad was snatching at the rod and I was grizzling something along the lines of, “Da-ad! Get o-off! It’s MY TURN.”

Dad barked, “Just- wind it in wind it in! You’ll get it STUCK!”

The line jerked, and I said something like, “Aww Dad it’s broke-e-en! This is stupid.”

And Dad issued one of those projectile TUT!s that are a skill acquired with children, and said, “Ach, now look what you’ve done. It’s stuck.”

Having finally located the windy thing, I was lack-lustrely turning it, when there was a splash and a fish flipped over the surface of the water.

“Look!” I screamed. The line whizzed.

“Give it here!” roared Dad and grappled the rod off me.

If he’d landed it, I’m sure the event would have been fully obscured by the mists of time and never referred to again. Happily (for me if not my long-suffering father) the story: ‘How Dad Lost My Fish’, or ‘The Fish That Got Away All Because Of Dad’, has passed into family legend. I try to reference it at least once during any reunion of one or more family members.

(My brothers are complicit in swearing it was the biggest fish in the whole of Ireland, possibly the world, possibly ever.)

Also see: the story of Trevor the Trout.

Husband and I are currently working on some family legends of our own.

Dogs make me cry

I don’t cry at movies – apart from Finding Nemo because doesn’t everyone? Also anything starring Tom Cruise, but that’s a visceral rather than emotional response.

I’m much more susceptible to an intense, emotionally manipulative advert. Like the National Bank ad showing at cinemas here that always made me choke on my Malteser, and this one  from NZ Post always mists me up – although more light condensation, really.

However, when I was back in Ireland, there was an advert on telly that showed frequently. In it, the camera shows a Labrador, slumped in a small, bleak cell with bars across the front. He’s bored and lonely and quite obviously hasn’t chased a ball for what might be DAYS. Suddenly, his dull eyes spark; the ears prick; he jumps up, mouth falling open, tongue lolling; he darts to the front of the cell and sits eagerly; tail thrashing; he strains to see past the bars.

As People approach his cell, he looks up hopefully. And as they pass by barely breaking stride, his little ears sag, the tail wags ever more feebly; and as they walk out of frame, his whole body droops in defeat.

Sorry; did you say, what was it FOR? I have no idea. It seems reasonable to assume it was for K9 Friends or cell manufacturers or some such.

Every time this advert showed on telly, it reduced me to tears. One moment I’d be sitting there cynically monopolizing my parents’ Sunday Times magazine; the next choking back seismic sobs on the sofa.

I suppose it might have had something to do with missing my dog at the time. Also because Jed strives so hard to please me (when he isn’t distracted by a moving tennis ball); and looks at me like I’m the most wonderful thing in the world. I mean, Andrew stopped looking at me like that long ago – around the time he discovered me biting my toenails in the kitchen.

(Well, most of my boyfriends were TURNED ON by that.)

ANYWAY, I am grateful I no longer have to see that advert because it was pure embarrassing.

Then the other day, I was reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness. It’s an AWESOME BOOK, and I would recommend it unreservedly but for the fact that it ends on a cliff-hanger and now I’m completely stressed that the sequel is out on loan at the library until NOVEMBER.

So the protagonist, Todd, has a talking dog called Manchee. The villain, Aaron, is trying to kill Todd and Viola, when Manchee attacks him and gnaws his face long enough to allow Todd and Viola to escape in a boat. This is the relevant passage:

“Manchee!” Viola yells.

“C’mon, boy!”

And Manchee looks up from Aaron to see me calling him-

And that’s where Aaron takes his chance.

No!” I scream.

He grabs Manchee violently by his scruff, lifting him off the ground and up in one motion.


 “Todd?” Manchee yelps.

“Let him go!” I scream.

“Last chance, Todd,” Aaron says, no longer sounding so calm.

“Todd?” Manchee’s still yelping. “Todd?”

And no-

“I’ll kill you,” but my voice is a whisper-

And no-

And there ain’t no choice-

And the boat’s out in the current-

And I look at Viola, still rowing against it, tears dripping off her chin-

She looks back at me-

And there ain’t no choice-

“No,” she says, her voice choking. “Oh, no, Todd-“

And I put my hand on her arm to stop her rowing. The current takes us.

“I’m sorry!” I cry as the river takes us away, my words ragged things torn from me, my chest pulled so tight I can’t barely breathe. “I’m sorry, Manchee!”

“Todd?” he barks, confused and scared and watching me leave him behind. “Todd?

“Manchee!” I scream.

Aaron brings his free hand towards my dog.



And Aaron wrenches his arms there’s a CRACK and a scream and a cut-off yelp that tears my heart in two forever and forever.

Well, I wept for a good ten minutes. When I finally unwracked, I was compelled to track down my own dog for lots of extremely reluctant cuddles.

Age alert warning

I remember when the Eurovision Song Contest used to be hosted in a shed. The performer balanced on a rickety bar stool and pretended to strum a guitar. The official definition of glam was a tie-dyed smock with the occasional rhinestone.

The Eurovision has come a long way from All Kinds Of Everything. I’m not sure whether it is any cooler to watch the Eurovision Song Contest these days, but I don’t care. There was nothing else on the telly. And I like songs.

So here is a summary of the 25 countries that made the final, in order of appearance:-

1) Azerbaijan – Safura / ‘Drip Drop’
By far the best song in the contest, therefore didn’t stand a chance of winning. 17 year old Safura is an extraordinary singer, but the choreography was hokey. Accompanied by an outstandingly gay ballet dancer who gazed yearningly at Safura’s gown throughout the performance.


2) Spain – Daniel Diges / ‘Algo Pequeñito’
The title of the song translates as ‘Something Tiny’; unfortunately it was not an ode to Daniel Diges’ hair. Halfway through the performance, the Spaniards were joined onstage by a dude in jeans and a black t-shirt, who pulled some of the best moves of the evening. He was chased off the stage by a couple of heavies and taken down in the aisle. To Daniel Diges’ credit, he carried on as if nothing had happened, although his gormless grin took on a vaguely anxious quality. Spain were given another opportunity to perform at the end of the evening, but that only served to remind everyone how shit the song was.


3) Norway – Didrik Solli Tangen / ‘My Heart Is Yours’
The hosts had obviously tipped off their candidate as to the placement of the television cameras, with the result that Didrik Solli-Tangen’s eyes appeared to follow you around the room. Sinister effect. Fully deserved 20th place.


4) Moldova – SunStroke Project and Olia Tira / ‘Run Away’
Genuinely inspired instrumentals, particularly the saxophonist’s pelvic thrusting at 00:40. Unfortunately, the duo were out of tune and the guy looked like a freak. I’m also anxious about the fate of Cookie Monster, since Yer Wan appears to be wearing his pelt over her shoulder :-/


5) Cyprus – John Lillygreen & The Islanders / ‘Life Looks Better In Spring’
John Lillygreen might be as cute as a furry frog, but the song was bland and borderline twee – if the border is 5000 km wide.


6) Bosnia and Herzegovina – Vukašin Brajić / ‘Thunder and Lightning’
Infinitely forgettable.


7) Belgium – Tom Dice / ‘Me and My Guitar’
Undoubtedly the sentiments of this song would have been better expressed as a bar of chocolate.


8) Serbia – Milan Stanković / ‘Ovo je Balkan’
This was a much better song when I thought the title translated to ‘Egg of the Balkans’. In fact, it means ‘This Is The Balkans’. As it turned out, even ‘Egg of the Balkans’ could not have saved this Serbian tragedy of a song. It freaked me out – although not as much as the singer. Is it a man? Or some . . . something else? 


9) Belarus – Robert Wells / ‘Butterflies’
All I remember about this song was that the three women rather unimaginatively turned into butterflies at the end, but THEY DIDN’T FLY AWAY. I don’t like to be teased like that.


10) Ireland – Niamh Kavanagh / ‘It’s For You’
If not for Niamh Kavanagh, the average age of the Eurovision contestants would have been 14. Bless her, Niamh managed to keep her stomach tucked in through the whole song. Now that’s talent. Nobody turned into a butterfly, there were no riverdancers or clowns or acrobats, the pyrotechnics were kept to a minimum. I loved how ‘Good luck Niamh!’ popped up onto the screen, and how over-protective Marty Whelan was while cheerfully slagging off the other contestants. Even when we came second-last, I was still proud to be Irish.


11) Greece – Giorgos Alkaios and Friends / OPA!
Greek tragedy, although not as bad as the Serbian tragedy (see above).


12) United Kingdom – Josh Dubovie / ‘That Sounds Good To Me’
You bring the sunshine
I’ll bring the good times
Just add your laughter
Happy ever after
I don’t know ‘bout you but
That sounds good to me
Genuinely terrible.


13) Georgia – Sopho Nizharadze / ‘Shine’
Sounded like something someone had jotted down fresh out of the shower with a water soluble pen. Spectacularly dodgy choreography at 00:14. Ok, now I feel bad I just singled out that moment.


14) Turkey – maNga / ‘We Could Be The Same’
I thought this song rather rocked. 


15) Albania – Juliana Pasha / ‘It’s All About You’
This was a formulaic but rather catchy little tune. Trousers made her look like she had a saggy snatch, which was terribly distracting. The violinist’s hair at 1:12 is worth a look.


16) Iceland – Hera Björk / ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’
So I still haven’t figured out why Iceland’s song has a French title – they probably thought that quirky. Fabulous singer, who raised the average weight of the female contestants by about 5kg each.


17) Ukraine – Alyosha / ‘Sweet People’
Awful beyond belief – although not words, you’ll be glad to hear. This song was a horrific hectoring lecturing diatribe which would be best described as a quasi-musical rant. I would suggest that, if you have to state that The message is so true, your lyrics aren’t working hard enough for you. From Oh sweet people, what have we done? Alyosha progresses to neatly reneging on all personal culpability for the state of the world (No one but you to blame) which is a questionable ploy to earn maximum points.


18) France – Jessy Matador / “Allez Ola Olé”


19) Romania – Paula Seling and Ovi / ‘Playing with Fire’
So the guy was kinda scary, but Paula Seling was so completely hot in her rubber suit even I was attracted to her. If there was any justice in the world, the shot where the camera zooms under the piano and right up her crotch at 2:19 should have won them the Eurovision.


20) Russia – Peter Nalitch and Friends / ‘Lost And Forgotten’
Thankfully the title turned out to be prophetic. Dour.


21) Armenia – Eva Rivas / ‘Apricot Stone’
Doesn’t the title tell you all you need to know? Except that, Eva Rivas managed to display more cleavage than I thought was physically, scientifically or metaphorically possible.


22) Germany – Lena Meyer-Landrut / ‘Satellite’
The song was quirky enough to disguise the fact that Lena Meyer-Landrut can’t sing.


23) Portugal – Filipa Azevedo / ‘Há dias assim’


24) Israel – Harel Skaat / ‘Milim’
The Eurovision can be educational too. I never knew Israel was part of Europe.


25) Denmark – Chanée and N’evergreen / ‘In A Moment Like This’
Couldn’t see the point myself.

Post match analysis by Ceara, age 5

Unfortunately, I missed the Ireland v All Blacks rugby match this afternoon. I was barricaded in bed staving off flu symptoms with a hot water bottle, three packs of Strepsils and a heavy book.

Later, I followed the scent of food to the kitchen, where Ceara was eating her dinner. By the sink, Grampa discussed the Ireland v All Blacks match with Granna-V.

Me: Who won?

Ceara: Eh. It was a VERY scrappy game <shaking head sorrowfully>

Me: Really?

Ceara: Yes. Every time the Irish approached the line, de udder team took them out. They just never found their feet <big sigh>

Me: So you watched the game?

Ceara: No

A life of privilege

Mum: Will you ever stop scratching your arse against that heater?

Me: N-n-no. This house is f-f-freezing. It’s bordering on ch-child abuse.

Mum: Will you ever go and put some more feckin jumpers on ya.

Me: I’m w-w-wearing them all. D-don’t have any m-more.

Mum: I could lend you a vest.

Me: <look of slowly dawning horror>

Me: I would rather die of hypothermia.

Mum: For fecks’ sake! Will you ever toughen up! And stop wrecking my head! When I was a girl, we were so cold we were practically crippled with chilblains. We didn’t have ‘radiators’, just baked potatoes. We used to walk four miles to school, barefoot through the snow-

Me: Well, you’re lucky you’re hardy. I, on the other hand, was born into a life of privilege-

Mum: GAH!

Freezing point: higher than you might think

This country is f-f-f-free-hee-heezing.

There has been no circulation in my nose for two weeks now.

At present, I am stretched out on the floor of the living room, trying to press as much of my body length as possible against the heater. I hope nobody comes in, because it looks suspiciously like I’m attempting to shag the radiator. Except that I’m fully, in fact possibly over-clothed; and instead of counting the cracks in the ceiling, I’m typing on my laptop.

Every morning, I wake up lightly chilled. I pull the bedclothes higher, tucking them around my neck to create a vacuum against the outside world. Then I wrap my arms around my torso and tuck my feet into my armpits. I’m more flexible than I thought.

After half an hour of fruitless, soulless, yearning for warmth, I can’t delay getting up any longer. Mentally bracing myself, I fight off the duvet and three blankets, scramble over the cold hot-water-bottle, and make a desperate dash for the bathroom – specifically, the wall-mounted fan heater.

[Wait a minute – Radiator and I are shifting position. Mmm baby you’re so hot.]

Since leaving the UK ten years ago I have spent little time in Ireland. Husband and I were here for Christmas 2002, but I didn’t notice the temperature because I was fuelled with mulled wine.

As for my formative years in Limerick, I tend to view my upbringing with anti-rose-tinted glasses. I seemed to spend an awful lot of time trying to locate the ‘nuclear’ setting on my electric blanket, or huddled miserably in front of a fan heater, or wondering whether purple was my natural lip colour.

Now I can confirm: it really was that cold

Bringing to mind sweaty rock gods

Husband abandoned me for warmer climes yesterday. I would like to dedicate this post to him, supported by the Aerosmith song ‘I don’t want to miss a thing’. Since I can’t figure out how to musically accompany a blog post, you’ll have to use your imagination. Sorry if that brings to mind images of sweaty rock gods, or Bruce Willis blowing up asteroids.

Following are a selection of Husband’s finest moments over the last couple of weeks – or at least those I managed to capture on camera.

The town square in Kenmare

Mentally preparing for another pose during a walk in Dromore

Modelling the very latest in fashionable headwear, which no trendy man about town or beach should be without this season

Husband checks for the presence of ears (all present and correct)

Combatting rain in southwest Ireland

Demonstrating a keen interest in monolithic wedge tomb architecture, Connemara

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