Life in Ireland

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The recent Rugby World Cup reminded me how much I love rugby, and used to enjoy attending international matches at the old Lansdowne Road stadium in the pre-Celtic-Tiger days of the mid-1980s.

IRFU LogoA bus-load of teenage rugby players would head up to Dublin and be released somewhere in Ballsbridge for a day. We’d sneak off for a pint or two at Crowe’s Pub (removing our school ties and tying our crested uniform jumpers around our waists in order to look a little less underage — or just huddling under a thick jacket if the weather was cold), usually meeting up with older brothers and other past pupils also going to the match. Then we’d stroll towards the stadium along the Dodder, and enter through what now seems like very low-tech turn-stiles. Read the rest of this entry »

There are a lot of traditions that make up the Christmas season in Ireland. Some are simply an Irish approach to an international practice, while others are definitely only-in-Ireland phenomena.

 

The Late Late Toy Show

Ryan's 2013 Christmas Sweater

Ryan’s 2013 Christmas Jumper

Christmas doesn’t start until kids stay up late to watch The Late Late Toy Show. The Late Late Show is Ireland’s oldest chat show, and at the start of every December since Gaybo was a boy they’ve devoted one show to featuring favorite and new toys. The show is hilarious as the adult host, currently Ryan Tubridy, has to deal with dozens of young children who review the various toys (some as young as five), going off-script constantly and ad-libbing to great effect. Ryan usually wears that other Christmas staple the ugly Christmas Jumper, and frequently breaks the toys, drawing pained comments from the kids. Now that social media has taken off, following the Twitter chat as the program airs is essential.

Viewers worldwide can watch this year’s Toy Show online for a few more days.

 

Jacob's USA Biscuits!

Jacob’s USA Biscuits!

Tins of Biscuits

If you visit anyone over the holidays, you bring a tin of biscuits or a bottle of something (or both, if the old employment situation is good). Tins of biscuits are something you only see at Christmas, and there are no plain biscuits in the box! Few Irish are born without a very sweet tooth!

Thankfully, tins of biscuits are easier to come by in the US these days. Don’t show up at any Irish Crimbo party without one under your arm!

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An Irish football player is a finalist for FIFA’s Puskás award, which recognizes the “most beautiful goal of the year.” But this isn’t one of Ireland’s famous footballers; the footballer fans have placed on par with Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie and Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez, is 25-year-old Stephanie Roche, star of the Irish women’s national football team, who plys her trade in the French Women’s League.

Stephanie Roche Puskas Award

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You may have come across some of Galway independent Irish-language school Coláiste Lurgan’s previous videos on YouTube, but their latest, an Irish-language cover of Lorde’s hit “Royals” (Ríoga), is becoming a bit of an internet sensation.

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Last Saturday was the annual (River) Liffey Descent race in Ireland, the biggest canoe and kayak event in the country, and one I know intimately.

liffey descent 2014In my teenage years, I was a keen white-water kayaker. [Jargon alert: in the US, people tend to refer to the sport as kayaking, in Ireland they refer to it as canoeing.] I paddled several times a week and competed around the country on my school team. The highlight of the year was the School’s Liffey Descent, which takes place a week before the “real thing,” the adult race. Over the years, I’ve paddled the Liffey several times, and the river still holds a certain mystique.  Read the rest of this entry »

October sees a variety of festivals celebrating Irish food, world-class opera, and great jazz, as well as two of the most popular participatory sporting events in the country. (Can you guess what they are?)

Seaweek-poster-2014

Dromineer Literary Festivaldlf-logo-web

Dromineer, Co. Tipperary – 2-5 October, 2014

The Dromineer Literary Festival is an intimate event held in a beautiful lakeside village in Co. Tipperary. This year’s authors include Medbh McGuckian, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Booker Prize-nominee Donal Ryan and celebrated newcomer Liz Nugent.  Read the rest of this entry »

Some say Irish dogs are different from other dogs: more soulful, wiser, friendlier even. Hmmm, maybe… maybe not… However, let me tell you about one fabulous Irish dog!

Years ago, I was traveling around Ireland with several American friends, one of whom had lived in Dublin as a child for several years. She observed that Irish dogs were quite different to dogs in other countries, they were “purposeful.” Rather than wandering or straying, Irish dogs appeared to do things deliberately, purposefully, with their tails high and a definite goal in mind.

official neighborhood greeterAs we explored small towns and villages, we began to see the local dogs through her eyes. They did indeed seem very busy, and appeared to have goals and direction. They’d trot down the street, stopping to greet people and other dogs, tails wagging, a glint in their eyes, and after a moments’ connection, would resume their course with every appearance of purpose.

Every year, I’m reminded of purposeful dogs because, as my family prepares to spend the summer in Ireland, one of our children will comment, “I wonder if Prince is still there?Read the rest of this entry »

For the last few years, parts of rural Ireland have been convulsed by arguments over fracking, a process of extracting shale gas from bedrock after fracturing that rock by pumping water and chemicals underground, allowing the gas to escape back up the borehole.

Endangered IrelandThe technique has created the appearance of a financial boom in the US, as it taps hard-to-reach gas deposits, but the damage the technique appears to cause is hard to dismiss (although politicians are too quick to do so). I say the “appearance” of a financial boom, because the companies are not responsible for cleanup or pollution as a consequence of fracking, expenses which local communities may have to deal with for decades after the fracking companies have left town. The frequency of earthquakes around fracking sites rises alarmingly, methane and other chemicals can pollute drinking water sources, such as rivers and wells, and there are simply no long-term studies of the environmental effects of the chemicals they use. For a country dependent on agriculture and tourism, fracking represents a major threat to Ireland’s long-term economic future in return for a short-term — and likely largely off-shore — gain, to say nothing of the threat to rural communities which could be left with poisoned streams, decimated bird and fish populations, and contaminated drinking water. Read the rest of this entry »

The most quintessentially Irish experience you can have is not posing with an over-priced pint in Temple Bar, nor wearing an aran jumper in a futile attempt to block out an Atlantic gale, it’s one you can run into any evening of the year just a few miles outside any Irish town or city: getting stuck behind a herd of cows coming in from the fields.

Rush hour, Irish style.

Rush hour, Irish style.

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By summer, most fairy trees in Ireland are sagging under the weight of misguided offerings. Many are dying from the accumulated damage. Yesterday, my kids and I joined in an effort to save the rag trees on the Hill of Tara.

Fairy Trees in Ireland

Rag trees on the Hill of Tara after cleaning. (Click the picture to see what they usually look like in summer.)

The Tara & Skryne Preservation Group organized a clean up because the two rag trees on the Hill of Tara (they grow together, so appear to be one) were becoming not just unsightly under the weight of inappropriate offerings, but were actually being damaged by them. After seeing the call-to-arms on Facebook, we joined 30-or-so other old souls who cared enough to spend some time cutting the clutter away. Read the rest of this entry »

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