Níl Gaeilge agam but I’d like to try

Summer is coming, which means my annual attempt to learn Irish is almost here. Like an Irish summer, this usually lasts a few hours and ends in a downpour of self-loathing.

I can’t speak Irish. This is a source of frustration for my Gaeilgeoir wife. The Irish language plays the same role in our relationship as it does between Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster. I am a constant disappointment, or An Disappointment Mór to give my full name.

At dinner with the in-laws I play the role of Miguel, the hapless Spanish exchange student who spends ten minutes plucking up the courage to ask for water. I try to involve myself but it is difficult when the extent of my conversational skills amounts to “oscail an fhuinneog le do thoil”. Winters are particularly tense.

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Why stag parties are the new conscription

A friend got engaged over Easter, ruining what had otherwise been a perfectly enjoyable break.

Munching on chocolate eggs, I nervously anticipated the inevitable moment when an email will arrive with the two words that strike terror into the hearts of all men: stag party.

Nothing illustrates the difference between men and women like their approach to congratulating friends on impending nuptials.

Hen parties gather at nail salons, where they have their fingertips decorated as they sip cava. They then move to a restaurant, where they swap treasured memories of the bride and take turns to speak about how much they love each other.

Stag parties gather in Dublin airport, where they struggle through pints at 6am. They then move to northern England, where they attempt to murder their close friend.

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Retail therapy is torture for men my age

On my list of favourite therapies to experience, ‘retail’ features comfortably below ‘electro-shock’.

Men tend to regard shopping as something that reluctantly must be done once a year. Like a prostate exam, only less enjoyable.

This is changing. There is a generational shift. Men in their 20s have embraced fashion. This new breed has a training camp at the foothills of the Dublin mountains. It is known locally as Dundrum Town Centre and I visited there last weekend.

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Trump and the Paris Agreement: how we conveniently forgot about our outrage

For a moment it really seemed like we cared. Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement united us in disbelief. People in newly registered jeeps shook their heads solemnly as they sat marooned in suburban traffic. They knew it was serious because journalists and governments who had spent decades ignoring the issue all told them it was. People stopped just short of changing their Facebook profiles to photos of sad polar bears.

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Cities are for people, not cars

Two Mondays ago, as I rummaged in the kitchen for something that could be passed off as dinner, a man lost his life 100 yards from my front door. He was crossing the road on foot when a vehicle struck him. I do not know the precise details of how his life came to end. The fact that man and vehicle collided at a pedestrian crossing suggests that one of them broke a light but I don’t know which.

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Democracy in overdrive: time for a break from the ballots

Will this endless cycle of consultative decision-making ever end? In the league table of fevers, ‘election’ sits a lot closer to ‘scarlet’ than ‘Saturday night’, yet we appear to have found ourselves trapped on an election merry-go-round spinning out of control.

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Music festivals: at what age can we stop pretending this is fun?

All over Ireland, thousands of people are facing into months of anxiety and trauma.

These are people for whom summer is marred by feelings of regret, despair and self-loathing. They are society’s hidden victims: people in their 30s and 40s who have accidentally bought tickets to music festivals.

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I’m a vegetarian, not a small child

This time two years ago I stayed in a B&B in Co. Mayo that I will always remember for two reasons: firstly, the framed picture on the wall gifted to the owners without explanation by the US Air Force Special Operations Unit; and secondly because it was the venue for my last ever burger.

Continue reading “I’m a vegetarian, not a small child”

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