Politically correct

yes-equalityOn Friday 22 May the people of the Republic of Ireland get to vote on a referendum regarding marriage equality; in other words, the straights get to say whether or not the gays get to marry.  I find it ridiculous that the masses get to choose whether people who love one another are allowed to marry, but that’s the state of our world these days.  Of course, Claude and I don’t get to vote, and that makes me sad.  I’d love to be able to proudly mark a YES on my ballot.  Such is the plight of the ex-pat.  I am frankly surprised how many people are scared to admit that they want to vote yes – and how many are scared to admit they want to vote no.  The No side has a pretty lame argument: some blather about ‘marriage is about having children’, and how scary surrogacy seems to be, and children needing both a mother and a father (while any number of studies easily accessed will refute that argument quite handily).  They don’t take into account the two-gender marriages that won’t or can’t produce children, or relationships that may emulate a single-sex marriage exactly.  If you ask me, I think it’s just another way for the insidious Catholic church to assert itself into the government and into the minds of the people.

Last week we received our first water bill in the post.  Anyone who hasn’t been paying attention – I’m looking at you, USA – wouldn’t know that water charges are a huge bone of contention in Ireland.  The entity administering this boondoggle is called Irish Water, and everyone reviles them.  They’ve already pulled millions of euros out of our pockets and now they’re siphoning even more – Like that analogy?  I thought it apt – without having done anything to improve infrastructure or water quality.  I’ve been told that the government will not start prosecuting people who refuse to pay until they are 4 bills in arrears.  Others have said that they don’t think the government has the intestinal fortitude to prosecute the predicted number of people who plan to refuse to pay.  But we’re afraid of the consequences to our bid for citizenship if we refuse to pay and end up in court.  So as much as we despise the position we’ve been brought to, we’re going to capitulate and pay the bill.  After all, as Americans we’re used to paying for water.  Where we come from, it doesn’t ‘just come from the sky’!

Speaking of the insidious church, I am finding it more and more difficult to listen to people make reference to their god without adding my two cents.  All these exhortations of “God bless you” and “God willing” and “with God’s help” etc. ad nauseum make me want to stomp my feet in frustration and ask all kinds of questions that will most certainly upset the devout.  I see parents going through the expensive and time-consuming routine of offering their daughters up as brides to the christ (aka communion) because they don’t want their children to feel “left out” while they themselves claim not to be religious or even attend church on a regular basis.  Ireland actually has blasphemy laws on the books under which one could theoretically be prosecuted for saying something against someone else’s god!  There’s an atheist group that I think I should join – and I will, as long as they don’t ask for too much of my time.

I like to be politically involved but I find that it’s difficult to be involved more deeply than simply peripherally, as I can’t really effect any change in any meaningful fashion until I am no longer afraid for my immigration status and can be allowed to vote.

It is 20 months until we can apply for citizenship.  Until then we can only sit back and watch the politics fly.

— Cindy


You know you’ve been long enough in Ireland when…

You watch Father Ted and laugh your head off because you get the jokes.

You have a conversation with Paddy down at the Saturday market and understand every word he said to you.

Someone uses a colloquialism you’ve never heard before but you still get it.

Your Irish friends quit giving you a hard time for speaking like a local.

You get used to the funeral notices the bus driver listens to on the radio.

The voices in your head are now speaking with an Irish accent.

Convoluted sentence structure doesn’t confuse you any more.

It no longer bothers you to spend half of your conversations with strangers talking about the weather.

You’re afraid the next time you go back home you’ll be talking like an Irish person and everyone will think you’re being pretentious.

This video makes you laugh (and, for me, cringe at the same time)!

— Cindy

Further random observations

  1. The other day I was riding the bus into town and noticed the bus driver was listening to a radio broadcast with a woman speaking in a calm, soothing voice.  As I approached the front of the bus to get off at my stop, I realized that it was an obituary report!  She was naming the dead person, the time and date of their service, and the charities or families to whom one could send condolences.  Morbid!
  2. I was chatting with my new volunteer mate at the till in the Oxfam shop last week when I asked her what the difference is between cookies and biscuits.  She told me that only chocolate chips in the treat make it a cookie, otherwise it is a biscuit.  I went to the grocery store and confirmed it for myself.  Only the cookies with chocolate chips were labelled as “cookies”!
  3. Somehow I got on the subject of hoarding with my student Maire at the computer class the other day.  We talked about how she finds it very difficult to throw out things that even she has a problem justifying keeping around.  She told me she thinks that hoarding is in the DNA of Irish people.  After all the many decades of poverty and privations, a lot of Irish people find it tough to throw things out.  She said it’s the “7 Year Rule.”  An Irish person must keep something for seven years before it’s okay to let it go.  This leads me to believe that my darling mother-in-law is much more Irish than even she realizes.
  4. Google “uniquely Irish” in the images search and these photos come up in the first 12 choices:
Father Ted

Father Ted


Claddagh ring


Irish stile


That whitewashed thatched cottage that every American thinks is where every Irish person lives

— Cindy

Festival city

One of the things we really appreciate about Galway is the tremendous number of festivals it hosts.  As I type, the 60th annual Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival is well under way.  This year they’ve built this huge pavilion on the Fishmarket (apropos, eh?) at the Spanish Arch to accommodate the guests and events.  Today we were having lunch on Quay Street and saw at least two separate parades!

At the beginning of September we had the 3rd annual Oscar Wilde Festival, a celebration of the man and his western Ireland roots.  I have attended one or more of the functions of this particular festival each year because I am a huge fan of Mr. Wilde; this year it was a play written by a local author called “Kicking Oscar’s Corpse”.  Next month we’re going to see two shows at the annual Comedy Festival: Tommy Tiernan and Rich Hall.  The main venue for the festival is the Spiegeltent Paradiso, an amazing looking structure that should lend a bit of panache to the event and the city.

June and July typically bring the most popular festivals to town.  This summer we attended a play and numerous art shows during the Galway International Arts Festival, a huge to-do that brings in artists both famous and no-so-famous, and a showcase play or two starring well-known actors of Irish descent.  This year we were visited by John Mahoney (Fraser’s dad) and Cillian Murphy.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to see either of the plays they were in but we hope to rectify that next year.  While we had a chance to attend the Food Festival, we didn’t see any of the films featured at the Film Fleadh (that’s pronounced “flah” as far as I can tell).  The children’s festival, Baboró, is coming up soon too.

Hardly a month goes by without a festival.  Now that I’ve done a bit of research, I find that no months go by without a festival of one sort or another!

— Cindy

PS: New Jamaican restaurant in town, opens in two weeks but they had a “soft” opening today so we got to stop in and meet the proprietor and have some juice and coffee.  Can’t wait to try the food!



The Absurdist Pipe Band


The Absurdist Pipe Band


The Absurdist Pipe Band


Oyster bar

The End Of Summer

Well, the Irish Autumn, as reckoned by the Gaelic calendar, is upon us – and I thought it might be time to look back on all things I thought about posting but didn’t.

The other morning I spotted a crow that had learned a few tricks from the sea gulls.  I was standing on the rocks at the edge of the bay when a crow carrying a mussel in its beak flew over the rocks.  It cast its head back and forward, then hurled the bivalve to the ground.  It then circled back and began to enjoy its breakfast, after which it wiped its beak on a handy piece of seaweed.

I changed jobs recently, working for IBM again.  It was a very welcome change.  The new offices are near the old DERI offices and I hope to start cycling again.  To that end I got the bicycle out of the shed yesterday, inflated the tires, changed a wheel, and rode off to Eyre Square and then back home again via the University.  It was a hot, sunny day and the first day after the Galway Races, so the square and Shop street were packed with people out enjoying the day.

Last Thursday was Ladies’ Day at the races, and when I went into town to meet Cindy for dinner the square was full of ladies in strange finery.  The young ladies seemed to be partial to fascinators, while the older generation tended toward hats. Accompanying the ladies in their finery were properly dressed men: 3-piece suits, hats, not a trainer in sight.  Intermingled in the crush of finery were the typical afternoon square visitors, and the often found drunk.  Cindy told me that she was talking with Vinnie (of Candyland fame) when he said something like “Jaysas lad don’t whip it out”.  Seems a rather intoxicated young lad decided that taking a piss in the middle of the green was appropriate. He finished making his puddle in the grass, spun around to rejoin his mates, lost his balance and fell backwards into the pool of his own making.  Sometimes the universe applies the best punishments.

The other day while I was walking to work, having missed my bus connection, I noticed the blackberries were ripening.  Later, in the kitchen, a co-worker mentioned that it didn’t feel like the end of summer to her.  That, in her mind, summer ended when the blackberries were ripe.  I mentioned the ripening berries I had seen, and she commented that they seem to be ripening earlier this year.

And so here I am back where I started: at the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumn as another year speeds past.  So happy Lúnasa everyone.

— Claude

Was it for this?

News has been swirling around the recent revelation that the grounds of one of Ireland’s many “mother-and-baby homes” contains a tremendous number of unceremoniously buried children.  This home was run by a Roman Catholic Church sect called the Bon Secours nuns; it is located in Tuam, Co Galway.  The story has gone viral, with the usual bad information and overstated statistics — but one thing we can all be certain of is that those children died neglected and unhappy at the hands of the church in collusion with the State.  We can only hope this revelation opens a thorough investigation by the Gardaí, and more than that, a wider dialogue about the role the church plays in the laws of the Republic of Ireland and the lives of her wonderful people.

Today I found this poem by a young man called Stephen Murphy.  He speaks so eloquently, so movingly, about the historic price paid by the people of Ireland.


— Cindy

Christmas swim

Christmas swim today!  It’s an annual fundraiser run by COPE Galway, a local homeless assistance charity.  The diving board area was crammed with people, some wearing their warmest winter coats and hats, some wearing nothing but a swimsuit. Thank goodness the fierce winds and hail had finally cleared off or it could have been a tragedy!  But instead it was a lot of fun.  We’ll be sure to get there earlier next year and with plenty of coin in our pockets for the buckets.

Happy Christmas!

— Cindy