GUEST POST by Niamh Griffin

Irish Lips are Smiling

The traditional review of the year is certainly an interesting one for 2009. Personally I had a few challenges to overcome when moving back to Ireland after working abroad. The biggest was answering daily queries on my sanity; who moves somewhere in the middle of a recession?

The other was staying cheerful. But one year on I’m still here; hanging on by my finger-tips maybe but still here. And now that Barbara has asked me to write something positive about Ireland for 2010 there’s actually a lot to say. So in spite of the pitch-black mornings there are still lots of reasons to throw off the duvet, let go of the hot water bottle and get out there:
Driving across the whole country. Sounds great and takes Americans days weeks to complete but we can do it twice in a weekend.

Train Friends – last time I took the train from Cork to Dublin the lady next to me talked for the whole journey. We did the meaning of life, the Church, the recession, arts and where to buy boots. The train arrived, we said goodbye and that was that.
Speaking Irish – OK not as often as we could but we try. And you can say things like ‘An raibh tu sios ag an sign-on place? Bhi an organizer i do lorg’ and everyone knows what you mean.
Sense of humour. Who else would greet a freezing swimmer crawling out of Killiney Bay with ‘Ah lads, I caught a mermaid’ as I got recently? Although wrapped in a wetsuit and hood I didn’t really fit the Disney profile …
Live music: the only reason Irish people hate Bono so much is because they want to be him. You can find the next guy every night somewhere.
Brown soda bread and salmon sandwiches – hot with melting butter. Who needs haute cuisine?
Brandy butter – speaking of butter. A Canadian friend here had never tried it before and her reaction confirmed that this is indeed a cuisine miracle.
Bogs – hike out to the mountains and jump into a pile of wet peat. Fun as long as you don’t sink in too far. One way to deal with the constant rain is just take advantage of the puddle-splashing and bog-hopping opportunities created.

And just remember that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. So never mind the Budget and the gloom; keep on smiling and we’ll get through this.

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Niamh Griffin is a freelance writer and travel addict. For now she lives by the sea in Ireland rediscovering what it actually means to be Irish not Oirish.

Niamh’s blog is Writer On The Way Home and is a great read for natives (as it often gives us a quirky look at ourselves) and for new arrivals (who will regularly find very useful local information).

Lookalikes and Alter Egos

Music, like our sense of smell, has the power to transport us back to a time and to a particular place in an instant. When that music is live, the effect is more intense.

Thirty years ago, myself and my best pal, took to following two particular Dublin bands on a very regular basis. One band was Stepaside who had a weekly residency in South Dublin. The other was an edgier outfit called The Lookalikes, who played locally but also took us Northside to the Crofton Airport Hotel and one occasion we made a trip to Skerries – an enormous adventure for two girls from Dun Laoghaire.

Both bands were great, but it was generally felt that The Lookalikes were on the brink of the big time. The fact that they were a seriously good looking foursome did nothing to hinder this belief. My memories are of exciting nights drowning in the great music and the rampant sex appeal that oozed from the stage.

The Lookalikes unfortunately did not make the big time and had broken up by the mid 80’s.

They recently reformed for a one off gig in The Button Factory, Temple Bar, to mark the 30th anniversary of their coming together as a band. And guess who were seated just in front of the stage – complete with bemused husbands? As they came on stage and began to play, we commented on the fact that, in general, the years had been good to the guys whose good looks still lurked under softened features. Then conversation became irrelevant. The music picked me up and the guys on stage merged with my suddenly vivid memories of how they each looked in 1980. As the rest of the audience faded away, it was just me and the band – as it had always been. I danced. I sang along with lyrics I assumed I’d have forgotten. And the passion I felt for the music hadn’t dimmed one bit.

It was great fun which, all too soon came to an end as they belted out an encore and then were gone. I was buzzing and on the greatest natural high. Reluctantly I left the venue and we headed home to our sleeping children – old memories and passions revived.

I went into town that night a 47 year old, baggy around the edges, contented, suburban housewife. I arrived home six hours later in the company of my 19 year old self, who is great craic but a little wild. It was a most peculiar experience. I couldn’t sleep. Beautiful songs that had clearly been burned into my brain all those years ago, had surfaced and were demanding to be listened to again. They played over and over in my head, mixed in with scenes from those heady days.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my life and it’s rather pedestrian pace through school runs, children’s activities, working on the parish newsletter, baking and walking the dog. But since last Saturday another me has arrived in the house. She has downloaded The Lookalikes tracks and plays them at full volume. She insists that I try harder with my hair and put on make up every day – even if I am just going to the shops. She seems to be waiting for the next adventure to arrive. And she enjoys nothing more than a bit of danger in her life. She is a true Rock Chick. Great fun, but I am now wondering if it is time she moved on or back to wherever she had been hiding out.

I suppose that that will depend on whether The Lookalikes decide to gig again anytime soon. I hope they do. I have promised her I’ll go again. I needed no persuasion.

Village Ceili

Cabinteely Crossroads Ceili is always a bit of craic and a great chance to catch up with neighbours and friends.

Last night we gathered at the Horse and Hound Pub and enjoyed the music, the mad Irish jigging about on the road, a few jars (drinks) and plenty of craic and chat.

We left the pub about ten pm and walked home in the rain.. Mia losing her flip flops every few steps – so it was a long enough walk. Tired and wet we ran baths and ordered chinese food which we ate in our pj’s. I think we all (adults and kids) headed to bed about 2am! A proper Irish party!

OOPS….. forgot to mention… wonderful photos by some hot shot photographer called Paul Sherwood…. see my favourite websites!

Music in the Mountains

We had a wonderfully musical Sunday last weekend, thanks to our youngest daughter, Mia. Mia plays with Cumann Naomh Brid Music Group and they had their annual ‘Ceol agus Stroll’ day in Avondale House in Co Wicklow. The day began with Mass in our Parish Church of Cabinteely. The group added a very celtic feel to the ritual with their spirited playing. A lament played on the Uillean Pipes was very moving.

We then adjourned to the magnificent surroundings of the Avondale Estate in Rathdrum, in Co Wicklow for lunch, which was followed by a seisiun! It was great fun! And we were all very proud of Mia… particularly her Grandmother, who had long waited for someone in the family to be musical! She finally got her wish!