Monday, 17 March 2014

17 things to love about Ireland

To celebrate St. Patrick's day I've compiled a list of 17 things to love about our beautiful country of Ireland. There's a lot to be proud of, so let's get going! If you find yourself lucky enough to live in the 'Emerald Isle', chances are there will be:

1. Beautiful country side. We’re known the world over as the ‘Emerald Isle’. It’s easy to see why with our rolling green hills, lakes, forests, making up our expansive and impressive landscape. 
2. Irish language, although there are arguments on either side for the preservation of the Irish language, without it we wouldn't have the Irish myths and legends that have been shared as part of our oral history for centuries. Plus what self-respecting Irish person can’t utter a ‘cúpla focail’?
3. We're known as the best fans in the world – Our team might not win every time, but either way we’re always good for a crowd rousing rendition of ‘The Fields of Athenry’ And when there’s victories to be celebrated, we do it very well!

4. Irish humour – At least once in your life you’ve probably been called a smartarse if you’ve been graced with Irish wit. Be it light hearted humour, black comedies or colloquial in-jokes, we’re a nation that likes to laugh. We have some top notch comedians too, Dara O’Briain, Dylan Moran, David McSavage, Dermot Morgan, Graham Norton, Tommy Tiernan, Jason Byrne. It’s an ever expanding list!
5. Irish TV - Glenroe, The Den, Father Ted and Black Books (created by our own Graham Linehan) Moone Boy (co-written and starring Chris O’Dowd),  Podge and Rodge, Ros na Run (hey! If it's good enough for Stephen Fry!)

6. The Arts – Be it music, literary prowess or drama. We have our bases covered. We’re known not just for our trad music or U2, but the musical talents of Sinead O'Connor, The Pogues, Kodaline, Bell X1, The Dubliners, Thin Lizzy.. The list goes on and on. We have literary geniuses such as James Joyce, William Wordsworth, Seamus Heaney, Lady Augusta Gregory, John B.Keane, Sean O’Casey, Patrick Kavanagh, C.S. Lewis, Oscar Wilde, and W.B. Yeats, We’ve so much homegrown talent on this island!
7. Irish actors - Let's face it. A serious amount of talent has come from this little island. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Cillian Murphy, Michael Gambon, Peter O’Toole, Saoirse Ronan,  Domhnall Gleeson, Evanna Lynch, Brenda Fricker, Bronagh Gallagher, Maureen O’Hara plus Daniel Day-Lewis who we claim as our own. There must be something in the water!
8. Eurovision champs - We've won it more than any other country and even sent a beloved puppet, no not that puppet! Our beloved favourite from ‘The Den’, Dustin. Irlande douze pointe anyone?

9. The Late Late Toy Show – A staple must watch in our television schedule. The host must don a festive jumper, all sorts of toys are rated and slated by the kids and there’s even been several drinking games created to go with it! Every year the competition is fierce for tickets, after all, who doesn’t want to hear “And there’s one for everyone in the audience!”?
10. Irishisms – Yes, we speak English. But we’ve adapted it to embrace our own sayings. Classics such as "It's fierce mild!", “I’m in a heap!”, “Ya flute!”, “That’s poxy!”, “Her? She’s a wagon!”, etc., confusing people the world over.
11. Irish sport - Hurling, GAA, handball, greyhound racing, horse racing.. Take your pick, we’ve got plenty! 
12. Irish food - every household has their own family recipes for the likes of brown bread, coddle, stews, fruit cake and scones. Plus we’ve got goodies such as Tayto, Club Milk bars, Macaroon bars, Mint Crisp bars, Catch bars, Jonny Onion Rings, Wheelies. And let's not forget the classic Irish fry. Mmm.. Ah yeah, I’ll have an egg!
13. The tea - a decent cup of tea. The line has been drawn in the sand in the war between Lyons or Barrys. And there IS a difference!
14. Banter with strangers - be it a bus stop, at the bar or even a queue for the bathroom, we love to talk. Traditional topics include, the weather, topical news stories about high profile Irish people, TV and parochial chat.
15. Historical sites - They’re everywhere in Ireland! We’re probably best known for Newgrange, which is older than the pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge, castles are dotted all round the country, the Hill of Tara, dolmens, hill forts. Our country is bursting at the seams with historical areas of interest. You need only look as far as the GPO in Dublin to see the bullet holes left there from the 1916 Rising. There’s so much history based in Ireland, and we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by it.

16. Irish mythology - our tales of leprechauns, banshees, heroic warriors, fairyfolk, Queens and chieftains are told the world over. The tradition of storytelling in Ireland began with the seanchaí or seanchaithe, the storytellers,  where they would entertain Chiefs and clans with their tales of creatures lurking in our waters, brave warriors, acts of cunning and light hearted stories. They would act out the entire performance, enthralling their captive audience. It is through these tales that we still have a record of stories told long ago. A valuable piece of our history, which we keep alive today.
17. The people. Irish people are known for being friendly, chatty and welcoming. So whether you're traveling here just for St. Patrick's Day or are born and bred here, you're sure to run into a few characters you won't meet anywhere else. Even with our beautiful scenery, history, sports, music, and flair for the arts, it's the people that truly make Ireland special.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Dusting off the cobwebs

It seems like an age since I've updated this blog but it's been a busy few months!

Since t'wedding day in October, I've been adjusting to life as a newlywed. Which, for me, basically meant talking about our wedding in the past tense, sporting some new jewellery and trying a new name on for size.

Then of course there was Christmas which was lovely as we got to spend time with family and friends and also indulge in the full and jam packed food pyramid. (Spoiler alert: I ate all round me, paté, cheese, various meats, candycanes, chocolate coins.. Nothing was safe!)

Source: DeviantArt - jessijones
We also kicked off 2014 with a new family member! My niece Fia was born in January and it's safe to say we're all besotted with her. Babies bring such excitement into a home, especially when it's the first grandchild on my side. Mothercare didn't know what had hit it!

February brought my sister-in-law's fabulous 40th birthday, which was filled with family, bubbly, memory filled photos, balloons and not one, not two, but THREE delicious cakes. (All of which I sampled - ahem!)

I noticed that all these exciting and happy times had a common ingredient.

The involvement of friends and family.

Let's face it, good news is wonderful and as human beings, we love to share our good news so others can share in the joy. The fact that I could text, sending direct messages on social media, call and email all those I hold dear made all of these experiences even more special. It also made me reflect on how lucky I am to have that support network to chat to in good times and bad. As the Beatles once sang "I get by with a little help from my friends", and I'm sure I'm not the only one who does.