Ulster American Folkpark

With the hard/ soft border controversy being such a big issue at the forefront of Irish politics, I think blogging about a daytrip in this historical park is timely.

I live in the Irish Midlands – south of the border, as they say. I have grown up watching the troubles on the news as one of the Irish who didn’t experience it first hand. I am a history teacher and have some knowledge on the history of our border. I have been ‘over it’ countless times (the border that is) and despite the crossing in the eighties and the now, being a world of a difference, my experiences of the counties have always been the same. I have loved visiting those six counties. I am very, very aware however of the struggles Irish people had in Ulster however and can understand when they feel like we southerners can never fully understand.

My friends and I decided to travel up north for a few days without  a second thought. Our main drive was to visit the tourist attraction that is in the post title- The Ulster American Folk park.

I find that I am often painfully aware of the tragedies of Irish history when site seeing and the ironies that it brings. The Famine Memorial statue in Dublin is the most poignant tribute and it never fails to move me. the-famine-memorial-statues-in-dublin-docklands-ireland-drykhpAs a country girl, I only ever see it when in the Big Smoke. I am usually only in the capital for entertainment. Therefore I always think of the horrors of the Famine as I have just been wined and dined or about to see David Grey in The Convention Centre or watch Wicked at the Bord Gais. It is like Christmas time. My first memories of Christmas parties in pubs includes large groups of inebriated and happy folk, arms around each other, chanting the sad lyrics of Feed the World (Let them know it’s Christmas Time) as they sweat out the evening’s indulgences in beer, wine and the four course meal that proceeded it. In museums and parks such as this, I always look for the coffee shop and a potentially wonderful array of cake as only an Irish bakery can provide. This time however, I think of me eating chocolate cake and drinking Americanos as more than a bit rich as we are about to learn the stories of people whose have had extremely little to live on. We particularly feel for those on the ships and the dry biscuity goods they lived on- potentially weevil studded. I start feeling like Marie Antoinette- richly oblivious of my life’s good luck.

Therefore I will not blog about this park as just a review, I will refer to how child friendly it is or isn’t out of respect to my parenting blogger friends but will also focus on what I saw in the park and how I feel that stands now.

It is such a terrific idea. The Ulster people are honoring and remembering the folk from their province who emigrated over the years to America in a most innovative fashion, an outdoor museum. It brings us through the journey in a kinaesthetic way following the Mellon family who would become wealthy bankers in the US later on their lives. Firstly there is a centre of pictorial and textual information which brings you through 300 years of emigrants’ stories, looking at the Titanic time also. You then enter the park into an Ireland of old. Firstly rural life of the poor and contrastingly more affluent Irish is portrayed.

Thick with turf smoke, I couldn’t properly photograph the interior of a poverty stricken tenant cottage as my senses could barely stand the smoke impregnated air. It was also hard to see. I feel great sympathy for the lady in the corner who sits there as part of her job! One family of a large number would dwell in a one room home using curtains to divide sleeping space. We marvelled at how people made do in terribly tough circumstances. You pass the cottages on the outskirts and understand how poverty made people survive in cramped, smoky environs. I think of us in our large comfortable houses and cannot help but compare the times. Are we not fortunate? We see the home of a wealthier family, the Mellon family. Again, what is noticeable is the fog of the peat burning.

There is much more space. Whitewashed walls and bread making, potatoes to peel and boil are on show. We see the art of candle and bread making in process. From here, we walk through a local ‘town’, fully recreated and stunning in detail. There are people in full costume at each area, answering questions and teaching us about what we see.

We then walked in through the large doors to a mock shipyard itself and board the typical vessel that emigrants travelled upon.

We hear the stories of illness and tragedies, the hopes, solitudes and fears of the times. I think of when I moved to England for two years. I could travel home easily. I had comfort on those flights, yet the homesickness still ate me alive. I think of these people having to contain both physical and mental emotions and stay strong in the knowledge they may never return. When you leave the ship, you step out on ‘American soil’ : a port laid out as if it were years ago.

We see the pickled foods lined up in the general store and the array of canned goods that a newbie must marvel at. Lima beans? A far cry from home.

The journey continues with you walking the city streets in Pennsylvania and finally out to the homeland that was created by the emigrants lucky to do so. Many examples of homesteads are there to inspect and you really feel as if you are standing on the American soil of the past. The differences in sights and sounds were subtle yet very effective. We noticed more wood use over stone.

There were brighter rooms- lighter colours inside. There was more use of patchwork over wool in counterpanes. Of course, there was no peat. Instead, the scent of log fires replaced it.

We no longer see baskets of turf, but wood piles. My favourite -a large pumpkin patch- accompanied one dwelling. The methods of gatemaking and cabin building with interlocking logs were ingenius.

There are basements to cellars with outdoor entrances and water is carefully channelled to make a cooling room for milk etc. Exploring here is great fun and so different to what we usually see in Ireland. You can’t help but learn about it as you are immersed in it.

So as a historical empathiser, I didn’t have to work too hard. The tour was doing it for me as we were interactively part of this journey.

Would I bring kids? Absolutely. Smaller ones will enjoy the walks, the domestic pets and the occasional hiding robin.

There are toilet facilities all the way around. Older ones may have a chance to open their minds to the historical past and the challenges that existed in Ulster previous to The Troubles and the current political debates. They will see, as I did, the strength in humanity and will see celebrated the tapestry of emigrant life as people because everything from millionaires to swindlers in this new world.20170808_115253

It puts me in mind of the poetry of Eavan Boland and her constant theme of figures ‘outside history’. They may not be named in history books, but they are very much part of our make up. This poem, Outside History has a darkness that I don’t fully feel in this museum of hope, however the first two stanzas stay with me as I travel about the Ulster American Folk Park.

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Here are two advertisements that I found intriguing  in the park. I will leave you with those.

Picture Credits:

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AND

My own attempts at photography😊

 

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Like to Love

Having recently finished the cute, romantic and tasteful The Red Notebook, I feel inspired by the main female character ‘Laure’ ( what a gorgeous name) to an introspective excerise. 20170612_132042In the novel, Laure kept a moleskine red notebook and tracked thoughts and feelings. Now, I don’t fancy that especially. No. I am not a diary girl anymore. However what I did like was her list of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’.

In a bid to be positive, in order to counteract the terror in our world (as many blog posts now address), peace starts with us. We can only control ourselves and our own goodness. I will start with my personal joys. So simply put:

  1. I like smelling my coffee. I might not always finish drinking it (my husband’s bugbear), but I consider it was a wasted beverage if I didn’t inhale the first aroma of scalded beans.

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    An actual real meal I had- not a computer download. The butter pat is wrapped in actual parchment.
  2. I like reading a book that makes me want to finish it. Life is too short to read a dull book. It is no crime to put down the book and leave it unfinished if it is not cutting the mustard.

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    Major Mustard Cutters. Sounds like a character from Cluedo.
  3. I like tasteful and cute tidbits.  I am loving the new cafe culture in Ireland that envelops charm, health and wellbeing in a pretty setting.
  4. I love the concepts of simplicity in beauty. I may not be able to fully do it, but I sure like looking at it and thinking about it. I will get myself in trouble if I step into Sostrene and Greene anymore. (Try and stop me though!).

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    It is like being in Denmark without the customs check. Affordable, delicate beauty. Indulgence.
  5. I love how my little girls smell like biscuits. A combination of bath gels, cremes and just their baby essence makes a wonderful vanilla, peaches and cream mixed with pixie dust scent that cannot be bottled.

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    Perfect.
  6. I love Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. uplifting, inspiring and magical for mood enhancing.piano-956386_640.jpg
  7. I love the feeling of clearing out an area and moving on what is unnecessary, leaving space to enjoy what is left.
  8. I love evening times with my husband.bitmoji-20170614010042
  9. I love looking at pots of jam. I pick them up, turn them over, admire. I rarely eat jam. I like the pretty pots though.20170613_102304-1
  10. I love a good conversation. As a poor conversationalist (I don’t feel this is a consistent trait I have ) when I do get ‘in deep’ I love it.
  11. I love cycling a bike. Mr Paper has gotten me back into this activity again and we go to Lough Boora in Offaly with the girls to search for fairies. This is the place to find them on our hired bicycles.B6A7243-e146185074650220170326_162610
  12. I love my girls’ hysterical giggles when they both fall over like clowns, dramatically and with no pain.
  13. I love going to bed. Snuggling into cotton sheets with plump pillows and a promise of relaxation. It may not always happen- but that moment of potential always does.bitmoji-20170614125848

Well thank you Laure. This trick works. I didn’t even notice that my likes quickly turned into loves- but they did. I urge you to try it sometime.  Counteract the badness out there with a whole bunch of positive thoughts. 

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National Theatre Tour and Afternoon Tea in London town

Who doesn’t love exploring somewhere like London? Random stalls and street food, history on every corner and in every crack in every wall.

Friday brought a magic stolen day in London with a friend from college days. This is a girl who can make me laugh, talk and brings me to a very happy place. We were getting a chance to have some real fun! I really couldn’t believe we actually had gone. A cheap flight was booked about six weeks ago with a vague possibility of going but times were tough in the Paper house (Why is Everyone Crying?) And I really thought I wouldn’t be leaving. I know some of you might be getting deja vu…didn’t she rabbit on about similar feelings like that before? ? Yes I did!  I didn’t think we would get away to Castle Leslie either but we did indeed. It is possible that all mothers for this. We all plan for cancellation and getting to go is just a bonus.

In this case, we went.

And really, everything on tour was coming up golden.ScreenShot2012-05-04at113336AM.jpg Connections seemed to wait at terminals just for us. Tubes glided in at our whim. The sun shone. Music and gigs played in parks. People smiled. We were really there.

Our friend was working until four, so we had a full day to fill. Both of us having lived near London in the past, we have already seen the Tower, Big Ben, Covent Garden and all the galleries so we had a massive opportunity for new explorations. London is a time eater so you cannot over plan. We chose afternoon tea. Much research into many teas at hotels, shopping centres and favourite places brought me to the tea and tour at the National Theatre. Great value at 35 pounds, you receive a fantastic tour (thanks to Sarah our professional, highly informative and passionate guide) and then a lovely tea i20160715_143427n the House restaurant overlooking the Thames. I cannot fault this experience. If you love theatre, then it is a must. Who doesn’t love tea and little delicacies? Win win!

We got to spy on rehearsals for The Plough and the Stars, being produced due to the centenary of the Easter 1916 Rising. (I assume!). The theatre is quite unusual at first sight. Not my cup of tea (no pun intended) but I was convinced as to why it was built like that by the end of the tour. Not meant to be attractive in the way Victoria theatre etc is, you are meant to be free of all aesthetic distraction in order to focus on the art on stage completely. The interiors remind me of the Canal Bank or the O2 theatres in Dublin. Modern and purpose built, it isn’t conventionally pretty.

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Classic interior of an English theatre. This is Wells in Norfolk.
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A whole new style of exterior.

I wasn’t allowed photograph inside but you can imagine the grey insides of a multi story car park with theatres free from chandeliers, ornate excess or box seats. Royalty mingle with the common folk here. We were shown much of the interiors and backstage including the impressive factory workshop, churning out purpose built props and backdrops. The National theatre is composed of three actual theatres, the Olivier, the Dorfman and the Lytteldon. We did not see the Olivier as productions for Young Chekov season were bring rehearsed. Passing large trolleys, a quick peep would show you the labeled and itemised props for The Seagull or an equally classic play.We were shown secrets behind the illusion, warned not to lean against walls as everything was not as it seems and joyed at the sight of a horse prop from War Horse  dangling overhead.

The Dorfman (named after a very generous donor) is intimate and modern and we were lucky to see the most amazing set in full glory for Sunset at the Villa Thalia. Realistic to a fault, what looks like a concrete front yard is in fact a styrofoam base. This theatre has ‘clever’ chairs that sense body temperatures and can also ‘tell’ you when they malfunction. Lights worth thousands are everywhere. We are told there is no wiggle room for props here to be vaguely real as you are so close to the stage from all sides. You need to perfect the props to a fault. They have recently experimented with innovative sensory theatre too, soaking rugs in beer to give the sense of a typical British bar or even roasting a leg of lamb onstage, leaving a salivating audience living and breathing the atmosphere.

You can see I loved the tour…

Even better, when it was over we went upstairs and were handed Bellinis.(champagne with peach puree). Luxury. The actual tea (the drink) menu was extensive but I wanted tradional breakfast tea. My friend had a flavoured tea. The meal itself was themed (yes a theatrical theme!) quirkily naming courses and making ordinary ingredients more exciting.

So much fun. Such a treat! Especially ‘A Taste of Honey’ cake and a really unusual but delicious pie named after Sweeney Todd. Don’t panic- it is just pork.

A little ‘interval icecream’ with an edible purple flower rounded off the experience perfectly. Cross the bridge and you can have a tipple in Gordon’s Wine Bar, following in the footsteps of Rudyard Kipling.20160715_170346-1.jpg20160715_153437

Time then to hop on the train and head out to Finchley…

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Harry Potter style!

I recommend this tour to any theatre lover. You will not be disappointed and tea just makes it extra sparkly! Don’t forget the theatre is on Southbank (get tube to Embankment and walk over either bridge, and enjoyable experience in itself) then you can wander the Southbank until the tour starts.

So much to see and experience in this part of London. Watch out for the urban beaches appearing everywhere too. My friend was particularly loving the deckchairs that seemed to appear just when needed all over the city. Who could fault such loveliness?

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A lovely day.

So this Mammy had a wonderful time in Southbank and had another two lovely days to come.

Missed the babies and their Daddy though..!

 

 

Castle Leslie

Going away without the kids. It makes me jittery to even think of it! It is nerve wracking and guilt inducing (all Mammies live with perennial guilt I feel) but sends a tentative shiver of excitement, a thrill down the spine too. Forbidden fruit and all that.

The potential. Eating dinner whilst staying in one spot. No jumping up and down to various needs. No food bolting. Just indulgent enjoyment. No nappies.

No worries about rude, sudden steps appearing to block stroller access or changing facility availability.

Looking after one set of clothes.

No missing dodo freak out. 

No strict naptime to adhere to…Unless it is for you.

Which brings me to the magic words…lie in. bitmoji-20160624011618

My husband has been trying desperately for weeks to plan a weekend away and in the end organised a VERY fancy pants weekend to Castle Leslie . It is where Paul McCartney married Heather Mills, sir-paul-mccartney-1429499_640don’t you know, thereby reinvigorating interest and popularity in the old pile and now tourists flock through the doors.

Including Mr Paper and myself!

He is spoiling me.

Betsy has had a hard time but a diagnosis of reflux (again!) and the introduction of Gaviscon (Groundhog Day) are actually appearing to have made a difference so I was not so panicked about leaving the little ladies. Mr Paper’s extremely efficient sister and her husband, alongside a (much loved by Gigi) daughter (aged eight) were coming en force to mind the Paper ladies.

We packed. I overcooked. I labelled anything not moving (much to sister in law’s amusement) and maybe even stuck lables on the children’s heads as precautions. I explained all to Gigi calling it a holiday so she would have the idea. Thankfully Peppa goes on holiday (to Italy!) So this was an acceptable, logical and rational amount of information for our eldest.

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If Peppa does it, then it is ok!

We left.

We were OK. No one cried. No one screamed.  Everyone was happy.

The children were content too…!

We had coffees halfway there. Just us two. Outside a cafe on benches. Mr Paper relaxed. I furiously looked through my phone images showing pictures to him of our kids as if they were little people he had never seen before.

We got there. Two and half hours driving. Wrecked and hungry. I must say it was nice not to unpack a million bags. Just this once.

This beautiful getaway in Co.Monaghan is a luxurious, fairytalesque and a restorative place for a couple to reconnect. We did just that this weekend and right here in this glorious estate, surrounded by nature and simplicity.

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Walking into history.

It is attached to the quaint village of Glaslough.

We left the estate for one drive-in a type of poetry pilgrimage- to Inniskeen, the birthplace and burial site of poet Patrick Kavanagh. 20160618_113059I have mentioned him before when I blogged Cupid shoots Poetry, focusing on a ballad I love called On Raglan Road, but arguing the fact that it is not a typical ‘love’ poem in topic. My favourite poem of all time is A Christmas Childhood Click here to read it by Kavanagh but I found myself thinking more of  Inniskeen Road: July Evening whilst there. We visited his grave-a modest affair. I looked eagerly for the entrance to the Patrick Kavanagh Resource Centre. It is closed on Saturday and Sunday. The cafe that looked geared towards tourists conflictingly announced it was open …but it was actually closed. I can now see why Kavanagh got so wound up with Inniskeen! Kavanagh felt a paradoxical love/hate relationship with his home and I still have some belief it was partly a self imposed isolation he felt at times. As a teenager studying Kavanagh and reading Inniskeen Road: July Eveninginniskeen-road-july-evening I casually judged his inability to socialise and wondered why he didn’t hop on his bicycle and join the gangs on the way to Billy Brennan’s dance! He was just uncomfortable. He is now buried in Inniskeen and as prettily rural and calm as it is, the tourist trail hasn’t enlivened it from what I can see! I wonder if he would liked better in modern times? Or headed for the bright lights of Dublin once again?

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I’m off guys.

We stayed just twenty minutes. Lasting a lot less longer!

I am still very pleased to have visited the homeland of a much studied poet.

We went back to our oasis.

Food was key. We dined like kings.

Or former Beatles.

There was a six course extravaganza Saturday night consisting of much foam, steam, curlicues of this and that, gravalax guest appeared and truffle oil starred. Natch! Amuse bouche anyone? Dessert was amazing. A very Masterchef style focusing on the theme of lemon. I keep getting flashbacks. Mr Paper had a cheese board and what an impressive affair that was! I have no pictures. I abandoned the phone. Just this one time!

We had  MUCH indigestion.  I confess to having enjoyed that meal but preferring the food the night previous in the castle bar-Conor’s bar. A pork and chorizo burger on pretzel bread. Glass of Pinot bitmoji-20160624012649Grigio. Fabulous!

A little wander around the stables was relaxing and fun. We watched some lessons and lived a different life for an hour.

Spa treatments occurred. Facials. One thing as a a Mam I have realised is that I have foregone proper skin care at night in favour of a quick wash and moisturiser rub. I know this will ultimately mean aging early (yikes) so the facial was great. The spa insight is called The Victorian Rooms and is designed using all the typical duck egg blues, off whites and sage greens of the period. So pretty! Lying on a chaise longue, peppermint tea and a small glass of fruit smoothie afterwards, I almost felt like myself again.

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Going green.

It was wonderful to relax. A few drinks. A few treats. Sleep.

It was good to get home to our babies too.

Getting away is essential if you can do it. This time was an especially wonderful treat.

I have brought home a little piece of Glaslough with me though…a reminder.

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Who doesn’t love a village that makes its own chocolate?

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Squash my Berries and call them Compote

There is a local restaurant nearby that we eat at quite often. Living in a small place that underwent depopulation crisis in the nineties and also where I grew up, when a new venture that focuses on the pleasures in life opens, we must support it.

We do.

If I eat there during the day, I often order chicken and mushroom vol au vents. Yum! They are a main course with salad and chips.

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Pretty delish.

Sometimes we eat there at night.A new evening menu appears.

For starters (appetisers) I often get chicken and mushroom bouchee. Rocket leaves. Dressing. No fries.

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A bouchee. Or a fancier vol au vent.

What’s the difference?? Time of day. Price. Name. Portion. Costs more to eat less.

I often whisper to my company, ‘I am getting the posh vol au vent even though it’s the same thing as during the day’ as if in a confessional box.

I thought a vol au vent was posh enough. Eighties posh, I know. A bouchee however…

This madness that I willingly engage in led me to thinking. My thoughts gathered, I have realised that yes, I love a newly named product. I love taking away the boring old title and giving it a bit of gloss. Words sell me everything.

A childhood lunch box filler for my peers and I was a strawberry jam sandwich. Cheap and cheerful, the Sugar and White Bread Police were still only babes in arms and we ate five a week.

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We NEVER bought a pre-made one. I only learned these ever existed today. M &S was not in our neck of the woods either.

It has meant that I fall in and out with jam. Overdosed in my youth.

However, how could I resist the following? Deluxe strawberry conserve!! what wonders! What joys! What a taste sensation this must indeed be!!

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Buying Irish too. Two birds and all of that.

Notice it doesn’t even say ‘deluxe’ on front. I have added that fact myself. My own lurid imaginings. Sure, it has to be deluxe. Conserve don’t you know!! Toast with jam and butter, I mean conserve and butter is suddenly rocking my breakfast world again. It nearly tastes different to what I remember!  The power of words.

The Celtic Tiger did mad stuff in Ireland. We were left with no money. One reason is because we suddenly had so much to spend our cash on. I won’t discuss the fall lightly as it was a drastic time for us and by no means the fault of the average man and woman, yet my memories of the Tiger largely include lunch.

Before 2003 I had never had:

  1. A panini
  2. A cappuccino
  3. A latte
  4. skinny version of either of the last above
  5. An Americano. I then discovered that was coffee. So that probably doesn’t count. I had had coffee.
  6. Bottled water. Bottles that I bought and paid for myself and weren’t filled outta da tap
  7. A ciabatta
  8. Delivered pizza (I slightly lie. I had delivered pizza in New Jersey in 2001 on student visa. Not Ireland)
  9. Linguine anything
  10. Gourmet anything
  11. cupcake

Basically the Tiger was of Italian origin and am I not delighted that he/she was?

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Easy Tiger. 

A sandwich out suddenly became extremely exciting. We weren’t toasting anything anymore. We ate Melts. Who had plain old chicken? Cajun. Tikka. Infusions! Cheddar? Go away! Mozzarella please. Gouda. Brie.

My father still blesses himself if I order Brie. It will surely poison me.

I think he would be secretly delighted if it did. I don’t think he wants me to suffer. He just loves the taste of vindication.  Almost as much as a Calvita cheese single. An eighties staple.

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We used the empty boxes as crayon holders. True story.

I now love a good Americano. Or a cappuccino. The more chocolate the better. Not too gone on the latte. Too milky. An espresso at the end of a meal? Excellent. I am a bit of an expert. Ristretto anyone?

I even have a reference from a Celtic Tiger job that tells of my barista qualifications.

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Eighties coffee.
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How we live now.

I was a coffee hater in the jarred, water mixing with granules day. Now I adore a good old Americano.

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My happy medium.

The Celtic Tiger having been sadly culled, lime has killed our fancy coffee machine and time does not want me to press my own beans. I have blogged before about the Mammy lifebelt that is Azera. I now take my Americano instant! It is a costly coffee. It could be seven euros for a jar. I refuse to pay for it at this price (irresponsible adult!)and stock pile at sale price. Even at this it is too expensive. They have me hooked though. Pesky loveliness.

The word snobbishness doesn’t end there! I love a good compote.  Spoon it into the porridge. Suddenly it is attractive.

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Who can resist such font?

I know it is just mashed up fruit. I still coo and caw happily however when I see compote announced smugly on a breakfast menu. The linguistics!

I recently was in a discussion with colleagues about the ideology of ‘pastafarianism’ (worth a google) and I was explaining how the believers wear colanders on their heads. Uproar ensued. Pastafarianism did not cause the controversy.  No. It was my use of the word ‘colander’. Where did I think I was from?!!! In the Irish midlands of the eighties, we all called them just plain old strainers and they were never used for pasta-only spuds.

Twice a week I strain my penne, rigatoni or even my conchiglie with my blue colander. I won’t be told!

Don’t give me pieces or -God forbid- lumps of chocolate or parmesan. Shavings, if you will.

Shavings taste better.

No longer will sauce or gravy accompany my meat. I shall be having jus.

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You might try to give me pancakes and syrup with my coffee. I will actually be eating crèpes with glaze whilst drinking nectar of roasted cocoa beans.

Charge me more for the privilege.

You may as well. I am the idiot who can be bought.

So squash my berries and call it compote. I will be thrilled.

Just one thing.  I will not be fooled by pea puree and the like. The mashing of vegetables is for babies and large family dinners so don’t go offering me carrot and parsnip mash as a delicacy. I won’t be fooled. What’s that? Chop up my bacon and call them lardons you say? Oh yes please! Work away. I can take that.

Respect also to the humble curranty bun. You were (and are) a loved household guest. Raisin filled (Queen cake) or plain (fairy cake) or fancy (butterfly bun), you must feel very sidetracked by the naughties newcomer-the cupcake. These buttercream-mountain topped beauties are outside the box with their unnatural colours and ability to make tomato a flavour. Blueberries? I wouldn’t expect less. Another newbie on our streets and waistlines.

You are welcome cupcake. There is a room for you all in our home.

Maybe not our hearts though…

Names and words have such power as to make and break my day! Porridge and jam?? Bleurhh. Creamed oats and berry compote?  Of course!! 

 

Easter 1916

Today I want to discuss history. Patriotism. Terror. Poetry. Reality. Destruction. Rebellion.

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Sackville Street (O’Connell street) Dublin, 1916.

100 years has passed since the Easter Rising in Dublin. It started April 24th so officially we aren’t at the  100 year marker yet, but it was Easter so it feels correct to remember it on this bank holiday. At the time, many of the Irish population were condemning of the action, distancing themselves from what had happened. Some had family gone to WW1 to fight with the British. Families rightly worried about the effects this uprising at home might have had on their loved ones away under British authority. People at home may have felt the fighters were foolish.  Over zealous. Fighting a losing battle. Money was so tight that many just thought of bread on table and thought fighting in their own backyard a pointless waste of time. So what happened to make this battle legend? Was it the fight 300 style like the Spartans portrayed through the film?

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Underdogs surprise?

The feeling of being able to finally shout about what made people angry? The moment of feeling a somewhat type of control over the British as they panicked?  The ‘rebels’ held on longer than anticipated by the public. This made people sit up and listen. When it ended, many were imprisoned, 90 sentenced to execution but this full 90 did not die. When executions began, the reaction was one of such horror and condemnation the British government put a stop to it. Not before 16 leaders were shot however, one of whom was dying anyway. The bald execution of the leaders is largely believed to be a turning point in emotions towards the rising. They were shot to teach a lesson. It seemed cruel and unnatural. Instead, they were seen as martyrs.Their stories spread fast and far. They were to beome heroes of the rising who died for beliefs and passion.

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Many leaders were indeed teachers and writers. Their soldiers however came from all walks of life. Yeats did not fight in battle. He wrote about his feelings.

Ireland and Irish TV are remembering in style. I must credit all the shows that have been on and made for this anniversary. I have learned about the horrors anew and from many different angles. So many children died in crossfire. So many civilians. Barbarism. Had the Rising the effect it required?

It brought us to our next 100 year anniversaries.  1919-1921 War of Independence ( Anglo/Irish War). Will we celebrate the fears and tragedies of this bloodbattle? 1921-The signing of the Treaty. The jury is still out on this one. The eternal division of Ireland into North and South, Michael Collins (professional guerilla fighter) sent as delegate and envoy to London by Eamonn De Valera, to lose the battle of words. Was the choice deliberate? The beginning of Dáil Eireann. The start of our political parties who ironically can never agree and today stand undecided as to who is Taoiseach even during this commemoration as government has not formed through normal election. Events after the treaty were to become more violent and splintering for Irish people and this would continue into the future.

There is no doubt but the Rising is now immortalised as a battle of legends. A small amount of brave men and women standing for Irish independence. The bystories that we know of with it can be heard in any visit  to Kilmainham jail (where many films such as ‘The Italian Job’ and ‘Michael Collins’ were shot afterwards) and in many of the excellent books on the topic. I watch the dramatised versions, but always cautiously and choose not to fully believe all as fact.Watch this beautiful version of ‘Grace’ performed in Kilmainham Jail.

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Collins was an inspired and moved teenager during this battle.

I love imagining the personality of a poet! Reading their works.  Their books quotes from them. Quotes about them. I then like to try and get inside the reality of the person. Poets were or are living and breathing humans. Just because their word is in print, highly respected and oft quoted doesn’t mean it is law.  It is there for discussion. To provoke thought. Naturally you can only do this with an easy conscience if you have been exposed to the poet for a long time otherwise you can be accused of deliberately jumping to opinions. As an Irish person, I have read Kavanagh intensely which is why I talked about him in Cupid shoots Poetry. Obviously Yeats has been in my world since, well birth really. My home was one of books, reading and writing. So Yeats has been about a long time in my life. I don’t holiday in Sligo without going to his grave! I know. Sounds depressing. You need to see this location however!

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Under Ben Bulben’s careful watch. Drumcliffe, Co.Sligo.

Yeats is synonymous with Easter 1916 to me and many others, I assume as he attempted to document his complex, pained reactions so powerfully in poem Easter 1916 and afterwards in many poems. Every student of Yeats will read this poem. I doubt there is a primary school in Ireland who won’t read it this year especially.

It is very interesting to teach as you can start by talking about Yeats’ respect for Irish heroes gone by.  You can study September 1913 first as the perfect precursor chronologically and thematically. If you clicked the link, you will have seen a typically austere and sternfaced Yeats recite his poem aloud. A worn, embittered and disillusioned Yeats condemns the Irish people for a lack of passion, of bravery and devotion to the cause. He believes their mercenary ways have become priority,  preferring to ‘fumble in a greasy till’ after pennies and profits.  The language he uses likens the people to grubbiness and dirt. He shows his disapproval of their blind faith as they add ‘prayer to shivering prayer’ and implies hypocrisy is at work. Shop owners are showing meanness and no charity. The mantra in this poem, ‘Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave’ sets and maintains a sombre tone consistently. He remembers patriots such as Edward Fitzgerald (click here), Robert Emmet (click here) and Wolfe Tone (click here), men he personally sees as true Irish heroes, and flings their names at readers as examples of what Irish people should be like. There is no doubting his anger and frustration.

How was he to feel therefore when news arrived to him in London of events in Dublin? It is clear that he has a mixed reaction. I think he does not feel as much pride as pity. I think he is shocked. Fearful even. Overwhelmed. It may be that it is easier to imagine a hero from legends written, as we can now of Pearse or Plunkett.  To Yeats, who knew some of these men socially and had made the odd ‘gibe’ at their meetings and planning, their sudden proactivity stopped him in his tracks.

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He had doubted them. He admits to laughing at them. He suddenly must sit up and listen. Time for laughing had stopped.

A new mantra replaces the one from ‘September 1913’. ‘All is changed,changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born’. The oxymoron in the phrase of a ‘terrible beauty’ is perfect when attempting to summon Yeats’ true feelings on the event.  He should be elated by this show of heroism or passion. Yet he is horrified.  The reality in the cold light of day and in the present is too raw, too difficult to applaud.

By stanza two he tries to speak of each patriot. He uses the third person such as ‘that woman’s’ (Countess  Markievez). He even tributes Major John McBride who married his deepest and most infamous (albeit unrequited) love, Maud Gonne .

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Yeats begrudgingly magnanimous admittal that  he must ‘number’ McBride in his ‘song’ is interesting. He also calls him a ‘drunken vainglorious lout’. We realise the extent of Yeats’ altered state of mind by even mentioning the hated rival.

Yeats’ shock and awe continue.

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He comes more complex in his attempts to explain his feelings. Nature becomes a theme as he sees how everything in life keeps moving but their dream was like a ‘stone’ they had become ‘enchanted’ by. They were dogged in their passion.

Fear of the unknown caused many issues for these insurrection fighters as their support waned. What would happen next? Would Westminster waver? Yeats reflects this too.

It is right to remember these events. It is difficult to know how to feel about them. Transience makes the rising feel powerful, brave and fearless, a wonderful moment of Irish uprising for beliefs, just as Yeats feels for the United Irishmen. His bewilderment however I think must reflect the true feelings of the time when an on the ground rising was occuring. Gritty. Destructive. Horrifying.

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So today I will think of that. I will remember all those who died in innocence as well as battle. I will recall the reason the patriots fought and give them salute. Have we had those we could call hero in Ireland since? Many would say only the tragic hunger strikers.

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Events in Belgium, France, Turkey and far too many more places make us see we have not left fear in 1916. A different fear now lives.

A uprising can be inevitable in a place where wrong is done. It is as Yeats says, ‘A terrible beauty is born’ when violence is enforced to stand by passion.

 

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For all who died in all battles of 1916.

Father Ted and nineties Ireland… A nod to Frank Kelly.

‘Father Ted’. An Irish comedy institution. Wonderful satire and just a good giggle.  On Sunday last, Ireland lost a great comedian and gentleman, star of the nineties Irish hit show ‘Father Ted’ Frank Kelly. Kelly was 77 years old when he passed, after a time of illness. In an interesting twist, he passed away on the 18th anniversary of the passing of his co star, Dermot Morgan who played the protagonist Fr Ted himself.

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Father Ted Crilly

This may not mean a lot to you in another country. You may never have heard of these comedians or this show. Just believe me when I say that this comedy is not just popular beyond belief in Ireland, but was intrinsic in mirroring our quirky culture to us in a humorous way. Like most successful shows, it made three series only and one special. People may have been insulted in 1995 when the show first aired. Appalled Irish citizens, in disbelief at the blasphemous path this ‘comedy’ was taking. No one had dared take a pop at the priests before and if so, not to this level. Were we allowed laugh? Was it OK to tune in weekly? Should you even mention to the neighbours that you caught ten minutes? Yes, the catholic church has taken many hits in the last twenty years as corruptions are exposed, cover ups revealed and awful tragedies are grieved. Rightly, the Vatican must answer. Yet I do believe that staunchly catholic Ireland was laughing at ‘Father Ted’ before the church was under scrutiny, and as a culture, we felt ‘allowed’ to do so. Originally it was the young who knew the show. Now I would find it impossible to find an Irish person who can’t quote the show at the drop of a hat, identifying  situation similiarities in the everyday or who hasn’t nicknmaed a colleague or friend after the show all because of the extreme popularity (and I say genius) of ‘Father Ted’.

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How did they get away with it? Aren’t we pleased they did!

I was fifteen when Ted first arrived on our screens. Most certainly it was frowned upon as it was a no holds barred comedic set up of an Irish parochial house, the people living there and Irish catholicism in general. The jokes were risky at the time ( Father Ted being noticeably aroused by attractive writer Polly Clarkson) and it was hardly surprising it wasn’t aired on an Irish TV channels,  but a British one.  This show was hysterical to us.  We always spent the next day at school  talking about it. Did you see the bit where Mrs Doyle fell out the window…wasn’t it gas when Jack threw the bottle at the telly. ..God, wasn’t it brilliant when Ted kicked Bishop Brennan up the arse!

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Blasphemous a tad?!

Remember, we were the age where ‘Friends’ and ‘My So Called Life’ were taking over TV. ‘X-Files’. ‘ER’ . A golden age! I believe however that Fr Ted by far boasts the most longevity in remaining part of our lives and even filtering our vernacular.

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Dougal in his Irish jersey and with his He-Man duvet set.

Ted Crilly was placed on Craggy Island, remote, western and free of opportunities for excitement or fun with two priests considered dead losses. Fr Jack is old, alcoholic, sleazy and hates nuns. Hates people too.

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The shock of the blasphemy toned down by the vintage nature of the magazine!

Fr Dougal doesn’t have two brain cells to rub together.  As Ted quips, ‘ how exactly did you become a priest Dougal was it like collect ten packets of crisps?’.Dougal is played by Ardal O’Hanlon who portrays this young priest  as a young boy, innocent and harmless.  He is more interested in jam and films and seems oblivious to his position in life. Ted was clearly punished with this placement. This is funny to us as we know it happens in real life. Occasionally Ted has to defend charity bound money that was ‘only resting’ in his account,  giving us some idea of the previous scandal he was punished for.  Priests don’t get fired. They get punished. Anyone who has seen ‘Spotlight’ will painfully learn how far and wrongly that policy went. Ted is a gentle comedy that addresses these truths making us laugh.

Jack is one of the most iconic fictional  characters of my time.’Drink.Feck. Girls’. This catchhrase was so inappropriate and immoral in the nineties, from the mouth of a priest, we giggled in horrified fashion delighted with the naughtiness of it all. Flashbacks into Jack’s past nod to the Christian Brothers’ schools and the revelations of cruelty and violence there.  We see him leer at women.  We see him shout and roar.

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Wouldn’t fancy him hearing my confessions!

In his retirement, he drinks excessively, even downing the floor polish when nothing else suffices. Jack is an unpleasant, selfish human with no mercy in him. There is nothing funny about this on paper! Frank Kelly brought Jack to life with comedy and we find him hilarious to watch and imagine.Fr Jack on the loose, unsupervised falling into an AA meeting by accident,  having his glasses stolen by crows or shoving the Holy Stone of Clonrickert into a Bishop’s butt to shut him up are funny to watch time and time again.

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‘Feck’:a gentler option of curse word

I defy anyone not to laugh at Jack on a roundabout on his chair, open mouthed in delight or telling Mrs Doyle what she can do with her cup of tea. ‘What do you say to a cup Father?’.

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Years. I mean years using this quip.

Many years ago I did a college diploma in journalism. The graduation ceremony was unusual,  unlike my others.  We were in a lecture hall in Dublin. Normal. We were called up and given our diplomas. Average. We were made pose as a group on stage smiling at our proud families like the last scene in a children’s nativity.  Weird! This strange arrangement afforded me the chance to see who had been sitting behind myself and my family all the time.  Frank Kelly. Beside myself, I was almost pointing and shouting to my sister,  ‘Behind you, look behind you Father Jack!’. I spent the rest of the ceremony staring whilst trying not to get caught. A distinguished, well spoken gentlemen, proudly smiling with his graduate, it proved what a marvellous comic actor this man was to morph from Phileas Fogg into Jack Hackett for screen.

Recently I blogged about tea. Happily I found a blogging friend,  blogging friendKatystuff  was interested in what I had to say and I intrigued her with my definitions of ‘tea’. We had a good online chat and she then blogged her versions of tea in the US and her impressions of tea from her Irish genes. This was great! In my fumbling attempts to explain I had directed her to Fr Ted and Mrs Doyle ( the character, housekeeper to the priests) as giving excellent  parodies of social occasions in Ireland involving tea! Little was I to know that I would blog about the show so quickly after due to the sad passing of Frank Kelly.

So to Mrs Doyle. Smiling, yet harried.Stooping, craggy and prune  faced, yet full of energy.

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A living legend.

This character satirises the traditional stereotyped Irish woman. The Mammy. The housekeeper.  The working woman. She is expected to wear skirts. She is expected to cook and clean. She blatantly laughs at the good of a female lawyer arriving to the house from Corless, Corless and Sweeney. She is appalled by women who act outside their stereotype. Mrs Doyle can be found on the kitchen or scrubbing. Hyperbole is used beautifully to highlight the point as Mrs Doyle makes tea, sandwiches, and cleans but takes her role to the next level.  She loves the milkman. She is obsessed with a country singer called Eoin McLove (thinly disguised Daniel O’Donnell). She also works on the roof. Digs holes in the garden. Baths Dougal McGuire.

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Was this in the job description?
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Eoin McLove
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Daniel O’Donnell. A hero to (some) women all over Ireland!

Playing up a sexist Ireland is vital to the comedy of this show. From Mrs Doyle to parodying yearly actual Irish event ( not a pageant seemingly) ‘The Rose of Tralee’ with their own ‘Lovely Girls Competition’, we watched our attitudes on screen and laughed at ourselves.

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The ‘lovely laugh’ competition

Watch the lovely girls in action!

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The Rose of Tralee.  A REAL ongoing annual Irish event. Not a beauty pageant. They insist.

I like to think we are much less sexist here now. I recently watched reruns of the US Celebrity Apprentice from 2012 and was bewildered at attitudes and comments that we would shun here now as unequal and sexist.  Trump and his family (looking suspiciously like Twilight’s Volturi) barely bat an eye.

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Controlling, successful, commanding, powerhouse  family.
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The Volturi…!

Maybe Ireland is progressing past its peers? After all we have had two female presidents in the last twenty years! This is a topic for again however as I don’t want to shake temperaments pre a US election! Who knows what’s coming down the line!

Lenton sacrifices also get the Ted treatment. The boys are challenged by their dreaded enemies, the priests on Rugged Island, led by Fr Dick Byrne, to a glorified ‘giving things up’ competition. The temptations of alcohol,  cigarettes and, um, rollerblading pose an impossibility to give up and the big guns are called in.  Boot camp style nun Sister Assumpta!! The tactics employed by the sister are questionable…and hysterical.

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I think she missed her true calling.

The lasting image however from the lenten episode is that of that of John from ‘John and Mary’, shop owners in a ‘behind closed doors’ mutually  violent relationship that is always glossed over as marvellous in public, smoking in front of a fasting Ted. The words ‘lovely fags’ (slang for cigarettes) pop up on screen as he thoroughly enjoys the tobacco intake.  On many occasions have I seen someone desperately trying to quit the habit with the same look on their face.

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‘Fr Ted’ made the nineties unforgettable by placing many of its memorable moments in front of us. Like I said before, placing a mirror to our culture,  showing us the truth but making us laugh. In the nineties, Ireland had a spate of wins with Eurovision, we were getting cocky with our talents!  Linda Martin, Niamh Kavanagh and Eimear Quinn brought us three outright wins. The funny part is that along with kudos and glory part of the prize is getting to host the competition the following year. By win three, the Irish bank balance was looking dodgy and the organisers were getting itchy. It became widely thought that we deliberately sent our lesser powerful songs as we almost tried to lose the game. We just hadn’t the funds! The same thing happens in Ted. Ted and Dougal’s terrible but extremely memorable ballad ‘My Lovely Horse’ is brought to Eurovision much to their delight. Carefully chosen due to its awfulness, it gains ‘nul points’ across the board. Years later, many a busy Saturday night in Dublin,Cork or Galway,  the lyrics to the wonderful ‘My Lovely Horse’ can be heard belted out across a joyful crowd. I have often given a bar or two of it myself.

My lovely horse Listen to the wonderful tune and watch the video somewhat inspired by country Irish band Foster and Allen!

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What they ended up with…oops.

Ireland’s teens were hooked! We were to see ourselves reflected however, in all our arrogant,somewhat over privileged, hormone raging, video gaming obsessed states through the character of Fr Damo. Fr Damo, bad influence on Dougal encourages rebelliousness and cheek, just wants to play games and even does the odd bit of smoking and stealing. Right on trend he puts the big question of the time to Dougal: ‘Oasis or Blur?’. It was so accurate.  You just weren’t allowed listen to both in our nineties school, one or the other,  as the feud between the bands found its way to the playground. The pop version of choosing between Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Your entire street credit rate depended on your answer …and who you were talking to!

Fr Damo see the moment here!

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We secretly listened to both.

The show also addressed the idea of censorship by the church in the most comical fashion with long lasting effects. ‘The Da Vinci Code’ film wasn’t to air until 2006. I remember I was travelling at the time and watched it in a Lima cinema. Everyone recalls the controversial aspects of the film and the reaction of the Vatican. I don’t remember a priest actually picketing an Omniplex, yet their side and opinions were clear- and often addressed from the pulpit. ‘Fr Ted’ managed to predict the reaction however with the arrival in the Craggy Island cinema of  blue movie ‘The Passion of St Tibulus’.

Ted and Dougal are ordered by the authoritarian somewhat Stalinesque Bishop Len Brennan to picket the cinema and oppose the film .

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Quite a scary man.

Naturally they have to see it first to know what the problem is. They then take to the picket. Jack doesn’t bat an eye as he barrels past them to have a look at the potentially raunchy blockbuster.  The whole plot is a brilliant send up of censorship and the power of the church to stop people from reading or watching unsuitable material. Harry Potter novels and Dan Brown’s famous thriller were to get this treatment in their course. I love that these books and novels came after the creators of the comedy showed us and were based on previous banned books and films such as Edna O Brien’s magnificent offerings.

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Burned, banned and spurned from the pulpit.

In Ireland, when strikes are mentioned, tempers flaring and contentious issues may be raised, someone is sure to say, ‘Down with that sort of thing!’ and get the cautious reply, ‘Careful now…’ with the exact motions and gestures of Ted and Dougal. They are assured to win a wry laugh!

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The hall/cinema used for the film.

Watch the picket! I defy you not to laugh. Watch out for the ladies portrayed against stereotype, explicit as opposed to carefully private.

In truth, this hit was a stroke of genius from comedy writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews.

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Thanks for your amalgamation! Nice car…

The casting magic team of Morgan, O’Hanlon, McLynn  and the marvellous Kelly (alongside many, many other smaller roles by excellent actors)never miss a beat. We learned to laugh at ourselves. This generation can have faith without fear. We now have a voice that Ireland was indeed missing. ‘Fr Ted’ has played a key role in giving us this freedom. Immorality, blasphemy and anarchy may now be available to us- but look at us! Now that we are ‘allowed’ chose, we really have chosen wisely. Ireland is now wonderfully more open minded. Look at our recent track record.We may not be perfect. Like Bus Eireann however, we are getting there! All by ourselves! Thank you Ted, Jack and Dougal.

Frank Kelly, Rest in Peace. 2016

Dermot Morgan, Rest in Peace. 1998

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The Bishops are spoiled with Ferrero Rocher just like the advertisement.

 

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‘Dallas’ was a huge influence in our lives too…just like here!

Finally, watch Jack run free in the forest. A wonderful actor.  Fr Jack Hackett