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Deciding to be Irish

6 May

Donal’s job transfer from the London office to Dublin seemed ill -advised and badly timed. This was Ireland in the mid-1980’s. The Government was up to its neck in debt. Unemployment stood at 18 per cent and Draconian rates of income tax were inflicted on those fortunate to have a job.

‘You’re mad! Why would you want to go back now? The country is on its knees!  I’ll go back myself someday, but not now.’

Donal was not deterred by these sentiments. His resolve was rock solid, the legacy of several beautiful summers spent on and near his grandfather’s farm in County Cork. This experience had caused him to view Ireland through rose-tinted glasses. His ready-made answer went along the lines of:

‘If every ex-pat Irishman who said “I’ll go back to Ireland someday” actually went back, there’d be about 40 million people living there. I’m prepared to pay the price for living in Ireland right now. Indeed, I’m happy to do so if that price keeps you fair-weather Paddies out of the place!’

He could understand why his Irish-born friends were perplexed by this London-born Irishman’s demonstration of fearless but naïve enthusiasm for Ireland. However, for Donal a holiday or an occasional business trip would never be enough. Dublin was where that he was destined to carry out the day-to-day business of living.

The vast majority of his London work colleagues, on the other hand, did understand his reasons for moving. They saw him as Paddy the Irishman, a moniker with which he was quite happy. He knew that in the Dublin office he would probably be known as John the Englishman, but this did not bother him. He would quickly set about convincing all who cared to listen that his credentials were sound.

‘You guys just woke up one morning and realised that you were born Irish – I had to decide to be Irish and then work at it!’

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English”. You can buy the ebook or printed version on Amazon.

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 A chance encounter on Grafton Street

22 Jul

 

It was dusk on Grafton Street. The Christmas decorations had begun to glow in the fading light.Her reflection could be seen in the window of Brown Thomas, the upmarket department store. Its contents had grabbed her attention and commanded her to stop and look. However, she was not in the mood to pursue a mild interest in the garment on display and, after a few moments, continued her journey along Grafton Street towards St. Stephen’s Green. At the junction with Harry Street, from behind a flower seller’s stall, Harry suddenly appeared in front of her.

She surprised herself by readily accepting Harry’s offer of a drink in nearby McDaid’s but she was not uncomfortable with the situation. During and after her separation she was taught to live in and accept the “now”.

Harry ordered the drinks and then found a discreetly located table. There was a lot of coming and going in this establishment. Seating as far from the entrance as possible was preferable.

‘Samantha, I am really, really pleased to have met you today. How have you been keeping? I haven’t seen you at the tennis club in recent times?’

‘I had a slight problem with my Achilles tendon which required rest and physiotherapy. It’s getting much better and I am just about to make a comeback – when the evenings get longer.’

“Well I am delighted to hear that. The Achilles can be very troublesome, you know. Sometimes they can only be repaired by surgery. They just snap for no apparent reason. I recall the case of a football hooligan crossing Chelsea Bridge on his way to a match. Without warning his Achilles snapped, causing searing pain. A policeman was walking behind him and the hooligan thought he must have been hit on the Achilles by the policeman’s truncheon. So he punched the policeman in the mouth – could have gone to jail. I assume his immediate transfer to the nearest hospital and subsequent diagnosis saved him.’

“Yes, I know, I heard about that case.’

She felt surprisingly relaxed about him telling her things that she already knew. Normally this would irritate her.

Harry was light-headed by just being in her company. He was besotted. He would settle for a platonic friendship but, dare he dream of more? She was less enthusiastic, being frequently admired. However, compared to most men, she felt he was on her wavelength. Harry was an ambitious courtier and she was a high-born eighteenth-century aristocrat. He was speaking too much, like a giddy gurgling brook, but he soothed her and she was happy to let him babble on.

He would have preferred to offer a more salubrious setting but he had to seize the moment. A proposal of a longer walk, only as far as the Westbury, may have caused her to change her mind, either immediately or en route. Besides, the quirky nature of McDaid’s provided a certain anonymity.

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English”. You can download it or get a printed copy from Amazon. If you’re in Dublin over Christmas you can buy it in Sweny’s Chemist Shop (Joycean Museum) in Lincoln Place, near Trinity College.

The move from London to Dublin

3 Jun

Donal’s job transfer from the London office to Dublin seemed ill -advised and badly timed by many of those that knew him. This was Ireland in the mid-1980s. The Irish Government was up to its neck in debt. Unemployment stood at 18 per cent and Draconian rates of income tax were inflicted on those fortunate to have a job. Moreover, Donal was a born and bred Londoner.

The reaction of Donal’s London-based customers to his move fell into one of three categories. Depending on how highly or otherwise they regarded Ireland, their line of questioning went something like:

  • ‘What did you do wrong?’ (This from the customers who felt that moving, or being moved, to Ireland must be some form of punishment meted out by the company’s senior management team.)
  • ‘Are you going there as general manager?’ (Some customers believed a posting to Ireland was like a Victorian civil servant being sent to darkest Africa. Donal would adopt the role of governor of the territory and bring civilisation to it.)
  • ‘Good luck!’ (These customers understood Donal’s rationale for moving to Dublin even if they did not see why he thought it was such a great place. By moving locations within the same company, Donal got to do the same job but in a place where he much preferred to live.)

The vast majority of his London work colleagues, on the other hand, did understand his reasons for moving. They saw him as Paddy the Irishman, a moniker with which he was quite happy. He knew that in the Dublin office he would be known as John the Englishman, but this did not bother him. He would quickly set about convincing all who cared to listen that his credentials were sound.

He would explain thus:-

‘You guys just woke up one morning and realised that you were born Irish – I had to decide to be Irish and then work at it!’

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English” It has recently become available to download from Nook/Barnes & Noble at special launch price of 99c/99p for the next couple of days. You can also download it from Amazon at the regular price of $2.99/£2.

A wannabe Dublin Irish man with a Michael Caine accent

26 Mar

A wannabe Dublin Irish man with a Michael Caine accent

Donal did not think that he was in anyway different from born and bred Dubliners. Although his accent was London, he believed his Irish DNA would keep him one hundred per cent in tune with all around him.

In fact he definitely did not want to acquire an Irish accent – either by intention or osmosis. He had met a number of Irish people in London who had tried too hard to achieve a local accent. The result was a hilarious mixture of sounds. Whilst he was very amused by this Donal did not want to become a similar source of mirth in reverse.

When he joined London Irish Rugby Club, in the late 1970’s, he was desperate to fit in. After training and a drink, the players helped to clear up the bar. Donal leapt enthusiastically to the task. Then, in a pathetic attempt at an Irish accent, he found himself saying “Are these glasses for the washing” – not even Tom Cruise could have delivered a worse sound and word order. Donal felt guilty, ashamed and naff. He vowed never to do it again.

Besides all that he quite liked his English accent. On a few occasions people remarked that he sounded like Michael Caine. Donal liked this – he thought Michael was a brilliant actor.

In response Donal would offer a more contrived impersonation in which he combined Michael’s “did you know  … not a lot of people know that” technique with a standard music hall joke :-

“Did you know, did you know that every day a man gets knocked over by a London bus? – and he’s getting bloody annoyed at it!”

Donal thought this was a sure-fire winner – the feedback he received was mixed.

When shouting his Michael Caine head off in support of Ireland at a match in the Lansdowne Road stadium, a polite Irishman, sitting next to him, gently inquired as to what part of Ireland he was from and observed that he must have spent a lot of time in England – he was correct.

It was several years later, with the coming of voicemail messages, that he realised just how very English his accent was. In the early days of his time in Dublin this revelation might have shaken his belief that he would totally integrate with the Dubliners but by the time he became aware of it he was already fully settled.

This is an edited extract from “London Irish Dublin Irish”. You can download the eBook or order a printed copy from Amazon.

Christmas Eve in a Dublin Office

12 Dec

In some houses it is said that nothing stirs on the night of Christmas Eve, not even a mouse. This could not be said of the public house situated not a stone’s throw from the company’s office. From about 4pm, various members of its staff gravitated towards the pub. Some came sober, directly from the office, while others came from meetings with customers. The unfortunate ones had had tense, stomach-churning encounters which would determine whether the salesman could or could not afford Christmas. For the more fortunate ones it was a Christmas lunch to give thanks for a year, nearly passed, which had reason to be celebrated by both seller and buyer. The food and drink tasted even sweeter because it was free, correctly charged as a business expense.

Donal entered the pub at 5.30pm. People stood in groups ranging in number from two to eight. The bigger the group the noisier was the conversation. The most popular topic centred on how the year had gone for the company overall, followed by a drill down to those individuals who had done particularly well or badly. This led on to speculation about what organisational changes would be announced in the New Year. Who was going up and who was going down? By this time of the evening, the talk was becoming more jovial and flippant. There was much self-congratulation among the teams who had had a good year.

After completing a survey of those present, Donal’s gaze rested on the window of the bar and out into the middle distance. There were plastic snowflakes stuck to the inside of the window pane but real ones were starting to fall outside. There were only a few, falling slowly, softly, faintly, individually. Like furry prawn crackers wobbling in the air, skilfully adjusting their flight plan as they prepared for an economic soft landing on a windless night

They fell upon a window ledge of the Westbury Hotel and formed a small drift which enhanced the seasonal view along Harry Street, past McDaids and on to Grafton Street. Two fluffy white cones were formed by them on top of the lamps outside Neary’s. Across the playing fields of Dublin they fell, casting doubt on the matches arranged for St. Stephen’s day.

They formed a smooth, white carpet upon the flat roof of a bank’s data centre in which computers lived in ambient, water-cooled surroundings. Thickly, they balanced upon the telephone lines which left the data centre to carry asynchronous information across the dark central plain and treeless hills until they reached the far flung branches of the west in Clifden, Westport , Dingle and beyond.

They fell on all the giving and the led. Upon those who made things happen and upon those who saw things happen.

Finally, they came to rest on those who asked “what happened?”

This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English” by Daniel M Doyle. You can download it from Amazon.uk for the special price of 99p until Thursday 17th December.  

A Rugby day-out in Dublin – lunch in the clubhouse and a view from the bar

28 Sep

The agenda for the day commenced at about 12.30pm with pre-lunch drinks in the club bar. A gong was struck at 1.15pm. Members and their guests then moved to the function room for a fairly formal lunch. This was followed by, hopefully, short but witty speeches from the respective presidents of the home and away clubs.

The lunch finished at two-forty-five – fifteen minutes before kick-off. The more enthusiastic supporters donned their overcoats and went to stand by the side of the pitch in order to give close, vocal support to their team. The bar and the function room were on the first floor of the clubhouse building so that the match could also be clearly seen from there. The less energetic supporters  either moved to a seat by a window in the bar or stayed exactly where they had sat for lunch. They just continued talking, ordered more drink and carried on, oblivious of the catering staff who were now rearranging the room around them for the post-match reception.

At half-time the bar was not crowded but those in it, who had not availed of a break in the fresh air, were warming up nicely. As the second half progressed the vocal support in the bar, alas unheard by the gallant players on the pitch, became more opinionated and emotional.

‘Now that’s a thundering disgrace! Ref, you’re as blind as a bat.’ said the honourable member with spectacles as thick as milk bottles.

‘They’re not fit!’ said the honourable member suffering from morbid obesity.

A rugby club bar is frequently populated by an unusually high proportion of very large people – both old and young. This understandable for a club that has been producing first-class players over many years but it still seems unreal. This is not like looking at a group of lanky, seven-foot basketball players. Most large rugby players are built in similar proportions to much smaller people. It is like an optical illusion. From 20 or 30 feet away they look no more than average-plus size, but as you get closer they seem to grow faster than the eye or the brain can handle.

Hanging around with very large people can occasionally be dangerous. Consider the case of the man, then in his 50s, who had played lock forward for the first team for many years. He was six foot four inches tall and, not being in as good a condition as in his playing days, he was as broad as he was long, weighing in at about 22 stone. He remained an active member and enjoyed reminiscing with his former team mates over a few drinks on a Saturday afternoon. On this particular day, however, he must have been tired after the week’s work. He was standing in a circle of friends with a newly-poured, untouched pint of Guinness in his right hand. Then he slowly moved away from his circle with small backward steps. The pace of the steps began to quicken but they could not keep up with his upper body. It was clear that he was going to fall.

Nobody shouted “Timber!” but many thought it. All those in his backward path scattered for fear of being crushed. It would have taken at least three men of similar size in perfect formation to have created a wedge capable of preventing his fall. He travelled another six or eight feet before landing, back first, on a table laden with pints of Guinness and other assorted beverages, the owners of which had wisely vacated their previously desirable location just seconds before. A tsunami of black and tanned frothy liquid hit the inside of the clubhouse window, accompanied by the sound of splintering furniture. When the unfortunate man came to rest he looked like an upturned turtle. He was lying on the floor with his head and knees pointing upwards. Despite getting on in years, he still knew how to fall. His large and powerful back had protected him. Miraculously, his freshly poured pint remained full in his right hand, his wrist and elbow having automatically operated in perfect counterpoint to the dynamics of his fall. He slowly turned his head and gazed in admiration at the perfectly formed pint.

‘There, never split a drop.’

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This is an edited extract from the book “London Irish Dublin English” by Daniel M Doyle.

P.S. There is very little about rugby in this book. So why not take a break from the World Cup and enjoy this celebration of the buzz and mighty craic of Dublin City life. You can download this as an eBook or order a paperback from Amazon.