I write to you healthier, happier, a bit madder, and a lot fatter. Yes, Christmas has been and gone. I’ve eaten four turkey dinners in three days, drunk a very merry helping of wine, worn a fabulous Christmas jumper and binged on Bing Crosby and Wham.
Pretty normal, right?
I’ve also been to two church services within 24 hours, witnessed a sick woman be ‘cured’ by Guinness and seen my 75-year-old great aunt mime Boney M songs in a wig.
Because I celebrated Christmas in Ireland.
Ah, Ireland. The home of rolling green fields, stone fences, and men in funny little hats. The home of potatoes, Michael Flatley and alcoholism. The home of Marian Keyes. And the home of my wonderful, slightly mental, extended family.
Now technically, I’m half-Irish. My mother was born in Dublin. I am the grateful holder of an Irish passport, which was key to this whole crazy adventure. But apart from my unnaturally pale skin and bizarre obsession with potatoes, I’m about as Irish as Vegemite. I’ve never lived in Ireland. I know nothing about its history. I don’t like beer. Or tea. Or Riverdance.
But I tell you what: I long to be Irish with every fibre of my being. To me the Irish are the loveliest, friendliest, merriest people in the world. So it’s probably no surprise that within two hours of my arrival, I started to talk like an Irishman.
I was suddenly telling stories that went,
“Ah, your man, God bless him, he was down at the pub, and I tell you what, he had a grand time. A GRAND time. He was GAS!”
A couple of hours later, I was no longer bothered with pronouncing the ‘h’ in ‘thirty’. Later still, my stories were littered with a liberal use of the word, ‘feck’. I suddenly became prone to blessing myself for emphasis. And every offer of a wine refill was welcomed with another exclamation of, “GRAND!”
By the time my great aunt donned her wig and started lip-syncing to ‘Rivers of Babylon’, I was ready to dance by her side (without moving my arms, of course).
So Ireland, God bless you. I leave with a belly full of potato and sore cheeks from all the laughter. You’re grand, I tell you. GRAND.