Another of my favourite Irish songs

Mammy Jane is coming to visit with my sister and her two kids (my check-squeezable nieces) for the next few days so I’m going to be playing Lego and Wii doing important aunt duties.

I want to leave you guys with another beautiful Irish song. This is really one of my favourite songs ever. It is by Paul Brady, a fantastic Irish singer/songwriter who wrote this song about the senseless violence in Northern Ireland. Give it a listen, it is truly beautiful and it also has such an important message.

Paul Brady, “The Island”

Here are the lyrics:

They say the skies of Lebanon are burning.
Those mighty cedars bleeding in the heat.
They’re showing pictures on the television.
Women and children dying in the street
And we’re still at it in our own place.
Still trying to reach the future through the past.
Still trying to carve tomorrow from a tombstone…

Chorus

But Hey! Don’t listen to me!.
This wasn’t meant to be no sad song.
We’ve heard too much of that before.
Right now I only want to be here with you.
Till the morning dew comes falling.
I want to take you to the island.
And trace your footprints in the sand.
And in the evening when the sun goes down
We’ll make love to the sound of the ocean

They’re raising banners over by the markets
Whitewashing slogans on the shipyard walls
Witchdoctors praying for a mighty showdown
No way our holy flag is gonna fall
Up here we sacrifice our children
To feed the worn-out dreams of yesterday
And teach them dying will lead us into glory…

Repeat chorus

Now I know us plain folks don’t see all the story.
And I know this peace and love’s just copping out.
And I guess these young boys dying in the ditches.
Is just what being free is all about.
And how this twisted wreckage down on main street.
Will bring us all together in the end.
And we’ll go marching down the road to freedom….
Freedom

A SPEECH ON HOMOPHOBIA THAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO SEE

If there is one video you watch today, this should be it.

Rory O’ Neill, AKA “Panti Bliss”, is an Irish drag queen and theatre performer.
A few weeks ago, Panti appeared on an Irish talk show and discussed homophobia in the Irish media, choosing to name some of the worst offenders (notably, those who oppose gay marriage in Ireland).
The people named threatened to sue the Irish broadcaster, RTE, that aired the interview.
RTE subsequently issued an apology to these people and a settlement of €85,000. They also removed that portion of the interview from their online archive.
Needless to say, this has caused outrage among members of the public who felt that Panti’s comments were entirely justified.
A few days ago, Panti came on stage in the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and made this impassioned speech about homophobia. It really is fantastic. If you feel so inclined after watching it, I urge you to share it so that it receives the attention is deserves (although it has already clocked up an impressive 300,000 views on YouTube).
Thank you for watching!
On a side-note, I am officially having my laziest day ever. Woo (too lazy to add hoo).

Neknomination: Immature, pointless and senseless

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There is a craze currently sweeping social media in Ireland at the moment; a craze so pointless and immature that it’s paining me to write about it, but I feel it’s necessary. This craze is called Neknomination.

Neknomination began in Australia, but found its way to our shores through the sharing on social media of the many Irish emigrants over there with their friends back home. It involves the recording of oneself “necking” (which basically means drinking something as quickly as possible) a pint (and sometimes more) of something alcoholic. You then upload the recording to Facebook, where you nominate two more people who then must complete the challenge within twenty four hours. Finally, you bask in your own adultivity and spontaneity and await all the invitations to cool parties, cause everyone knows what a crazy b**tard you are.

You might think that this actually sounds like it might just be harmless fun. We’ve all had those nights out where we’ve invariably joined in a group of rowdy spectators chanting “chug” to some inebriated beer-bellied good-time guy at a random college house party. You might think I’m being the idiomatic “wet blanket”. If someone chooses to partake in this fad, can’t I just ignore it? What harm does it do me personally? The thing is, it’s not as simply dismissed as that. There have been two reported deaths in Ireland because of this craze. People are feeling the need to “one-up” each other, by chugging things like full bottles of Jaggermesiter and (gag alert) their own faeces.

It has flooded my newsfeed like some kind of medieval plague. It is everywhere. I haven’t actually watched many of them (except the first few due to my unbridled curiosity). When something becomes this much of a trend (remember planking? *collective shudder*), it inevitably finds itself being practiced by many different strands of society: old, young, male, female, etc. And what group of people becomes most sensitive and susceptible to fads and trends than teenagers?

Let’s face it, being a teenager is hard. Yes, you have a small group who like to deviate away from the trend-setters but the majority of teenagers like to follow the crowd. Understandably, they want to fit in. They want to be seen as cool, fun and “with-it” (aside: why am I sounding increasingly more and more like my grandmother?). If you add the pressures of social media to the mix, being a teenager becomes a minefield of peer pressure and bad decisions.

I was a teenager once (yes, really) and I have to say: I was an idiot. Again, I want to reiterate that I’m not saying all teenagers are idiots. I chose to teach them because I know how articulate, wise and perceptive they can be. What I’m saying is, teenagers can often make idiotic decisions (just like adults); I know I did. This Neknomination ridiculousness is exactly the sort of crap I would have done as a teen. Last year, I heard of the incredibly silly fad of “gallon-smashing” (going into a supermarket, smashing gallons of milk and skidding down a supermarket aisle on it…yep, it is that stupid). While I don’t condone this pointless prank, I do concede that it isn’t too far off the sort of silliness I partook in back in the day. And that’s my point, if there’s a silly fad about, many teenagers are usually lining up to take part in it regardless of the consequences.

So if I was equally as irresponsible, what’s my problem with neknomination? What does it matter to me whether teens (or anyone) decide to record themselves necking pints on Facebook? My problem is that first of all, Facebook didn’t exist in my day. I might have done some stupid stuff, but at least there’s no record of it. It didn’t have the potential to go viral and be viewed by millions of people. People, not just teenagers, are putting themselves in very vulnerable positions. Of course, adults are well aware of this and are old enough to decide for themselves if they want videos of them chugging drinks on the Internet, and that’s their business (and it hasn’t changed my opinion of my friends, it’s the fad itself I have the issue with). Many teenagers, on the other hand, are not old enough or mature enough to make wise, informed decisions. We all have regrets from our teenage years but because of the absence of social media, we don’t have to live with them for too long.

Besides the fact that neknominations are a dangerous fad, they are also pointless. What’s the attraction to recording yourself downing a pint of spirits/beer/wine and sharing it online? What good can come of it? Where’s the fun in it? Surely we take part in things like this because something productive or at least fun can come out of it. This is just silly, immature and pointless. The common counter-argument from alcohol chugging participants is that detractors like me are “buzz killers” or “kill-joys”. Erm, no. I can have fun, but to me uploading a video of myself partaking in some frat-party douchery to impress strangers over the Internet is hardly my idea of it. I’m not trying to sound sanctimonious (trust me, I’m hardly one to pontificate) but senseless rubbish like this irritates me. I actually started writing this a few days ago, before the reported deaths, and I had said “someone, somewhere is going to die as a result of this. I say that without any sense of melodrama or hyperbole.” Unfortunately, it looks like I was right.

If the reports are true, and two people here in Ireland have died as a result of this ridiculous craze, then that should say it all. I’m not saying we need to go overboard (ala the satirical episode with the bear patrol in the Simpsons) and become melodramatic about the situation. It’s not bird flu or Justin Bieber, it hasn’t caused widespread damage. What I would ask the young people who feel obliged to partake in it is to think: would you like to see the video in ten years? Would you like others to see it in ten years? At best, you’ll look stupid, at worst, you’ll hurt yourself. Trust me, it’s about as productive as attempting to teach a Kardashian lessons in subtlety (I’m using analogies that the kids will understand).

Every so often, fads like this come along. And like The Macarena and the Cha-Cha Slide, they’ll disappear (except those were fun, damn it). The difference is, this one is potentially dangerous, immature and pointless. Put down that pint of vodka and (seriously, what were you THINKING?) and go be SENSIBLE.

A beautiful Irish ballad

Usually, I try to make you guys laugh…. and I fail, but the important thing is, I try. Today, I’m posting something that may make you cry.

This song was first played to me by a friend and I remember trying to hold back tears as the final verse played. I’ve since played it for my own students and they have also found it moving and poignant. It is a moving song about emigration and its effects not only on the people who have had to leave but also on the people left behind.

The song was written by two American men, Steven and Peter Jones. Their great-great-grandfather, Brian Hunt, had written letters from Kilkelly, Mayo, Ireland, to his son and their great-grandfather, John, who had emigrated to America in the nineteenth century.
The letters were found by the men in an attic in the United States and they were so overcome with emotion that they decided to write a song based on the content of the letters.

The writings revolve around local and family news being given to John by his father Brian. John had emigrated during the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852 and the letters cover a period of time from 1860-1892. As Brian was illiterate, the local schoolmaster, Patrick MacNamara, wrote the letters down. His sense of isolation and loneliness at the loss of his family to emigration is obvious, but he remains jovial and kind in his letters.

Here is a beautiful performance of the song by Robbie O’ Connell and I’ve also included the lyrics. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did.

Kilkelly, Ireland, 18 and 60, my dear and loving son John
Your good friend the schoolmaster Pat McNamara’s so good
As to write these words down.
Your brothers have all gone to find work in England,
The house is so empty and sad
The crop of potatoes is sorely infected,
A third to a half of them bad.
And your sister Brigid and Patrick O’Donnell
Are going to be married in June.
Your mother says not to work on the railroad
And be sure to come on home soon.

Kilkelly, Ireland, 18 and 70, dear and loving son John
Hello to your Mrs and to your 4 children,
May they grow healthy and strong.
Michael has got in a wee bit of trouble,
I suppose that he never will learn.
Because of the dampness there’s no turf to speak of
And now we have nothing to burn.
And Brigid is happy, you named a child for her
And now she’s got six of her own.
You say you found work, but you don’t say
What kind or when you will be coming home.

Kilkelly, Ireland, 18 and 80, dear Michael and John, my sons
I’m sorry to give you the very sad news
That your dear old mother has gone.
We buried her down at the church in Kilkelly,
Your brothers and Brigid were there.
You don’t have to worry, she died very quickly,
Remember her in your prayers.
And it’s so good to hear that Michael’s returning,
With money he’s sure to buy land
For the crop has been poor and the people
Are selling at any price that they can.

Kilkelly, Ireland, 18 and 90, my dear and loving son John
I guess that I must be close on to eighty,
It’s thirty years since you’re gone.
Because of all of the money you send me,
I’m still living out on my own.
Michael has built himself a fine house
And Brigid’s daughters have grown.
Thank you for sending your family picture,
They’re lovely young women and men.
You say that you might even come for a visit,
What joy to see you again.

Kilkelly, Ireland, 18 and 92, my dear brother John
I’m sorry that I didn’t write sooner to tell you that father passed on.
He was living with Brigid, she says he was cheerful
And healthy right down to the end.
Ah, you should have seen him play with
The grandchildren of Pat McNamara, your friend.
And we buried him alongside of mother,
Down at the Kilkelly churchyard.
He was a strong and a feisty old man,
Considering his life was so hard.
And it’s funny the way he kept talking about you,
He called for you in the end.
Oh, why don’t you think about coming to visit,
We’d all love to see you again.

Picture Source

Poem: A Christmas Childhood

This is a beautiful poem that I learned when I was in school that will punch you square in the feelings. It’s by poet Patrick Kavanagh and it’s called ‘A Christmas Childhood’.

My father played the melodion

Outside at our gate;

There were stars in the morning east;

And they danced to his music.

Across the wild bogs his melodion called

To Lennons and Callans.

As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry

I knew some strange thing had happened.

Outside in the cow-house my mother

Made the music of milking;

The light of her stable-lamp was a star

And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

A water-hen screeched in the bog,

Mass-going feet

Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,

Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

My child poet picked out the letters

On the grey stone,

In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,

The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

Cassiopeia was over

Cassidy’s hanging hill,

I looked and three whin bushes rode across

The horizon – the Three Wise Kings.

An old man passing said:

“Can’t he make it talk” –

The melodion, I hid in the doorway

And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.

I nicked six nicks on the door-post

With my penknife’s big blade –

There was a little one for cutting tobacco.

And I was six Christmases of age.

My father played the melodion,

My mother milked the cows,

And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned

On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.