Yesterday I wondered if the spirit of discovery I felt on day one of the
Tall Ships Festival might be just a product of the excitement of a much-anticipated event finally getting under way. Now as day two draws to a close, I’m delighted to report that the spirit is still very much alive and well.
Here are the ways the Tall Ships Festival took me out of the ordinary today:
– Cycling into town dressed as a pirate first thing in the morning – definitely a first (and possibly a last).
– Strolling up the middle of the Quay mid-morning with hundreds of other “pirates”. We were supposed to be marauding, though I’m not sure we did a great job – do pirates normally chat, bask in the sunshine and carry small children on their shoulders as they maraud?
– Realising that men in their fifties and sixties have a hugely unfair advantage in the piracy imitation game – stick a bandana, an eyepatch and a billowy white shirt on them and they look so much the part, they blow everyone else out of the water (sorry, couldn’t resist…).
– Leaving a city-centre cafe without ordering when the daughter and I noticed to our total shock that the prices on the “Tall Ships Special” menu were double the normal prices. We were shocked, A – because of the bare-faced cheek of it, and B – because the city authorities had specifically requested local businesses not to put up their prices during the Festival (and most have taken heed).
– Sitting at one of the rows of trestle tables on the Quay, admiring the TS Royalist docked alongside, helping the daughter handle her foot-long hot dog while I tucked into Thai noodles, chatting to friends and neighbours passing by.
Now, like yesterday evening, the sounds of the Tall Ships Festival are resounding out across the City – tonight it’s fireworks, their banging and whizzing oddly dulled at this distance. These evening sounds are wonderful, reminding those of us tucked up at home on the outskirts of the City that the Festival is in full swing.
Now to get some sleep for (hopefully) more marauding tomorrow.
The thing I love about big public events like the Tall Ships Festival 2011, which kicked off in Waterford this afternoon, is that they take you out of yourself. They lead you to do things you wouldn’t normally do.
Sitting in Jordan’s pub on the Quay on a weekday afternoon, chatting away to total strangers, is not something I normally do. Granted, I only ended up doing it today because it was the only way the daughter and I could find to escape the crush around William Vincent Wallace Plaza, where the formal launch of the Festival was taking place. We squeezed our way through the river of immobilised bodies, up the little flagged alley and in the side door of the bar. Five minutes later, the daughter and I were perched on red velveteen seats in the window, sipping lemonade, watching Keith Barry predict something amazing on the Plaza across the way (admittedly it did lose something with the lack of sound) and sympathising amiably with fellow street-refugees about the crush outside.
Once the crowds eased, the daughter and I were off again, doing a grand tour of the market on the Quay, gaily spending money on whatever took our fancy (because spending outside your budget doesn’t count on special occasions, didn’t you know?), eating our own body weight in burritos, hotdogs and cupcakes (an unusual combination, I grant you, but hey, the Tall Ships only come every five years!) and dawdling deliciously with nowhere to be and no schedule to stick to.
When we’d seen and eaten everything we could, we decided to deal with the non-appearance of the bus by walking most of the way home. The Quay to Williamstown on foot was a joy: Strolling along in the late-afternoon sun, hardly a car in sight, daughter in a blissed-out world of her own with her iPod plugged into her ears and her hair dancing wildly around her face, the view of the City spreading out behind us as we advanced up John’s Hill towards Grange and home.
Now I’m sitting on my sofa, listening to the ship’s horns as they echo out from the Quay, across the City and out into the County, bidding us goodnight.
To close, a confession. Jordan’s is one of the most historic buildings in Waterford Ciy. I have often marvelled at it from the outside, at its cheeky sideways tilt and its faded, half-timbered glory. I was born and bred in Waterford. Until today, I never saw the inside of Jordan’s. Circumstances combined today to lead me there.
There are three more days to go of the Tall Ships Festival 2011. I can’t wait to see where it takes me tomorrow.
Check out my latest guest blog article, this time for Friends of Breastfeeding: http://friendsofbreastfeeding.blogspot.com/2011/05/its-all-about-milk.html.
One sunny morning last September, I was strolling down the river side of the Quay here in Waterford City. The air buzzed with conversation, shouts of laughter, and people calling out to each other. Mouth-watering aromas made the head practically swim. The car parks, emptied of cars for the weekend, were packed on both sides with market stalls piled high with every possible kind of food produce. It was the Waterford Harvest Festival 2010in full swing.
With all the negative news to hit our City last year, it would have been no surprise if visitors had found the atmosphere on the streets to be glum and muted. Instead, they found the people of Waterford engaged in what was basically a year-long party.
For me, like other locals, the hardest part was picking what to go to. It would have been physically impossible to attend everything.
There are some highlights that have stuck in my mind. A day in early July spent at Spraoi in the Park, when it seemed like the whole City and County was in the People’s Park, sitting on the grass in the sun, listening to the live music. My husband hoisting our daughter onto his shoulders to see and hear the drummers in Arundel Square at Spraoi a month later. My then-one-year-old kicking up her feet in delight at a “Baby Boogie” dance session with Libby Seward in Garter Lane as part of SprOg, the children’s pre-Spraoi festival. My older daughter and I joining in the dance moves to “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” that Rev. Bazil Meade, leader of the London Community Gospel Choir, taught the audience at a rousing concert at the Waterford International Music Festival in November. (We still do the moves when we think nobody is looking.)
There are too many other special moments to describe: “Seussical the Musical” in the Theatre Royal at the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera; Joseph O’Connor reading from his new novel at the Imagine Arts Festival; leaning against the wall across the road from Azzurro in Dunmore East on a Saturday afternoon in August to catch the music of the Jack Grace Band playing on the restaurant terrace at the Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival.
Now that we are almost half-way through 2011, with Ireland’s biggest ever open-air banner presiding proudly over the Quay, the excitement is palpable as the City gears itself up for the Tall Ships Festival 2011. It’s going to be some party.
Speaking of the Quay, I am reminded again of that morning last September. With the parked cars replaced by rows of market stalls and the place jam-packed with people, my seven-year-old was feeling a little disoriented. She looked up at me with a puzzled expression. “Mam, where is this?”
I could not help but smile as I gestured at the scene in front of us. “This is Waterford, love. This is Waterford.”
Everyone likes to be thanked. So much so, that we tend to get a bit sniffy if someone forgets to thank us for something. Children are constantly reminded to say “Thank you”. So why is thanking often such a thankless task?
The after-dinner speeches at weddings – the main participants’ only chance to formally express their gratitude to family and friends – are dreaded by many of the guests, some of whom pass the time by placing bets on their duration. The tearful thank-yous of award recipients on Oscar night are mocked and satirised. Thank-you cards are the Cinderella of the greeting card world, much bought (good intentions and all that) but little used, often lying forgotten at the backs of drawers.
Personally, I am a thankophile. I get a warm fuzzy glow from thanks of all kinds – whether I am the intended recipient or not. I devour the Acknowledgments sections of books. (Why? Do I secretly hope to find myself in them?) For me, the credits at the ends of films are part of the entertainment. (The cleaners in my local cinema hate me – I stay until the screen goes blank and the house lights come on, while they pointedly sweep up the popcorn from beneath the seats on either side of me.)
Compliments – now they are a different matter. I blame genetics. Being Irish, and a woman at that, I am simply not in the right gene pool to be comfortable accepting compliments. As anyone who has met any Irish woman knows, compliment her and you will receive a self-deprecating eye-roll followed by a rattled-off summary of where she bought it (invariably the cheapest, nastiest bargain-basement place in town), how much she paid for it (next to nothing), and the ways in which it successfully hides her hideous figure (it’s basically a potato sack with buttons so it covers everything).
What is the effect of this tirade on the hapless complimenter? As Gil Gonzalez says, rebuffing a compliment is “the equivalent of giving a gift to someone and having them go on about how you shouldn’t have”. The complimenter feels rebuffed, of course – after all, he has basically been told that he is wrong. He is unlikely to compliment the recipient again. Worst of all, he may feel prompted make a re-assessment and conclude that actually, yes, you do look hideous.
Having recently become sensitised to this bad habit among Mná na hÉireann, I have turned over a new leaf. Now, when a compliment comes my way, I suppress the wave of purchasing information welling up inside me. Instead, I pin a smile to my face and say “Thank you”, even if it is through gritted teeth.
People with religious beliefs are likely to be more familiar with the therapeutic properties of thanking, in the form of prayer. As a child, I bothered God on a nightly basis with a list of thanks and acknowledgments that would have put any Oscar recipient to shame. Now that any notion of God and I have permanently parted ways, I have discovered the concept of “gratitudes”. Gratitudes are like prayer in that (ideally) you say them (usually to yourself) first thing in the morning or last thing at night, or both.
To whom is my gratitude addressed, you might ask? For me personally, gratitudes are a way of enabling myself to feel gratitude for the good things in my life; they are not directed at specific people. Any specific thanking that needs to be done, I like to do in person.
A related issue is the use of terms such as “No problem” and “No worries” to respond to thanks. Now, these statements are appropriate to some degree – at least they are an acknowledgment that thanks have been given. However, as I recently read somewhere, these statements are still off the mark, as their underlying assumption is that there might have been a problem or a worry to begin with. They introduce a negative slant to what should have been a completely positive interaction: thanks given, thanks received. A much happier response to thanks is a simple “You’re welcome” or its more refined cousin, “It’s a pleasure”.
Back to thanks. I recently spent some days in bed due to illness. With the help of family and friends (including my very good friend, the internet), life in the Curmumgeon household continued pretty much as normal while I recovered. All attempts at thanks by me were rebuffed with responses along the lines of “Sure what kind of parent / friend would I be if I didn’t help out?” Which is a very canny way of putting an end to my thanking overtures.
I might have to don a fluffy pink dress, go on TV and burst into tears to show them I really mean it.
I overheard the following exchange in the doctor’s surgery the other day:
Older man to receptionist: “Are you the girl that works in Specsavers?”
Receptionist: “No, not me.”
Man: “Are you sure, I could have sworn I saw you behind the counter in Specsavers.”
Receptionist: “No, definitely not me, I work … er … here.”
Seems going to Specsavers doesn’t always have the desired effect…
Following the example of our political leaders, I am updating my job title from “Mother of Three” to the following, with immediate effect: Minister for Transport, Health, Education, Defence, Justice, Food, Finance, Equality, Sports & Tourism and Mental Health.
I wrote this a few Christmases ago. A bit of light-heartedness seems especially appropriate now as 2010 draws to a close. Remember, it’s for a giggle, people – no disrepect intended to anyone of any religion! Merry Christmas everyone!
Lines Penned On the Occasion of the Epiphany
In olden times – nay, yesteryear,
Or perhaps it was days of yore,
Three Irish men sat down to plan
A trip to a far-flung shore.
They’d heard Our Lord had just been born
And they just had to see Him first-hand
They settled it over a couple of pints
They would head for the Holy Land.
Frankie Malone was the brains of the group,
He would sort all the travel and visas,
While PJ O’Brien would make sure to sort out
Some gifts for the baby Jesus.
PJ and Frank knew that Willy Magee
Was a few bricks short of a load
So to give him a job, they put him in charge
Of refreshments and snacks for the road.
They were finally ready, the boys set off.
The road was a hard one at first.
But their spirits were high and Willy had packed
Five slabs of Dutch Gold for the thirst.
In Damascus they met up with three fellas in turbans
Who claimed to be led by a star
Our heroes just shrugged – they were tolerant types –
And they asked them along for a jar.
Frankie and Co. felt guilty next morning
When their friends couldn’t move from their beds
But with no time to waste, they bid them goodbye
And left them there nursing their heads.
As they got nearer Bethlehem, matters improved
In terms of their method of travel
The locals stood back in amazement and gazed
At the three Irish lads on a camel.
In a field outside Bethlehem they had a wee session,
The end of the journey was near.
“And just as well too,” hiccuped Willy Magee,
“’Cos that’s nearly the end of the beer.”
“One last thing,” cautioned Frank, as he downed his last drop,
“We’ve a problem: our names are too silly.
They’ll laugh at us in Bethlehem if we say that our names
Are PJ, Frank, and Willy!”
“What were those lads called who we met in the bar
And left sound asleep in Damascus?
Oh yeah – Casper, Melchior and Balthazar,
We’ll just say those if they ask us.”
They set off and were just at the stable door
When O’Brien did let out a groan.
“The gifts for the babby – I got them, but lads –
They’re in the boot of me car back at home.”
“Here – divide up this stuff I bought in that bazaar,”
Said Frank, having thought for a minute.
“It was meant for the missus, but she’ll be none the wiser,
Sure I haven’t a clue what is in it.”
So they knocked on the door, and were welcomed inside,
They rejoiced at the Virgin Birth.
Then a shepherd regarded the gifts they had brought
And scornfully asked, “What on earth?”
“Twenty shekels that cost me!” said Frank, incensed.
“Mmm – errr…” said PJ, far from sober.
Then Willy produced his last can of Dutch Gold
And solemnly handed it over.
People heard far and wide of the three foreign men
And their strange tongue (some believed it was Greek)
And the gift they had brought for to worship Our Lord
(Even if it was somewhat – unique).
Only three weary Persians, not long back from a journey,
Declared there was really no mystery.
But no-one believed them how three Irish blokes
Stole their place in the annals of history.
© Curmumgeon 2010
I’m in the “slippery slope” school of thought on this one. In other words, what starts off as simply not removing your slippers for work can easily become not removing your pyjamas. From there, it’s a slippery slide to just staying in bed with the laptop. And as the saying goes, she who works in pyjamas, thinks in pyjamas.
OK I just made that one up.
In my experience, what I am wearing for work directly affects my frame of mind and the quality of my output. For example, imagine what wonderful work you could produce in this get-up:
Having said that, I do not sit in my home office in power suits and stiletto heels. As long as my apparel can be fairly classified as outerwear, is clean and sometimes even ironed, and is fit for opening the door in, I consider myself properly kitted out for a good day’s work at the PC.
Lately, however, standards are starting to slip. Advancing age and the mellowing that goes with it means I can justify an increasing degree of slovenliness. Although I have noticed that my slovenliness varies in accordance with the people I expect to encounter:
Postman – pyjamas: not appropriate; dressing-gown: yes, at a stretch; hair brushed: no need.
Childminder – all bets off, even teeth unbrushed is OK.
Female friends – different league; fashionable gear and make-up required to maintain competitive viability amongst peer group.
Family members – a degree of pride is involved here so: pyjamas – no way; dressing-gown – only with good reason, such as having recently given birth or illness; bare feet / slippers – better not, as although seemingly minor, these can be interpreted as little “telltale signs” (of anything from a dip in work levels to full-blown depression).
Children – irrelevant – they are utterly indifferent to what I am wearing as long as I maintain the expected flow of food, drink, cuddles, transport, entertainment and soothing-to-sleep.
I do have one sacred cow when it comes to clothing, though: pyjamas should never, ever be worn to the supermarket, to the bank, at the school gates, or anywhere else in public. Being seen in public in your jammies is only a small step away from being seen out in the nip, and that is the stuff of a well-known universal nightmare, with very good reason.
No matter how curmudgeonly I become, I hereby declare that I will never sink that low. Amen.