What One American City Girl Did for Love

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We Have Moved….

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2009 at 4:20 pm

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I.S.T. (Irish Standard Time)

In Life, Uncategorized on October 20, 2009 at 2:21 pm

irishtimeOne thing that I was pleasantly surprised about after being here for awhile is the fact that the Irish are notoriously behind schedule.  This is a fact that nobody will deny–even folks who are always on time, will attest to this. Call it laid back..call it relaxed, but don’t call it irresponsible because no one here will be on your side.  In many ways, I covertly love this and empathize with it because I am someone whom has always been accused, and rightly so, of being tardy. Tardy is actually the term that my American school system used…and used against you with harsh consequences, T-A-R-D-Y. If you were late to class, you were marked down as tardy and would receive a detention unless you had a damned good excuse. Which, of course, nobody ever did. TARDY…just sounds so bloody tasteless.

The first time I was formally introduced to Irish timekeeping was when I was going into Limerick one evening to meet girlfriends for cocktails. I was to be there at 9PM and had arrived at 9:30 armed with a smattering of excuses (baby wouldn’t go down, baby wouldn’t eat, baby wouldn’t stop crying, hubby home late, etc etc). I was met with two of the five friends (3 others were later than I!) cajoling and laughing and taking absolutely no notice that I was late. Thirty whole minutes late! Not one text or phone call to see if I was okay either. When I apologized they would hear nothing of it…and when I started to spat my plethora of excuses I was enlightened with the philosophy of what I now deem “Irish Standard Time” whereby everyone is always at least a little late and nobody, NOBODY cares.  Whew, what a relief! I instantly felt so much more welcomed here than I ever had before. Finally, a place that accepted constant lateness and didn’t bat one pretty eyelash about it. Glee!!!

But then I started to notice this in other situations. I’d go to a shop, bank or restaurant at the posted opening time and would be kept waiting for 15 minutes for the doors to open. When I finally did get into a shop I could be kept waiting for another 15 minutes while a clerk is on a personal phone call before even being greeted. When you go to the cinema the trailers always start about 10-15 minutes later that the listed film showtime. All of this is unheard of in the States, where customer service is king. At one point, I considered starting a time management/customer service orientation business, but then I was reminded by my loving husband that A. I wasn’t qualified and B. I would be late for my own funeral if that was possible and certainly wouldn’t be able to turn up on time to give the orientations which would in turn make things even worse. He was right, but I might add that, ironically, he is the most punctually retentive person I have ever met. We always manage to get to the airport 3 hours before our flight..he arranges for us to leave extremely early just in case we get a tire puncture or get into an accident or lord knows what else….

When I worked on television production here in 06, were worked on a variation of I.S.T.  I had been used to shooting from very early in the morning to late, late nights. And weekends were certainly not out of the question in LA or NY. Here, with the Killinaskully series, we worked 9-5 Monday-Friday and not a minute later unless it was planned well, well in advance. People take their time off very seriously in Ireland.

Nonetheless, the pièce de résistance was when we started building our house. It is just status quo that builders and carpenters are flaky no matter where you live in the world, but in this case the behaviour was literally astonishing. Our “reputable” kitchen/bathroom fitting company blew us off for nearly 2 months past our scheduled start date. They wouldn’t even answer phone calls or return messages. Working together became like a game of cat and mouse with all the suppliers. The only person that delivered on time and on budget was the German window guy, Bruno. At least when it came time to pay everyone we were even put off there. It seemed as though we were forcing them to be paid. Buying a car. We had to ring dealerships several times to buy a car that we wanted and we were even offering the asking price. Carpet. Furniture. Same story. Indeed, these are not contemptuous, reckless people; it is just them simply being laid back and losing track of time. It’s just Irish Standard Time.

I must run now or I’ll be late for my hair appointment.

But sure, that’s okay.



Fair Weather Friend

In Uncategorized on September 7, 2009 at 8:56 pm

We are just back from a glorious week’s holidays on Martha’s Vineyard and I must admit, it was disappointing to arrive home to a rainy, gray Ireland. Not that this would be abnormal, the weather here is generally dull, but it probably seems worse after you’ve come home from a beautiful vacation under mostly sunny skies.
And with that, I am going to write about the weather. I cannot avoid it, it must be discussed and described in full detail in order to really set the scene and understand the Irish way of life. The weather here is as significant as being a part of a family or a supporting actor in a film…kind of like that entity who is always in the background somehow influencing your life—indeed, a very important ingredient in the recipe of Irish life. And if you are anything like me, you’d be affected by its force in the same way one might experience a rollercoaster ride: one minute things are one way and the next minute things have changed. Repeat this cycle over and over and then just throw in the towel and go with it. The weather literally changes so often that you cannot settle into one mode before being whipped into another mode and its accompanying state of mind. We have a 16-foot window in our family room that looks out onto the horizon where you see acres of majestic green hills and the ancient Shanid castle ruin. I often find myself sitting in an armchair in front of that window entranced by the ebb and flow of the weather; witnessing the tumultuous skies flying by, always in flux–heavy and dark one minute, then fluffy and gray the next, followed by the purest cornflower blue before the rain suddenly starts lashing down. Circus clouds, changing from bears to rabbits to torpedoes in an instant. Rainbows, rainbows and more beautiful rainbows. All so alive and gorgeous really, but somewhat unsettling just the same.
The Irish embrace this weather in a humorous way. They tirelessly chat about it, always acknowledging-even damning the rain and gray, but if it’s sunny for more than 3 days, the fear sets in and the grave grumbling of too much heat commences. You will hear weather discussion no matter where you go, it is more than just small talk; it is embedded in the culture–in the very fabric of Irish life. I personally believe it is a clever coping mechanism…a form of therapy if you will. You know, “talk it out” though I doubt any Irish person would agree. There is also a native weather language–for instance, when it is humid, it is described as being “close” and when it is cool it may be referred to as “fresh”. The term “close” initially seemed quite strange to me, but you’d have to admit that our “muggy” is pretty odd itself. The truth is, if it didn’t rain all the time Ireland wouldn’t be as magnificent and lush as it is. And it would also not leave much to complain about. Two things that this country cannot live without.
When I first came for a visit to Ireland it rained nearly every day. Hard. Richard took me to Lahinch in County Clare where we went to the beach and it downpoured and where surfers just kept on surfing. Then we went to the Ring of Kerry. And it downpoured. Bunratty. And it downpoured. Of course, I didn’t bring the proper attire with and became soaked each time we went on an adventure. Hair looking worse than a messy Osprey’s nest and my colorful dainty skirts with little fitted cotton jackets became a second skin. Richard loved it. My next trip I came prepared with beautiful striped new Wellies from Smith & Hawken and a cute raincoat which was, well, more cute than rainproof. My favorite thing became sitting inside charming old pubs and restaurants alongside a turf fire sipping Irish coffees and looking at the beautiful landscapes with my handsome Irishman from the inside out. Still, being the optimist that I am (was?) I never assumed that the weather was always so wet, after all, it was either Autumn or Spring when I visited so bad weather was to be expected, right?
When I moved to Ireland I literally became chilled to the bone for at least 2 years. I moved over on June 1st, the beginning of summer in the USA. In Ireland, it had already been summer for a month because the seasons were on a different timeline (until this year actually) so summer was May, June, July; Autumn August, September, October and so on. I fully expected it to be sunny and gorgeous. Wrong. It rained every day for a month. No matter how warm I dressed I still felt cold. The heat was on in our house, but the air felt damp to me. It was the strangest sensation that I just could not shake. I noticed about a year and a half ago that I was finally warming up. I thought to myself ‘finally, my body has adjusted to Ireland’ but in reflection, it was more likely due to our underfloor heating in our new home.
Over this past weekend it was gray and misty at times, but not rainy. Whilst playing in the garden (yard) with Geoffrey and the doggies, we spotted Richard in a field seemingly admiring the weather….sort of looking up into the sky and taking it all in with a smile on his face. We hiked over and asked him what he was doing to which he replied, “it’s a beautiful day isn’t it?”. He always says this when it’s gray and not rainy with a tiny bit of a breeze. It’s his absolute favorite weather. Of course, I think it’s awful. Call me a fair weather friend, but I think we need a little sun each day to be happy. (Not too much, I remember feeling stifled by the sun when I briefly lived in Los Angeles…sunny every day, too much light, too exposed, it was just too, too, too everything actually.) But for Richard, the overcast days feel calming and comfortable. Probably easier for him and his crew to work as well so I can’t knock him. And, as he says, you must decide that you are doing something outside no matter if it rains or not and just do it. Needless to say, our home is now stocked with every type of waterproof item in existence. And in every color too, of course.

Dingle Dooks Spiddle Cong!

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2009 at 3:12 pm

The Irish have a way with names. Names of people, places, things. This is one big observation I have made which always makes me grin and wonder what I will stumble upon next…

This topic comes to mind as yesterday I was called over to the home farmhouse to have tea and visit with a cousin of Richard’s, Maire (pronounced MYRA) and her gorgeous 2 year old daughter, Caoimhe, pronounced “QWEEVA”.  Ok what?!!! Qweeva?! I remember when Maire first had Caoimhe, I always imagined that her name would be pronounced like “CAMEY” and when I heard it spoken for the first time I was shocked.  I adore the name, but am still completely puzzled over how C-a-o-i-m-h-e becomes Q-W-E-E-V-A. When we were choosing a name for Geoffrey we looked into a lot of Irish names and almost decided on Tristan, but chose Geoffrey in the end which was also my late brother’s name. In our search, we came across and had suggestions of several popular Irish boys names, namely Roisin (ROSHEEN), Tadgh (TYGE), Ruari (RORY), Seamus (SHAME-US), Eamonn (AMON), Diarmuid (DY-EAR-MID), Donncha (DONNIKA), Donagh (DOE-NA). I never knew the Irish language was so complex. The spellings and pronunciations are difficult at best.  It’s quite impressive really, but I had to name my little boy something that I could say easily and never forget how to spell. Call me simple, but it’s true.

Then, of course, we have the illustrious town names. Knicker. Cong. Cloontyprucklish, Nobber. Kill. Dingle. Dooks. Hospital. Kilmacow. Kilmacat. Ringaskiddy. Tang. Granny. And lest I forget, Newtownpothouse.  I will always remember the time that my American friend, Sonia, was visiting and we went to a cocktail party whereby a group of women were discussing going to Dooks for the weekend.  She said, “Now where is Dooks?” and they replied “Right near Dingle”. Needless to say, she nearly wet herself with laughter.  And I realized that all of these names were becoming so commonplace to me that I would have thought nothing of it had she not found the humor in it.

I look forward to writing more on this topic, but for now I must run—I have to bake a tart and collect my son from the crèche. (i.e. pie and playschool)



So here’s the gist

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2009 at 4:07 pm

I married an Irish Farmer. There it is. I did it. I actually did it. Well, I did it 4 years ago, but still I did it. You may wonder why it has taken me so long to write this. Well, it’s either because A. in the beginning, I wanted to and actually tried, but never felt that I had enough experience of what I had done yet-if that makes sense. What I wrote ended up seeming like some fictional chick-lit paperback that was purely fantasy and fiction…I was writing about how I imagined my life would become and hadn’t really known-until now. Or, B. I simply have only just now decided that I am really staying. Really here for the long haul. And if I am staying, I had better do something constructive with my time in order to stay sane. In the past four years, I left my full life and career (and beloved kitty cat, Matisse) in big city USA; married Richard, my charming, passionate and boyishly handsome husband; had a beautiful baby boy, Geoffrey; sadly lost a wonderful Grandma-in-Law, horrifically lost my daddy to cancer over a 3 month period; designed and built an enormous house and then moved into the country……onto the family farm where we live with our three crazy dogs right next to our extended family.

The farm is at Dunmoylan, Shanagolden, County Limerick. This area is located near the mouth of the Shannon River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean.  A nearby town, Foynes is where the Irish Coffee was invented. Dunmoylan is composed of several areas of land together and then some more down this road or that road. Our house is a short walk from the main farm “home house” and our brother and sister-in-law’s house is across from ours. So it’s like a bit of a compound—or at least that what I refer to it as.  My husband and the family like to think of it as “one big happy family”. I still call it the compound.  It’s odd coming from the USA where kids go off to college at 18 only to return to their families on holidays and/or short visits.  Here, as in other European countries, it is not unusual to live with your parents until your late 20’s. And after you move, you make every effort to spend quality time with family as much as humanly possible. What does that say for American society? Who knows, but for now I’d have to say that I liked it better having more autonomy. That is not to say that I don’t like my in-laws. I really do…they are very kind and generous and ambitious and lovely. I think it’s that I’ve just been trained that whilst living near parents, you have to “be careful”, “watch your step”, “be on your best behaviour” and other limiting things.  My therapist always said that adults do horribly around their families….they regress to the inevitably icky childhood insecurities .  I find this to be true around here-let’s just say that and move off that topic for now. Overall, it works out well. We all have our own personal space and everyone is busy which keeps things mostly pleasant.

When I first moved abroad to Ireland, we lived in a semi-detached house (townhouse) in the small village of Adare.  My first thoughts were that it seemed almost medieval…but somehow in a classy way. Of course, I visited Ireland several times before agreeing to move over and we had spent some nice times in Adare which is only 20 minutes from the farm and I had liked it very much. It is deemed “Ireland’s Prettiest Village”. It is idyllic, in a thatched roof cottage-y, ancient church-y sort of way. Very Irish and very much a tourist attraction.  It was a good for my “entry level living” experience in Ireland because it was a town and not the farm. There were delightful shops and restaurants in walking distance and some interesting characters..all of which I will share with you as time goes on.

I had never even been on a farm in my life before meeting Richard-outside of a production shoot on a game farm and even then we weren’t near the actual farmyard.  I quickly came to realize that farming is perceived differently in Ireland than America to a certain degree. There is more pride and less of a stigma to it. Dunmoylan has been in Richard’s family since the 1800’s and his mother and father worked extremely hard to bring it to a highly successful enterprise. Richard and his brother David run the farm now, for all intents and purposes, and have again brought it up another level by diversifying in alternative energies, i.e. wind and biogas sectors.  Still, no matter how advanced the farm may be, my husband works tirelessly for long hours which I never anticipated or could have ever fathomed even if explained. Farming is a 7 day a week job. Early mornings and late nights. Especially when there are cows calving, chickens going out or if any of the farm help are away on vacation.  So the days can be long for a stay-at-home-mommy waiting for the daddy whose presence is constantly being requested by his incorrigible son…especially by about 7pm each evening. We have to be creative in order to share a few meals together or have some fun away from the farm. Of course, I constantly have the “itch” to get out of the house and do something so I find myself driving to Limerick City (40 minutes away) frequently with Geoffrey to visit with other mommy friends and their children or go to a playcenter or shopping.  Having said all of that, we have been able to enjoy frequent traveling to the USA or European destinations and I feel very lucky that that is the case. In a week’s time we are off again to Martha’s Vineyard to stay with some dear friends and may even see President Obama.  So, holidays are taken seriously….and deservedly so.

I have kept a journal of many of my experiences over the past 4 years….and quirky new things never cease to happen around here so this blog should keep me busy and you (hopefully) entertained for some time to come!!!


Imen xoxo

Buzzy Ad Girl goes Country.

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Well, I’ve finally decided to do it. Write about life married to an Irish farmer(he’s positively heavenly if you’re wondering)….write about going from a city hopping, jet setting lifestyle to a quiet life on a farm (albeit modern) in Ireland…write about raising a little boy in the country versus on the block….write every crazy last bit of it. Oh boy, little did I know….