What One American City Girl Did for Love

Posts Tagged ‘ireland’

Teddy McBeddy

In Life on November 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm

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I was reminded of a funny story when we were out with D & R for dinner here on Saturday night. We started chatting about our beloved dogs–for which there are many round here (We have 2 Great Pyrenees and 1 Airedale; D & R have 2 Harlequin Great Danes; and the farm has 2 Norwegian Elkhounds, 1 Samoyed and 1 lovely old Bernese Mountain Dog) perhaps too many, but the McDonnell’s are huge dog lovers and we have plenty of space so they are very happy pups. Our conversation immediately began to focus on the weekly antics of Ted, our quirky Airedale. There just always seems to be a Ted story. He’s such a comical creature with remarkably strong scavenging instincts and a heart of gold.

You see, Ted is “my dog”. When I first moved over I was completely overwhelmed by loneliness and boredom…having previously been so busy and social virtually every moment of every day, my life suddenly felt like it was at a standstill. I needed some company because Richard left before I woke up in the morning and didn’t arrive home until nearly 8pm each evening. I had always longed for an Airedale Terrier (to name Teddy) and on one teary-eyed Saturday, Richard said he’d found a breeder in Cork and that we would arrange to go pick out a puppy. I was delighted beyond belief.

When we were introduced to the busy litter of pups, Ted stood out to us—sure, he was smaller than the rest, his tail was nearly nonexistent and demeanor a bit timid, but he had the sweetest twinkle in his eye and he just seemed so special. We worried that he wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice and decided immediately that he would be ours. Over the next few months, I played with him, housetrained him, groomed him, cuddled with him, napped with him, danced with him, cried with him (ok, so only I was crying but still). We became the very best of friends. At one point during my pregnancy he became obsessed with resting his scruffy chin on my belly all the time. It was part of his nature, he knew something special was inside. He was completely adorable.

When it came time for me to go the the maternity hospital to have our real baby, I was simply not prepared to leave Ted. I was positively gutted over having to leave him behind while I went to the hospital. He was my buddy, confident and protector. I needed him! I felt so strongly about this that I insisted on having Richard bring Teddy to the hospital every day. Since I was pre-term they basically had me in the hospital (a place out of the 50’s..whole other story..but the staff were lovely) on pseudo bedrest for 6 days before I was induced. Richard would bring Ted and I would sneak out to the jeep (our Freelander. All SUV’s or pick-up trucks are called “jeeps” here) and I would cuddle with him for 10 minutes each day. The nurses/doctor hadn’t a clue. They would have not allowed it whatsoever!

I had totally forgotten that experience until Saturday night and I was so happy when Richard began talking about it. I love it when you are reminded of things that you forgot to remember. ..especially when they are wonderful loving moments frozen in time.

 

Slainte,

Imen

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Take Me Home Country Roads [Please God!]

In Life on October 28, 2009 at 10:55 pm

road.JPG“Neddy McBride will be calling over tonight from up the country, [insert in hushed voice]Please God.” Please God is a common ending to many phrases here in Ireland and so I’ve been told, it has been for many, many generations. Ad infinitum. It basically just means with the help of God or for those like me who don’t fancy using such colloquialisms then “hopefully” fits the bill nicely as well.

Hopefully is a good word to describe how you get from A to B on Irish roads; namely the country roads.  Terrifyingly, nervously, horrifyingly, absolutely alertedly, shockingly, anything that sounds scary and ends in the letters “ly” as a matter of fact. First of all, as we know, these roads were not built for automobiles–and certainly not for two vehicles at all. They were roads built for carriages, rickshaws, tractors and legs. Now, of course, many new roads have been created over the years (many in the last 5 years alone), but I’d venture to guess that the stereotypical narrow country road is still what covers the most ground here in Ireland. Extremely charming, yes. The breathtaking, winding Ring of Kerry..the Lombard Street-y road down to the Dingle Peninsula (don’t do whilst in first trimester), venturing though the Wicklow mountains…in which the scenery is so gorgeous that it is essential to just meander and lose yourself in the magic of it all.

Still, day to day driving on these roads is definitely dangerous to your health. First of all, everyone drives a million miles an hour when you’d think that it might be safer to go slow because you never know when you will encounter another car and then inevitably have to stop and pull over into the hedge and let them pass or vice versa because two cars literally do not fit on the road together. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve nearly blacked-out in fear that I would be hit by a huge lorry (truck) because they generally will not stop to let you by. I also cannot tell you how many times I have just closed my eyes tight and stopped on the side of the road and when I reopened them the lorry had miraculously passed by and I was still alive, but completely shell-shocked.  On countless other occasions, I have somehow serendipitously squeezed by due to the unforeseen leeway of a driveway or a slightly wider shoulder and just barely made it though (yes, I suppose I have thought about the grace of God or some such entity having something to do with this…) I know this probably sounds really dramatic, but it is the truth.  To make matters worse, Richard has an odd habit of driving on the wrong side of the road at times (tell me again, why didn’t he move to the USA instead?) which I can’t understand and scares the living daylights out of me. It’s like a death wish as far as I am concerned. He thinks I overreact about it. Particularly when I start wailing and flailing like a baby that needs milk until he switches lanes. It doesn’t help that Geoffrey is giggling hysterically and having a blast in the back seat through it all.

I know I am a farmer’s wife, but tractors are such a nuisance on the roads. I do realize that they need to get from A to B too (and, ahem, home on time for supper with their families) but geeez do they have to get there whilst driving in front of me? The same goes for all the gigs that are out and about. It’s nearly impossible to overtake (pass) a tractor and the thought of spooking a horse pulling a cart on these roads is terrifying so you’re just stuck. For anywhere from 1-20 kilometers..or 1-30 minutes approximately. And that’s about when the crooning of John Denver comes into my head…..it never fails.

Take me home country roads…

Slainte,

Imen

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.

Slainte,

Imen

Major Wardrobe Malfunction

In Life on September 29, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I used to be stylish. I sort of fancied myself as a girl who stayed on top of fashion. Of course, this can only objectively be spoken by someone who is clearly no longer stylish. Oh, how I loved creatively putting together a bad-assed ensemble each day to wear to my office/production shoot/post house where there would be many more bad-assed style icons, each striving to be the baddest-assed of them all. Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite that glamorous, but let’s just say that I did take my fashion personae very seriously. And still do. Well, now I guess I’m just trying to. The truth is, I am still sorting out how to dress here…in farm country and in Ireland in general. I think I’m in desparate need of a Farm-over!

Sizing in Ireland and the UK is vastly different from the USA–and I don’t mean that in a beneficial way. Irish sizes go up two sizes from American sizes. So, if you are an 8 in the USA, you are a 12 (or maybe even 14 depending on the brand) in Ireland! A bit of a blow, indeed. I was a size 8…even a healthy 6 on good days (though on certain days of the month I could also quite possibly go up to a 10) so the size change was definitely a tad bit disheartening to me. I am still trying to work out if Richard meant an Irish 10 or American 10 when he guessed my size in the early days of our relationship…naw, won’t go there. Hmm, perhaps he just meant I was a “10”? Ha! When I got pregnant I gained 3 stone (42 lbs). A few weeks after I had Geoffrey I remember fretfully getting onto the scale, only to see that I had lost only 1 stone(damn digestive biscuits!). At that point, I basically gave up on shopping because I refused to buy a size 16-18 based on the sheer principle of it. I decided I would shop for my son instead. This is why he has the wardrobe the size of a Gap Kids store.

Not only are sizes different, but regrettably, styles are as well. When I initially came for visits to Ireland, I’d always look forward to bringing home some very chic 80’s inspired Top-Shoppy blouse, vampish high boots or deconstructed little jackets to flaunt back in the States…very swish in 2003/4.  Now, I can’t be bothered with most of the drivel that I see in the local shops.  A/Wear, Topshop, BT2, Zara, H&M have all been obsessed with trashy 80’s looks for forever or so it seems. I am sorry, but I am done paying hundreds of euros for throwbacks from the 80’s….can we please move on? I rarely see anything that I am truly inspired by, which is no fun really, but does make the bank account happy I suppose. I know the 80’s have taken over the USA too, but at least there are also real alternatives such as J. Crew, BR, AK, Anthropologie, GAP–even Target, if you’re in need of a reprieve. And while I love to browse the new collections by Vivienne Westwood, Karen Millen, Orla Kiely, McQueen and all the European designers in Harvey Nichs or BT, that means a 2 hour drive to Dublin if I want to see the best of it. I sorely miss seeing the latest displays from classic American designers like CK, RL,DK, MK in the big department stores that were basically right around the corner from me.  I guess the good news is that now that I usually only shop in the USA everything seems like such a better deal with the current decreasing value of the dollar.

Having said that, even if I wasn’t bothered by the size issue and if everything didn’t look so damned 80’s, I still wouldn’t know how to dress here! As I noted before, the weather is always a wee bit wet and windy so my fantasy “farm look” comprised of cute circle skirts with tees and Wellingtons never really works in real life. Besides women here don’t consider Wellies to be stylish in any way, shape or form and wouldn’t dream of wearing them outside of their home garden. And, if I could still fit into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe: various types of skinny jeans tucked into my favorite high boots, dainty silky blouses with shiny little tuxedo jackets, matching cashmere skirts and shells worn with bare legs and kitten heels, (yes, I am grieving this loss)….none of it is practical in my new life. When I try to wear sportier things like windbreakers, fleeces, cargos, sneakers, I just feel like a boy. Alas, not ladylike at all.

Hence, my search continues for my best Irish farm girl wardrobe…..

The suggestion box is open.

Slainte,

Imen

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.
Slainte,
Imen

The Picture Perfect Parish

In Life on August 25, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Our address is Shanagolden, but our village is called Kilcolman. You see, the farm address was changed by Grandma McDonnell whom years ago decided that the post (mail) would arrive much earlier in the day if she had a Shanagolden address because their post office was larger and far better staffed. She went in, boldly stated her case and was granted her wish. She was in the habit of making her wishes come true. So ironically, Shanagolden is actually down the road about 5-6 miles, but will now always be considered our town mailing address. Nevertheless, our rural community is called Kilcolman. Kilcolman, Ardagh, County Limerick to be exact. Kilcolman is what is known as our “parish” and basically consists of 3 brambly corners where 3 narrow roads meet on top of a small hill. On each corner there are the following: 1. St. Colman’s Catholic church and Purcell’s general shop/letterbox. 2. Kilcolman National School, which is the elementary school that Geoffrey will attend, and the last stop 3. Kilcolman Graveyard.
St. Colman’s church was built in 1913. It is said that all of the material for the church was transported to Kilcolman by horse and cart. There are also church ruins in the cemetery dating back to 1253 which are likely that of an Augustinian Abbey. St. Colman’s is a quaint stone church in a small parish, but stands high on the hill and can be seen from quite a distance. Next door, Purcell’s shop is tiny and tidy—a place where you can pick up a tub of butter and a jar of instant coffee and eavesdrop on village gossip if you are so inclined. Kilcolman Graveyard, bestowed with Cypress trees and Celtic crosses is carefully maintained by a quiet gentleman who lives nearby. There is lore that there is a stone in the cemetery which can cure headaches. I have yet to try it. The Kilcolman National School is the only somewhat modern structure on the three corners. Still, it was built in accordance with planning laws that say all structures must abide by typical Irish countryside design meaning it fits cozily into the pretty parish picture.
Richard’s brother David and wife Rosanne’s house is called “The Old Presbytery” and is formerly the home of all the parish priests and visiting clergy. The house dates back to 1862 and still has a wing which was once a small chapel. Nowadays, the Parish priest lives just down the road in a small bungalow. Father Mullane (Mill-Ann) is a smiley, handsome 40-something fella with high cheekbones and a twinkle in his eye. His hair is silver, but prematurely so. He has a brand new VW which he drives fast and just always, always seems frantically busy. You’ll always see him gardening or renovating the house in some way, there has even been talk that he has been recruiting help to replace the massive stained glass windows in the church with new ones. To think! Each Wednesday morning when I bring Geoffrey to Montessori we see Father Mullane frantically speeding to church at about 940am. Mass is at 930. That always makes me chuckle. In fact, the whole ride to Geoffrey’s Montessori makes me chuckle because it still seems so surreal to me. We leave our gate and turn right, we are surrounded by green lush countryside dotted with cows, sheep and horses and in less than 2 minutes we arrive in Kilcolman where we meet the church, cemetery, store and school. Indeed, the picture perfect parish.

Slainte,

Imen

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….