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A little Irish reading

March 17, 2010

St. Patrick’s Day catches me by surprise every year. I didn’t grow up with it – it’s not celebrated in The Netherlands – and I can’t ever seem to remember to put on something green on March 17. I came fairly close this year though, although it was by accident.

Yup, that’s me. I know, the photo is a little awkward. But do you see the orchid in the back? Isn’t it gorgeous?! It’s what I came home to on the day that I was already having a great day with free daffodils. Ben bought it while getting groceries. How lucky am I?!

And another photo, just for fun.

I think my dog questions my sanity sometimes.

It is my understanding that St. Patrick’s day is generally seen as an excuse to dress up in green and, more importantly, get drunk on green beer. It is also my understanding that if no green beer is available, just any old color of beer will do just fine. Anyway, that’s just what they tell me.

I’m not into drinking much (although I enjoy a good beer or wine – very much so), but I don’t like feeling left out of festivities altogether. So in between school and work, I had a party of one consisting of reading ‘Tis, a book by the Irish writer Frank McCourt, who sadly passed away last year. If you haven’t read Angela’s Ashes, go read it! It will make you laugh and cry and wish you were born with an Irish accent.

McCourt in 2007 at Housing Works bookstore in New York City

Image: David Shankbone via Wikipedia

‘Tis is the sequel, in which a young McCourt decides to go back to America (he was born in the States, but his family moved back to Ireland when he was still little) and he writes about his immigrant experience and some of the colorful characters he meets. He’s got some wonderful descriptions and I thought I’d share a couple that made me laugh out loud today.

Here, he is teaching a class of African-American women. He has given them an assignment, but they’re complaining that they have nothing to write about (McCourt 1999, 318):

They had nothing to write about, nothing but the tensions of their lives, summer riots erupting around them, assassinations, husbands who so often disappeared, children destroyed by drugs, their own daily grind of housework, jobs, school, raising children.
They loved the strange ways of words. During a discussion on juvenile delinquency Mrs. Williams sang out, No kid o’mine gonna be no yoot.
Yeah, you know. Yoot. She held up a newspaper where the headline howled, Youth Slays Mom.
Oh, I said, and Mrs. Williams went on. These yoots, y’know, runnin’ around slayin’ people. Killin’ ’em, too. Any kid o’mine come home actin’ like a yoot an’out he go on his you-know-what.

Gotta love that.

Okay, next passage. McCourt is visiting his mom. Their relationship is a bit strained. He has just asked her where she wants to eat (McCourt 1999, 319+320).

She sounded doubtful. Well, I love them jumbo shrimps they have in the Chinese restaurants.
All right. We’ll have jumbo shrimps.
But I don’t know if I’m able for them this minute. I think I’d prefer to go to the Greeks for a salad.
All right, I’ll see you there.
She ordered the feta salad and when I asked her if she liked it she said she loved it, she could live on it.
Do you like the cheese?
What cheese?
The goat cheese.
What goat cheese?
The white stuff. The feta. That’s goat cheese.
‘Tis not.
Well, if I knew that was goat cheese I’d never touch it because I was attacked by a goat once out the country in Limerick and I’d never eat a thing that attacked me.
Its a good thing, I told her, you were never attacked by a jumbo shrimp.

You gotta love the Irish sense of humor.


(Source: McCourt, Frank. ‘Tis. New York: Scribner, 1999)

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