Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In Praise of the Irish Pub

An Spailpín Fánach discovered a very beautiful coffee table book in Hodges Figgis' very beautiful bookshop on Dawson Street, Dublin, this afternoon. It’s called The Irish Pub, it’s written by the gloriously named Turtle Bunbury, the photographs are by James Fennell, and the book is a tripartite paean, homage and lament for the traditional Irish pub.

They once were everywhere, and now they’re slowly winking out one by one, as lifestyles change with the times. Gaughan's was the greatest I ever knew, and it's only a memory now for drinkers of the sweet, strong porter in the great town of Ballina.

However. An Spailpín notices something that Turtle and James have not. They have left out one vital feature of the Irish pub, a feature so vital that An Spailpín Fánach would even go so far as to suggest it disqualifies the pictures from being representative of an Irish pub at all.

The pictures are nearly all empty. There are no people in them. What earthly use is an empty pub?

The late, great folk singer Frank Harte contended that a song only exists in its singing. When it is written down or recorded it is a record of the song, but it is not the song itself. The song’s essence is missing.

So to with the pub. James Fennell’s photographs are beautiful and Turtle’s prose suits the style of the pictures but dear hearts, gentle people, these are just rooms. They could just as easily be photographs of the clean room at Intel or the statues at Easter Island. Beautiful rooms, beautifully photographed, but my God, you couldn’t associate them with anything we associate with actual pubs.

What is a pub without people? It’s just a room. It’s the combination of good people and strong booze and maybe a bit of music and that ineffable, inexplicable something called – hateful but expressive word! – craic that makes pubs.

A pub isn't architecture or Atlantic spray or celtic mists. Irish pubs are people. Without the people, there are no pubs. And that’s why the pubs are dying. Because people are not going to pubs as they did before, and that whole pub culture is dying out.

An Spailpín has stood at the counter of five of the pubs listed in Irish Pubs. The Long Hall or the Stag’s Head I can take or leave alone. Neither is a particular favourite.

An Spailpín was in Dick Mack’s in Dingle – opposite the church – only once, on the best organised stag night in the history of gentlemen on tour. I would gladly go back, and ever time I hear Philip King on the radio talking of the south wind blowing down there I feel the need to get in the car and follow the flight of the sun.

Galway Tigh Neachtain’s is a bar I was often in. The late Ronnie Drew bought a friend and me drinks in there, once, when all the world was young. I get teased about it but the teasers can bite me. A memory to take to the grave, to warm the cold clay. Tigh Neachtain’s is a great bar.

And Leonard’s of Laherdane is another. I don’t think I ever drank in it myself, but I remember being in there with an uncle once, experiencing a vignette of the Irish pub life that is now gone. As soon as we came in the door my uncle was hailed by another old man.

“Warrior with the thresher!” said the man at the bar, for my uncle was just that, and had a brother who lost a finger to the same thresher as they toured the roads of Mayo threshing for the neighbours. They sat at the bar, smoking woodbines and drinking whiskey. I salute them, and their memory, for their likes will not be here again.

FOCAL SCOIR: In the light of foregoing, people may have the impression that An Spailpín favours the opening of the bars in Limerick on Good Friday. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The bars opening in Limerick is a disgrace.

An Spailpín likes a drink, but he knows when to stay home too. This country is drowned in drink, and to have two days in the year when the bars are closed doesn’t seem a whole lot to ask. These publicans, in Limerick and elsewhere, who will be open on Good Friday sound like men that would park a chip van at the foot of the cross, and sell Hawaiian burgers to the Roman legion. They all ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, March 29, 2010

Blink: Why the New Doctor Who Will Be the Best Ever

Blink, the tenth episode of the new Doctor Who’s third season, is the reason why fans are so looking forward to the new season of the most successful sci-fi TV series of all time.

Yes, David Tennant is gone, with Matt Smith becoming the Eleventh Doctor, but Steven Moffat has taken over from Russell T Davies as the Doctor Who show runner and in Moffat, the BBC have a man who truly understands the fundamental nature of the show and has the power and potential to develop Doctor Who to its fullest possibilities.

Blink is the proof of that pudding. Blink is the new Doctor Who’s Mona Lisa, its Nozze de Figaro, its Citizen Kane. A defining moment, and a glimpse into what Doctor Who could be if the right man were in charge, which at last he is.

Why is Blink so good? In what way is genius manifested in this story of Sally Sparrow, an ordinary English girl who gets involved in some extra-ordinary events?

The fact that Blink is Sally’s story is the first stroke of Moffat’s genius. It takes astonishing skill and no small amount of courage to remove your central character from the action and still keep him central, but this is what Moffat achieves.

The Doctor gets maybe five of the forty-five minutes of screen team in Blink, but he is still central to the story, the straw that stirs the drink, the sine qua non. Like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, or Harry Lime in The Third Man. Genius.

Second stroke of genius: Moffat’s profound understanding of the nature of a time travel show. Of all the tropes of science fiction, time travel is the least likely to be achievable. It’s more or less impossible.

But in terms of what if, in terms of exploring the limits of what we know about the nature of physics and of the universe, time travel captures the imagination like nothing else does. What if you get off your boat in the time stream, and walk upriver to meet your earlier self? Those sort of questions.

And those sort of what if time travel questions are what Moffat understands and delights in. Moffat is always true to the puzzle he sets himself. He never succumbs to the abracadabra solution that a weaker writer would, where the Doctor makes everything all right with a wave of his magic wand/sonic screwdriver. Instead, Moffat has a meticulously worked out plot that snaps into place the way all great art should. Unexpected yet inevitable. Brilliant.

The third stroke of genius is in the iconography of Blink. The show has received kudos for centring on the blink conceit, and what happens when you blink, but get this: blinking isn’t the central conceit. The statuary is.

A less talented writer may have thought of blinking, of what happens when you close your eyes, but he or she might not have thought of the statues. Britain is replete with statues from its past that no longer mean anything in the 21st century, either celebrations Britannia Triumphant from the days of Empire or the statuary of the Evensong-singing Anglicans. They’re everywhere, but nobody notices them. Moffat noticed them, and turned them into monsters.

The tightness of the writing is extraordinary. There are no false notes. If you are ever tempted to turn a friend onto Doctor Who, you will cringe during some moments, where short cuts are taken just to move things along, or something is just plain bad. It’s very hard to hear the phrase “Harriet Jones, MP,” without feeling the need to tear the ears off your head, for instance.

In Blink, by contrast, every line is perfect. Well, maybe one “I’m really, really sorry” from the Doctor, but that may have been a contractual obligation. Otherwise, it’s perfect.

(The little story on which Blink was originally based was pretty well written too).

Sally Sparrow: 'Sad is happy for deep people'The fifth reason Blink is so good is because the production team were so extremely lucky in their casting. Blink is so tightly plotted it would have worked anyway. But Carey Mulligan was extraordinary, extraordinary, as the beautiful, wistful, Sally Sparrow, and Mulligan’s performance combines with all the factors mentioned above to bring Blink to the level of the sublime.

Carey Mulligan was nominated for an Oscar this year and has a glittering career ahead of her. She absolutely graced Blink as Sally, the Companion Who Never Was.

Recent interviews with Matt Smith in the Daily Telegraph and Steven Moffat in the Guardian promise a thrilling start to a new era. Blink will never be replicated of course, but Moffat’s presence as the deus post machinae gives reasons for tremendous hope. Doctor Who returns this Saturday. Geronimo.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bomb Scare at the Passport Office

Bomb scare at the Passport Office on Molesworth Street, Dublin 2The passport office dispute has descended into farce. If we’re lucky.

At of a quarter past one today, Garda checkpoints had blocked off either end of Molesworth Street, on Dawson Street and Kildare Street. A security cordon roped off the corner of Molesworth Street and South Frederick Street, where the passport office stands, and a garda stood sentinel outside the door.

Across from the passport office, the crowds who had been queuing for passwords shuffled around and about, while pressmen and cameramen milled about in their midst. Mounted on his Dublin Bike, An Spailpín asked the obvious question: What’s going on?

“It’s a bomb scare,” said a man in a Northern accent. “It’s the Continuity CPSU,” said his mate, leading An Spailpín to wonder if they were joshing. If there were a bomb scare, all the people who are milling around are hardly in a safe place to be if the device were any size at all. To say nothing of it bloody exploding, as bombs are notoriously wont to do.

I moved on, and asked a cameraman. “Bomb scare,” he said, before moving languidly on, exquisitely bored. He clearly didn’t seem to phased by events, and the atmosphere in the crowd was better humoured than it was on the TV news last night, when things seemed to be getting quite techy indeed.

An then your Spailpín started wondering: what if we’re not lucky? What is some lunatic has been singing arias from Doctor Atomic in his weekly bath, and is planning a spectacular? Slightly sick at the thought, An Spailpín cycled hurriedly away to hope for the best.

Let’s hope it’s just a crank. It is massively inconvenient for everyone concerned, of course, but that’s better than people getting killed and maimed. But on the larger scale, isn’t it remarkable, really, how the passport affair has galvanised public opinion?

The Irish public service is astonishingly wasteful, which costs citizens of this state cash money every single day, both in terms of what’s spent on the public service and what doesn’t get done because the Union leaders seem to equate answering the phone with building the Burma railway.

The nation takes all this philosophically, accepting it as being like the rain. Part of what we are. A couple of hundred people can’t go on holidays and all of a sudden it’s panic in the streets time to man the barricades. A strange sense of priorities.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Monday, March 22, 2010

When Will We See Hello Magazine's Gangland Edition?

An Spailpín Fánach is genuinely incredulous at the way crime and criminals are reported in the Irish popular media.

There is no journalistic need to give criminal activity the level of press exposure that it gets. In a proper, law-abiding society, “Three hoods hanged. Weather continues fine” on the bottom of page two would do the trick nicely. What else do you need to know? Instead, a bizarre glamorisation of criminals are criminality has emerged, and shows no signs of abating.

The reason why this glamorisation is currently the case is because this type of reportage sells papers. But it also tells us quite a lot about who buys papers, and the news is far from cheering.

If you want to sleep safe in your bed without worrying about gangland shootings, drugs, robberies and all the various other criminality that goes with all this, reading about shootings and drug deals and feuds doesn’t make any difference. Only the nicknames change. The rest goes on and on.

If you want to do something to tackle criminality, vote for political parties who will either enforce the current laws, enact new laws or do both until it’s really not worth the criminals’ while to continue with criminality. In Michael Collins’ words about something else entirely, it’s all a question of what breaks first – the body or the lash.

The huge press reportage of criminals and criminal activity does nothing to stop criminals committing crimes. What it does do is glamorise the criminals, and make it appear to the less sophisticated among the community that being a drug dealer or a murderer or an armed robber is no different from being a butcher, a baker or a candle-stick maker.

A teacher friend of the blog was rather taken aback when one of her young people replied “a drug dealer” when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. But why wouldn’t he?

Drug dealers are the major figures of the community in which he leaves. He can read about the local exploits of Dublin criminals in the Irish papers, and he can feel part of the great brotherhood of ganstas glorified by rappers in the US.

Remember Jimmy Rabbitte’s remarks in The Commitments about Dubliners being the blacks of Ireland, and northsiders being the blacks of Dublin? An Spailpín is pretty sure that there is a huge population who believe that. Look at the posters on sale on Henry Street on Saturday afternoon. Tony Montoya abounds. It is a very real culture, and it is being succoured and supported in the media.

Joe Duffy was taken aback on his show recently when someone suggested that junkies are now a part of who we are. Joe wasn’t buying this. But it’s not like junkies have come here from a galaxy far away, like the prawns in District 9 (or are going back there, worst luck). This is part of the culture now, and the popular media is embracing it, either innocently or cynically.

The picture at the top of this post might look funny now, but don’t be surprised to see it in the shops someday soon. If it’s not already here. God help us all.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Is Feallairí Cine is Chreidimh Iad Cliarlathas na hÉireann

Tá - nó bhíodh - scéal deas ann tráth faoi Naomh Peadar, agus eisean chun an Róimh a thréigeadh dá bhrí géarleanúna Nero. Ach nuair a bhuail Peadar an bóthar amach, bhuail sé le Críost, agus eisean chun na Róimhe.

"Quo vadis, Domine?" arsa Peadar - cá dtéinn tú, a Thiarna?

"Eo Romam iterum crucifigi," arsa Críost. Táim chun na Róimhe chun a bheith crochta ar an gcrios arís. Mar nach bhfanfadh Peadar agus a dhualgas a dhéanamh, bhí ar Chríost filleadh.

Thuig Peadar an scéal, agus d'fhill sé, chun an Eaglais a bhunadh, agus a shaol féin a ligeadh uaidh ar son an chreidimh. Bá shean-teagasc Críostaíochta é an scéal seo, ag taispeáint don bhfírinne go mbeidh orthu íobairt dá chuid a dhéanamh ar son an cirt.

Is léir go bhfuil an chleacht caillte anois ag cliarlathas an hÉireann. Bhí dóchas ann i gcónaí gur thuigeadar an scéal. Cé nach nglacann siad le cúrsaí nuachta reatha, gur thuigeadar an feall a rinneadh ar fhírinne na hÉireann agus go gcuirfidís i gceart é.

Tá gach dóchas caillte anois. Is léir anois nílid ach fir ag iarraidh greim a choinneáil ar a bpoist, agus tada eile. Más Críostaí iad, ghlacfaidís a gcriosanna mar a ghlac Peadar agus dhéanfaidís a n-aithrí ar son na peacaí a rinneadh in Éirinn ar na soineanta. In ionad sin, tá an Cairdinéal ag glanadh láimhe mar a ghlan Pilate agus a chónaí i bpálás Aird Mhaca a choinneáil, agus tá fear eile ann, an Moinsíneoir Maurice Dooley, ar an dtuairim nach mbaineann an dlí le chléir ar chur ar bith.

Dó-chreite. Croí-bhristeach. Agus Lá 'le Phádraig againne ar maidin, ag comóradh an fear a thabhairt an creideamh go hÉireann, tá an creideamh marbh agus an-mharbh anois. An mbaineann tada leis an 17ú Márta in Éirinn anois ach an ól agus droch-iompar bruscair na cathrach? Ní bhaineann.

Tháinig an Eaglais slán ó Chromwell, ó phéindlíthe agus ón ndrochshaol ach tá sí marbh anois, maraithe ag lámh a sagairt féin. Tá an drochbhuachaill féin in a ríocht ar deireadh ar Oileán na Naomh is na nOllamh, agus laethanta gránna duairc os ár gcomhair amach anois. Go bhfóire Dia orainn, agus ár leanaí.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Monday, March 15, 2010

Freastal Fulaingthe chun na Spórtlainne

Cosúil leis an gcladhaire sin Learaí sa ngearrscéal a mhallaigh laethanta a óige agus óige a ghlúine, níor thug an Spailpín cic ar liathróid riamh. Is fear níos spridiúil, smaointeach é an Spailpín. Is breá leis spórt agus cúrsaí spóirt, ar ndóigh, mar is léir go leor ón suíomh seo, ach is fearr leis daoine eile ag cur allais ná é féin. Ní rithfeadh sé ar thóir bhúis, fiú, ach shiúlfadh go ríoga chuig an stad agus fanacht go foighneach ar an gcéad ceann eile.

Ach tá an Spailpín buailte go dona in aois le déanaí, agus insíonn an méid cuimhní agam mura ndéanaim iarracht ar son an sláinte anois, ní dhéanfaidh go deo. Caillfear go luath mé, agus beidh ar ochtar in ionad seisear an cónra a thabhairt chun na h-uaighe, toisc go mbeinn chomh breá ramhar sin.

Mar sin, in ionad bheith isteach i dtí tábhairne áirithe, suas ar an stól in airde ag ól phóirtéara, ag caitheamh Marlboro agus ag bladaireacht, caitheann an Spailpín a thráthnóna anois istigh sa spórtlann, ag iarraidh greim a ghabháil ar an sláinte roimh go mbeidh sé ró-dhéanadh.

Bhí orm athrú, dá bhrí. Ní rabhasa cleachta i gcúrsaí spórtlainne, agus bhí orm leanúint le cúrsaí nach rabhas ag tnúth leis.

Sa gcéad uair, ní rabhas cleachta bheith i gcomhluadar le fir atá chomh lomnocht mar a bhíodar ar lá a rugadh. Baineadh geiteanna orm sa gcéad cúpla cuairt sa seomra feistis, ach go háirithe nuair a bhíos cam chun mo bhróga, agus nuair a n-éirigh arís, bheadh mo shrón díreach os comhair thóin lom strainséara. Ach éirítear le gach rud, agus ní bhacaim anois dubh, bán nó riabhach.

'Sé amach ón seomra feistis, ar ndóigh, a scaiptear na gabhair óna caoirigh. De gnáth anois, bím ar an dtreadmill, ag rith. Nó ar an dtuairim go rabhas ag rith; fuair mé amach le déanaí nach rabhas ach ag bogshodair. Bhí an bogshodar ceart go leor domsa, áfach. Agus táim ag éirí níos tapúla, agus sásta go leor le sin.

Toisc go mbíonn an rith crua go leor ar na hailt, is maith liom tosú ar an inneall a thugtar an cross trainer air. Tá an t-inneall céanna níos déine, in a bhealach féin, ná an crios ar a chrochadh Críost, ach baineann sé an buaille a thagann ar na ailt le gach coiscéim rithe, agus bogtar an corp níos fearr ar an dtreadmill nuair a tósaítear an an gcross trainer. Má tá suim rithe fágtha agat tar éis an deich nóiméad caite, ar ndóigh.

Scríobh An Ghuí Aniar anuraidh maidir le cúrsaí spórtlainne na daoine agus fíor-spéis acu sa dtógála choirp. Níl an saghas saoil sin uaim, ach b'fhéidir cúpla cuaird Páirce an Fhionnuisce a dhéanamh sa Samhradh, agus gan seans a thabhairt do na busanna éalú ró-éasca a dhéanamh.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Monday, March 08, 2010

Gluaiseacht na mBan

Lá Idirnáisiúnta na mBan againne inniu. Deirtear gur chailleadh Sigmund Freud agus eisean ag iarraidh fáil amach cad is mian leis na mná ar leaba a bháis - Was will das Weib? Níl freagra ag an Spailpín Fánach do.

Scríobh John Waters go suimiúil ina leabhar "The Politburo Has Decided You Are Unwell" ar an lá a bhfuair sé amach nár bhain le Gluaiseacht na mBan mar a shíl sé. Níl an cheist chomh shimplí mar an bhean agus an fear cothrom os comhair an dlí nó cúrsaí oifige ná rialacha sóisialta. Tá an scéal níos casta ná sin.

Cad í Gluaiseacht na mBan ar aon nós? Léigh mé leabhar dá chuid Nora Ephron uair, Crazy Salad, bailiúchán iriseoireachta a scríobh Ephron ins na 70í, agus bhí sí i gcónaí ag ceistiú cad a shílfeadh "An Ghluaiseacht" faoi seo nó faoi siúd - bhí sí i gcónaí ag iarraidh go mbeidh an Ghluaiseacht sásta lena tuairimí, in ionad seasamh ar a cosa féin. Ach cad a shíleann an Ghluaiseacht i ndáiríre?

Mar shampla, shílfeá gurb aidhm mór na Gluaiseachta ná bean a bheith ina cumhacht ar thír éigin. Ach nuair a bhíodh Maggie Thatcher ina Príomh-Aire Shasana, b'fhuath leis an nGluaiseacht í. Ná mná a bhíodh ar Greenham Common ag cáineadh na diúracáin Mheiriceánacha - sin iad laochra na Gluaiseachta. An bhean ar bhris an shíleáil gloine - muise, chun an ndiabhal léi.

An an cás é ná go bhfuil níos mó uait ná bheith i do bhean chun bheith i do bhall i nGluaiseacht na mBan? Agus má tá coisc ar bhean éigin bheith páirteach i nGluaiseacht na mBan, an Gluaiseacht na mBan i ndáiríre í? Nach rud eile í? Gluaiseacht polaitiúla, b'fhéidir.

Ba cheann de chéad chloch ar phaidrín Gluaiseachta na mBán ná gur fhéidir le gach aon bhean dul in aon ghairm mar thaitin léi. Pluiméir, táthaire, bríceadóir, ba chuma sa diabhal. Ach fuarthas amach ins na blianta 'tá imithe gur chuma go deo leis na mná an phluiméireacht, an tháthaireacht agus an bhríceadóireacht. D'éirigh rud éigin ins na blianta le déanaí ná gur thaitin sean-róil na mban go mór leis na mná agus, in ionad a gcúl a chuir ar steiréitíopa inscne, tá na steiréitíopaí a ghlacadh leis na mná faoi láthair. Agus nuair a mbíonn Cheryl Cole suas ar ardán eigin ina fobhrístí ní dúshaothrú ach cumasú í. Is laoch láidir na mban sa lá 'tá inniu Bean Cole. An bua Gluaiseachta na mBan an laochas seo?

Tá fios ag an Spailpín gur chúis mór buartha é an cultúr ladette seo le mná smaointeacha, agus tá trua agam díobh. Ach an rud is mó nach bhféidir liom tuiscint ná gur éirigh clár teilifíse atá ina charraig fealsúnachta na mban faoi láthair. D'inis bean ar aithne liomsa uair amháin dá n-inseodh bean éigin dom nach bhfeiceann sí ar Sex and the City gurb breagadóir í, agus dá n-inseodh sí nach raibh grá mór aici don gclár ba bhréagadóir tofa í.

Scaoileadh an scannán Sex and the City cúpla bhliain ó shin. Thug Anthony Lane bata 's bóthar dó sa New Yorker, ach ba chuma. Chonaic gach iníon mná an scannán, agus níos mó ná an t-aon uair amháin.

Níor chonacas féin an scannán, ach scríobh Lane go bhfuil léiriú amháin ann ina thaispeánann An tUasal Mór, fear cheile Carrie, cófra ar thóg sé di. Bhris gártha agus bualadh bos amach sa bpictiúrlann, rud a chuir ionadh ar Lane, agus ar an Spailpín nuair a léigh mé an léirmheas.

Mar sin, chuireas ceist ar bhean ar aithne liomsa cad a bhí taobh thiar na ngártha. "Taispeánann an léiriú sin ná go bhfuil aigne na mban ar eolas ag an Uasal Mór," a deir sí. "Tá fíor-thuiscint na mban aige."

"Ach a chuisle mo chroí," arsa an Spailpín Fánach - go breá soineanta, ag breathnú siar - "nach mbaineann níos mó le aigne na mban ná cófra mallachta éigin?"

Lasadh súile mo chara. Focal nár inis sin, ach a caife a chaitheamh siar agus ar aghaidh léi amach ón mbialann. Agus an Spailpín fágtha ina aonar ag an mbord, ag iarraidh air féin cad é mian na mban. Lá Idirnáisiúnta na mBan faoi mhaise dóibh go léir.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Tagtha Linn Arís - Uair an Ghaeilge a Phlé

Tháinig an ceol slán. Bhí an t-ádh leis. Bhí an ceol ar leaba a bháis freisin, ins na caogaidí. Is minic a dúirt Ciarán Mac Mathúna, nach maireann, go mbuaileadh sé le ceoltóir éigin agus a uirlis i bhfolach aige, toisc go mbíodh na daoine ag magadh faoi, agus faoina cheol Gaelach.

Ach ansin tháinig athbheochan an cheoil tíre i Meiriceá, Bob Dylan agus na Clancys. Tháinig tonn ón ndomhan mór agus d'éirigh gach bád cheoil Gaelach ar an dtonn céanna. Mura tháinig, cé fios cad a tharlóidh? Bhíodh an traidisiún ann in áiteanna agus Ceoltas ag obair go dian gan focal buíochais gan bacadh, ag bailiú agus agus ag déanamh taifead, ach bhí fonn ar an dtonn faiseanta, chun a sprioc a thabhairt don ngnáthduine. Is gá do na Gaeil an sprioc sin a tháinig amach ón dtír, toisc nach bhfuil mórán muinín againne orainn féin. Ach tháinig, agus tá an ceol beo agus slán anois agus buíochas mór le Dia go bhfuil.

Tháinig na cluichí slán. Ní rabhadar i mbaol, i ndáiríre. Scríobhadh ar an mblag seo ceanna gurbh é an Cumann Lúthchleas Gael an rud is mó agus is fearr a rinne na Gaeil ins na blianta ó thógamar ár n-áit i measc náisiúin an domhain. Tuairim nach raibh na cluichí i mbaol toisc nach mbídís ann mar a bhíodh an teanga nó an ceol ann. Bhí spórt faoi smacht faoi chosc ag na Sasanaigh ins an 19ú haois, agus tá cluiche roimhe sin chomh siar sa stáir nach mbaintear ceangal idir na cluichí inniu, agus cultúr na gcluichí inniu, agus Setanta, abair, agus a chamán dílis. Ach thóg na Gaeil na cluichí Ghaelach dár gcroithe níos mó ná mar a thógamar rud éigin riamh, agus tá an pheil agus iomáint go dian daingean i measc saol agus cultúr na tíre. Go maire go deo iad.

Ach níor tháinig an Ghaeilge slán. Níor tháinig go deo. Tá sí ar leaba a báis fós, an leaba luachra céanna ina chonaic an Piarsach í, agus Bláithín, agus an Cadhanach, agus an hUigínneach í, báil ó Dhia ar a mhullach maol, nuair a chuir sé TG4 ar siúl, an rud is mó a tharla i saol na teanga ó chuireadh stop ar an nGaeilge éigeantach chun dul isteach sa seirbhís phoiblí.

An bhfanadh sí ansin sa leaba go deo, beo ach cos san uaigh aici, agus a teaghlach bailithe os a comhair gach oíche ag guí ar a son? An gcaillfear í ar deireadh, agus an dtógfaidh sí a h-áit i stáir caillte na nGael, idir an Creideamh agus an chuinneog ime? Nó an n-éireoidh sí óna leaba luachra, boladh an bháis a chaitheamh uaithi agus dul i measc Báibil an domhain arís?

Níl fios ag an Spailpín Fánach, agus má n-insíonn duine go bhfuil fios aige, ná ceannaigh gluaisteán athláimhe uaidh. Tá an todhchaí i bhfad ró-dheacair a fheiceáil. Agus bíonn an plé céanna againne gach uile bliain ar an am seo. Comórtas na Sé Náisiún, Seachtain na Gaeilge, Plé na Gaeilge, Céad Cuach an Earraigh.

Tá Éire athraithe go deo ón Éire a bhí ann céad bliain ó shin, nuair a bhí athbheochan na teanga faoi lánsheol ar an gcéad uair. Cuireadh an saol bocht in iarthar na tíre os comhair an pobal mar sár-saol - beidh tú ró-bhocht chun uisce na bhfataí a chaitheamh amach ach í a choinneáil mar anlaith, ach b'fhéidir leat cur síos ar phian an ocrais i nGaeilge beo bríomhar.

Ba soineanta go deo an seift í, ach nuair a theip uirthi ní raibh Seift a B ann, agus ní dheachaigh éinne ar a tóir ach an oiread. Ba easpa misnigh faoi chúis é - easpa misnigh ag namhad na teanga an buille mairfeadh a thabhairt dí, agus easpa misnigh ar lucht dílse na Gaeilge go raibh Seift a B ann, agus go mbeidh deireadh leis an nGaeilge tar éis an tsaoil. Nach mbeidh aon slándáil uirthi, agus gan i ndán di ach deireadh.

Níl fios ag an Spailpín Fánach. Uaireanta, bíonn gach dóchas caillte agam. Is léir go bhfuil saibhreas na teanga ag meath. Is léir nach gcuirtear leanaí chun na Gaelscoileanna ó ghrá na Gaeilge amháin. Is léir go bhfuil teangacha beaga, ní hamháin an Ghaeilge, faoi bhrú domhandaithe cultúir, domhandaithe nuachta, brú domhandaithe ar gach saghas.

Ach smaoiním ar an nGaeilge ar an leaba luachra sin. Beo fós. Beo fós. Conas sa diabhal atá sí beo fós?

Arís, níl fios dá laghad agam. Ach tá dóchas agam.

Scríobh Ciarán Mac Aonghusa ar Bheo le déanaí go raibh an Ghaeilge mar "leac mhór oighir ag leá. Níl fágtha den leac anois ach giotaí beaga atá fós ag leá agus tá teas an Bhéarla, mar theanga dhomhanda, ag scalladh fúithi níos treise ná mar a bhí riamh. Is gearr nach mbeidh againn ach lochán turlaigh uisce."

Tuigim tuairim an Aonghusaigh. Ach cé go n-aontaím leis, tá dóchas agam féin. 'Se mo dhóchas ná go bhfuil an Ghaeilge mar sruth tríd na tíre, agus trí meon na nGael. Níl gluaisteacht i leaca oighir, ach tá gluaiseacht agus athrú sa nGaeilge fós, agus sin cúis dóchas. Bíonn an sruth lag uaireanta, i bhfolach uaireanta, ach ann fós i gcónaí. Níl fios agam go líonfaidh sí agus dul ina ríocht arís, ach fad atá sí ann tá an dóchas linn fós, agus cuireann an dóchas sin misneach orm go bhfillfidh sí faoi bhláth arís fós.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Best GAA Books

Croke Park is all well and good, but this is the real heartland of the GAAAn Spailpín is flicking through The GAA: A People’s History these evenings, while listening to the spring rain fall outside. It really is a beautiful book. It’s put together in the same style as Diarmuid Ferriter’s Judging Dev – facsimiles of contemporary documents woven in through the main narrative. A lovely addition to the canon.

The canon of GAA books is not as rich as a 125 year history would suggest it might be. There are lots of reasons for that, and we could spend ages talking about them, but one of the biggest problems has to be that Irish people hate, hate, hate going on the record.

The Béaloideas, or oral tradition, is one that suits Irish post-colonial psyche well. And this is why the bubbling brew of the Championship becomes the thin gruel of Official GAA Prose. We like telling stories until the notebook comes out, and then it’s strictly a case of name, rank and serial number, and not one damn thing else.

As such, when a really good GAA book comes along it’s doubly notable. Firstly, because it’s there at all, and adds to a very slim canon, and secondly, like all great literature, it takes on a life of its own to place a sport in its wider context as regards the great world around it.

One of the best GAA books is Breandán Ó hEithir’s Over the Bar, which was published twenty-six years ago, to coincide with the GAA’s centenary. It is extremely doubtful if the book received an imprimatur from Croke Park as the curmudgeonly Ó hEithir was nobody’s insider and called things like he saw them, a sure fire way to make enemies at any time in Ireland. But Ó hEithir’s great love for the games shines through and the book is an essential testament to what the GAA was like in its formative years and what the people were like to built it, before the days of corporate sponsorship, games development officers or celebrity management who don’t get paid at all, oh no, love of the game, that’s what it’s all about, love of the game. Just cover me petrol, like.

Three of the best books on the GAA were published in the past ten years. Firstly, Denis Walsh expertly chronicled the most exciting decade in Championship hurling ever in Hurling: The Revolution Years. Secondly, Keith Duggan wrote his great threnody of Mayo football, House of Pain. And finally, Michael Foley published what is the best of all three, Kings of September, about how Offaly denied Kerry five All-Ireland football titles in a row in 1982.

Walsh’s Hurling was revolutionary in itself in its breadth of research. GAA people are not comfortable going on the record, and for Walsh to conduct the amount of research he conducted and get so many people to tell him inside stories was phenomenal. When students of the games in one hundred years time want to know what hurling was like in the 1990s Walsh’s book will be the definitive text.

Keith Duggan is the best sportswriter in Ireland right now, but he was bitterly unlucky to hitch his star to Mayo. House of Pain is essential for Mayo football fans, and required reading for GAA people, but for Duggan’s book to have really taken off he needed Mayo to deliver. The narrative needed Mayo to make a prison break. We’re still waiting for the sound of the file on the bars.

Michael Foley had the most raw materials. He had one of the most famous All-Ireland finals of them all, charismatic men on both sides, and his story was set in the Ireland of the 1980s, when running a GAA team was a lot less sophisticated than it is now. Kings of September isn’t just a history of one of the great moments in Ireland’s sporting life. It’s also a history of a time in Irish life that is now gone. An innocent time when, when Eugene McGee needed a player not to emigrate, the player did not find a job as a games development officer but had to feed McGee’s cattle at night while McGee himself was off sorting out other fellas. Should be running the country, that man.

Finally, in the light of all the GAA autobiographies that are written purely to cash in on the Christmas market, when daughters buy gifts for their fathers because they recognise the name irrespective of the worth of the book, it’s only right and fitting that one autobiography be singled out as having a nobler calling. A book that was not written for cash-in, but because a man wanted to be true to his place, people and heritage.

Lá an Phaoraigh isn’t the best book ever written and it could have done with a little more editing and shortening, but Seán Óg de Paor wrote his book in Irish to be true to who he is an Irishman and deserves all praise for that. The Irish is good, without too much to throw the tyro, and for those who feel like brushing up on the first language with Seachtain na Gaeilge nearly here, you could certainly do an awful lot worse than Lá an Phaoraigh.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,