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Why I’m Here

February 28, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland, Looking, New York

There’s a lot of confusion as to why I’m here. 

“What,” they say. “Is an American doing on Inishmore?”

“It’s Ted Fest,” I say. They chuckle. Then they ask me again. 

It’s a bit wild inside Watty’s – drunken priests and drunken nuns and Mrs. Doyles with their teapots and men dressed as pregnant nuns giving birth at the bar and Father Jacks screaming, “Feck! Drink! Arse biscuits!” – so I slip out to the front to get some air. The night is cool and fresh and, for the first time in years, I can see the Big Dipper twinkling up in the black sky. A man in a paddy cap spies me, says hello, and when he hears my accent, says: 

“I bet you don’t know anything about Father Ted.”

“Quiz me,” I say. My favorite Father Ted character is Bishop Brennan. My favorite guest character is Graham Norton as Father Noel, “The Annoying Priest.” My favorite Father Ted episode of all time is “Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse.” My favorite quote: “… a very crude, watercolor painting of a man in a bishop’s hat!” I first started watching the show three years ago – naturally, through Sean’s influence. Father Ted is Sean’s all-time favorite show. The first few months we knew each other in Japan, we watched all of the episodes on youtube. We laughed until we cried and he was relieved that I “got it,” even though I’m American.

But no one asks how I  know and love Father Ted. They’re still stuck on why I’m even there on Inishmore in the first place. Maybe it is odd. We never had Father Ted in the States so I suppose Ted Fest wouldn’t attract too many of us. Most Americans stick to the bigger cities when they come to Ireland, searching for their roots. I have no Irish roots. I just like visiting places that are off the beaten path. I just like Ted. 

“Don’t you think,” says Mrs. Doyle, topping off my cup of tea, “That it’s a little odd for an American to be here?”

“No,” I say. “It’s a beautiful island and I like Father Ted.” 

Many of the Ted Festers have come from the mainland, like me. They ask where I’m from and when I say I’m from New York, they sing Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” – the song accompanying all the TV promos of Sex and the City reruns on Comedy Central. 

“I feel bad for you,” says a priest. “You don’t know anything about what’s going on here.”

“Why are you here?” asks Bishop Brennan. “Why are you here, really? What is an American doing at Ted Fest?”

Because it’s Reading Week at school and I’ve been wanting to come to the Aran Islands and I love Father Ted.

That’s why I’m here.

Nuns vs. Priests

February 28, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland, Looking, Mini Irish Culture Lesson

Costumes observed here on Inishmore during Ted Fest 2010:

  • Dozens of dowdy teapot-wielding Mrs. Doyles, gray-haired Father Teds, crusty-faced Father Jacks, and sweater vest-wearing Dougals.
  • Hordes of priests and nuns – the apparent “go to” Ted Fest costume. Honestly, if you came to Inishmore this weekend and didn’t know about Ted Fest, you’d think this was a colony for runaway members of the clergy. 
  • A blue sequin coat-wearing Ted (“Song for Europe”)

  • Several Sister Assumptas
  • A couple sexy Sister Assumptas
  • A moustachioed, golf club-carrying Father Sloane (“Entertaining Father Sloane”)
  • A few unibrowed, “I Shot JR” T-shirt-wearing Toms 
  • Several red-robed Bishop Brennans (“The Passion of St. Tibulus,” “Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse”)
  • A flock of Chirpy, Burpy Cheep Sheep
  • A couple of rabbits (“The Plague”)

  • A Chinese Girl (“Are You Right There, Father Ted?”)
  • A few head-scarfed Mrs. Carberrys (“Are You Right There, Father Ted?” Feckin’ Greeks!)

“Let me have a go at the Greeks!”

  • A rollerblading Dougal and a giant foam “Lovely Fag” (“Cigarettes and Alcohol and Rollerblading”)

“Lovely fags ….”

  • Dozens of Lovely Girls (“Rock-a-Hula Ted”)
  • A milk float (“Speed 3″)
  • Elvis (“Competition Time”)

It’s a small island; strangers to these parts stick out like a sore thumb, especially when we don’t look Irish. Bartenders and nuns want to know why I don’t have a costume. It’s a good question; I dearly love to dress up and never miss a chance. What can I say? It was a spur-of-the-moment trip and my baggage was filled with thick, rain-defeating sweaters. 

Let the Ted Fest Begin

February 28, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland, Looking, Mini Irish Culture Lesson, spazarific

I’m not on the island of Inishmore for five minutes before I’ve learned how to say goodbye in Irish. An airport shuttle bus picks us up from the landing strip and the driver asks us for our passports; Inishmore, he says, has just broken off from the Republic of Ireland. Everyone on the shuttle bus laughs. They know him. He’s been picking them up from the landing strip for years, taking them home when they pop over from the mainland. They call him by name. That’s why, when he lets off the first passenger, I think he’s calling her by name, too, when he says, “See ya, slán.” He calls three more people “slán” before I get it. 

Inishmore is a gaeltacht - an area of Ireland where people still speak Irish as a native tongue. Gaeltachts are mostly found in the West of Ireland; places like Connemara, Donnegal, the Aran Islands. They say the Aran Islands are the last remaining vestige of the “real Ireland.” As if in testament to this, I hear Irish spoken all around me as the passengers chat with each other and the driver; dipping in and out, sandwiching Irish middles with English beginnings and ends, or vice versa. 

I stare out the window. We’re lumbering up winding paved roads and there are walls all around us, made up of thick stone slabs. We pass a couple of restaurants, then a few cottages. I spy a rooster in front of a yellow and red pub. The blue bay seems to shrink as we progress into the island, but somehow, I can still smell the salty sea mingling with fresh island air. 

And then I see them; my first nuns. It’s Ted Fest Weekend here on Inishmore, the “real craggy island,” and these gals are sashaying up the road, their costume wimples waving in the breeze. 

After I settle in at my B&B, I head out for a walk to get my bearings and catch sight of three priests and a girl dressed up as a “hairy, Japanese bastard” – a.k.a, a rabbit. I casually follow them up the road to Ti Watty’s, known this weekend as “Watty’s Parochial House.” It is the base of Ted Fest 2010. 

There are chalk drawings of the main characters in the windows, and, out front, a large black-and-white marquis of events:

It reads: 

Note: Saturday 27 FEB at 4:00 PM reads: “Ireland beating England at Rugby.” 

I make a mental note to come by tonight for Ted’s Got Talent after I stroll along the sea. As I turn back towards my B&B, I see this:

It’s on.

Feck Off, Cup

February 27, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland, Looking, Mini Irish Culture Lesson

This post is your primer for the series of posts that follow: The Adventures of Liv on Inishmore During Ted Fest 2010. Ted fan? Enjoy the memories. Not yet a friend of Ted? Hold on to your arse biscuits, because you’re in for a treat. 

Father Ted, written by Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, is the quintessential Irish sitcom. It ran on the UK’s Channel Four from 1995 through 1998. It followed the adventures of three Irish priests – Father Ted, a thief; Father Dougal, a simpleton; and Father Jack, a drunken sociopath – who were exiled by the Church to “Craggy Island,” a fictional island off the West Coast of Ireland. They lived in a run-down parochial house with their tea-pushing housekeeper, Mrs. Doyle, and struggled with other priests, cranky Bishop Len Brennan, and their own human vices. 

The show explored human nature, Irish stereotypes, as well as the decline of the Church’s grip on Ireland. The day after Father Ted finished filming its last episode, its star, Dermot Morgan, died of a heart attack. Inishmore, the largest of the Irish West Coast’s Aran Islands,  now bills itself as “The Real Craggy Island” and has, since 2007, held a Ted Fest in honor of Dermot Morgan. Residents and fest guests dress like characters from the show and participate in Father Ted episode-inspired events, like The Priests vs. Nuns Beach Volleyball Tournament, Hide a Nun and Seek, a Football Match, The Loveliest Horse Competition, and much more. Which I’ll be sure to tell you all about as I experience them here on the island. 

And now, to get you nice and worked up for the following series of Ted Fest-on-Inishmore posts, a few classic Ted moments:

My Lovely Horse, in “Song for Europe.”

Father Ted and Father Dougal are bullied by Ted’s rival, Father Dick Byrne, to write a song and enter the Eurosong ’96 competition. They decide to write a song about a lovely horse, but when the Fathers realize they have no musical talent, they steal a tune from a Swedish band whose members are all dead. On the night they decide to steal the song, both Father Ted and Father Dougal dream of the music video they are sure the song will spawn:

“Feck off, cup!” from “Good Luck, Father Ted.”

Actually, my favorite Mrs. Doyle moment involves her pushing cake rather than tea – “Oh, gowan, Father. There’s cocaine in them!” – but I couldn’t find the youtube clip. This one does the trick, a’right. 

A Forfeit for Father Ted in “Escape from Victory.”

Father Ted and Father Dick Byrne place bets on the annual All-Priests Over-75′s Five-a-Side Football Championship. Ted cheats for his team to win and when Father Dick Byrne finds out, he gives him “a very special forfeit for being such a cheating bastard”: 

Unfortunately, there’s no clip from the next episode of the amazing forfeit itself, but here is a clip from when Father Ted discovers his task:

Religious Conversations in “Grant Unto Him Eternal Rest.”

Father Jack drinks floor polish and, to all appearances, dies. In his will he states that he wants someone to hold vigil over his body for 24 hours, so deep is his fear of being buried alive. Father Ted and Father Dougal are charged with the task. 

And, then, the show’s iconic opening theme:

This is what I saw yesterday as I rode the 6-passenger plane from Connemara Airport to Inishmore - sitting next to the pilot, watching the rain bead up against the windows. You don’t know how I suffered holding myself back from humming the song.

One Night in Galway

February 26, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland, Looking

It’s Thursday night in Galway City and the kids are delighted with life. They’re clambering through Eyre Square, pushing each other towards throbbing clubs and swaying outside bars blasting the same pop music that accompanies every promo for every show on Comedy Central. The girls are wrapped in shiny dresses, tottering on stilettos,  and the boys abuse each other while taking money out of ATMs. 

“It’s only eleven and you’re already on fruit drinks,” they jeer. “Ya daft eejit. You disgrace.” 

The night is cool, fresh, and clear. I pass shuttered storefronts and peek into side streets lined with crumbling stone walls. Waves of lovely trad music beckon me and then I’m inside a pub called Taaffes. 

Taaffes is crammed to the gills, overflowing with laughter and good craic. I find a secluded nook in a corner facing the trad music trio; two guitars, one accordion. The rhythm is infectious, inescapable. Falling under its spell, I focus on a painting of a claddagh ring on the wall, and then on a large plaque hung with Coats of Arms for the Fourteen Tribes of Galway. When the trio plays “Galway Girl,” the girls in the pub go wild. Next to me, there is a young woman with a pink buzzcut wearing a short black lace frock, cinched at the waist with a black corset belt. Her friends are two girls – one, small and brunette and the other with curly hair. They make me think of myself and Gia at their age, when Friday nights meant haunting Irish bars and pumping The Rolling Stones and David Bowie into the jukeboxes all night long. 

A cold wave of briny beer splashes over me, soaking into my coat and raining over my purse. I look up and a man in a red plaid shirt is gaping at me. 

“I’m sorry,” he says – clearly drunk. I’m dripping and can smell the stench of beer rising from my clothes, but remain calm with despair. The drunk’s friends bring me a moist washcloth and a handful of napkins from the bar while the girls at the next table pass me packets of tissues. I return their gentle smiles with whispered thanks, mopping up the pools of dark stout as best as I can. I go through five tissues and three napkins before my coat stops squishing. The drunk in the red plaid shirt is nowhere in sight. I try to take comfort in the fact that now I no longer have to wonder whether it’s time to have my coat dry cleaned; mystery solved. 

I leave and walk back towards Eyre Square. A pony cart whizzes by me on the empty street as the girl inside throws her head back and laughs with silvery glee.

“There’s a joy ride if I ever saw one,” a boy on the corner says affectionately. Just then, a Garda van begins its ominous lumber through the narrow road, pushing insistently through the groups of drunken kids.

“That’s not on!” the drunken kids cry and when the van stops, they scamper to the drivers’ window for a natter with the Gardaí. As curious as I am to hear what drunken people could possibly have to say to police officers, I push on. Early start tomorrow, after all. 

At the Street Wok on the corner of the square, a drunk teenager in a track suit calls, “Mary, Mary,” at me while I make my order. I’ve paid before I realize he’s saying, “A-Mary-can.” 

In my hotel room, I settle down with my paper carton of noodles in black bean sauce. I enjoy it with my 15th Cadbury Creme Egg of the season.

You Can Take the Girl Out of Japan ….

February 24, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, I'm Learning Japanese ... I Really Think So, Ireland, Japanese Mix, Looking, Oishii, spazarific

… and she’ll still find a way to gorge herself on delicious Japanese food. Here, we have a cup of umeshu and the sashimi appetizer at Ukiyo on Exchequer Street :

Followed by orders of kimchi, kimchi chigae, rice and bulgogi (which are, obviously, not Japanese, but that’s what we ate after the sashimi. 美味しいかった!)

You can take the girl out of Japan and she’ll get herself that Japanese food whether she has to buy it (see above) or make it herself (see below). 

First she dips the veggies and the shrimp in the batter … then she fries it up in the brand new wok while nikujaga simmers on one of the four burners ….

Then she eats, and remembers a time when she woke up to the sound of the JR train, or the yaki imo vendors shouting; when she rode to work next to men in black suits, kids in military-style school uniforms, and obaa-chans in kimono. When she bought a negitoro onigiri for lunch and ate it hunched over the communal desk at school, dreaming of the CocoIchiban Curry House next door. When she made sure to face her kids at all times, lest she lowered her fort’s defenses to kancho penetration.

She remembers a time when she studied verbs on the train home and gauged a day in terms of “Good” or “Bad” by how well she spoke Japanese. When summer meant matsuri, mugicha, and nagashi soumen; fall meant matake, sanma, and momijigari; winter meant nabe, marron, and crab; spring meant sakura and beer. When she slept on a futon. When she capped off her day by heading down to the local izakaya and when the grill cooks saw her coming, they automatically brought out three beers for her and her two buddies, who they knew would be along shortly. 

And the boys would arrive, toast their beers – kanpai! – and launch into a debate while she tried to read every item on the menu. And she’d order fried potato – golden, with a pat of butter melting on top – crispy tako no kara age, and several kinds of yakitori. Gyu rosu. Negima. Kokoro. Reba. Zuri. And invariably, she’d ask the waitress for “nippon.” And the boys would remind her for the hundredth time – it’s nihon. Ippon, nihon, sambon. And she’d nod. And forget immediately. 

This post has been brought to you by WanderFood Wednesday.

Just Out of Curiosity ….

February 23, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games


A quick poll for all you non-Irish readers out there:


Her majesty’s royal subjects? 

The Thai-point of a Rainy Dublin Day

February 19, 2010 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland, Looking

It’s late February in Dublin. The days are sometimes sunny, sometimes grey and wet. On days of the grey/wet variety I get the most out of my Dublin Bus Rambler Pass. I stare out the slick windows, at the lights, the raindrops, the people, the damp borders of the Green. 

My body is here:

But my head is here:

A Thai beach – now that’s more like it. Ao Lang. Just a few hops away from my bungalow. I was there three years ago; I can’t believe it. Jostling on a packed city bus, it seems like another life. 

Go for a dip? Don’t mind if I do. Let me just sweat off this bellyful of green curry and coconut milk ….

Cresting the waves of Poda Beach; turquoise water warm as soup.

… and that’s what I’m thinking about while I’m riding the bus home in the Dublin rain.

See more travel photos on Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday.

The Gift of the Pancake

February 17, 2010 in dublin, Ex-Patriate Games, Oishii, spazarific

E got off the bus and wandered towards the scent of chocolates and strawberries and caramel and lemons and vanilla and sugar and heaven. Dawson Street was always busy this time of day, but she was being pushed more than usual – jostled by a throng that seemed to be converging in front of a cafe. She saw a crepe stand, shaded by an orange umbrella. Signs read: “Pancakes to Go!” and “Open until 9 p.m.” Of course; now it made sense. It must be Pancake Tuesday.

E knew about Pancake Tuesday. Years before she’d moved to Dublin, her Irish roommate, Sean, had told her all about it.

“Don’t ye have Pancake Tuesday in America?” he’d asked.

“I don’t know,” she’d said. “I’ve never heard of it. Easter’s about chocolate eggs in the States. My family always ate rabbit.”

“You did what?”

“Ate rabbit. It’s an Italian thing.”

“Heathens, the lot of ye.”

Pancake Tuesday is celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.  No Mardi Gras in Ireland – sure, why have beads and bosoms in the nip when you could have pancakes, like? Pancakes all day. Thin, delicate and crepe-like, served with a variety of toppings or, traditionally, with lemon juice and sugar.

Image from

E counted her money – just 4 euro, and that was all. Surely enough for one pancake! She checked her watch; it was 5 minutes before class. Bugger all. She’d had visions of traipsing through St. Stephen’s Green clutching a Nutella-stuffed pocket of pastry, but pancake time would have to wait.

She went to class, where a high-profile poet was scheduled to speak. He talked about the Church, about writing, about the Achill Islands where he was raised. The most beautiful place on Earth, he said. Listening to him speak, E could forget about pancakes but the instant he left the room, the thought of Nutella haunted her once again.

She dialed her roommate.

“Sean,” she said. “It’s Pancake Tuesday.”

“Is it?” he said. “Ah, that’s grand.”

“You should head out and get a pancake, like me!”

“We usually have the pancakes for dinner, like.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. I’ll make us some for dinner.”

“Am I allowed to have pancakes for a snack and then for dinner again?”

“Sure, it’s grand.”

“Well, then, that’s what I’ll do. Pancakes all day long on Pancake Tuesday!”

E returned to the pancake stand, dismayed to see that a long snaking line had formed while she was in class. Peering into the bright sun, she could count 20 people ahead of her. She’d be on line forever. Why stand on line when there would be pancakes waiting for her at home? If she had a pancake now, chances were she wouldn’t be in the mood for any more by dinner time.  Maybe Sean would make traditional style pancakes; maybe he’d buy a tub of Nutella; maybe he’d make savory pancakes; stuffed with cheeses and vegetables… E drooled to think of it. Yes, it was better to wait; the anticipation would make the pancakes all the more delicious.

She went back to the writing centre. She pecked at her assignments and sat through another lecture, thinking of pancakes all the while. When it finally came time for her to head home, she leapt onto the bus. Her heart felt light as the bus bumped over the Grand Canal, past the swans chattering on the water. She would have two pancakes, maybe three, but no more than ten. Even on a day made for pancake gluttony, that would just be greedy.

She burst into the apartment. The stove was cold and bare. Sean was pulling a glass dish out of the oven.

“The pancakes?” she blurted.

Sean closed the oven with a somber clang, turning to spoon dinner on their plates.

“I didn’t have the right pan to make the pancakes after all,” he said. “And I thought you’d have one for lunch anyway.”

“I didn’t,” she said. “The line was too long and I didn’t wait because I thought we’d be having them for dinner.”

“Ah, well,” said Sean. “I guess we’ll be celebrating Pancake Tuesday next year!”

E sat down to the meal Sean had prepared. He had made a frittata stuffed with leeks, mushrooms, and peppers. It looked lovely, but E was nonetheless disappointed. She wasn’t really sure why. It’s not as if it was her holiday to miss.

O, all who give and receive pancakes, such as they are luckiest. Everywhere they are luckiest. They are the pancake eaters.

This blog post has been brought to you by WanderFood Wednesday.

Things I Am Allowed to Say*

February 16, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games

*according to Sean

  • Give out – as in, “Sean gave out to me for yesterday’s blog post.”
  • After – as in, “Sean’s after coming home from work.”
  • Well – as in, “I’m doing well today – not good, because if I were doing ‘good,’ I’d be Wonderwoman.”
  • Biscuit – as in, “This hard thing that looks, tastes, and smells like a cookie is actually called a ‘biscuit.’”
  • Rubbish – as in, “That which I would normally call ‘the garbage’ is now known as ‘the rubbish.’”
  • Chips – as in, “These fried potato sticks we eat after a night down the pub are called ‘chips,’ not ‘French fries.’”

Sure, you’ve twigged what I’m on about by now.