Irish Gaelic you say? Sure! Why not!

As I sit here watching the Tour de France on TG4, the Irish-language TV channel beaming its television rays from the west of Ireland, I have no idea in the world what they’re talking about. Obviously it has to do with the Tour de France it, but other than that they could just as well be selling Lycra on TV instead of trying to cover as much French ground as possible.

Now, I don’t mind my non-existing knowledge anymore of the Irish language. When I just moved to Ireland in 2002 though, I signed up for Irish language classes in the local library, hoping to do something about that non-existence of what is in my belief, a very beautiful language. Suffice it to say that I was one of the very few non-nationals taking the classes and that the other 30 or so people present were all of Irish decent and were already and quite capable of speaking a few words of Irish Gaelic. “So much for Irish for beginners” I thought. A lot of Irish but very little for beginners… Not one for giving up, I thought I’d be able to stick with it and finish the 10-week course but no such luck. Continue reading

Living in Ireland: a life less ordinary

2845168251_cf37854d34When I moved from Belgium to Ireland in 2002, I was on top of the world. I thought  knew all I had to know about Ireland and sure, I’d adapt very quickly to living life a little bit slower than I was used to. Of course I had traveled to Ireland before actually moving over here, and had fallen in love with it even harder than I ever thought I would.

Dublin was a small disappointment at first because the truth is, Dublin is just like any other European capital. But the people, they were and still are the ones that would have me ending up in a stitch, or leave me wondering about their sanity on more than one occasion.

A wise man once said: “This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.” Sigmund Freud, when speaking about the Irish, could not have said it any better. Irish people will have a party because they know they will have another party in a week. Irish people find joy in everything and maybe that is why they are so friendly.

Yes, we say “thank you” to the bus driver, we talk to people unknown to us at a bus stop or a train station and we feel honoured when an Irish person pay us a visit at home. George Bernard Shaw said that “Ireland was the world’s largest open-air lunatic asylum” and he was not far off the mark, in fact, if he knew that Ireland is still like an open-air asylum, he would be a very happy man indeed.

“Rain is very difficult to film, particularly in Ireland because it’s quite fine, so fine that the Irish don’t even acknowledge that it exists,” Alan Parker, director of “The Commitments” once said. Mr. Parker could not have said it better either because the Irish are a funny crowd at the best or worst of times. In some ways the Irish have learned to deny or half-acknowledge that certain things really do happen in Ireland, but they survived a lot worse than rain, so why bother?

Aside from the good-tempered character of the Irish, they do have the “gift of the gab,” meaning they could talk themselves out of anything, anytime and anywhere. They sing, write and say the sweetest of words and do it with such gusto, that you cannot but believe everything they say.

I often hang on every word my Irish friends say, and in the back of my mind I think “keep talking, keep talking…” That said, there have been times where I have been flabbergasted because I had absolutely no idea what language (even though English) or meaning they were giving their words, and years later I still find myself smiling at the true gist of them.

“You’re me board” had to be translated into “you’re my bird” meaning “you’re my girlfriend”. I replied to this, “OK, I am not fat but not as skinny as a plank, you know!”

No Billie, you are my B-I-R-D!!!”

OoooohOkayBut I still am no…”


Sprogs; something as useless as tits on a bull; stop acting like a Baluba; howaya; dander; being away with the fairies; you’re/that’s gas

I’ve had my eyebrows frowned more than once in the last 10 years or so. Sometimes you hear a bit of a curse in between, but you can never accuse the Irish of not being able to talk, properly or not. Or as Harold Nicolson said: “The Irish do not want anyone to wish them well; they want everyone to wish their enemies ill.”

Playing with words comes naturally to them, and soon after visiting Ireland the first time I picked up my first words. Actually, so much so that today, I’m often asked if I’m from the countryside in Ireland. Or others would hint at my Dublin accent, or that maybe I’m a culchie now living in Dublin. Others would say I have a Scandinavian accent, but only the type who think that Belgium is actually a Scandinavian country.

Winston Churchill said, “We always found the Irish a bit odd, they refuse to be English.” 800 years of domination would do that to a country. The Irish just refuse to be anything but themselves. In all their words, their heartaches and their wars they will not give up on the one thing that makes them stand out from other people: they are one happy crowd, whatever their circumstances, because they are… Irish.

“For an Irishman, talking is a dance.” (Deborah Love)

“The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scotts as a joke, but the Scotts haven’t seen the joke yet.” (Oliver Herford)

“Those who drink to forget, please pay in advance.” (Sign at the Hibernian Bar, Cork City)

“When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.” (Edna O’Brien)

“When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, ‘Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?” (Quentin Crisp)

“The Irish people do not gladly suffer common sense.” (Oliver St. John Gogarty)

“We Irish are too poetical to be poets; we are a nation of brilliant failures, but we are the greatest talkers since the Greeks.” (Oscar Wilde)

© WVE and Ireland, MS and Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WVE and Ireland, MS and Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

You never know how strong you are…

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have… How true is this?

You lose a parent, a brother or sister, or someone else you dearly loved, and yet time goes on. Time has to go on. For your family, for yourself. Years later you realize you went through that loss maybe a bit better than you ever thought you would. Because being strong was the only option you had.

Being diagnosed with an illness that can’t be cured is a little bit similar. Or is it?

The day I received my multiple sclerosis diagnosis is a day I can almost literally re-phrase. Just like the day you lose someone you love, or the day when absolutely horrifying accidents happen. We all know where we were and what we did on 9/11. Diagnosis, losing someone, global events… They have a way of being imprinted on your eyes and brain.

I remember which clothes I wore when I went to the hospital to meet my professor of neurology. What was said. What I should do. What I shouldn’t do. But… nothing about accepting your fate and moving on with it. If we were allowed to be happy, or if we should get a psychologist while we’re discussing which doctors I will need to attend from now on? Surely I’d need a psychologist to talk me through the first few years of letting a part of myself go, right?

Continue reading

The Celtic Tree of Life… sort of!

Ever hugged a tree?


Okay… Perhaps you thought about hugging something that looked like a tree?

The ancient Celts – there are very few real ones left in Ireland – absolutely adored trees. People used to think that fairies lived in them, and trees were often described as having special powers.

I love trees myself. They grow from very humble beginnings to majestic icons of power. Strong, unwilling to move whatever goes against them, rejuvenating themselves year after year. The fact that my last name is derived from a tree has nothing to do with this.

I. Simply. Love. Trees.

Ireland is full of them, well… At least used to be full of them. One day, a race called the English swam across the Irish Sea,  noticed how well-formed, fantastic and plentiful Irish woods were, and decided to plunder Irish oak trees to build their naval fleet. Ireland must have felt like tree-heaven. Ancient woods thousands of years old were emptied by the enemies of the day.

Now, all that aside, I love to think I have some Celtic blood in me so I read about the Celtic Tree of Life, and loved it. Actually, a friend of mine got me a nice birthday present years ago: an image of the Tree of Life carved into a piece of trunk. Not only has my love of trees become somewhat legendary since moving to Ireland in 2002, but my love for them still provide spontaneous giggles when I think of it. Continue reading

I will survive!

What do you do when you are faced with a 5-minute life-changing situation that will affect the rest of your life? Do you run, do you freak out, do you sit back and take it all in or do you simply just get on with life and let the future reveal itself?

I’ve been through a few of those life-changing events. In fact, I’ve been through a few too many in too short a time. But, as the old adage goes, life goes on.

You keep on going with the flow, obviously. What else can you do, otherwise? You know you are not the only one who is, or will be faced with things that will impact their lives forever.

Now, I am not the one to rethink and over-analyse, not anymore. Nope, the “fight or flight” survival mode is installed very deep in my brain; so much so that the fight switch is darn stuck on that modus operandi. It’s that little voice, that gut feeling, however, that tells you what is going on. Continue reading

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