The highs and lows of Irish events abroad
Ceire Sadlier was sworn off organised Irish fun in Zambia until a group of actors from Benbo Productions reminded her why it is great to be among the company of her own
When you land in Lusaka from Ireland, a random Irish person will get you in a headlock, drag you to their house and get you sufficiently drunk to do something embarrassing – the slagging of which is the basis of your eternal friendship. The chances are you won’t have to dig as deep to find a bit of banter with this Irish stranger than you might have to with another nationality. And, if craic is not to be had, you will at the very least be able to quickly trace your family trees back far enough to discover that you are related to their mother’s neighbour’s cousin’s brother-in-law’s postman.
Irish people as individuals? Great.
A few weeks on, you go to a party at that lovely individual’s house where at least half of the revelers are Irish. It’s easier to bypass the boring diplomatic introductions with the Irish. “Did you hear Gerry Ryan died?” “Yeah, what happened there?” A guy with an open sore on his face is blocking the drinks table. He says he is from Monaghan though he looks and sounds Hungarian. You walk away when he remarks on how slutty Irish women are. “Who’s yer man from Monaghan?” you ask one of the normal people. “He told me he was from Finglas. Total wacko.”
At every party, you meet another one. “What’s his story?” “Chancer. Avoid.” You meet them all. Dodgy, sleazy, creepy, lovely. Crazy, deaf, sullen, lovely. Shouter, spitter, mumbler, lovely. Cork, Limerick, Derry, lovely. Eighty, fifty, twenty, lovely. Irish, Irish, Irish, Irish.
Irish people at parties? Minefield.
You think you have it all under control, the Irish thing, that you can just enjoy your Irishness at your own leisure and avoid the crazies. Then you are railroaded into going to an Irish event. You are in a dingy sports hall with sticky floors and buzzing lights, piss all over the seatless toilet and a barmaid who disappears with your money, leaving you with no drink and no change. Someone hands you 13 playing cards and inexplicably, in a parallel universe to the life you want to live, you are playing whist. There is a disgruntled nun in the corner because you brought your British Pakistani friend, who has an unfair advantage she says, because, “Those fellas are very good with numbers.” Your partner with a facial tick and knee-high socks is scowling at you because your careless whist hand has ruined their chances of winning the 7 euro prize and you look around and you think, “What the hell am I doing here?”
Irish people at an Irish event organised by an Irish committee? One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.
You’re definitely never ever going to one of them ever again. Organised Irish fun. Then you’re in that parallel universe again and your husband becomes chairman of the committee. You’re at one of those Irish events. You’re trying to avoid the quick hands of the priest with his shirt open to his belly button and the bar man suggests that, as he has no drinking glasses, you should slam back half a can of tonic after which he will pour in the gin. And you’re wondering, “What in the jaysis am I doing here?”
It goes dark and quiet and there is a sense of excitement when the people from Ireland, the professional actors from Benbo Productions, come out onto the stage. You snigger at that look in their eyes that says, “What the hell am I doing here?” They talk about home and they talk about then and they talk about now and just for a minute you can forget where you are. Just for a minute you’re in The Abbey, you’re in Bewleys Café, you’re in Ireland. Then you remember why it’s great to be Irish again.
This article appears on Ceire’s blog about life in Lusaka at theirishexzaminer.com. She has written other Generation Emigration articles about her sense of adventure, making a life in a place that isn’t ‘home‘, Christmas in Lusaka, and the very Irish way of being kind.