Foreign women can really talk the talk

Tue, Feb 12, 2013, 00:00

In recent times I have been noticing women delivering monologues and I have concluded that foreign women beat Irish women by a mile at this conversational art.

The most recent observation was of a thin Italian woman and her husband sitting at a table in a Dublin food hall. After a few minutes of conversation she did this thing Italians sometimes do when they are talking: she gave a speech.

Her speech, which seemed to flow effortlessly out of the conversation with her husband, ran for 10-15 minutes, accompanied by various gestures and dramatic flourishes.

Her stout husband nodded and smiled and tucked into his plate of food from the all-you-can-eat counter. When he had worked his way through his plate he helped himself to items from her plate. I could see why he was stout and she was thin.

When I left, she had stopped talking and had started eating what was left.

Waiting for the Luas at Tallaght on a dull evening a couple of days later, my ear and then my eye was caught by a loud, cheerful, African woman talking into her mobile phone. I remember her as having orange hair but surely that cannot be right? Perhaps it was orange lipstick. Never mind, she made a welcome contrast to the grey skies.

To say she was talking does not go far enough: like her Italian counterpart, she was delivering a bravura performance made up – I deduced – of stories, quotations and exclamations in a language I did not recognise. Where the Italian woman was thin and serious, the African woman was elated and clearly was not one who missed out on her food. Her husband, a thin man as it happens, walked up and down the platform behind her looking into his phone and smiling to himself. His wife kept up her one-woman show for the entire journey.

Animated speeches

As I said at the start, Irish women usually do not do long, animated speeches. The most likely place to find an Irish woman delivering a monologue is in the vicinity of the Luas stop in Lower Abbey Street in Dublin where drug addicts congregate and the female of the species can sometimes be heard haranguing the male of the species joylessly for lengthy periods to absolutely no effect at all.

Mind you I did hear an Irish woman deliver a monologue on a train journey across the country to an unfortunate fellow sitting across from her. The monologue consisted of examples of how she had put various people right on the many mistakes they were making in many areas of their lives. Because the monologue was in a language I understood, it “got in” on me as they say. To escape, I tried everything from reading to mindfulness but none of it worked. Luckily I have a white noise app on my phone which pumps noise into my ears when needed so I crossed Ireland listening to its hissing while she talked on and on in the distance.

It is at times like these that one would give a lot for a jolly African woman or even an intense Italian one.

Addendum: As I and a friend walked along a street in Dublin one cold evening recently we were approached by a young man asking for money. We refused and as we walked on the phrase I use to salve my conscience on these occasions ran through my mind: he is probably broke because he has spent his money on drink. Then for the first time a second voice broke through: so what if he has spent some of his money on drink? Doesn’t everybody need comfort? And if you were in his place, wouldn’t you do the same?

I looked back but he had vanished. Would I have gone back and given him money if he had been there? I don’t know.

I just know that one of my old, reliable excuses for not giving money to people begging on the street no longer works.


Padraig O’Morain (pomorain@yahoo.com) is a counsellor accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His book, Light Mind - Mindfulness for Daily Living, is published by Veritas. His monthly mindfulness newsletter is available free by email.

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