One of the great successes of our recent Covid-19 lockdown (though not an actual lockdown, they insist) was the television series Normal People.
Who would have thought Tubbercurry could be so interesting? Or that they were any good at GAA in Sligo? Okay, so we've long memories in Ballaghaderreen. With reason. We still, painfully, remember how Gurteen's Eastern Harps thrashed our county champions side in that Connacht club semi-final back in 2008. It's only 12 years ago.
Yes, Normal People was a superbly put-together piece of work with two outstanding lead actors in Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal. But for me, as for anyone who is rural, Irish, and objective, the hero has to be Mescal.
That is no reflection on the wonderful Edgar-Jones.
Mescal’s achievement went far beyond acting. As Conall, he did the seemingly impossible. He conferred sex appeal on the chunky, rural Irish male. No one believed it could be done.
Any man who can make the world swoon over the GAA, O’Neills shorts, and an Argos silver chain has to have something special going for him. But that he succeeded in making a big strong lump of an agricultural Irish fella look sexy has to be his greatest, nay outstanding achievement.
Those of us from a similar background and (once!) of similar physique remain deeply grateful, if a little aggrieved that such exaltation did not happen sooner in our own lives.
Still, though occasionally imagining ourselves as svelte as Nijinsky (the dancer, not the horse) while actually spending our days encumbered by physiques as graceful as a rhinoceros’s, we remain grateful to Mescal for allowing us newly-minted fantasies, if through him.
Even with similar physiques once upon a time we would never have thought them attractive. As for now? Let us say that at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, as the medical experts spoke of “flattening the curve”, we felt they were talking about us.
Convex would not be an inaccurate description of our bodies these days.
And even as Normal People and Mescal allowed our imaginations fly up, however briefly, our bodies stubbornly remained below, rooted by our ancestors; those hewers of wood and drawers of water who, as with most normal people at the time, tilled the soil and our soul through centuries of an unseeing past.
Ancestor from Latin antecessor, literally fore-goer.