Don’t Let The Old Man In.
I'VE been at a lot of funerals recently. It seems someone from my circle of friends, comrades, associates or neighbours is dying every week this last wee while. And sometimes more often than that. I console myself by reminding myself that it's the age I’m at. People were always dying. That’s part of the circle of life. But now I notice it more because its also part of my circle, my own wee peer group.
When RG and I were exiled for almost a decade in the Dáil in Dublin I lost a lot of my social contact with Belfast, including news of the deaths of people I knew. Finding out afterwards that someone had died used to annoy me greatly. Especially if it was long after their funeral. And if I heard about their demise by accident. I used to hate that. Now I’m out of the capital that’s less of a problem. But it’s being replaced with another problem. Too many funerals. Too often.
Funerals are also where we meet people we haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes it’s the only place we see them. Fra McCann is the worst person to fall into company with at a funeral. He gets me into trouble all the time. He always has a funny tale or two to tell. Usually against himself. So before you know it you are grinning widely or worse still guffawing loudly during what is after all a solemn or sad occasion. Fra is like that. He seems never to let things get on top him.
Others are less effervescent. When some old chums of mine bump into each other these days the discussion usually starts with medical updates, talk of bad backs, sore limbs and worse. That’s for those who can hear each other.
– Was he sick?
– Who says?
– Sue says.
– Sue Watchamacaller.
– Sue says Tommy’s on the mend.
– Tommy who?
– Tá mé go maith.
– Who said that?
– Said what?
Their focus is on scéal about who is in hospital or just out of hospital or on their way to hospital. It reminds me of conversations I used to hear among older people when I was a youngster.
Some of my pals have become obsessed by these issues. No, I won’t name names but RG has noticed it, so that’s proof its true.
Whenever I try to ease the conversation gently to more positive issues there is always someone who wants to remind us of the challenges of living. Especially for 50-year activists. Or for some of us almost 60-year activists. Maybe that’s natural also. Part of the old aging process. One of my more geriatric buddies is the devil for it. I have learned not to ask him how he is. Because he will tell in minute detail and at great length exactly how afflicted he is. But there is no harm in him. Thankfully hypochondria isn't contagious.
Me? I’ve learned that age does not come on its own, so I’m just glad to be still alive. And delighted that some of my nearest and dearest chairde are pottering along, despite our flaws, and still defiant and deliquent.
Martin Ferris put it well one day.
"Dont let the old man in," he told me. "That’s Clint Eastwood’s secret."
Martin is right. So is Clint Eastwood.
Live in the moment. And give thanks for it. Enjoy life. And those we meet with along the way, including those we don’t like. Or who don’t like us. Put up with their awkward ways. Don’t ever forget they put up with us. And our awkward ways. Live in the nowness.
And remember, don’t let the old man in. Or the old woman.
A failure of leadership
The Irish government’s two-year term on the UN Security Council is at an end. Micheál Martin, now Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, claimed last week that the government had “achieved some real and tangible results". As evidence of this he pointed to the UN role in providing humanitarian aid in Syria and challenging Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. However welcome the Irish government’s role was in addressing these matters, the reality is that its time on the Security Council failed to match the ambitious targets it set two years ago.
Its most obvious failure has been in providing leadership against Israel’s apartheid policies toward the Palestinian people. In recent months Israeli actions have resulted in hundreds of Palestinian deaths, especially of children. Last week the new Israeli government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, announced further measures against Palestinians. This followed the Palestinian Authority’s success in getting the UN to agree to ask the International Court of Justice to draft a legal opinion regarding Israel’s conduct in the Palestinian territories. The new Israeli sanctions include freezing Palestinian construction in much of the West Bank while its forces destroy Palestinian homes. The Israeli government has also cleared the way for further illegal settler construction in the West Bank.
Almost ten years ago the Oireachtas voted in support of the Irish government officially recognising the state of Palestine and providing official Embassy status to the Palestinian Mission in Dublin. None of this was done. The Irish government has also refused to enact the Occupied Territories Bill, which makes it illegal to trade with and give economic support to “illegal settlements in territories deemed occupied under international law” – most notably Israeli settlements.
Netanyahu accuses Palestinians of waging "legal war against the state of Israel" by seeking International Court of Justice review of the endless occupation. Netanyahu clearly prefers to wage illegal war, such as by expanding the war-crime settlements.https://t.co/T8qBYP8kul— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) January 9, 2023
The Dublin government’s foreign policy under Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil has been to turn a blind eye to the increasingly apartheid policies of the Israeli state. The Irish government had an opportunity to provide real leadership during its time on the UN Security Council. To challenge Israel’s apartheid policies. To defend the rights of the Palestinian people. It failed.
More oul' words
My friend Emma McArdle sent me some oul' words to add to our collection. Emma is from South Armagh.
Whist – Be quiet.
Howl your whist – A command: say nothing.
Quit the craic – Stop telling me this shocking story.
Don't hang me – Don't give me away, don't tell on me.
Give the deadner – To shock.
Hedges and Ditches – Benson and Hedges cigarettes.
Bullifance – Very drunk.
Banjaxed – Wrecked, exhausted.
Banty – Not moving well, a banty wheel, leg.
Bantyho – A very bad skyward kick in Gaelic football.
Lanty – Go fast; give her lanty: drive fast.
Wet the tae – Make the tea.
Suckin' diesel – Having good luck - 'Now we're suckin' diesel.'
Pennies from heaven – Finding the thing you were looking for.
Chewing your cud – ruminating.
Dose – Bad sickness; also, annoying person.
Codding – Joking.
Donkeys – Ages; from donkeys years, meaning a long time.
Hames – mess.
Dead on – Grand, fine, sound.
Up to high doh – Very excited.
On top of your head – To be very busy.
Another saying I heard years ago in this area is "Every rooster has its own dunkill." "Every rooster has its own dung heap." A put down for those full of themselves.
According to Emma, the next few words are peculiar to the Crossmaglen area. She says they come from Traveller language which is called Gammon or Cant. Incidentally, I read somewhere that the form of English spoken in Crossmaglen is similar to that which was used by William Shakespeare.
Cant – Backchat: That's enough cant out of you!
Feen – Boy.
Buer – Girl.
Golya – Child.
Yawk – Steal.
Munya – Great.
Rulya – Crazy; (can be good or bad – he was going rulya/We were rulya with drink).
Keen – House: Look at the state of this keen.
Rog (sounds like dog) – Car.
"While I'm in the mood," adds Emma, "here is a rhyme my father used to say to us. I have no idea where it’s from."
When I was a lad and so was me dad, I jumped on to the beanstalk.
The beanstalk being so full, I jumped on to the roaring bull.
The roaring bull being so fat, I jumped on to the gentleman's hat.
The gentleman's hat being so fine, I jumped on to the bottle of wine.
The bottle of wine being so clear, I jumped on to the bottle of beer.
The bottle of beer being so thick, I jumped on to the oak stick.
The oak stick being so narrow, I jumped on to the wheel of the barrow.
The wheel of the barrow began to wheel, so I jumped on to the horse's heel.
The horse's heel began to crack, so I jumped on to the horse's back.
The horse's back began to bend, so I jumped on to the turkey hen.
The turkey hen began to lay, and I got an egg before me.