Tag Archives: alcohol

O, My Country

In the last week, in Ireland, there have been five violent deaths.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been seven violent deaths. That’s seven, in thirteen days.

Image: thejournal.ie

Image: thejournal.ie

Ireland is a small country. It’s a country in which a violent death – increasingly, death as a result of knife crime – still has the power to shock. It’s a country where watching the news and seeing an ordinary family, one just like yours, ripped to pieces by violence, still gives you pause. You wonder what on earth is wrong. Why people are getting into arguments and, instead of using words to sort it out, they’re resorting to knives, or fists, or guns.

The most recent murder in Ireland happened over the weekend in Dublin, in an affluent suburb – the kind of place where you’d love to live, if only you had the money. It’s not the sort of place you’d associate with violent crime, but then distinctions like that are starting to look shaky and irrelevant in our brand new, ultra-modern little country. At the time of writing this, it appears that the victim lost his life over a disputed move in a game of chess.

A disputed move in a game of chess.

And it has cost a man his life.

This morning, really early, our neighbours moved out. They – father, mother, three children under ten – have decided to emigrate to Australia in search of a better life. Neither of the parents were unemployed, but for so many reasons they felt things might be better for them on the other side of the world. ‘Things are going nowhere here,’ the mother remarked to me the other day. ‘It’s a dead end.’ Their decision to leave may have nothing to do with crime, per se, but I do know they were driven out of their old home by criminal and disruptive behaviour all around them, and they came to live beside my husband and me in an attempt to find a more peaceful existence. I hoped they found it, for the years they spent here, and I wish them well in their new life. I will miss them, particularly their beautiful children, very much.

Those left behind after emigration - a difficult burden to carry. Image: news.ie.msn.com

Those left behind after emigration – a difficult burden to carry.
Image: news.ie.msn.com

They’ll be joining a long queue of people leaving this country looking for something abroad that they cannot find here. Most people will return to Ireland in the years to come – because, despite it all, home exerts a huge draw – but that doesn’t help us in the short term. Every family in Ireland has been touched by emigration. We all know what it feels like to have someone we love – in most cases, someone young – living far away from home.

I love my country. In a lot of ways, it’s a wonderful place. Increasingly, though, we are struggling with things like mental health – a mental health helpline recorded a 29% increase in calls to its services last year, for example – and with violent disorder. There has always been a problem with alcohol in Ireland, which goes far beyond the ‘fun-loving party people’ image the rest of the world seems to have of us; we’re a lot more Nordic than that, I think, insofar as our relationship with drink can be dark, cold, inward-looking, and extremely isolated. I’m not a sociologist, and can only speak from my own experience, but it seems to me that Ireland is finding it hard to adjust to new realities – a complicated relationship with religion, increased exposure to immigration, economic difficulties, and a total lack of faith in the government, and indeed in all forms of authority – and, perhaps, many other things as well. The police force is probably the only public body (if, indeed, that’s the right term to describe it) in which the people of Ireland have any faith left. If we lose that, then I fear we might lose ourselves as well.

Irish people tend to be resilient. We just keep on going, getting on with our own lives, keeping the ‘best side out’, as the old saying goes, no matter what happens around us. Suffering is bred into us, some would say. This is all very well, but sometimes I wonder if it allows us the space we need to deal with what’s inside, as well as keeping up a good front. I also wonder, sometimes, how much we can put up with, or when we’ll reach the point where we can’t take any more. All I know is, I think my little country is in trouble – and has been for some time – and figuring out a solution to it is beyond me.

But surely, picking up a knife and destroying not only your victim’s life, but also your own, isn’t the way to deal with whatever might be wrong? There has to be a better way forward than this.

There has to be.

 

Happy Memories

Today is a very important day. It’s the day the terracotta army was uncovered in China in 1974, for instance. Did you know it’s also the day Queen Victoria opened the Royal Albert Hall in 1871? The Battle of Towton made Edward of York into King Edward IV on this day in 1461. As well as all that, it is (in Christianity, at least) Good Friday, a day which had huge psychological value for me as a child (I was a very weird kid.) It’s a day off work here in Ireland. It’s a day when people tend to go off the rails with drink, which they’ve purchased on Holy Thursday because the sale of alcohol is illegal on Good Friday in this country, and all the pubs are shut. It’s a day when people of my parents’ generation observe a day of fasting, and when they feel free to grumble to anyone who’ll listen that ‘a day without stuffin’ yerself never did me any harm, and it’ll do you no harm either.’

Today is all of those things. It’s also my wedding anniversary.

Image: losangelesmystery.com

Image: losangelesmystery.com

We’re having (as I’ve mentioned!) a very cold March here, but the year we got married the sun split the sky. Our wedding guests wore sunglasses, and at least one person had to make an emergency dash to the chemist’s to pick up an economy-sized bottle of sun lotion. It helped everyone (including the bride and groom!) to have a wonderful day. I’ll never forget the sight of half our wedding party sitting out on the sun terrace of the hotel, enjoying some drinks and snacks, as well as friendly banter, al fresco. In March. In Ireland. It was quite something.

Of course, Easter being a moveable feast, our wedding didn’t coincide with Good Friday (or Holy Thursday, as it would’ve been) the year we got married. That would’ve been no fun at all. We’d have had to get married in a cavernous, dark, empty church, and there’d have been no priest there because we couldn’t have had Mass. We might have got away with having a proper wedding reception (and by ‘proper’, of course, I mean ‘one at which alcohol was served’, because that’s usually all that matters to an Irish crowd). But, overall, it would have been a weird day.

We chose March 29 as our wedding day because the first day we met was on March 28 – at another wedding. My husband and I had always had friends in common, but we’d never managed to actually meet one another until two of those mutual friends decided to get married. So, at that momentous gathering, we finally got to run into one another, after years of wondering if our friends were ever going to introduce us. It wasn’t quite ‘and the rest is history’; it took us a little while to get our act together. But in any case, when it came time for us to consider our own wedding, we didn’t want to hijack our friends’ day of March 28, so we went for the next best thing.

I feel very lucky and blessed in my husband; he is a wonderful and kind man, and the best husband anyone could wish for. Today is a day to remember that we have a lot to be thankful for, as a couple and as a family unit, not least of which is the fact that we have a huge group of friends and family who love and support us. I know I am a lucky woman to have such good memories of my wedding day, when everything (including the weather) was perfect, and when so many people took the time to spend our special day with us. Those memories, filled with sunshine and laughter, help to remind me – and my husband, too – of how wonderful a thing it is to be surrounded with love, and how grateful we should always be for it.

Happy Friday – and I hope it’s the start of a wonderful weekend for you all.