There were three big events last week all over my news radar.
1. The first one was reported by an almost five-year old in the back seat of my car – the Sam Maguire was coming to the village school (and everyone had to wear their Kerry jerseys but teacher said not to be bugging your parents tonight if you don’t have one because you can just wear green).
The Sam Maguire is the trophy up for the grabs in the GAA Football tournament and Kerry won it this past September. The tradition is then that the football players bring it around to all the schools and clubs in the County during the year. For those of you not familiar with Gaelic football, it is an amateur sport played through a combination of foot and hand passing and goals and points through upright posts.
So Thursday all the children in the village were decked out in green and gold. They were chanting “Kerry Kerry” or “Ciarrai Abu” (Up Kerry) on the bus and they had a homework free-day. It was lovely and this easy, inclusive camaraderie amongst all ages is definitely a highlight of living in rural Ireland.
2. The highest mountain peak in Ireland and is in Kerry (and second) and last weekend climbers broke the news that someone had cut down the steel cross at the summit. The steel cross was not of any historical, archaeological or even aesthetic value. It replaced a wooden cross in the 1970’s and was donated by a company. I gave it a passing thought of “wow that’s a practical joke or vandal that took a lot of effort”. I was in the minority. As the week went on, shock and outrage grew.
The Gardai were helicoptered up straight away to carry out a technical examination of the scene and were treating the case as criminal damage and have launched an investigation. It took the Gardai in Tralee two days to ‘technically exam’ my house after my car was stolen from my house with the keys stolen out of my house during the same robbery while we were up in bed. CSI Tralee dusted for a few finger prints shrugged their shoulders and then called me two days later to ask me what color and model my car was again. I ended up e-mailing them a picture of my car that was online because the Detective couldn’t find it himself.
People, including politicians, were calling for security on the mountain. Ranger patrols and CCTV cameras at the summit to protect future crosses were suggested in all seriousness. Atheist Ireland and a few less fervent Catholic’s tried to suggest that there might be no need for a religious symbol on a public mountaintop and that the natural beauty might suffice. I thought these were tame and reasonable suggestions . Clearly I was in the minority again. Online fervor followed along the usual lines of if you don’t like living in a Catholic country, then leave.
Within one week, volunteers climbed the mountain with a generator and portable welder to fix the cross. There are children going to school in overcrowded port-a-cabins for years; patients waiting years for appointments with surgeons; our road was washed away last year by the tide and we’re still waiting for it to be fixed.
I am baffled by the level and intensity of outrage and horror considering most Irish people are pretty indifferent, if not angry, at the Catholic church right now. I continue to underestimate the lasting influence of the Church on the culture, collective identity, psyche and political and social life here.
3. The Late Late Toy Show was on Friday night and this was by far the national event of the week. The Late Late Show is a chat show on Friday nights that the majority of the country watch every week. On the last Friday in November, they turn the show into a Christmas Toy show for children but on the adult talk show at 9:30 at night. I don’t get it. It’s just one of those things that without the memories of excitedly watching it as a child in the lead-up to Christmas, it’s not exciting.
Everyone in the country gets excited for the Toy show – the media reports on it all week and the whole country sits down to watch little children review toys and pick their favorites for Christmas. Irish people are crazy over Christmas in general. It goes on for two months. Trees are all ready coming out and they will stay up until January 6th.
There is no way my children can stay awake until almost mid-night watching tv (and no way I could handle the result of that) so we recorded it and they watched it the next day. I usually can’t watch more than fifteen minutes of it without cringing at the stage-coached children and creepy hip hop dances performed by wriggling 8-year-old girls but I actually enjoyed it this year! So I am probably turning Irish.