Author: Pat

Journalist and author, living and breathing in Cork Ireland.

Getting Married?

Then you need to take a look at my wedding guide.

THE VENUE

Quirky. It isn’t just the nickname of that guy from school who ended up in jail in New Zealand. (That crazy Quirky.) It’s also the adjective du jour when it comes to choosing a wedding venue.

 

The dictionary definition of quirky is ‘characterised by peculiar or unexpected traits’. A better one would read, ‘Where you try to be different, but end up doing the same as everyone else, a bit like the way you thought you had discovered Ed Sheeran.’ So, just to be clear. There is nothing avant-garde about getting married in a deconsecrated church, a crannog, Semple Stadium, an old-man’s pub or your local library. Everyone is at it, including that dull couple who met at Scottish Country Dancing.

 

If you really want to be different, get married in a Catholic Church.  Cajole the bride’s father to shout, “She’s yours now” when he hands her over, after the walk up the aisle. Maybe pay the priest to say, “Remember this now, before ye head off for yeer bottles of sparkling wine – abortion is murder, plain and simple.” Now that’s quirky. As any artist will tell you, it’s not easy being an outsider. (Even with the cnuas from Aosdana.)

 

 

FOOD TRUCK?

The Hipster Style bibles in the States are clear on this one – the Food Truck at your wedding is more over than a Chocolate Fountain. (It’s that over.)

 

However, going by the Five Year Irish Hipster Trend Delay rule, the Food Truck should be good for another four years over here. You will need to put on two trucks. (Never call them vans. Never.) The first truck is for guests under 30, who think there is something cool about queuing for a burrito in the car-park of a four-star hotel. (That would be everybody under 30.)

 

The second truck is for Auntie Eileen. She is already on the verge of tears because there is no cream of mushroom soup. (Her husband, Noel, wants to knock 50 quid off the present.) The least you can do is put on a truck, where a middle-aged lady spoons up two scoops of mash and says, “Now.”

 

One word of caution. The hipsters in attendance are bound to spot a middle-aged lady, dishing up scoops of mash out the back of a truck. They are also bound to think this is the most ironic-in-a-good-way thing they have seen, since Love Island took over their summer.  So be careful you don’t run out of mash.

 

 

 

NO RING NO BRING

 

Pippa Middleton famously enforced this policy, where only married people are given a plus-one invitation to your wedding. You don’t want to copy her, and not just because Pippa is all kinds of dull.

 

Here is what will happen, if you do. You’ll end with two tables of older married relations, along with the obligatory table of your mother’s friends. You know the ones she invited at the last minute and there was nothing you could do about it. Next to them is the table of your married friends, looking slightly pissed off because they are missing out on all the fun. The fun would be at the other eight tables, where a load of unmarried horn-dogs are free from their partners for one night only, in an out-of-town hotel. It’s fair to say that some of them are dressed too sexy. Add four rounds of Mojitos to these tables and it will be like a swingers’ convention in there. And what happens in the Royal Plaza Arms, stays in the Royal Plaza Arms. (Unless it’s contagious.)

 

Let’s put it another way – when asked to pick one word to describe your ‘no ring, no bring’ wedding, 20 pc of your guests will choose chlamydia.

 

 

THE AESTHETIC

You’re probably wondering what’s the difference between an aesthetic and ‘a look’. About €1,500, apparently. Still, you can always get one on the cheap by searching for Wedding Aesthetic on Pinterest. Actually, I’ll save you the bother. It’s all about rustic these days, so all you need is a ball of twine and four blackboards.

 

It is traditional for the bride to put cute, romantic messages on these blackboards, to pay the groom back for being next to useless in the run up to the big day. Anything that includes the term soul-mate should be enough to make him die a little inside. (Welcome to marriage, guys.)

 

Another thing that’s hot on Pinterest is a jar, so guests can leave a ‘message-in-a-bottle’ that the couple can open on their first anniversary. That’s fine for Americans, who have two light beers at a wedding, before heading back to work, where they in fact live.

 

Not so good in Ireland, where people have two bottles of Prosecco before heading into dinner. That jar is just a temptation. So remove it before 8pm. No husband wants to open a posh jar on their first anniversary and read a scrawled note saying, “I slept with your wife in college. And so did Quirky.”

 

 

 

A TIME OF WONDER

Joining with your soulmate on life’s journey is a time of wonder. Mainly wondering how much you can recoup in cash presents, to offset against the cost of your shindig.

 

The average spend on an Irish wedding is €24,427, according to a 2017 survey on Weddingsonline.ie. That’s up 8% pc on last year. Don’t tell the Germans. (We’re so boomy right now.)

 

The average number of guests is 159. Do the maths and you need about €150 per guest to break even. This won’t happen. A third of your guests will pompously declare they find cash too impersonal, and re-gift one of the seven slow-cookers they got at their wedding. (Bastards.)

 

Don’t worry, the survey reveals that 21 pc of couples get help from their parent. This is as it should be.  After all, what is point in having money if you can’t force it on your 43-year-old to son to make sure he finally moves out of your house.

 

Finally, 17 pc of couples take out a loan to pay for this one-off piss-up. Again, the less said to our friends in Berlin, the better on that front.

 

 

 

FOREIGN WEDDINGS

A surprisingly low 6 pc of Irish people go ahead and do the deed out foreign. That means 94 pc of couples willingly sign up for a game called Oh Me Nerves, where you pop a Xanax and look at the long-term weather forecast in the run up to your wedding.

 

The survey reveals that 43 pc of respondents did consider getting married overseas, but eventually decided to tie the knot in Ireland. That’s shorthand for Daddy’s ankles expand something fierce in the heat and, in fairness, he’s paying for the honeymoon.

 

Another factor that stops people going abroad is grumbling. Not that anyone will complain to your face about taking their summer holidays during April, in an Italian ski resort pitched at billionaires. No, they’ll say it your mother, who will then relay the message to you in a passive-aggressive manner. (“Your Aunt Monica wants to know if she’ll meet any oligarchs.”) You have been warned. Stay at home.

 

If you still feel the need to head away, remember your choice destination will be used to judge you. Italy is classy, Spain indicates you’re a bit TK Maxx, Portugal effectively says, “I’m on the waiting list to get on Big Brother.

 

 

THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART

The average engagement length now? 19 months. This means different things to different people. For the bride-to-be, it’s an opportunity to buy, and return, 47 pairs of shoes on the internet. For her fiancée, it’s 18 months of ignoring the whole thing, culminating in a trip to Prague with his friends.

 

Let’s face it, an elongated engagement period is like the seventh circle of hell for your average Irish man. It’s certainly a very long time to feign interest in something that, as far as you’re concerned, has virtually nothing to do with you. If you are planning to propose, we strongly recommend 30 minutes a day in front of the mirror, practising nodding and using essential phrases such as, “I have nothing against profiteroles” and “Fair enough so, I’ll tell the lads no cocaine.”

 

The only upside here is that 19 months allows plenty time for an engagement party. Having such a party is 100 pc proof that you are running out of reasons to go on the piss. In case you are wondering, an engagement present can cost up to €100. So, prepare for a room above a pub full of livid millennials muttering, “No wonder we can’t afford to buy a f**king house.”

 

THE MEDIA

It is, as they say, actually a thing now to ban mobile phones and social media at your wedding. And not just because you are selling the photos to OK! There are ordinary couples out there, banning their guests from sharing a few shots.  Sorry if you have been at one of these weddings. It must be awful, being friends with a pair of twats.

 

We can only assume these couples are doing Media Studies, and want to ‘control the message.’ Which is to say, force everyone to watch their stream of the event on Facebook Live. This live-streaming is also a thing, which begs the obvious question – who do you think is watching? The girl you didn’t invite, sitting at home saying, “She could have done with another three weeks of spinning.” Or maybe your ex, checking if she dodged a bullet.

 

Here’s what you really need to know about a no-photo policy. If you stop anyone under 50 from accessing their mobile phone for eight hours, they will go mad and shoot everyone.

 

And here’s a bonus tip. You don’t hire a photographer to take photos; you hire her because it takes a stranger to lure the groomsmen away from the bar for a group shot. So hire her.

 

 

THE BAND

The average spend on a band is close to two thousand euro.  That’s money well spent. A pair of charisma-free muck-savages, with a weird gift for murdering Abba songs, is still better than a Spotify playlist that cost you nothing.

 

First of all, it doesn’t cost you nothing. You’ll need Premium Spotify, otherwise people will never stop talking about that time they had to stand through ads on the dancefloor.

 

But the real cost is far more than €9.99 a month. Here’s an experiment. Make up the 20-song playlist you’d like at your wedding. Drink three glasses of prosecco. Start the playlist. Count how long before you thought of a song you left off the playlist. It was 20 seconds, wasn’t it? (And the song was Happy by Pharrell Williams. That song would be nothing without prosecco.)

 

Now multiply this by 40. That 40 guests, as against 40 glasses of prosecco (unless it’s always wine o’clock around at yours). Because that’s the number of people who will be trying to get their icy flippers on your phone, to put on their favourite. So, pay for a band. Unless you want your wedding to be remembered for a fist fight over The Black Eyed Peas.

 

 

THE HONEYMOON

“Are you saving yourself for the honeymoon?” “No, I’m getting a loan from the credit union.” (Sorry.)

 

You’ll need it —  the average spend on a honeymoon is just over five grand. Judging by the chat on wedding forums online, a lot of people choose multi-destination holidays for their honeymoon. Great choice. What better way to test the resilience of your three-day old marriage, than four airports in two days. The only thing keeping you together is that guests would probably want their presents back.

 

Far better to join the over 50% of newlyweds who go for a mini-moon in Ireland after the big day. That way, you get to avoid the Airport Shuffle, the anxiety dance we do every ten minutes checking for passport, wallet, keys and boarding cards.

 

Just head for a nice hotel on the Wild Atlantic Way. There’s usually a foreigner on reception, so it will be a lot like going abroad. You can pull the door behind you in a Junior Suite and crawl into bed, to enjoy something together for the first time as a married couple. Shaking off some low-level DTs, because you’ve been drinking non-stop since the night before the wedding. It has to be done, apparently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you really Middle Class, or just a little bit?

Over half of all adults in Ireland are middle-class now, but that’s only half the story.  Because within that, you have a collection of sub-groups jostling for position in the social order. I rank these new micro-classes and show how they use cars, cash, muscles, bikes and gay best friends to establish their credentials. So, where you do you stand in the scheme of things?

 

THE TECHIE COUPLE

They met at work, during an out-of-hours email system upgrade. One thing led to another, and they ended up having it off in a meeting space called The Westport Room. Their best man based his wedding speech around the episode and Fr. Fitzgerald nearly swallowed his false teeth, with all the laughing.

 

They drive a Hyundai Tucson, one spec up from their neighbour’s Hyundai Tucson. (She’s only a teacher.) What do they eat? The faces off each other every Friday night, after drinking two bottles of wine from the middle shelf in Aldi. It’s the reason they have three kids instead of two and they’re thinking of cutting back.

 

They like to holiday on campsites in the south of France that aren’t covered by U.K. or Irish tourist operators. That’s because they went with an Irish operator one year and ended up holidaying next to their plumber. He gave his children pizza every night (!). They discussed reporting him to the local police, but agreed there is no way they’d find another plumber.

 

Middle-Class Rank: 6. He can be quite common after a few pints and they’ve never been show-jumping.

 

THE ONE PER CENTERS

The new officer class in Middle-Ireland. They will often introduce themselves as VP for Blue Sky On-Boarding at EvilNerds.com. Under no circumstances should you laugh at this title. They are your overlords now, the last people with a decent job once Chinese Robots have replaced teachers and accountants. The correct response is to prostrate yourself on the floor and ask if they need their gutters cleaned.

 

They live in two places. The first is Dubai for 6 months and a day of each year. If you don’t understand why, ring the Revenue. The rest of the time they live in a house in south Kerry that looks like it might belong to a super-villain. The doorbell even says “Ve meet again” when you ring it. It’s their idea of a joke. It’s on you.

 

Mind you, they have a tough life.  It’s not easy to hire an entire Bangladeshi family to load the dishwasher in Dubai, only to return home to Ireland and find you have to do it for yourself.

 

A word for those of you who’d like to join our one percenters. It turns out that hopping on a conference call at 4am every morning to discuss Project On-Board Going Forward 3.0 is as awful as it sounds.

 

Middle-Class Ranking: 1. They are your future, bow down before them.

 

THE SQUEEZED FOODIE

The Squeezed Foodie is squeezed for the same reason most of us are squeezed; she’s still paying off that Celtic Tiger mortgage and can’t resist a spa-break deal where they throw in a glass of sparkling wine on arrival. She rejects any notion that she belongs to the Squeezed Middle though; that would lump her in with people who tuck into a Marks and Spencer Meal for Two deal on a Friday night.

 

As she never tires of pointing out, that kind of food is for the masses. (‘The masses’ is her third favourite phrase, after ‘a documentary on YouTube about sugar’ and ‘poisoning your kids.’)

 

Her natural habitat is a small, hipster grocery shop called Why Pay Less For Carrots? She can’t afford the stuff in there, so she waits until the coast is clear to load up on nearly-gone-off kimchi in a jam-jar, now only €17.99 a pop.  Ok, so the guy at the checkout knows her game, but he has a working-class accent and probably thinks jam is a fruit. So, who cares what he thinks?

 

Middle-Class Ranking: 5. It turns out the Why Pay Less for Carrots? bag is worth the hassle.

 

 

 

DECLAN AND DERMOT

Obviously, not all gay people are the same. It’s not like they all live in a big house in Dublin 4. Or, RTE, as it’s known by that defrocked priest who keeps firing off angry letters to your local newspaper. But, what some people still call The Gay Crowd are now all the rage in Middle-Ireland circles. We hear it’s impossible to go to a barbeque in Athlone without being introduced to a bemused looking couple known as ‘our gay friends, Declan and Dermot.’

 

Declan and Dermot are a bigger hit in suburban Middle Ireland than decking was back in 1996.  It’s got to the stage where they rarely see their gay friends any more, unless it’s a particularly big barbeque and the hosts invite extras to make sure they don’t run out of gay friends. This new-found popularity is the price of the Same Sex Marriage referendum. Dermot is actually considering being seen around town with a woman, just so they can get a weekend to themselves.

 

It’s not like they’ll miss the conversation at these barbeques. Dermot: “We’re adopting a little girl next week.” Irish mother on her 3rd glass of prosecco: “The poor thing will have no Mammy!” Declan: “I know. Isn’t she lucky?”

 

Middle-Class Ranking: 4. And the only way is up.

 

 

THE GUY WITH LOADS OF MONEY

You know him alright. The guy in your estate with a 2017 Audi, a carbon-frame, Cube Litening C:62 Race bike worth almost three grand, a two ski-holiday minimum, and no obvious source of income. He’s driving people nuts. It’s got to the point where there is only one  topic at the weekly mother and toddler event – where does he get his money? Fiona in number seven tried to start a rumour that it’s drugs, but it failed to get off the ground because he’s just so normal and nice.

 

People can’t help admiring him. It wouldn’t be so bad if Guy With Loads of Money was fat, and sat around all day watching Jeremy Kyle. At least that way, people could go ahead and assume he won the lottery. Unfortunately, he’s got a BMI of 19, speaks Mandarin Chinese and leaves the house at 6:30 every morning.  There was hopeful talk he might be a skanger when news broke he was going to Tenerife on holidays; that evaporated when it emerged he was going to a yoga retreat on an organic plantation.

 

Middle-Class Rank: 8. Fiona is right, he’s a drug dealer. That yoga retreat in Tenerife is full of them, apparently.

 

 

OLD MONEY MARCUS

It’s all in the tan with Marcus. You know it didn’t come out of a bottle, and it’s not wind-tan from sailing, because they’d let anyone out in a yacht these days. Under no circumstances should you ask him where he got this tan. It’s just an invitation to say he’s been to an exclusive wellness centre in Namibia with an unreasonably good-looking German, called Heidi. He will show you the photos and this will make you feel bad about your life.

 

Marcus owns a chain of loss-making donut shops. That’s quite an achievement in the current climate. Don’t waste your time looking for a link between his income and the limited edition, 1980 Mercedes 380 SL he drives at the weekend. Focus instead on the fact that he still lives at home with Mother and Dad-Dad, in a house that was once like a second home to George-Bernard Shaw. Marcus is trying to get the old pair to put solar panels on the roof to impress a minor German aristocrat that would remind you of Bella Hadid; Dad-Dad is having none of it.

 

If you are upset that Marcus’s Armando Cabral sneakers are worth more than your car, tell him that he’s only middle-class.  That’s for bogmen and people from Dundrum, says he, launching into the story of how he’s descended from the Earl of Kildare.

 

Middle-Class Ranking: 2. There is no substitute for class, or a rich Dad-Dad.

 

 

THE MUSCLE COUPLE

She’s showcasing her ass in expensive activewear and owns three nail bars. He has a startling hipster beard and tapered-leg tracksuit. Both are perfectly toned and carrying a brightly coloured vitamin drink. Neither are wearing socks. Welcome to the Muscle Couple.

 

You will find them in Pavilions Shopping Centre, Swords before 10 am at the weekend. Before 10 am is their way of saying we weren’t out last night. This sets them apart from their siblings, who are still out at 10 am, and will probably end up living in an affordable housing scheme.

 

The Muscle Couple want to get ahead and have already traded up from their mid-terrace to a semi-d on the estate. They are hoping to make it big on social media, which is why they spent €1500 for an online course called How to Make a Fortune as a Vlogging Couple without Banging Each Other.

 

They have been watching a lot of Amy Huberman shows in preparation for the biggest challenge of their lives. Yes, they have plans to step-up and start hanging out in Dundrum Shopping Centre at the weekends. You wouldn’t want to try that with the wrong accent.

 

Middle-Class Ranking. 10. Tracksuits. They’re still just tracksuits.

 

 

THE FAMILY THAT OWNS THE TOWN

Their name is on the local G.A.A. jerseys, they own the convenience shop on Main Street, the undertakers next door and a clothes shop called ‘Lookin’ Good, Nora’. Every place in rural Ireland has one. They’re the family that owns the town.

 

Most of them live in a modest pile just outside of town, in case people think they are up themselves. The rest of them live in a modest villa on the Algarve until their post-crash bankruptcy gets sorted out. They’ll be home soon.

 

Their main challenge now is to get their entitled kids to take over the reins. Cian and Cliona didn’t spend four years doing Business Studies in U.C.D., just so they could stand behind a counter and listen to old Mrs. MacCarthy talking about the black taxi drivers above in Dublin. Their aim is to take the business on-line, going forward, and deploy robots to listen to Mrs. Mac explain why she isn’t a racist. Their father, Frank, reckons Mrs. Mac will be fine with this, as long as the robots are white.

 

Middle-Class Ranking: 3. Never bet against anyone with a slew of cash businesses and a ‘friend’ in Jersey banking circles.

 

 

THE RETURNED

Jonathan and Deirdre aren’t happy to be back from Zurich. They have never been happy about anything. That’s one of the things that attracted them to Switzerland.

 

After a spell working in bio-pharmaceuticals, they decided to move back do Dublin to be nearer to their families. That’s shorthand for the Swiss wouldn’t talk to us and you wouldn’t believe the costs of babysitting. The key to getting on with Jonathan and Deirdre is to avoid talking to them at all costs. Unless you want to get a lecture on how Ireland would be a better country if we only paid loads more tax and gave everyone their own tram.

 

Don’t worry, you can still keep in touch with their lives. The Irish Times has decided to focus on the returning emigrant market by giving every one of them their own column, as long as they have a degree.

 

Given their salaries, and inflated notion of self-worth, Jonathan and Deirdre were hoping to get their kids into an elite school aimed at the super-rich in south county Dublin. However, it turns out the only group they can compete with on this list is the Muscle Couple, and that might change if your one opens up a fourth nail bar. So Jonathan and Deirdre are now looking at second-tier private schools like Clongowes and Alexandra College. It isn’t making them one bit happy.

 

 

Middle-Class Ranking: 7. They are livid to be ranked below The Family That Owns the Town –  that would never happen in Switzerland.

 

 

 

ANGRY PROFESSIONAL 2.0

Their predecessor, A.P. 1.0, was a solicitor during the Celtic Tiger years. He got sick of doing the paperwork for property deals on behalf of a former class-mate school who could barely spell his name. That’s why he borrowed 10 million and bought into a property syndicate with other solicitors in 2007. Angry only scratches at the surface of his mental condition.

 

And yet he has a sunnier disposition than Angry Professional 2.0. Why? At least he was rich for a few months. That’s something beyond the reach of the new batch of doctors and lawyers. These people spent a fortune during their five years in college; some of them even went to lectures.  Now they can’t compete in the property market with nerdy types who are working on a slew of apps to replace solicitors, doctors and various other golf club bores. Our A.P 2.0s lie awake in their rented houses at night, muttering darkly about their nerdy overlords. And regretting the decision to put Law above Computer Science on their CAO application.

 

Middle-Class Ranking: 9. If there was such a thing as relegation from the Middle-Class, they’d be in the mix.

 

 

 

Think you Know Summer Festivals?

My 10 Step Guide to Summer Festivals, with advice on wellness, Dad Dancing, Unicorn Toast, explaining a boutique festival to your mother and the fun that can be had with a Spanish guy you met at a reiki workshop.

 

GET YOURSELF CONNECTED

Forget who’s on the bill and what’s in the food court. It’s mainly just Mumford and Sons and over-priced burgers. The only thing that really matters is the quality of your internet connection.

It’s vital you stay connected. A lot of major artists like to announce their secret gigs at festivals via Twitter. Miss one of these tweets and you could easily stumble into a pop-up Ed Sheeran gig by mistake. There goes your music credibility and there’s no getting it back. So, make sure you remain in the loop.

This isn’t so easy, given the number of festivals that place in rural Ireland. Getting a decent 3G connection at these things is like trying to find a bottle of water under €3. The good news is UK festivals like Glastonbury and Creamfields now have on-site wi-fi, and you can expect to enjoy it here soon. The bad news if you’ll have to share this wi-fi with throngs of local culchies, sitting outside the festival site in their cars, downloading Netflix boxsets until their iPads go on fire. There was a time they would have been selling you Choc Ices and Cadet Cola. Now, it’s all about getting a proper broadband connection for a couple of days.

 

ALL’S WELLNESS

What did you call the guy who brought an orange to Feile back in the day? A health freak. It’s not like that anymore. It’s clear that a lot of festivals are more about recovery, than they are about getting wasted in the first place. As any 1990s’ festival veteran will tell you, the most disgraceful thing you’ll see at the modern shindigs is the queues of people lining up at dawn for a Greet the Sun Workshop. You will also find people doing yoga when they could be losing their minds in a three-person tent.  It’s shocking what the kids get up, when they are away from their parents for a few days.

Body and Soul, in Co. Westmeath, leads the way with a wellbeing section in what they call the Second Nature Arena. It is, according to the website, ‘an enchanted menagerie, that encompasses music, performance, art and zen-like pockets of peace.’ They also have hula-hooping and chanting. What you do with that information is up to you. Although you probably will need somewhere to calm down alright, after Sleaford Mods are finished roaring at you from the stage. (Your man is fierce angry.)

 

DIDDLY AYE

The biggest musical event of the year might just be Fleadh Cheoil. It’s back in Ennis again this summer, having attracted 400,000 visitors to the town last year. If there is a Wellness Area, it’s probably a woman dressed as Mammy who says, “Ah look, you’ll be grand.”

The Fleadh runs for a week in August. Sure, if you can’t get a dry day in August, you’ll never get one, say people in countries other than Ireland. You’ll probably never get a better chance to watch someone playing the squeezebox in the pissing rain. That said, you’ll never get a better chance to watch free busking, performed by some of the best musicians in the country. And nobody fancies themselves as Ryan Adams. No wonder it gets such a crowd.

The real beauty of the Fleadh is that it’s in a town. Rather than wading across a field to queue for an hour, so that some young one can fling a pint of Hop House 13 at you, there is the option of walking into an actual pub. And for anyone who can’t make it to Ennis, you can follow the event on Fleadh TV. That’s handy, even if it does sound like a porno channel for the Gaeltacht.

 

MUNCHIES?

There’s talk they are going to introduce music at this year’s Electric Picnic. But let’s face it, music festivals these days are mainly about food. The most popular foods, at the time of writing, are donuts, noodles, kimchi, Asian Street Donuts and sausage sandwiches for the culchies. (The hunger do be huge after the spliffs, lads.) Obviously, these are current trends and unlikely to last through the summer. Anyone coming across an Asian Street Food stand this year will think they have taken a time machine back to 2014. (Particularly if they bought one of those pills off your man, Chemical Noelie.)

So, what on-trend food can you expect at this year’s festivals? It’s hard to say this and remain upbeat about the future of our species, but it appears that all the hipsters in New York are eating unicorn toast. This is bread topped with dyed cream cheese and sprinkles. Its female equivalent is mermaid toast, which is dyed blue rather than the pastel colours favoured on unicorn toast. Like I say, these are the end days. This is food for people who have trouble moving into adulthood. So it will probably be a huge hit at Electric Picnic.

 

THE BOUTIQUE

This could be confusing for your mother. You: “I’m going to a boutique festival.” Mam: “Why are they celebrating small shops that are perfect if you need something for a wedding?” You: “Mammy, you’re the gift that keeps on giving.”

Why is it called a boutique festival? To keep away working-class types, who are rightly suspicious of anything with a pompous French name? Correct. To make doubly sure by putting the phrase ‘Wellbeing and Sustainability Tent’ in huge letters on the poster? Correct again.  Your working-class types will do anything to avoid running into a hippy. And still people say they have no taste.

The acts on the boutique festival bill often include a fading star who has seen better days. It’s a nailed-on certainty he will say how much he loves playing in front of a small, intimate crowd again. It’s also a nailed-on certainty that he doesn’t mean it, and neither does his bank manager.

These events normally take place in the grounds of an old country house, so you can escape the music. The adjoining woodlands are perfect if you want to spend time reflecting on your life. Or shag that dusky Spanish guy you met at the reiki workshop. Or both at the same time, if the Spanish guy isn’t up to much on the sex front.

 

DANCIN’ DAD

You’ll remember that video of a middle-aged man dancing at the Island Beats Festival in 2015.  You can view this video in a number of ways. I’d view it through my hands, if he was my Dad. Bear that in mind if you’re a 40-something man, tearing it up to Krafty Kuts this summer. It’s nice that the millennials in the crowd are whooping and shouting, “Never grow old, you crazy diamond.” It’s not so nice that their lifetime ambition is to get 10,000 likes for some video of a nutter they shot at a music festival. Think about that for a minute. And just tap your feet to the beat.

This obviously doesn’t apply at Nostalgia Festivals around the country. The Punchestown Music Festival plays host to a list of music legends this summer, along with Shane Filan. There’s Tom Jones, Village People, Culture Club, All Saints and more. This is a safe space for middle-aged types to down five pints in half an hour and lose the run of themselves. Unless you feel a bit icky at the sight of senior-citizen mouthing ‘you’re my sex bomb’ at her husband, which can be disgusting when you see it for the first time.

 

TIS THE SEASON

You could always give music festivals a miss and dip into the Irish Summer Season. This is where well-off types go to horse related events and pretend to be British. The effect is usually more Aintree than Ascot, which is probably down to the fact that we’re a pack of savages.

These horsey events include the Galway Races, Derby Day at The Curragh and the Horse Show at the RDS. Some people will add the Rose of Tralee to this list. Whether or not this is horse-related depends on your taste in women. The big event for snobs on Leeside is Cork Week, hosted at the Royal Cork Yacht Club. Anyone is welcome there, as long as they can look down their nose at people, while speaking through it. (It’s all about nasal in Posh Cork.)

Don’t worry about being stuck for conversation, if you plan to crash these high society larks. If all else fails, say “I’ve just being talking to Robin.” There isn’t actually a person called Robin, but it makes you sound well connected. Also, be careful when talking about Marbella. Some people pronounce it Mabs instead of Marbs – that can sound like you are going to the Money Advice and Budgeting Service for your holidays. Awks.

 

FOOD FESTIVALS

I’m not suggesting that these summer events are just an excuse to get shitfaced in a crowd of strangers. But, discoverireland.ie lists the Irish Gin and Tonic Festival as a Food event. Let’s just say you’re never that far away from the booze.

But what about food, or soakage as it’s known by 93 pc of festival-goers. The growth in vegan and vegetarian number is reflected in dedicated festivals and food trails this year. You can expect to meet lots of people with terrible breath, passing out in front of you because they could do with a bit of meat.  There will be people enjoying themselves as well.

The coming thing on the culinary festival front is food trucks. Limerick hosted an International Food Truck Festival over the June Bank Holiday. This food truck craze isn’t just chipper vans, with knobs on. The Limerick festival had lobster, shark, crocodile and, wait for it, insects. This is a brave new world for you festival foodies. Except of course for the insects. The chipper vans have been serving those for years, they just weren’t on the menu.

 

DAMP EXPECTATIONS

Credit where credit is due. It isn’t every country in the world that would organise a slew of outdoor events, when it’s effectively located at the bottom of a waterfall. The price we pay for this level of foolishness is a slavish addiction to long-term weather forecasts.

Ken Ring, also known as ‘that guy in New Zealand’, has had his say on summer 2017. Basically, north, east and western parts will enjoy a drier than normal summer. People in the south? You don’t want to know.

The problem with Ken is, that while he might predict it will be nice for 10 days in June, he can’t say if it will be raining at 8:43 pm on the 15th of July. This is where the internet comes into its own. Where better to get an accurate, scientifically-based view of the world?

The key phrase here is ‘the Norwegian crowd.’ This is the Norwegian weather website, Yr.no, which would appear to have a better grasp of Irish weather than Met.ie.  The good news is they can give you a pretty accurate picture of what’s coming down the road in a fortnight’s time. The bad news is that picture is of a dark cloud with a woman under it shouting, “Jesus lads, that’s the last time I buy cheap wellies.”

 

THE READIES

I’m so disgusted hotels have jacked up their prices for Bruce Springsteen, I’m not going to bother going, said no Irish person ever. We’d take any kind of punishment to see our heroes, which in the case of Garth Brooks, includes sitting there and listening to him for three hours.

The punishment includes paying well over the odds if we leave it too late. At the time of writing, there are still tickets available for Electric Picnic, on Ticketmaster’s official resale partner, seatwave.ie. A ticket with a face value of €165 was available for €499, before you add the booking charge of €90.99. There is a pop-up that explains the purpose of this charge, if you fancy a laugh, at your own expense.

Again at the time of writing, that total cost of almost €589.99 would get you a week in Majorca, flights and accommodation included. So there you have it – Majorca or watching Duran Duran in the pouring rain. The truth is we’d prefer the latter. Because for all the hassle, there’s nothing like a festival in summertime.

 

Healthy Eating is Bad for You. (Kinda)

Tommy Tiernan called it on Brendan O’Connor’s Cutting Edge. The conversation was flying around the table on obesity, when Tommy did what comedians are supposed to do, and lobbed in a grenade. So rather than talking about man boobs and salt content, he said the healthy eating thing was just the latest excuse for a bit of hysteria. You could sense people looking at him with a mix of pity and despair. But then that’s always the way with soothsayers.

You don’t have to agree to Tiernan to acknowledge that he might have a point. Healthy Eating is the new orthodoxy in the western world – and we have our own clergy here in Ireland. The fact that most of them are celebs and retired sports people poses an immediate question – is this just all bollocks?

Rosanna Davison is High Priestess of the healthy eating movement here. In fairness, she is a qualified nutritionist and has helped people to create tasty, healthy meals with her cookbooks. But the reason we listen to her is because she takes a good photo and is a former Miss World. The attraction with Rosanna is Rosanna; one of her books is called Eat Yourself Beautiful. All the kale in the world isn’t going to give you her cheekbones. And yet, we don’t think it’s strange that we take what is effectively health advice from a former beauty queen. Just because someone is interested in world peace and working with children doesn’t mean they know the best way to tackle your cholesterol.

The Happy Pear twins are the most visible evangelists for Healthy Eating in Ireland. This is partially to do with their protein balls, but mainly because one of them did a handstand on The Late Late. It’s a peculiar mix of showbiz and handy, on-trend recipes. Again, in your darker moments, you might ask, why are we listening to these people? (Other than they’re good looking and on the telly.)

This healthy eating thing is a gift for athletes. It would appear there are two doors when you call time on your sporting career. One is marked ‘Go into Punditry’, the other says ‘Write a Cookbook.’ David Gillick, a popular winner of Celebrity MasterChef Ireland, built on his success with a cookbook and healthy recipes. Derval O’Rourke has a book called the Fit Foodie. Former camogie star, Anna Geary, is carving out a niche, promoting healthy eating.

There is nothing terribly wrong with this. It’s good to see athletes suggesting we use fresh food rather than anabolic steroids to boost performance.  They are photogenic, they’re fun and they add to the gaiety of the nation. But why are we letting them tell us what to eat?

Here’s the thing about the Healthy Eating Hierarchy. They are not like us. Just as the Catholic hierarchy are pious for a living, the top figures in Healthy Eating are attractive for a living. Put it this way, you’ve never seen a healthy eating activist who is less than a 7 out of 10.

These people don’t live the same lives as us. People with proper jobs like building, farming and child-minding want something more than a coconut smoothie when they get in from work. They certainly don’t need a lecture from a celeb who has ‘lots of air-kissing’ as part of their job description.

But, of course, you can’t fight back. Any note of protest against the cult of Healthy Eating is shutdown with the Fat Child argument. Agree with us, or else you are to blame for overweight kids getting bullied in school. You have to admit, that’s a powerful putdown. It’s up there with believe in me, or you will burn in the flames of hell.

Not many people bow down to that one any more. The facts changed on the ground and we all moved on to the next thing. We’re too close to it now to see what’s really going on with heathy eating. But in 50 or 100 years’ time, they’ll say the poor eejits back then believed that famous, good-looking people knew what was best for them to eat. And they’ll say something else – it was all about class.

This is the other thing you notice about the Healthy Eating crowd. They didn’t exactly grow up on council estates. You’re never going to see a cookery show called Decco’s Dinners, where a guy in a tracksuit comes on and says, “Me and the lads will stop at nuttin’ to get our hands on a bit of organic, wha?”.  What you will see is posh people, in expensive kitchens, with lots of time on their hands. It mightn’t be designed to make you feel bad about yourself, but that doesn’t mean it won’t.

It will make you feel like a loser for not looking like a model, or having the self-discipline of a former athlete. It will encourage you to spend money you can’t afford, on ingredients that were flown half-way around the world. It will create a flurry of food photos on your Facebook timeline, posted by people who didn’t get enough praise from their parents when they were growing up. Watching a healthy eating show on TV will make you hungry, but you’ve three kids and work 10 hours a day, so rather than making an air omelette, you crack open a sharing pack of crisps.

Here’s the real problem with the Healthy Eating Cult. It doesn’t work. These people have been lecturing us for years now and we are still on track to be the most obese country in Europe within a decade. Maybe it’s because we drink too much or we don’t like getting lectures from people with posh accents, what with the 800 years of oppression and all that. But there’s every chance people will look back at the Healthy Eating years and say that was a big mistake. And they might also say, we should have listened to Tommy Tiernan.

Cork Needs to Watch Its Back

They had Rachel Allen in the Patrick’s Day Parade in Cork this year. She seemed to appear out of nowhere on the South Mall, waving from the back of a vintage car alongside the Lord Mayor. The huge crowd on either side of the Mall burst out laughing and waved back. Nobody laughed harder than Rachel herself. It was very Cork; saluting one of the most popular people on Leeside, while laughing at the pomposity of it all. It sat well in a parade that had more wit and ambition than previous years. Cork feels like a place that is back on the front foot.

It looks like it too. The city centre is suddenly full of young professionals from all over the world, giving each other the eye. Tired old areas like McCurtain and Washington Street are fizzing again, with new restaurants every other month. There are plans for a forty-storey tower in a new development at the Port of Cork site at the east end of town.  Unemployment is down at 6.4%. Rents are gone a bit Dublin, with a one-bed apartment close to town coming in over €1,000 a month. It looks like anything could happen.

It also looks a bit like Reading, or one of those sanitised places you see on Location, Location, Location, where the young couple can’t afford to buy in London. For all the welcome activity around town, it also feels a bit samey, a bit safe, like it could be anywhere. Say what you will about Cork, but the second city didn’t build its reputation on samey and safe. It has always been about obsessive personalities, shooting for the stars in a small city struggling to control its hormones.

They mightn’t have been to everyone’s taste, but there was nothing else like Café Paradiso or the Ivory Tower when they opened their doors back in the 1990s. (There still isn’t, really.) This diamond in the rough trait goes beyond food. Cork doesn’t produce many top-level soccer footballers. But it did produce Roy Keane. It was never that good for nightclubs. But it did produce Sir Henry’s. It doesn’t Galway’s reputation for the arts.  But it is home to the Corcadorca Theatre Company.

Cork is supposed to feel like an act of madness, perpetrated by someone with nothing to lose. It’s what you’d expect from a city build on a marsh. Now? It’s starting to feel a bit middle-aged.

It’s not like Cork can afford to relax. The Second City title is up for grabs. If the economy keeps growing, it’s only a matter of time before the government will complete the M20 motorway, ultimately linking Cork to Galway and setting up a counter-weight to Dublin. One of Cork, Limerick and Galway will emerge as the major urban centre along this route. Galway is out in front on the arts and hospitality front; business and political figures in Limerick have serious plans to steal the crown. If you think losing second city status doesn’t matter to Cork people, then you’ve never met one of them.

It’s not like Cork has nothing to offer. Hipster bible, New York Magazine, noticed the place last year, listing the city alongside Gothenburg and Rotterdam as a suitable place for a weekend escape. In fairness, there is plenty for hipsters and like-minded foodies to enjoy around town. They almost need a queueing systems to control all the burger and smokehouse places opening up. Cork would probably get a new motto on its coat of arms, if someone could figure out the Latin for ‘How Would you like your Burger?’ These burger joints are being joined around Cork by their hyperactive younger cousin, the donut shops. We’re not sure why donut outlets are thriving now; presumably it’s because injecting sugar into your eye in public isn’t a great look.

This isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a place. We all like a sugar shot now and again, and Cork has shown that it can do a sassy, buzzy burger joint as well as anyone else. If you fancy carbohydrates surrounded by people on the pull, then Cork is probably the city for you right now. It’s not only grill houses either. The Japanese restaurant, Miyazaki, has people falling at its feet. Rachel Allen’s new place on Washington Street is going to raise the bar in terms of buzz and food. Salt on Victoria Road has got tapas just right and the people-watching could give you whiplash.

But still, you wonder, why Cork doesn’t have a Michelin Star? You might think this doesn’t matter, that an upstart punky place like Cork doesn’t need the thumbs-up from some French fuss-pots. But it will matter when the motorway runs up to Galway, and the Vice President of some corporation is deciding where she wants to locate their European HQ. Will it be Cork with its buzzy burger places, or Galway with its own buzzy burger places and two Michelin star restaurants? This isn’t about food, it’s about the brand. An executive looking at this from her office in Shanghai would draw the obvious conclusion; Galway is about excellence, Cork likes making noise.

This donut and burger thing will pass and Cork will be left looking like someone who still uses an iPod. The city needs to start pandering to someone other than the hipsters. The problem with hipsters is they have this weird notion of travel, where they want to get in a plane for eight hours and arrive at the place they just left. The fact they can fly to Buenos Aires and find two guys with beards selling cookies means they are on the right side of history. They have somehow managed to convince themselves this is cool and subversive, when it’s really just what McDonalds and Starbucks did in the 80s and 90s. They will drag Cork into the mire.

Anyone who thinks Cork won’t be caught by Limerick or Galway doesn’t like their sport. Empires fall, and fast. There was a time when most people in the county had seen Cork win an All-Ireland, at least once in their lives. The international soccer team had Keane and Irwin. Cork players were all over the team sheet for the international rugby team. Now, there are more Cork accents on the RTE rugby panel than there are on the pitch.

The Gaelic footballers lost to Clare in a league match recently. GAA people don’t do disrespect, but that’s like China losing a ping-pong game to Horse and Jockey. The hurlers look like they might be the weakest team in Munster, bar Kerry. And that’s being optimistic.

A shiny new Pairc Ui Chaoimh is opening this summer; the problem is Cork’s senior men’s teams mightn’t last long enough in the Munster Championship to give it a decent day out.

Soccer fans might tell you Cork City are doing well in the league, but they probably won’t go to see them play a home game in Turners Cross; the average attendance last year was barely over 3,000. You’d get more at a freezing cold Pairc Ui Rinn in February to watch Cork lose a hurling match in the Allianz League.

The only exceptions are the women’s GAA teams, who are still good for a silverware homecoming in late autumn. But they are the exceptions that prove the new rule – Cork seems to be running out of steam.

Tell Cork people this and they’ll shoot you down with the latest good news stories. Such as, scheduled direct flights to the U.S. from Cork Airport for the first time in its history. This isn’t as good as it seems.

Back in February, the head of Norwegian Air arrived in Cork Airport and announced three flights a week to Providence, Rhode Island. It would have been fine if he left it at that. Unfortunately, Norwegian also announced 12 flights a week from Dublin and four from Shannon. Talk about pissing on someone’s parade. These flights were supposed to be about Cork catching up with other cities. Instead it was left further behind. The Limerick-Galway axis still has much better access to the States.

Business figures are quick to point out the cranes on the skyline as evidence that Cork is on the up. But appearances can be deceptive.

The first thing you notice about the new event centre is that there isn’t one. Enda Kenny, Simon Coveney and more turned out in February last year to turn the sod on a 6,000 arena, on the site of the old Beamish Brewery. The fact this was one week before the general election should have alerted us to what would happen next. Which is, basically, nothing. The site has remained untouched for over a year, with arguments over who should foot the bill.  It appears that Cork can’t organise an event centre in a brewery.

At least One Albert Quay got built. There was so much fuss made about this development, you’d swear it was going to be like One World Trade Center in New York, with knobs on. It is in fact a pleasant, seven storey glass box, the type that gets built in groups of 12 on Dublin’s Silicon Docks. It’s hardly world beating. The proposed new tower at Port of Cork will raise the skyline, but that won’t be enough.

Cork needs to do a Bilbao. Forget about the glass boxes and towers for a while. Instead, make a statement, with something like Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, a place that is more about swagger than function. Not only would that raise the bar and set a new tone for everything else around the place. It would be in tune with the old-school awkward, diamond in the rough, Cork. And it would be unlike anything else in Ireland right now.

Cork could take a lesson from Ronan O’Gara. He was the standout star of RTE’s Six Nations coverage. It’s not that he has more insight on the modern game; it’s his attitude that grabs your attention.

The modern pundit is supposed to be eager and positive. He subscribes to the notion that Ireland should be winning every game.  He is ready with a quick fix when we lose.

O’Gara refuses to play ball. He kind of slouches on his chair, like he is back in geography class, trying to get a reaction out of the teacher. You wouldn’t be surprised if he put a farting cushion under Eddie O’Sullivan.

His response when Ireland lost to Wales in the crunch Six Nations tie back in March?  It’s very hard to win away from home in the Six Nations. Another pundit might have tried to tell us why we struggled in the lineout or that something was wrong in our ‘fronting up.’ O’Gara just told us the truth. It’s hard to win away from home in the Six Nations. It turns out he’s infuriatingly right. Check the stats. Or just ask England.

Cork basically needs to do an O’Gara now. Stop playing ball, stop playing it safe. Rediscover a shot of the old crankiness. Channel the kind of risks the Corcadorca Theatre Company took in their staging of Enda Walsh’s play, The Same, in Cork’s old prison. Don’t open a Michelin star restaurant, open three of them.

Make the same statement that Donal Og Cusack made, when he shouted “We are Cork, we are Cork” at the Clare players during the parade before the 1999 Munster Hurling Final. That’s the kind of cocky madness that Cork needs right now. Because Limerick and Galway aren’t far behind.