Friday 20 April 2018

Tales (and fails) from a weekend in Wales

Katy Harrington

I've been in Wales once before. It was when I was very young and returning from a camping holiday in France with my family. The holiday had been a marginal success; I loved the pool, made friends and had a ball. My mother, whose expectations of what 'deluxe camping' meant were crushed when she saw our overwhelmingly brown mobile home, spent a lot of the time in tears. We arrived at Holyhead to see the ferry drawing up the vehicle ramp, like a giant whale shutting it's mouth. We didn't think my mum had any tears left in her, but in fairness to her she did. We found beds for the night in a creepy old country house where a group of men were so drunk they were playing golf in the garden with a shoe.

When I tell colleagues I am going to Cardiff for the weekend, their reactions worry me. 'I wouldn't stay in the centre after 8pm', one warns. In the first bar a teenager who looks like Tin Tin tries to chat my friend up (by asking her to follow him on Instagram) while his mate falls asleep on my shoulder. I lose my shirt there (literally), and we bar-hop up the street, counting 11 hen nights, one stag and five women dressed as the Spice Girls on the way. We arrive in an 'upmarket' place where cocktails are served in jam jars. The place has a few things going for it though - about two dozen rugby players on a team night out, each wearing a more revolting Hawaiian shirt than the next, but as they say, it's what's underneath that counts.

I play a game betting each of them I can pick them up. One after the next, I lift 18 stone, wardrobe-size men off the ground. At least one of them seems impressed, but not as impressed as I am with myself. We make new friends with every trip to the loo and every cigarette we smoke, we almost get bored of people telling us they love our accents. We arrive back at our hotel about 4am and are just about to call it a night when my friend points across the street at a nightclub called Glam. Having spent the last hazy hours of our weekend in Cardiff there, I can state fairly certainly that the name is ironic.

The shame of being a traitor to my kind

By Aine O'Connor

Music to me is powerful, personal and one of the great joys of life. Songs that I love, I really love, songs that I hate, I really hate, certain genres feel like they scratch against my soul and make me feel wonky. For instance, sacrilege in some circles though it be, I don’t like much reggae, may the guardians of ganja have mercy on my soul.

No surprise then that since first discovering the joys of the Walkman in the 1980s, I have been a passionate devotee of portable music. I see people who walk around with no tunes and marvel because I can’t really walk, let alone achieve any level of briskness, if not amped up by a soundtrack. I do disconnect when interaction is inevitable, like in shops, because it seems rude to be in front of people and tuned to something else, so to speak.

All these things were at play when I stepped into a suburban branch of an American chainstore to be greeted by a pulsing soundtrack of some kind of R&B. I didn’t like the music, the volume seemed slightly overwrought for a shop but it was the song content that grated most. Some bloke was rapping in detail about the sexual practices he wanted to indulge in with a passing female. He didn’t want her to chat and was offering erm, a kind of silencer, as prelude to another activity he was keen on. And he wasn’t using either the Latin or biological terminology. It was loud, repetitive, graphic and misogynistic. And apparently an entire album of the same sentiment, not just a random escapee from someone’s music library.

I’m not overly sensitive to sexual references or swearing. I didn’t have a child with me and

anyway my kids are of an age to fully understand the songs. But it felt weird and wrong to have that screamed at me in a shop. It was almost like a challenge, a staff dare to anyone who might like to take offence. And I buckled. I didn’t want to be the middle-aged frau who tutted loudly and made a show of stomping out. I didn’t want to be the one who asked for the manager. But I did mind and I did leave. And afterwards I felt like a traitor to my kind, the middle-aged frau.

My big achievement would be to shut my mouth

By Eleanor Goggin

I’ve never been shy about vocalising my opinions. Sometimes I don’t have any opinions at all because I’m not up to speed on what people are discussing, and then I shut up. But if I think I’m a connoisseur on any subject, then there’s no stopping me. I waffle.  And I fill in all the silences. With more waffle.

And then I often find myself losing the plot and imparting information about myself and my family and all our foibles. Just to fill the gaps. And I now realise, a little too late, that I’ve been doing it for years. Way back to when the kids were small. If somebody was regaling us with some tale of a child’s minor misdemeanour, I would go one better with all of my kid’s awful antics and my own shortcomings as a mother. Sending them out knocking on doors to find their own babysitter, shovel brought down on another child’s head in playschool, going on the hop from playschool, robbing a fiver from the local shop’s till aged five. Stuff like that.

The other mothers shut up and kept their counsel, leading us to believe their kids were about to be beatified. Sometimes I saw them glancing at one another in horror at my gruesome tales. Give me a few drinks and I’d start adding legs. When the Leaving Cert results came out, other mothers merely stated that their kids had done well despite the fact that they hadn’t. I, on the other hand, tried to buy points and I thought I was hilarious.

I must add that I am never tempted to share secrets that I’ve been asked to keep. People would have to kill me for that information, but when it comes to myself, I have no sense of propriety. Problems ‘down there’, disastrous romantic or not-so-romantic encounters, times I’ve made a complete eejit of myself. I hang it all out to dry. Mostly starting the disclosures with, “I shouldn’t be telling anyone this, but . . .”  And off I go. I get so carried away that I’m not even sure if their eyes are glazing over and they are pinching other people to rescue them. Who cares when you’re on a roll.


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