The Fielder: Nothing beats chewing the fat on New Year's Eve
I always look forward to New Year's Eve, for two reasons mainly. Firstly, any man who can't find himself a girl on one of the nation's dance floors at midnight may as well hang up the smelly aftershave, good check-shirt and Brylcreem and feck off to the priesthood. To use one of my previous quotes, the women are 'easier than foundation maths'.
If you're lucky, there'll be a flock of jersey-pullers out, who may just remember you came off the bench and kicked two points against Westmeath in the National League that year. Then once that countdown starts, it's on like Donkey Kong.
In every house there are traditions. Some are hateful, like our annual game of post-Christmas dinner charades. We've played it since I was a suck calf. It's always me and the brothers against the mother and father and the winners control the Sky remote for the evening. Last week we ended up watching 'Strictly Come fecking Dancing', so you can take it that we were bet. I mean how hard is it to get The Hobbit when I'm pointing furiously at my vertically challenged brother, aka 'The Stump'? What a numpty.
Some traditions though are great. None more so than our New Year Fry-up which has in recent years become known as the grease-a-thon. At about 11.0am on New Year's Eve the neighbours land in our kitchen for a fry so outrageous that it'd give cholesterol cholesterol.
There is always silence for the first 20 minutes or so as each and every man, woman and child wedged around the grand table horses into platefuls of rashers, sausages, eggs, hash browns, pudding, beans and more ketchup than was used in the making of Jaws. Last year we blew the fuse in the kettle so we've three ready to go this week to keep up with demand. There's sure to be a slurry-tank full of tea consumed.
I'll be getting the good hair gel and man smells out too. Young Smith from down the road is materialising into a fine bit of stuff and her family is due to make an appearance; the midnight maul could be sewn up 12 hours early!
What I really look forward to though is the conversation. After the magnificent feast the talk turns towards reflection and anticipation. Looking back on the year behind and looking forward to the year ahead. As we're country folk, the subject matter will almost always consist of either the trials and tribulations of Irish agriculture; or the sporting year ahead. So what, I hear you ask will be the big talking points at the grease-a-thon?
On the farming side of things we'll be delighted to see the back of 2013. As you may remember, the fodder crisis was a particularly tough time for us. In the spring, silage was scarcer than tits on a bull and I won't be sorry in forgetting about being sent to mow the neighbour's lawn whilst she was at work; cautiously collecting the grass for our starving sucks.
Myself and the father have lit a candle at every single Mass since in the hope that it won't happen in again 2014. We even managed to hijack a prayer of the faithful at Aunty Petunia's funeral, God rest her.
We pray that Aunty Petunia will find peace and everlasting happiness in heaven . . . and that the spring of 2014 will be a good one for farmers in Ireland and that there'll be enough silage in the pit . . . Lord hear us.
Having said that, the scorching summer that followed positively pulled the grass out of the ground for four months straight. Like most farmers, we have more silage than you can shake a rolled-up match programme at. The walls of the pit are shaking under the pressure of an ocean of grass packed in tighter than 50s in a politician's wallet. So bar you see Noah getting the Ark out on St Brigid's Day and sailing her northbound up the M50, there shouldn't be any mention of a fodder crisis next year. But we're getting the lawnmower serviced next week, just in case.
Worryingly for Irish beef farmers, the high cost of production doesn't look like easing any time soon. This coupled with relatively stagnant prices and a drop in consumption means that 2014 as well as the years that follow will be a telling time for us. So I urge you, from the bottom of my heart, the next time you are in the chipper at 4.0am on a Sunday morning, half cut with a young one hanging out of you, ask the, er, chef where his beef is coming from.
If he says anywhere but Ireland, you lambaste him with abuse like your life depends on it and urge everyone there to do the same.
There'll no doubt be plenty of sporting chit chat at the grease-a-thon too. For the week that's in it, there are sure to be plenty of tips for horses flying around.
"This lad stays like an asylum seeker, he won't be beaten."
"My sister-in-law knows the wife of the fella who tarmac'd the jockey's neighbour's driveway and he says the horse has a good chance."
Of course talk will turn to Gaelic football and dreams of hoisting silverware atop the steps of a certain Mr Hogan's house. Teams will be picked and the draw will be studied meticulously. Every possibility will be painstakingly worked out to the extent that both the provincial and All-Ireland championships will be won over a Bourbon Cream and a mug of strong tea in the dying embers of December.
"Sure look, he'll mark him and cancel him out. That's worth five points to us."
"It should be windy in there in July when we get to the final. Their 'keeper won't be able to kick long in the first half if we win the toss."
Who knows what 2014 will bring? Success, romance, wealth, silage?
Here's hoping there's plenty of good tales to share!
Happy New Year to you and yours.
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