Focail in mo cluas
No, you haven’t suddenly developed a reading difficulty or the writer has not become completely ga ga ( yet) You are in fact getting a quick lesson in Gaelic. First though you need to get used to the pronunciation, so here it is phonetically
Fookle in ma Cloosh
When I first heard it I was in Wexford. It typified the day, because it was a time of great mirth and merriment and to hear a word which sounded vaguely rude was NOT unexpected. But it is actually not rude at all because” focail in mo cluas” means having a word in someone’s ear!
The Irish certainly have a way of using strong language in a most expressive fashion however and yet it never seemed offensive! Sometimes they would use a derivative and say “feck” but you nevertheless knew where the origins were. II had heard them described them as feckless – and I have only just realised that this is truer than I knew, for they certainly do not give a feck for much of what authority wishes them to do!
Returning to the day in Wexford where I first heard the expression “Focail in mo cluas” I had better tell you that it all happened in the most perfect of Irish situations- in a bar – out of licensing hours, with the doors locked firmly so that the gardai would not bother us, and with an amazing band of musicians plus guests.
Quite honestly I cannot think of a better way to spend a sunday afternoon – apart from the fact that as the designated driver I was condemned to drinking coke and other ghastly fizzy drinks, whilst those around me drank smooth and creamy Guinness and wholesome Irish whisky. Despite that minor setback it was still one of those magical moments which will remain with me for a long while.
In addition to great music we had the delight of meeting some of Wexford’s characters and they certainly made the afternoon even more memorable. So if you ever get across to Wexford make sure that you seek out the Viking and ask for Betty (hmm if you do ever decide to go there then I will give you her surname as well) and her friends and family. You will not be disappointed, in fact you had better take along some sanity tablets, because those wonderful Wexford people will take you on a journey into the state of foolishness in a matter of moments!
Betty is the leader of her family and she is also a remarkable testament to the strength of women the world over. Now don’t get me wrong, she is not some Gandhi like character, providing help and advice to her children. She is something completely different – an Irish woman who knows how to live life to its fullest, and who has a sense of mischief about her that would put any darned leprechaun to shame!
Over the space of two or three hours she had us in fits of laughter almost continually, whether she was describing her brushes with the Gardai ( the police) or her escapades with family and friends. Betty is one of those wonderful people who live life according to their own rule book, and we all can live much from them – if we have the courage to just break out occasionally!
We had been sitting quietly sipping our drinks when Betty first cast her shadow across our table – She greeted her daughters at the next table with a slight groan and announced to the bar in general that she was not sure whether she was alive or dead. Last night had been quite riotous apparently and as she explained “Jesus, I thought I was dying – so I had to come here to make sure that I wasn’t. And when I have had a drink I know I am not!”
With an opening like that we knew that we were in for some amusing times, and we weren’t mistaken! It turned out that the three women were all trying to recover somewhat from a night which had gone on quite late – a night which had seen one sister locked out of her room and another sister who had obviously partied too well.
With that as a scene setter I shall now let you into some of the stories which cracked us up. Every time we thought we had laughed ourselves to a standstill Betty or Lucinda or Sharron would start another which would have us howling with laughter once more. And all the while we were being treated to a feast of music which was amazing.
It was such a heady mixture – brilliant musicianship and then between songs we would have yet another tale of magic and mayhem. Perhaps the only thing we did wrong that day was to turn down their invitation at the end of our stay to cancel our hotel reservations and instead head back to their village where we would have a much better evening!
Betty was the focal point of the stories, but each of the people we met all had their own amazing vitality. Lucinda the eldest daughter was celebrating her birthday and her divorce from her husband. After 16 years of marriage 4 children and years of subjugation she was finally free – “Thank Feck” shouted Betty “Good riddance to that useless S.O.B.”
Both Sharon and Lucinda were learning computing in an attempt to get themselves ready for new jobs – We have even been able to exchange emails from their college and so they will be able to get their own copies of this ramble.
In amongst all this we also met Frank – the oldest inhabitant of the bar – who joined us and drank his cider and laughed and joined in the wonderment that we felt. Frank was 94 and had suffered a stroke which had stopped him from his traditional Christmas day plunge into the harbour – that had been ten years back, but he still managed to look after himself. He was delighted to meet some English people for he was originally from England – he had come to Ireland fifty years back – to marry a beautiful Irish lady – and had stayed ever since.
But back to Betty and just a few of her stories – One day she was stopped by the local garda, who noted that she had not got her seat belt on – a punishable offence in Ireland – “Jesus,” she exclaimed. “And here I am just a few weeks after me mastectomy – and you are expecting me to hurt myself with a belt.” The Garda apologised and just waved her on. Needless to say Betty was still double breasted when we met her – so it was that quick thinking that saved her the bother of a fine!
Or there was the time that she was on a beach in Spain and a guy decided that she was an easy conquest. “Hey darling – do you want a ride?” he shouted over at her.
Betty just looked up at him and said ” Have I got any fucking pedals on me?” and the onlookers burst into hysterics. Exit one shamefaced smartass!
Or there was the time that Betty chose to drive home from her local bar after perhaps one or two drinks too many. It was a quiet afternoon and she was driving very carefully and slowly – which of course attracted the attention of the Garda. They pulled her over and she rushed to the offensive.
“Thank God you have come” she said ” I need to get home – I am a diabetic and I need my insulin. Will you help me?” The garda duly escorted her home – and Betty flouted authority yet again.
Now we were starting to disbelieve the tales – they just seemed so improbable – But Betty’s daughters just nodded and one leaned forward and said ” What the feck do ya do with a mum like this – It’s all true and
there is much much more we could tell you.”