I've suggested that people whose reflexes are a bit slower than average may be 'more thoughtful'. I'm not cut out for most of the computer games which my children play because I don't think fast enough. That doesn't make me stupid but I work better if given [an infinite amount of] time to come up with solutions to problems. Pub quizzes, at which I have had some success, don't give you an infinite amount of time to answer but at least the response time is not in the millisecond range. We spent Christmas this year in Tramore Co. Waterford with Pat the Salt, my aged father-in-law. Insofar as possible we went traditional so the old chap wouldn't be disorientated by the pace and sequence of the day. We were The Beloved, Dau.I and Dau.II, one of their cousins who is returning to Ireland after years In Foreign, and myself. Traditional Christmas in Ireland means lots of alcohol, plenty of saturated animal fat, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts and more alcohol. Christmas day is one of a diminishing number of 'black days' in Ireland when alcohol cannot be sold: the response is to lay in plenty and consume it at home.
Although there was plenty milk, eggs, meat and potatoes; in the middle of Christmas afternoon we exposed a frightening commissariat error - no butter. We made do with chicken fat until the following day. 26th December is St Stephen's Day and some sections of the retail sector come to life, so mid-morning the girls and I set off in the car to find butter in one of the corner shops. Actually the girls were in the car because I'd promised to take them along the coast for a dip in the ocean at Garrarus Strand. As we left the house, I noticed a handful of people and family groups lining up along the street. I paused opposite one couple, rolled down the window and called out
" 'unt!" the woman replied.
That's no way to address a stranger.
I must have looked shocked, which I was, or stupid because after a pause she elaborated that the Waterford Hunt was about to pass by on the Stephen's Day traditional start from Tramore. That's not something you see every day, so I parked the car and we waited until 20+ people on horse-back and an equivalent number of hounds passed by in pursuit of a fox. We then continued on our way to the beach splashing through the evidence that a lot of horses had been using the street.
After getting cold and wet on the beach, we returned home having succeeded in finding a block of butter in the second shop we tried. That ensured that another tradition could be properly observed: massive sandwiches full of cold meat, stuffing, pickles and other left-overs are not really effective unless the bread is generously buttered. It is the one exception to the rule "Never eat anything larger than your head."
Although it is hard to get butter on St Stephen's Day, you'll have no difficulty buying a designer hand-bag or a set of cook-pots. At 0900hrs on this day of Christmas many of the larger department stores open up for their post-Christmas Sales. Driving home from Tramore after the holiday, I caught a report on this recent phenomenon for the support of the capitalism juggernaut.. The talk-show host was interviewing the Consumer Affairs correspondent for The Irish Times.
"It's not me", she was saying, "For me, St Stephen's day is about staining your pyjamas"
Whaa'? And then I twigged that on St Stephen's Day, she preferred to "stay in, in her pyjamas". Must get my ears reamed out. . . . or teach everyone around me sign-language.
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