Monday, June 27, 2011

Proud to Be Murkan

I was listening to an interesting documentary on the radio the other night about how island life is dying out on some of the smaller islands around Ireland's coast. Many of the islanders have had to move to the mainland in search of work, and restrictions put in place by the EU have negatively affected the lives of the fishermen and their families. All very serious stuff. The documentary maker interviewed a range of people on this island off Ireland's northwest coast, including some of  the island's teens. And then, once again, I found myself Gripped By Rage. Because while the rest of the islanders spoke with the lovely, melodic, instantly-identifiable tones of County Donegal, the Youth of the Island had a bizarre, distinctly American twang - the accent I like to call 'Murkan': it's not American, no, it's not. No matter how hard you try.

You see, the Youth of Ireland have been hit by a virus: the Murkan Accent. Fighting my way through a flock of schoolchildren in Dublin, I was surprised at the number of young American teens dressed in Irish school uniforms. Double check: they weren't American, they were Irish - imitating a weird kind of American accent. Because, like, it's, like, so kewl and awesome to, like, talk, like, like this. This rendered even more bizarre because none of the Americans I know (and I know a few) speak like this. And any I have heard speak like this were featured in "reality shows" (whose reality is this?) on MTV.

So what's going on here? Obviously, it's far cooler to be from, say, New York than Termonfeckin, Co. Louth. But there's nothing wrong with being from Termonfeckin, Co. Louth (have never been there, but with a name like that, it's on my To Do list). And there's nothing wrong with sounding like you come from Termonfeckin, Co. Louth - as long as other people understand you. Pretending to be from Manhattan when you're actually from Termonfeckin, Co. Louth, leads me to wonder if you just don't like who you are and where you're from ... and that makes me a bit sad.

In any case, many teens don't like who they are and where they're from - that's what you learn on the first day of How To Be A Teenager, isn't it? The ironic thing is that the small towns of South Dakota and Wisconsin and Iowa and Tennessee are probably chock-full of bored teenagers who would give their eye-teeth to be from somewhere as glamorous and exotic as Termonfeckin, Co. Louth, and they all probably speak the same way Irish teenagers are trying to (not sure about Tennessee - I haven't yet heard a teenage Paddy try to ape a Nashville accent. Yet.)

Sadly, though, Murkanism is spreading upwards and now I hear an increasing number of portly, middle-aged Irish people developing a strong, misplaced Murkan accent. As a result, I have put together a short guide for Irish readers. This is a set of guidelines, not rules, and they do not apply to American readers - you might be able get away with it. We can't. Therefore I would strongly recommend that after the age of 16, my fellow Irish people cease and desist using any of the following:

Wordless Anecdotes
Use your words. In your indoor vioce. Find a few choice verbs, stir in a couple of pronouns and sprinkle liberally with adjectives. Season with adverbs and recount to your friends.

Please do not flap your hands à la a Miss Universe pageant queen, while breathlessly crying, "Oh! Emm! Geee!" If moved thusly, I am sure the Almighty will not smite you for taking his name in vain, but do this all too often and He might fling a bolt of lightning at you in temper.
Or maybe I will in His stead.
You have been warned.

Excessive Intonation
I once read that this bizarre trend originated in popular Aussie soap operas. I don't want to point the finger unjustly at our Antipodean friends, but if this is the case - could you swig by and take this back, please? I'm used to identifying questions by a slick combination of auxilliary verbs (do and did are among my favourites) and a nifty little thing called rising intonation at the end of the sentence. Now that it has become so cool to intonate every statement like a question, I am left quite bewildered when someone says, "I'm hungry? I think I'll eat something?" because I don't know whether they know if they're hungry or whether they're asking me if they are. It's very tiresome. Please stop it.

A Plethora of Likes

In this harsh economic era, the government of Ireland is struggling to make up the country's enormous budget deficit. I have an idea: simply fine people €1,000 for the misuse of the words like (you can use one per sentence), seriously and literally. Any Irishperson who uses the word awesome, particularly those over the age of 30, will be fined €5,000 on the spot. There are a lot of appropriate adjectives that don't sound silly with a Galway or Offaly accent: brilliant, for example. Wonderful. Great. Terrific. Marvellous. Even the much-maligned nice. At a pinch, you could say something was grand. I'd even accept amazing, but it makes me nervous.

P.S. I know I've used italics a lot in this post - I probably shouldn't get so het up. Sorry.

iPad and MyPad

Let me start by saying that I have never drunk a cup of Starbucks coffee. I "took agin" Starbucks at some point and I can't even remember why any more. I think I was offended at the price of their coffee and their vulgarly large mugs. In addition, I had a college friend who was convinced that Starbucks was secretly plotting to take over the world: they're not a hip and indie little company from Seattle, oh no - the profits from Starbucks go towards some mega-mogul's gold-plated yacht. In my head, this mysterious mogul calls himself Daddy Starbucks and he lies on a sun-lounger on the deck of his yacht smoking Cuban cigars, while silicone-implanted ladies in tiny bikinis do the Macarena on the bow of the ship. I don't know why I have this image, but it's hard to fork out fistfuls of euros for a cup of coffee that I can make in my own house (three minutes away) when Daddy Starbucks is cackling wildly in the back of my mind and making the bikini girls do the hokey cokey.

Anyway, while my brother John and Father Gingerbread see Steve Jobs of Apple as a Visionary of Our Time, Mr Jobs is my husband's Daddy Starbucks. I have not taken agin Mr Jobs - I don't feel threatened by a man in turtleneck sweaters - but Mr Gingerbread was unusually tight-lipped at my decision to line the coffers of the Apple Inc by buying an iPad. And let me add that I am possibly the only person in the world who has only bought the iPad for work: I've no interest in playing games on it and the only apps (see how I bandy the techno jargon about already!) I've downloaded (for free!) so far are e-readers to peruse the extensive and free collection of literary classics ... and a calculator.

Having said that, though, I must admit (whisper it) that I love it. I love it. Since I bought it four days ago, I've been going in and out to my husband telling him all the stuff it can do:
"... And then, see, there's this programme here, see, and you can take a picture of a leaf and then the iPad tells you what kind of tree it comes from. And look at this, look, this is the solar system. You can look at the stars and it'll tell you what you're looking at and, look - you're not looking! - this is an encyclopaedia of animals. Look, that's a muskrat. Cool, eh? And, look here's a - "
He steers me back to my desk: "That's nice, dear. Have fun."
"But, no, wait, look - here's a collection of historical maps of the world. Look, you can see Germany in 1752, look - "

So I decided to risk the Sweater Curse and make my iPad a jumper out of some of the tiny scraps of colourful sockyarn I had left over from my scrap yarn projects:

It is deceptively simple: it actually involved complex maths. (At least, I found them complex - but that's not saying a lot.) I also had to make a couple of odd little three-quarter squares in order to ensure a neat opening. In other words, a new pattern is brewing for a neat little pouch, purse, book-bag or cozy.

And even though today, Sunday, is supposed to be a day of rest, we put down new tiles on our balcony, finally making it a place to rest. Mother Pigeon was very distressed by all fuss and noise, but the little biddy didn't budge.


It's still quite bare and empty (and the posts for railings are missing), but it's only a matter of time before I add to my extensive collection of 5 (five) plants and build a little herb garden in the corner.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pigeons and Knookular Power: Learning Something New Every Day

Thanks to everyone who commented on the pigeon post. You certainly do learn something new every day. Thanks to Elisabetta, I now realise that we will be among the precious few to actually see baby pigeons (apparently the world is full of people wondering why they never get to see baby pigeons. It's true - look at this. If you belong to the muddled masses that are confounded by the lack of pigeon offspring, do not fret: baby pigeons exist.) I now know that Mother Pigeon spends her day gallivanting whilst Father Pigeon stays at home and minds the nest, which rather endears me to the Pigeon Family because if there are ever any baby Gingerbreads, we hope to follow their very modern example. ('cept, of course, that I'll keep the gallivanting to a minimum.) What else? Well, the news that Mrs Piegon is probably crawling with bird mites did make my skin crawl (and I have a can of disinfectant spray ready to douse the wall they're housed on) but this does not seem to repulse the creative crocheter at The Pigeon Loft (thanks Tintock Tap!), who has a pigeon for every taste. I mean, pigeons are kind of creepy as it is, but doubly so when dressed as Darth Vader.

So what have I been up to, then? I'm crocheting a lot, but I hope to have a new pattern up in the next week or so, so I'll blog about that later. I spent today pottering about the house, doing domestic things like tending to my plants:

 ... and although that might make me seem all Earth Mothery, I certainly (and sadly) am not. I only have five plants and these I possess by sheer dint of their contrariness: they just will not die. In fact, the basil seems intent on thriving, just to spite me and my black fingers (i.e. the opposite of green fingers)

 ... baking. We had two dozen yesterday. Today there's five. 'Nuff said.

... and knitting. I'm back to battling with DPNs. I actually came up with a plan of action, whereby I'd split sock making into a series of steps and do and redo each step till I felt confident to move on to the next. I found an apropriate pattern for an appropriately small sock (for swift gratification) and have spent the past four days working on the cuff: rib, rip, rib, rip. Finally, I have an acceptable cuff and can move on to the next bit. I was tremendously proud of my double-pointed dexterity, till I popped over to Rachel's blog and saw the sock she had knitted WITHOUT A PATTERN and - prepare to be astounded - USING A TWIG.


Wowzers, eh? 
I got a bit excited there, so I'd better explain: this sock was knooked and because Rachel is a very capable and clever person, she also made her own knook-hook from a twig from her garden (I suspect Rachel's fingers are far greener than mine, based on the photos on her blog. I could try to fashion a hook from a sprig of basil but I'm sceptical about my chances of success.)