“Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?”

Last night I cooked up a dinner that would shock my mother, who thinks my tastes are dainty: what we call “a big feed of bacon and cabbage and spuds” (boiled ham hock). I saved the ham stock for soups all week.

Summer is late at Lake Superior, but Autumn comes early. It’s about 11°C/50°F today, and the wind is whipping rollers and whitecaps on the lake. Great thunderstorms roll in in the evenings, knocking out the phone lines. The skies are grey. The campers and the college-student rangers have gone home. The animals are gobbling the rest of the harvest before winter.

It feels like the west of Ireland, like mornings walking the windy cliffs in Kilshannig, Co. Kerry. Last night I cooked up a dinner that would shock my mother, who thinks my tastes are dainty: what we call “a big feed of bacon and cabbage and spuds” (boiled ham hock). I saved the ham stock for soups all week.

At night I read the Brehon Laws and Brian Merriman’s poetry (and because I have the best sister in the world, I’m about to get an Amazon package with the Seamus Heaney translation I wanted). The stereo is stacked, five CDs deep, with Irish music, though I hardly realised until I listened to them all through. On No Prima Donna, a Van Morrison tribute album, I listen to Liam Neeson’s spoken-word cover of “Coney Island” (the real Coney Island, in Van’s northern Ireland). It is rapturous. If Lou Reed were Irish, this is how “Perfect Day” would have sounded. Suddenly I want to be drinking Guinness with soft-spoken people again. (You can get the MP3 here.)

On the same album, Sinéad O’Connor sings “You Make Me Feel So Free”, whispery Colin Farrell vocals backed by an over-the-top orchestra. I have a love-hate relationship with Sinéad, the poster child for neurotic Irish women, and this cover is dreadful. No amount of Nelson Riddle strings will convince me that she has ever felt free in her religion-addled life.

A Tired & Emotional Mary Coughlan takes modern Ireland to a Midnight Court of her own on her smoky Galway blues albums: “I want tah be se-jooced,” she purrs in an accent straight out of Ringaskiddy. She was faintly scandalous when I was growing up in the 1980s: a thirtysomething single mother, a blousy redhead who sang about drinkin’ and smokin’ and _men_. Gay Byrne clucked like an old hen whenever she was on _The Late Late Show_. Ireland has changed so much.

It is fourteen months since I was in Ireland, the longest I’ve ever gone without a visit. Time to go back soon. In the meantime, I’m halfway there.

10 thoughts on ““Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?””

  1. Could you please tell us what the phrase “…and the crack is good” means? I’m pretty confident ol’ Van isn’t interrupting his meditation on the beauties of nature and friends with a side trip to his pusher, but I can’t make out what he’s really trying to say. Thanks. (By the way, I’ve never heard this cover version, so I don’t know if that phrase made the transition from “Avalon” to “No Prima Donna”).

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  2. The “crack” is basically … well, fun. Drink-fuelled, loud, boisterous, but good fun.

    It used always be spelt “crack” but in the last ten years or so, there’s been a tendency to hibernicize the spelling – “craic”.

    When the crack is especially good, you’d say “Ah, the crack was ninety.” I have no idea where this phrase comes from. I’ve just enjoyed using it in front of people. Sometimes.

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  3. Bravo, R.

    “Crack” is often enjoyed at a “session”. Which is sort of a spontaneous happening when everything just seems to flow right at a gathering (often spontaneous). So “There was a great session down at Lock’s the other night. Everyone wsa there and the crack was ninety.”

    A person can also embody crack. “Oh you’ll have to meet so-and-so, she’s great crack.” About the highest compliment, I think.

    I am going to go back to Ireland and open a crackhouse.

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  4. Isn’t that ninety as in ‘ninety miles per hour’? No?

    Though I reckon I hear ‘the craic is mighty’ way more often than ‘ninety’. Maybe it’s just a Cork thing.

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  5. “Mighty” is a great Cork/Kerry/Galway term. Not used so much in Limerick or Dublin. I love it, though. I think I’ll seed “mighty crack” in northern Ontario. “Feck” is already taking nicely.

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  6. the ” Crack was ninety” is best illustrated in the song of the same name sang by various artists, my favourite being Paddy Reilly!!

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  7. Just came across this thread … and thought it might be as well to ensure for posterity that the origin of th term ‘craic’ went on record.
    Anglicised as ‘crack’, the term ‘craic’ comes from ‘ag buaileadh craiceann’ or ‘beating skin’. It is a reference to a highly private inter-personal (and usually inter-gender) activity which tends to promote mutual enjoyment, and sometimes progeny.
    But, there it is … buaileadh craiceann; an craic; the crack. All good fun really.

    Beir beannacht

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