Tuesday 17 July 2007

How can we live in the moment when Christmas starts in June?

Santa's Summer Holidays

Here we are trying to be good little citizens, keeping our heads down, building up our credit card bills, and generally doing what we are told.
Alongside that we willingly swallow all the hogwash that we are fed about what will make our lives longer and more liveable.
Together with all the traditional 'Don't smoke that fag you smelly toe-rag; get up and exercise more, you lazy piece of snivelling lardass' advice, we also absorb the happy smiley luvvy duvvy New Agey spectrum, which has us putting good things out into the universe (botty burps notwithstanding), washing our hair in tree bark extract (why, pray, are we meant to assume that tree bark is good for hair? On the rare occasions I have encountered tree bark close up, I've never suffered from the urge to rub my head on it.)
and aspiring to that greatest piece of New Age Old Hippy Ancient Eastern wisdom fusion: Being in the moment.
Sarcy remarks apart, I am a great believer of making the most of now. Having failed to decide whether I'm an atheist or a pantheist, I do believe that this life is all we have, and to live in the past, which we can no longer influence, or to live obsessed by the future in such a way as to guarantee a ticket out of here into some kind of everlasting future (see: all organised religion) is to miss the point.
But how the bleedin' hell am I meant to succeed when the society I live in cannot wait to drag me out of the present?
After the night of the 21st June, if one was to be a miserable anal-retentive stickler for statistic, one might say 'Ah now, da nights are drawing in, so they are!'
Equally, one might not, because we are still in the middle of summer, a fact we all realise the moment the nasty black cloud moves away from the sun, and we once more exclaim in empirical ecstasy: 'Wow! That sun is hot!'
On the morning of June 22nd, a few short hours after the longest day had passed, I was waltzing down the Prom when I spotted a large sign outside Leisureland, advertising the arrival of an ice rink for Christmas.
"Coming Soon!" it proudly declared.
As a regular Prom pounder, I will now have to look at this sign every day for the next six months. While I was, I suppose, grateful that they had waited at least a couple of hours past Midsummer's Day to advertise their rink, I could not miss the irony of that 'Coming Soon'.
There is not a single point of the year further from Christmas.
Despite my best efforts to appreciate the 'now', this Tigerish profit-driven greed and madness plunges me each day into a vortex that seeks to send me off to the cold dark days of winter before I've barely touched my summer.
Every year, the achingly dreadful inevitability of this glitzy modern mutation of a noble ancient holiday obscures the majesty of the calm dark season. I used to wish we could just one year transport Christmas to early July, just for the hell of it.
However, having seen a snow flake advertising Christmas in Galway in midsummer, I retract my wish.
Leave Christmas in December, and leave us to enjoy our summer and autumn.
Don't force us to wish our lives away before we can appreciate what is happening around us at this unique moment.
As the Arts Festival hits town, some of you might be planning a wee excursion to Connemara to escape the crowds.
Whatever the weather, it is simply impossible to feel let down by the sight of the Maamturks, the Pins, the lakes and the hills of Joyce's Country.
Sadly, however, it's extremely likely that you will enjoy an uneven experience whilst grabbing a bite in the area's pubs.
On a recent Sunday, the Snapper and myself hit the road and headed off towards Letterfrack, stopping for a pint and a toasted sarny in Keane's Pub at Maam, which commands a stunning view back over the valley.
With gentle courtesy, yer man poured me a most excellent pint of Guinness and herself a diet coke. She had a cheese toasty and I, being more of a glutton, splashed out on a ham and cheese.
Although they arrived in that old 1970's-style placcy wrap, both were excellent (the ham in mine was stuffed thick and tasted great), and himself behind the bar kindly produced a range of condiments: mustard, mayo, relish.
Fortified and relaxed, we set off, having parted with the exceptionally reasonable sum of ¤11.00, for both our drinks and toasties. For a while I went uncharacteristically quiet, once again pondering the benefits of life in the country.
Such childish notions were dispelled the next day, when we stopped in Oughterrard for some lunch. We have regularly enjoyed the burger at the Boat Inn, but on this occasion, we both ordered the Club Sandwich ("One without tomato, please." "What was that?" "One without tomato please." "Okay, so that's two club sandwiches, one without tomato?" "Yes, that's right, one without tomato, please!"), which coming with salad garnish and chips, cost ¤8.95.
We waited and we waited, wondering how long it might take to make a sandwich. To amuse ourselves and build up our expectations we once again read the description on the menu, and our hungers grew and grew.
When the two sandwiches arrived (30 minutes after they were ordered) I felt I had been propelled back in time to those dark gastronomic days of early '90's Ireland. The bread was semi-toasted on one side, soggy white and wet on the other. There was neither butter nor mayonnaise holding the sandwich together, and when the cold fatty slices of bacon and chunks of what appeared to be reconstituted chicken breast fell out from their damp bready hosts onto the plate, they looked as forlorn as we felt. Both came with tomato, and neither of us enjoyed any of it. We parted with just under 20 quid for two dud sandwiches, with drinks extra.
Hopefully it was just an off day at the Boat Inn.
In the past we have eaten well there, but the point is, such an apparent lack of consistency in quality and service will neither please our tourists nor encourage them to return.


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