Monday, 3 February 2014



At last I thought I was able to use that most archaic of Irish expressions: “Shame on you!”However, I’m not sure how it works when there’s more than one entity to blame.

Part of this particular shame is deserved by the waste management company who decided to supply plastic bags to their customers in the country.

The other tranche of blame and shame has to go to the customers who then stuff all their garbage into these bags, leave them outside for the dogs to rip apart and then fail to clean up the mess.

I don’t know who you are, but I know an unhealthy amount about you. Clearly you live near me, because you left your garbage bags close to my house. Ever since the storms, your life’s detritus has been drifting down the bohreen, lacing itself around the hedges, dowsing itself in the mud and puddles as, like a glacier of filthy sludge, it makes its slow but inexorable journey to my garden.

I know what you eat. I know you like those fancy shmancy crisps, and I know your favourite brand of yoghourt, what puddings you like and where you do your shopping. Unfortunately I also know which brand of disposable nappies you use, and I know the consistency of your baby’s turds.

How do I know all this?

I know this because when it became apparent that you were never going to clean up your mess, I did it myself.

Well, I cleaned most of it, up to the point where my own wheelie bin was crammed with your crap, my stomach churning, its contents gurgling and retching their way up to where they don’t belong.

So yes, I had to leave behind piles of your wretched rubbish, laying defiantly all over the ground as if it were sneering at me, teasing me with the absolute certainty that as the wind blows, it too will ooze and squelch its way towards my home.

The remaining mess is still up there, and you can't live far away, because it’s where you chose to leave your bags. You must see it every day.

Unless you are physically incapacitated and unable to clean it up, I say “Shame on you!”

Maybe the waste management company supply the bags because people can’t afford their wheelie bins. If that’s that case then they have a duty to ensure that their wheelie bins are offered at affordable rates. It’s just not good enough to offer your customers bags, when you know it’ll screw up the countryside.

Tragically, the hedgerows around this area are becoming strewn with long and expanding trails of trash, spreading like a vile disease that we humans have inflicted on our environment. 

So shame on you too, whichever company you are, for not giving a damn.

I’d better go easy on the shaming, because this is my first run out with the word. Well, no, I’ve used it many times in an English context, but never with the full force the word carries here in Ireland.

Of course originally it meant the same in England as it does here, but the two cultures use it differently now. Over there you’ll hear it all the time, in sentences like

“Oh what a shame, you missed your television programme!” or, more often, simply “That’s a bit of a shame, isn’t it?”

We English can still use the word as the Irish do, but here it carries a power and heat that demands it be used rarely and precisely.

I used it above because littering and the dumping of trash disgusts me, but even as I wrote it, I felt like an intruder, an interloper, because I’ll never really fully understand what the word ‘Shame’ means to the Irish.

I failed to grasp the significance of its Irish meaning until I watched that awful anti-drink driving advert on the TV: the one with young man playing football, then drinking pints, driving home drunk, hitting the kerb, another car and then rolling his car over a stone wall, crushing the little boy playing football in his garden. As the distraught father dashes out of the house to his dead child, the voiceover asks

“Could you live with the shame?”

The first time I saw it I was outraged. What on earth were they talking about? Who gave damn about the shame? It sounded to me as if they were more worried about what other people might think than the young boy lying dead on the ground, murdered by an irresponsible drunk driver. But clearly, as they’d chosen it as their tag line, the word shame meant something more to you than it did to me.

Then I noticed that on Facebook, people were posting the single word ‘SHAME’ in capital letters, and then others clicked that they 'liked' it. It completely mystified me, but I love the Irish and know you to be the most compassionate and caring of people, so I now know that nothing here is ‘a bit of a shame’.

Shame is powerful Irish voodoo, a legacy I suspect of the Church’s influence, a by-product of sinning, as the more secular and Protestant culture in England allowed the power of the word to diminish.

The Snapper returns from walking the dog.

“What is WRONG with these people?” she screams. “Up there, two miles onto the bog, they’ve just dumped a fridge, a cooker, piles of household waste and furniture. They live in such a beautiful place, so why do they make shite of it?”

Why indeed? Why fight for so long for independence and then waste your freedom by despoiling the very land you finally won back from your oppressors?

It’s beyond me. I know it’s powerful language, but all I can think of to say to all these vile polluters is 
“Shame on you.”

©Charlie Adley

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