Sunday, 27 February 2022

How to be Irish #498: Can you feel the Feck?

Thanks as always to Allan Cavanagh at

Two questions. That’s all I had, when I arrived here, back in ‘92. 

A newly-appointed newspaper columnist, wholly ignorant of all things Ireland and Irish, I condensed my gaping inadequacies into two simple questions.

Yet in your obfuscatory paradoxical Irish way, you failed to answer both, offering only nebulous enigma as solutions.  

At least, that’s how it sounded to my English ears at the time.

"What’s the Left/Right difference between the civil war parties?"


"Why do you wimp out and say feck when you really mean fuck?"

Responses to the first came in the predictable shape of that ahhh you have to go back to the Treaty claptrap, which was of absolutely no use to me.

As a political animal I had to write about the politics of today’s nation, without going on about a treaty signed 70 years ago. I was left utterly clueless about what anybody was and nobody was not.

The other answer was short, precise, yet no more illustrative.

'Feck? Oh sure, yeh, y’see, feck is different.'

'Oh really. Don’t think so.'

'Yeh ’tis.'

'Well how is it, and why is it different, then?’

'It’s errrrr, ohhhhh, emmmm, hard to explain, like, dy’see.'

'Never. Go on, surprise me.'

I neither expected nor really wanted clarification anyway.  

Clarity’s for wimps.

30 years later I not only know the answer, but feel it too. In fact, I now know that I couldn't fully know the answer to feck until I felt it. 

Just now I was walking the beach. My lungs were raging painfully in protest at the freezing cold wind, forced upon them by my spirit, which demanded I make the most of low tide without a soul in sight.  

A few months from now this beach will never be empty. There will be camper vans in the upper car park for months on end, and many other humans who, much to my flagrant begrudgery, also have the right to enjoy the beach.

But right now there’s nobody; not a single soul on a Sunday morning.
Walking on, now with the wind at my back, I enjoy
rare minutes of sunshine, as clouds rush and tumble across the sky.  

Apart from making sure to occupy and appreciate this natural bliss, I’m thinking about the What’sApp message I sent my brother earlier.

We were texting about pruning apple trees, and I said I’d be at it too, as soon as the feckin’ wind dropped.

Down on the beach I realise he’d probably think of it as a crude curse, a tiny blade less fierce than its Anglo-Saxon cousin.

But I now know what it is.

I felt it when I wrote it.
I feel feck ergo I understand feck. 

Yet like the Irish, I couldn’t necessarily explain it, exactly.

You’ve given me a signed stamped certificate saying I’m Irish, and a passport which confirms it, but the two reasons I can no longer say I’m English through and through have nothing to do with paperwork.

Conjoined with the feeling of feck is the Irish non-verbal verbal experience.

From the moment I arrived in Galway, I noticed how people sometimes offered agreement by sucking a sharp intake of breath onto the roof of their mouths, loud enough to be heard, yet too soft to be spelled.

I wrote about it in Double Vision, back in 2017, when I first spotted myself involuntarily doing the hissy thing, to show concord. Ireland had changed my breathing patterns.

Now I feel the feck.

Another level of assimilation. altogether, so it is now.

Behave Adley. Be respectful.

I’ll always be English, Jewish and proud of both, but now my Irish is engrained in body and mind.


 ©Charlie Adley


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