KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
It’s a familiar enough scenario: you meet somebody who you’ve met before, but you can’t for the life of you remember their name. Which is fine, until you meet them again, and again, and then suddenly the whole charade has gone way, way too far for you to ever enquire after their name. So you learn to live in constant fear of somebody new entering your circle, and you having to introduce your apparent best friend to them — and at the same time, you insist on hanging around the fringes of their company in the diminishing hope that some day, somebody else will drop their name into the conversation. Well, that is where I currently am with the Féile.
What I should have done, a year ago, back when somebody in the GAA club first said, ‘And of course next year, we have Féile,’ was raise my trembling, ignorant hand and admit, ‘Hey, I have no idea what that is.’ But of course I didn’t. Instead, I nodded sagely, along with everyone else, as though this was the news I had been waiting to hear ever since I was born.
And since then, whenever I’m reminded that of course, I have Féile this year, I have acknowledged the imminent arrival of this mysterious event with a world-weary shrug that suggests, ‘Hey, as if I don’t have enough things to think about.’
I know that Féile has something to do with the GAA and, through a process of elimination — The Teenager has abandoned camogie and The Youngest never took to it — I presume it involves The Boy. Sure enough, he has already attended two discos in the club, fundraisers for Féile. I threatened to volunteer as a steward at the more recent one, mainly to wind up The Boy, but also because I hoped that I might overhear something there that would offer me some sort of a clue as to what Féile actually involves. But The Boy, in turn, threatened not to go if I was involved and so the sum of my Féile knowledge still consists of the fact that it is almost upon me. Actually, there was a supplementary piece of evidence: a couple of weeks back, to the backdrop of carhorns blaring through the parish on a Sunday morning, a friend texted me, ‘The girls won Féile!’ In the end, delighted as I was for them, I decided this
You meet the same person again, and again, and then the whole charade has gone too far to ever ask their name
unexpected piece of information was simply too confusing and so I mentally rejected it.
I suspect that my mind might be more open to information about Féile if there wasn’t a significant chunk of it that, every time I hear the word, harks back to Thurles at the very start of the 1990s and a couple of summer festivals that came to define a particularly wild, wonderful and utterly carefree time in my life. Even now, whenever I am in Semple Stadium at a match, I still look around the stadium and remember where I was, who I was with and who was on stage at the time. A couple of years ago, I told The Boy, sitting beside me watching a game, about the time I saw a man climb out onto the very edge of the roof of the stand and then drop like a stone to the ground. Miraculously, he survived unscathed, but it was one of the most chilling things I have ever seen and I still can’t hear the band World Party — whose set was interrupted by the accident — without recalling it. And now The Boy, who wasn’t even born when it happened, cannot sit in the Ó Riain Stand without summoning up the image of it either.
One bad memory, a million brilliant ones. I have a thick folder of photographs — remember them? — that recall those festivals in all too vivid technicolour. I dusted them off recently to prove to The Teenager that I really did use to hang around with Jack Knife Lee (or Gareth, as he was in those days) and had to keep a good few back, lest my children realise what a joyous, overweight, underdressed, slightly drunk, black-haired, punky creature their mother used to be. They were looking at the censored photos when my neighbour and chief GAA cakemaker called in search of her son. ‘Do we need to make cakes for Féile?’ I asked her hopefully, a fat bunch of madly incriminating photos behind my back. ‘Of course not,’ came the baffled reply.
And now it us upon us. This is Féile weekend. And I have no idea what to expect. But then, as that tattered collection of wonderfully happy snaps testifies, it was ever thus.