The other people at the long communal breakfast table were talking about the new buzz for walking alpacas. These are a furry four-legged species of animal from South America, but they’re in Ireland in some abundance now. These days, it seems, you can go for a walk with an alpaca — one of the 20-something diners explained — and she’d heard that in some places you could even get a glass of prosecco at the end of your walk. It was, like, supposed to be very relaxing, she observed.
My husband looked bewildered. Why would you want to pay money to go for a walk with an alpaca, he wanted to know. And, he inquired, why would you get a glass of Prosecco at the end of it? It was all supposed to be calming, the girl said. Alpacas are a very de-stressing kind of animal, she’d heard. Lovely and fluffy, too, like.
There were companies all over the country now offering people the chance to walk an alpaca in nature. My husband’s face was a picture. He just didn’t get it. Any of it.
Yep, Celtic Tiger mania was back, we all concluded. As another example of this, one person mentioned how one venue offering Afternoon Tea for Mother’s Day was also including Prosecco in the menu — but wasn’t Afternoon Tea supposed to be, er, tea, we pondered? The clue is in the name — so how did alcohol come into it?
Another diner described the latest trend for ‘booking’ a table in a pub and ordering a bottle of Grey Goose. “But why would you book a table in a pub?” I asked, a bit surprised.
“Ah, ya know,” said the 20-something in a superb faux Dublin Four accent. “It’s like the thing, now.”
“But why Grey Goose?” my husband asked. “What was so special about it?”
It was a kind of posh vodka made in France they told him. The whole table-booking thing with the bottle of Grey Goose was Very Big in Vegas. “Vegas?” he asked, utterly bewildered.
The 20-something imitated the Dublin Four accent again: “You know, just, like book a table for the gang, like, and order, like, a bottle of Grey Goose. It’s the big thing in Vegas.”
When we got home on Bank Holiday Monday, we found the son very quiet in himself.
“What’s wrong?,” I wanted to know.
Oh, he was just exhausted, he said. He’d been working in the pub over Paddy’s Weekend and it’d been crazy.
“How was it crazy?,” we asked.
“Oh, just crazy busy,” he said wearily and went upstairs to pack for his return to college.
We heard later that a lot of people had started drinking from the early afternoon, once the local parade was over; some people went absolutely nutso on the drink, somebody said. And not just mad young ones out on the tear either, apparently; the kind of people who, you’d expect, would know better.
This is why I really don’t like St Patrick’s Day. It’s been reduced to two things; a big marketing ploy and a masssive excuse to binge-drink.
As a nation, our obsession with alcohol manifests in every social aspect of our lives. But what’s becoming increasingly obvious is that alcohol is now not only an essential part of occasions like St Patrick’s Day or a big friends’ night out or part of enjoying sport or big celebrations like weddings, christenings, communions and confirmations; it’s increasingly creeping into home life.
A doctor told me that from what he can see, the glass of white from the bottle is now being offered to a visiting friend or neighbour rather than the traditional cup of tea from the teapot. And here — now we have the Mother’s Day treat of Afternoon Tea with Prosecco? As a society it seems, we’ve normalised the guzzling of alcohol to such an extent that we don’t realise that we’re routinely drinking to extremes.
The Health Research Board said this week that new studies show that women now have similar rates of alcohol dependence to men and that although the number of treatment cases for alcohol dependency has fallen over the last seven years, a far greater proportion of people are presenting with the most serious forms of abuse. Of course they are. Because the consumption of alcohol has become so routine that people don’t realise how much they’ve been drinking until they’re in serious trouble. We really need to get a grip.
COINING IT IN
I’ve developed repetitive strain injury in my wrist. It’s the result of frantically turning old jam jars and empty flower vases upside down and pulling out every drawer in the place.
On reading that a 20p piece from 1985 was expected to earn up to €6,000 when it went under the hammer, I went in for a bit of a turn out. I was positive that at some stage several years ago — or at least at some point following the advent of the euro — I had cunningly squirrelled away an old 20p coin and some other examples of our former Irish currency.
I spent most of an evening checking every corner of the house. And, Jumpin’ Jahosafat; at one point I was almost certain I’d found one! But when I looked closer at the large coin I pulled off the corner of a shelf in one of the bookcases, my get-rich-quick scheme collapsed.
First, there was a bride and groom instead of a horse on the front, and, in place of the harp on the back, there were two hearts with our names and the date engraved . On top of which, I then realised, this coin was silver and not brass-coloured like the old 20p coin. Pshaw! ‘Twas only our old Wedding Coin. A right old sickener!
A small ceramic bowl yielded far-flung and unrecognisable currency from a long-forgotten holiday. In the end I gave up and glumly accepted that , whatever my memories, there’s no potential pot of gold hiding in the form of a valuable old coin in the drawers of this house. Let alone one of the rare trial coins, dating from the mid-eighties, which were issued in advance of production to various companies and organisations to facilitate the calibration of vending machines and public telephones and the like — and a sample of which was expected to fetch the €6,000 at the auction.
Typical of my luck. I held on to the Wedding Coin, though…