Bright Lights Big City

It was a cold and frosty night but the American Lifeguard, dressed only in shorts, tee shirt and flipflops, stood aloft in his high chair and called constantly through his megaphone. “Do not go into the water,” he repeated. The crowd, Irish and wrapped up in scarves and coats, laughed and stamped their collective feet against the cold.  A number of women wore very high heels combined with belt-short skirts and their bare legs shivered in sympathy with the lifeguard’s. No one was in any danger of going into the water, not that there was any in the city centre location.


The queue was lined up for the Jameson Cult film night in the Tivoli Theatre on Frances Street. Previous screenings in the Cult series had included Snatch, Alien and Reservoir of Dogs. Attendance was by invitation only and we, my friend and I, had gained our entrance through a competition run by WorldIrish. We joined the queue and soon spotted another actor roaming alongside, dressed in cutoffs and oversized glasses. Chief Brody was on hand to keep an eye on things. This caused more laughter and talk and we made some temporary friends in the people in the queue next to us.


Soon the line moved and we entered into a different world. The theatre had been totally dressed in Jameson Cult Film bunting and decorated to resemble the famous American seaside town.



The iconic poster welcoming the 4th of July tourists was plastered across one wall. Cocktails of all kinds, whiskey-based of course, were proffered once we got inside.



The DJ played some tracks and there was a palpable air of excitement. We were all keen to see the big white.There was a regular queue of well-known faces posing for photographs on the Jameson Wall of Fame. Rugby players Tom Sexton, Tom Denton and Devin Toner lined up along with other celebrities including actor David Coffey and TV presenters Liam McCormack and Lottie Ryan. My friend and I bunched in and we did the same. We’ll be famous one day too!



By nine the atmosphere was electric and we made our way into the auditorium. Given the dense nature of the crowd I had to sit in the row ahead of my friend. I spotted Darragh Doyle @DarraghDoyle of WorldIrish seated to the right of me and I waved my thanks. As the lights went down and the film began I soon discovered why people go to scary films with friends, as jumping or involuntarily screaming at different points is very embarrassing when sitting alone.

The film was supplemented by actors and they seamlessly integrated into the onscreen drama, using the whole theatre as their stage. I had forgotten just how powerful the film Jaws had been and how deeply it was etched on my psyche. I remember the Get out of the water bits and the music of course. I remember the We’ve got to get a bigger boat lines but I had totally forgotten the scene where Quint tells the story of the sinking of The Indianapolis after it delivered the bomb. His story took up when the boat had been sunk. So secret was its mission that no distress message was sent. The men floated in the water in circles fighting off the sharks. Sometimes they won, sometimes the sharks won. Actually, the sharks were always winning and picked off the men at will. Finally, after a number of days, a plane spotted the wreckage and so began an agonising slow rescue. It was then, said Quint, as he waited for his turn for rescue, that he felt true fear. Eleven hundred men went into the water but only 316 came out.

What shocked me was that I have been telling that story for years. I use it to illustrate how the re-injection of hope, into a situation where everything seems lost, can trigger a deeper sense of fear. The replacement of apathy and loss with hope, but not certain hope, is very scary. There is so much more to lose when we dare to believe. I have told this story when talking about debt, love, ambitions, belief – so many things as fear is only real when hope is present. I thought I had read the story is a yellowed Readers’ Digest in my aunt’s house but had totally forgotten its actual origin. It was a strange sense of reverse déjà vu.

At the end of the film where Chief Brody, now alone on the boat, aims at the shark hoping to blow up the compressed air tanks, the young actor in cutoffs climbed onto projected scaffolding in front of the screen. As Ray Scheider fired onscreen, so too the actor on stage fired and special effects saw water splashing up in response. With the final successful shot, the shark exploded and we, the audience, were drenched in a cascade of water. The laughter was loud and the audience was wet. I automatically assumed the crash position – much good it did me as my reaction was slower than the shower. My friend jerked backwards but suffered the same drenching. Only one had a wet front, the other a wet back!

We travelled home then, although the DJ was only getting warmed up, for we had miles to go. Still laughing we drove through the bright lights of Stephens Green and as we waited at one set of lights, my friend spotted a car full of men trying to get our attention beside us. Roll down the window they gestured and I did. However, rather than the admiring glances of potential suitors or messing from stag party males, we were faced by plain clothes guards good naturedly informing me that I had forgotten to turn on my headlights. I thanked them and explained I hailed from the country now and was no longer used to the bright lights of the city. Except when the cameras were rolling!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Horse Sense

Arriving at Camp

Some years ago I went on a cattle drive in Montana. Wow, that’s some sentence in itself. When I am old and grey I shall surprise my (as yet unformed) grandchildren that the doddery old woman in front of them once cantered across US plains rounding up cattle with cowboys – just like in the movies. I wonder will they believe me or think it merely the ramblings of a senile old woman.

Anyway, it is true. Some years ago I went on a cattle drive in Montana. I have the pictures to prove it, even if the memories fade in time. Before I went my main worry was the lack of sanitation. We were to camp in tents and while porta-loos were provided, or porta-potties as the cowboys called them which creases me up to this day, there were no showers for the first three days. As I habitually shower first thing every morning I was freaking out about this privation. I know – first world problems.  Advised by people who had undertaken this trip previously I stocked up on baby wipes, enough to clean the bottoms of an entire nursery if truth be told.

The first evening we ranged in a big circle and met our cowboy guides. I was in a party of three other Irish girls and we were given the hunk of the cowboys as our guide, much to our delight. A perfect gentleman he flirted gently with us all across the week, earning a large gratuity from each at the end.  We are still friends on Facebook and he is now married and a father. Although he did fall just a little bit on love with one of group: a cowboy romance that fizzled out through geographical distance.

Anyway, back to the privations. We slept in large tents with foam mats to cushion our sleeping bags. Sleep was not a problem, aided as it was by copious amounts of beer the night before.  I woke at six but already the chuck wagon was in preparation mode. I had hoped to get up early and wash thoroughly at the water station. No chance unless I wanted to emulate the bathing beauties on the Celebrity Jungle Television programme. Instead the baby wipes were taken into the porta-potties and desperate attempts made to clean as much flesh as possible.

I found after a day or two, it didn’t matter so much. The weather was warm and we were in the open. I am sure if I had to walk into a crowded lift back in civilisation I might have emptied it at the first floor, but it wasn’t noticeable in camp. And on day four we arrived at a farm that had showers, only two for about thirty slightly smelly cowboy tourists, but the tiny trickle of lukewarm water was heaven.

Montana is called God’s country and with good reason. Some days we herded cattle on what seemed like moonscapes such was their vast size. And of course we had no mobile coverage which induced a calm, trance-like state of consciousness. We rose, ate, herded cattle until lunch, ate, herded again until dinner and ate yet more great nosh. We had no responsibility except to feed and water our horses and even then our cowboy guide did most of that. I remember one night talking to an old cowboy. He had escaped plane crashes, car accidents, train crashes and even horse wrecks. At that time I was learning to deal with teenage tantrums at home. I asked this sagacious cowboy why did kids have hormones – it was so unfair on them and on us! He answered that it was so they could leave home. It was their way of leaving the parents and becoming adults. It made utter sense and felt like a light bulb moment. Of course, that made sense.

Last week, I was speaking with my friend Barbara Scully whose blog, From My Kitchen Table, is well worth a visit. I told her my story and what I had learnt in Montana.  Barbara agreed and said exactly the same, and pointed out it was a similar case when parents get old and crotchety, that too was part of the leaving process. I laughed so hard. I needn’t have gone to Montana to learn this truth; a trip to Cabinteely would have done the trick!