On my 21st birthday, my best mate presented me with a bulky card containing an obvious little something. Since it was so long ago *pipe lip-smacks*, I don’t recall my exact response but no doubt I mentally punched the air at the prospect of being able to get my round in down the pub. This was the early Nineties remember, so German beer and disposable income had yet to make an appearance. “Open it later”, she muttered, or something to that effect.
I still have the two hand-written pages that slid out that evening. ’21 Good Things About You’ is a credit to the list-making community everywhere (you know who we are) with its respectable double-spaced bullet-pointed lay-out, the different coloured pens indicating due care and consideration for the task underpinned by the occasional moment of inspiration when any pen had to do. The free-hand drawn border frames the mirror up to myself. Naturally, I lingered over the ones that sounded most complimentary (“You know a lot about one-hit wonders”) and curled my lip at a few I feel might’ve been used better. For instance, the one about my friends could’ve been dropped in favour of a nod to my parallel parking. I guess with the best parallel park-ups, no-one is ever there to witness them when you pull them off, so I’ll let that one go.
One of those original eye-rollers has grown on me over the years. “You come from a long line of Donegal people”.
According to the latest Census figures, Donegal has more sheep than people. You probably already suspected this if you ever watched RTÉ’s result analysis on election night. In 2010, it had 618,447 of them. The photo at the top of this page shows a few of us back in the 70s. That’s me there in front as a nipper beside my Ma plotting my escape route. I managed to run away some months later but they caught me in the newsagents at the bottom of our road before I could make a proper getaway. That’s my Dad behind her.
Behind every Donegal mother is a Donegal father relentlessly on the hunt for a cuppa tea, most likely with one already in paw. There’s my Mother’s two sisters further behind her on the right. They’re both dead now. Every old woman I see wearing white cotton socks with high heels reminds me of one; Marks and Spencer’s biscuit collections reminds me of the other. These women had their standards. Behind them again is an array of uncles. All silent men who worked with their hands and shared a passion for car engines and Elvis.
If you squint, you’ll see my aforementioned mate at the very back with her folks. They moved in next door when she was three so I suppose you could say she’s one of my clan, too. All individuals with their own unique stamp, but part of the flock. From a long line of Donegal flocks.
P.S. I have no idea who that guy on the left is.