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Understanding the Irish abroad


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(Photo:vintage prom dresses)

You can’t beat a good wedding. And as I’ve just discovered, a good wedding abroad is even better.

The location was Estepona in south east Spain. The bride is a close friend and work colleague of Mrs H. And thanks to an unusual run of good behaviour on my part I was chosen to fill the ‘plus one’ spot on the invitation.

It’s 28 years since we were last in that sun-kissed part of the world. Our eldest was just three months and we were desperate for a short winter break.

On that occasion we hired a car and I was reminded of the challenging drive from Malaga to Marbella when we were held up by a nasty accident involving a motorbike.

The biker was lying prostrate on the ground and was being bagged by paramedics. It’s a two-lane motorway but with quite sharp bends — not helped by routine speeds of 140kph in an 80kph zone.

We checked in to our hotel where the receptionist was pleased to tell us he had spent a year living in Bray, Co Wicklow some years back. However, when I spoke to him in my best Wicklow accent, he didn’t understand a word, so I have my doubts. Maybe it was my west Wickla twang…

The wall-to-wall sunshine that greeted us on arrival was even more intense on the day of the wedding. It was 31 degrees by mid-afternoon when many of the guests assembled in a small coastal village where a bus was to bring us to the church.

Fashionably late

But the bus never showed up and so knots of bib and tuckered wedding guests sought out pockets of shade; and the delay turned into a fantastic ice-breaker as we got to know each other. Myself and another guest quickly discovered a shared love of practical jokes and we happily shared our best stories of success and near disaster.

The groomsmen earned their crust organising a fleet of taxis to get us to the church about 30 minutes late. Any plans by the bride to be fashionably late were scuppered, but she didn’t seem to mind.

After a lovely ceremony we emerged into the incredible heat to find a couple of buses sitting in the shade of some trees ready to bring us into the mountains to the reception at one of the more established golf complexes on the Costa. On arrival, plates upon plates of tapas emerged from the kitchens and the wine flowed as everyone relaxed during the photographic interlude when the bride, groom and their families recorded the day for posterity.

The sun was beginning to dim when we sat down to the wedding meal in a beautiful flag-stoned courtyard. What an incredibly romantic setting. Our table was mainly populated by medics and solicitors and included a relative of our esteemed former President, Mary Robinson.

As many of you know, her father, Dr Bourke, was a GP in Ballina for many years and very much of the old school. I cannot do justice to the superb raconteuring skills of our fellow wedding guest, but his story about an American holiday undertaken by Dr Bourke and his family is worth retelling.

A citation

Driving a hired car, and with his family navigating, Dr Bourke acted on an instruction to turn left rather abruptly and shot across a four-lane highway. Relief at having survived the manoeuvre did not last long as his passengers heard the siren of a motorcycle policeman behind them. The indefatigable doctor rolled down his window and asked the officer how could he be of assistance. “I have no option but to issue you with a citation,” he drawled. “What is your name and where are you from?”

“I am Dr Bourke from the county of Mayo in Ireland. A citation — that’s very kind of you,” he replied. “And who are you, sir, and where are you from?” the unruffled doctor asked. His American accent beginning to falter, the police officer said he too hailed from Co Mayo, from where his parents had emigrated when he was a child. Dr Bourke then asked if his parents were Patrick and Mary and were they from a particular town land outside Ballina?

When the policeman said yes, Dr Bourke looked him in the eye and said: “I looked after your mother in labour and brought you into this world.” At which point the officer put away his notebook.

That evening of superb food and great company under a moonlit sky was nothing short of magical. You really can’t beat a good Irish wedding.Read more at:mermaid prom dresses


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