Written March 2009
I don't know if naming your house something equally personal and ludicrous is an Irish hobby, or if it's one practised in many cultures; certainly there seems to be some sort of pandemic writhing its way through our provinces. I wrote a quotation yesterday for a customer who lived in a house called . . . Well, I can't say, for fear said customer does a Google search for ‘fucking recruitment agents’ or ‘Claire Tully bangers’ (the mind boggles) and ends up here, in shock at and ready to sue over their sudden geographical fame. Let us just say that it started with the first three letters of a popular Irish name, and ended with the name of a grazing beast common to our pastures and slaughter houses. A couple of my colleagues and I pondered over it for a while, eventually deciding that our eyes hadn't deceived us and that someone had actually named their home . . . er, the name in question. Even with my powerful imagination, none of us could conceive of a reason why.
Now, I understand the reasons for christening your dwelling place (no, not in the sexy way, you bunch of grinning toads), and these reasons are real, indisputable. Outside of our main towns, Ireland is just one huge dormer-peppered field - Malin to Mizen decorated with clusters of gaffs not captured on Google Earth, not erected anywhere near a road with a name. There are still addresses in Ireland which read
meaning that while An Post might struggle through with your Meteor bills, fuelled by the useful nosiness of Margaret in the sorting office (who knows you, the name of the fella your wife is secretly shagging, and that your front door isn't timber as was stated as a condition of your planning permission), courier drivers are going to end up in a ditch crying tears of relief after seven hours locked in your paranoid neighbour's coal shed. This is why you need to change your address to say
‘The Four Big Stones’
and get a tasteful plaque on the wall to make everything official.
Of course, ‘The Four Big Stones’ is but a suggestion. You can call your house any of the following: Ocean View, Mountain View, Meadow View, Church View, Raymond McGettigan's Arse Crack View, St. Anthony's, St. Teresa's, St. Carmel's Church View, Silver Meadow, Silver Pylons, The Four Winds, The Four Winds Of St. Kevin, Mount Saint Teresa, Mount Ignatius' Pylon Winds, A View Of St. Teresa, Mount Raymond McGettigan's Arse Crack . . . oh, like being given a shovel and a Fianna Fail Ard Feis, the possibilities are endless.
You can also, in a fit of flammable nostalgia, name your house after the place you grew up, meaning there is an unfortunate number of homes with addresses like
which is unnecessarily confusing, and quite selfish too, in a world full of 'shroomed-up canvassers and nearsighted ESB meter men.
Still, needs must and all that. Working with a number of engineers our company sends out to the wilds of County Cork every day of the week to be assaulted by elderly women in negligees armed with tay and Jaffa Cakes, I understand this better than most. Many's the time I relayed directions to our intrepid representatives, confusing them as much as I was soothing them with my voice as a link to civilisation.
‘Turn left at the crossroads with the memorial to the slaughtered patriots, then you'll see seven bungalows about half a mile up thata way on the left - if you pass the tree you've gone too far - and the third of the bungalows has a dirt track to the left leading to the old graveyard . . . don't go up that road! And don't go into the house beside it either because apparently yer man is very deaf and a widower to boot.’
It's so much easier to be able to say, ‘The house is called Padre Pio’. Don't you think? And although I wouldn't be the biggest fan of bringing religion into architecture, I must admit there is a certain ease and comfort in the finding of a badly-dubbed house. And it does say a lot for our powerful notion of home, and our longing for something unique to call our own. We place great emphasis on belonging, on settling, on marking our boundaries . . . which is why we're so likely to sell a kidney for the chance to be crippled with a mortgage much, much bigger than our psychological capacity to understand it. How sad. How worthy of a wry smile.
But don't mind me. I have settled halfway between ‘Waterfall, County Cork’ and ‘Waterfall, Near Cork’, after all.