Bad news, folks. Ross O’Carroll-Kelly has made it to the Rock, and I don’t mean his acronymic alma mater.
No. I’m talking about the rock. Inis Mór.
You see, we were making our way up the hill on Sunday to see the cliff-diving competition sponsored by a well-known drinks brand, when we ran into RO’CK himself, in full-on residual Celtic Tiger mode, or else perhaps, normal mode wherever he hangs out.
Aykay, Ross is shouting through a megaphone, at nobody in particular. Everyone with a black wristband to the left, and everyone with a teal wristband, straight on, roight?
I look at my friend, the Rockhopper. He looks back at me and we do a triple-take.
Teal? What the fuck is teal?
Excuse me, I say to Ross O’CK in my least sithe-soide voice. What the fuck is fucking teal?
Ross looks stunned. It’s thot colour roight thur. On yewr wristband. Thot’s teal.
That’s fucking blue.
Or green, the Rockhopper added, helpfully.
Greeny-blue, we agree.
Teal, says Ross, at a loss to know what our problem is, because he clearly grew up in the world of colours that only girls can see. Magenta. Turquoise. Maraschino. Cantaloupe. Taupe.
Ross, a mhaicín, says the Rockhopper, amiably, which is always a bad sign. In the interests of clear communication, why did you pick colour names that only half the world has ever fucking heard of? What would be wrong with blue and red and green instead of fucking teal? Did you think everyone going to the diving competition would be RTE interior designers?
Ross is clearly at a loss to know where this is going, so we march on, but he’s determined to have the last word. As we climb the hill, he’s shouting through his megaphone
For anyone who doesn’t know what teal is …
At the top of the hill, we meet another crowd-control consultant of the more traditional Dub variety.
What colour is my wristband? asks the Rockhopper.
Blue, he says. Why?
Well, that lad with the megaphone says it’s teal.
Does he now? says the Dub. This way, lads.
That’s what I like about Dubs. They don’t need to say much to say everything.
The cliff-diving is happening on a cliff, of all places, which means you have to clamber over much limestone pavement, karst as it’s known in some countries, or fuck this shit anyway, as I’ve always called it. They’ve put everything up there. A huge diving platform, Port-A-Loos, trampolines for the athletes to warm up on, a sort of a broadcasting station with aerials, and the obligatory enthusiastic media girl with a microphone doing the woo-hoo stuff for the gathered multitude. Let’s give them a big cheer.
If you’ve never been to the site on Inis Mór where this is taking place, it’s simply astonishing. It’s called Poll na bPéist, which means literally, the Hole of the Sea-Monster, or maybe the Hole of the Snake, or even the Hole of the Earthworm, since they didn’t bother in the Irish language on this little rock to make any distinction between creatures of a broadly similar elongated slithery demeanour. Snake, serpent, worm, Pádraig Flynn. It’s all the same word.
This mindset is why islanders continue to call a rat luch mór, meaning big mouse, while the rest of the Irish-speaking world calls it a Frenchman, for some bizarre reason.
The well-known drinks company, for reasons best known to itself, chooses to call it the Lair of the Serpent, but since they’re paying, that’s ok. Just for this weekend, they own the place.
It’s a spectacular hole. A huge, rectangular opening where the rock fell away eons ago with a huge splash and disappeared into the nameless depths. The sea washes in and out under it and the Sea Serpent has kindly agreed not to eat the divers because he’s an Aran Islands sort of monster. Tomorrow will be fine. Luckily, we have the well-known soft-drinks company representatives to keep us on our toes, so everyone is very much on message.
The ocean is a lovely shade of teal.
Here’s a tiny insight into the absurdity of the Health and Safety obsession that has overtaken our culture. See that ladder in the photo? That’s what the divers use to climb out of the water after diving into it from a height of, oh, maybe 200 feet.
Guess what? When the divers are climbing the ladder, they have to clip on a little safety harness in case they … that’s right, you guessed it. In case they fall in.
It’s a fascinating thing, cliff-diving, not that I’d know much about it but I’m trying to remember what comedian explained the fine difference between the winner and the loser. One of them is holding the trophy, the other guy is stuff on a rock.
Is that why we all go to the cliff-diving? Somewhere deep in our atavistic fish-brain, our amygdala, are we all hoping for that horrible splat as the wind picks up at just the wrong moment? This is a high jump, I have to tell you, and even if you don’t smash yourself to pulp on unyielding limestone, you’d better make sure you cut into the water cleanly because if you don’t, you’re looking at broken ribs or worse. Not good.
But these guys are experts. They don’t break their ribs, rupture their spleens or smash their brains out on a rock and besides, they’re all on the circuit together. After the competition, they all meet up in the hotel, have a few beers, mix with the locals and soak up the friendly atmosphere. Somebody told me this is their favourite place to compete and I can see why. What a life.
Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a cliff-diving competition as much as the next man, but frankly, I wouldn’t be able to eat a whole one. And yet, nevertheless, I saw what I wanted to see. Mission accomplished. Who would not want to see a bunch of lunatics leaping into space with such poetic precision and a little whimsy?
Of course, on the other hand, there is the enormous infrastructure, including the poor devils who have to haul the stuff up and down the mountain in unfeasibly silly costumes, while maintaining some kind of civil demeanour. I genuinely don’t know why these poor devils didn’t try to tear me limb from limb. Even I’d be cheering.
What can you do after a hard day watching cliff-diving but head for the pub to discuss the tenuous relationship Aran drivers have with the laws of physics, or to be more precise, the Guidelines of Physics as the islanders themselves say.
It’s a hard life, talking shite in the sun while drinking ice-cold beer as the sea takes on an alluring shade of honeydew, lavender and foam. With a hint of teal.