herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Family Guy

WE'RE trundling into Donegal, on our last few wisps of petrol vapour, through a landscape that looks like something straight out of the Lord of the Rings. A rickety sign up ahead says 'No passing'.

"It should say 'You shall not pass!'" I boom in my best Ian McKellen voice.

"Very droll," says my wife, peering out over her printout of directions.

"You shall not pass!" I roar again, slapping the steering wheel and chuckling at myself.

"Funnier every time," mutters my wife, shaking her head.

We're on our way to visit the youngest, now two-thirds the way through her stay at a Gaeltacht school in Gweedore.

"Look for a sign," instructs my wife, which I do, noticing they're all suddenly in Irish.

"An Gaoth Dobhair?" I try to pronounce, when I finally spot the one I think we want. I have the Irish vocabulary of a 10-year-old, I realise. A 10-year-old sheepdog, that is. "The wind," I translate wistfully to what I think the words mean. "The wind that works," I coo. "Beautiful."

"The wind that speaks," corrects my wife and we both look out each others windows appreciatively.

When we finally pull in to the tiny petrol station at the Gaeltacht school, the first thing I do is check Wikipedia, which tells me dryly that the area is actually named for a coastal feature and means 'aqueous estuary'. I like our interpretation better and so say nothing.

We spot our daughter almost immediately; tall and slender, among the knots of young teens huddled together over iPhones around the walls and windows nearby.

She sidles into the store with us, all smiles and hugs. "How's it been?" I ask her.

"Go hiontach," she grins.

"Impressive," I say, nodding. "But seriously, how's it been?"

My wife gathers up picnic bits and goes to pay. "Can I get sweets?" asks the youngest, visibly sugar-deprived and hovering over the chews and bars.

Gweedore, it turns out, is famous for giving the world the ethereally voiced Enya, as well as the band Clannad, headed up by her sister Moya. We learn this from a plaque outside a restaurant belonging to their dad, just a few yards from our campsite as we turn in to the tiny road.

Looking over as we crackle past on gravel, I actually see Moya Brennan coming out the door and down some steps. I think she smiles in our direction.

"Do you think she was waiting for us for long?" I joke.

"Who's Clannad?" says the youngest from the back.

"Harry's Game? Robin the Hooded Man?" I list off.

"Oh. Mmm-hmm. Nope," she says sarcastically.

We check in to our accommodation for the night, which is an almost pyramid-like wooden hut at what seems like the end of the campsite owner's lawn.

"So, we forgot to say," I tell my daughter quite seriously, "we're staying in a Wendy house at the back of someone's garden."

"Cool!" she coos. "Can I stay too?"

We end up having dinner in the nearby restaurant. Halfway through, I get a text from a friend. '

What are you doing for dinner?' it says.

'Slumming it at Enya's old gaff,' I joke back.

"Beat that," I mutter.

The phone pings again.

'Having dinner with Roger Daltrey,' it says. 'Kept a place for you at the table'.

"Yeah, right," I say out loud.

A photo appears. My friend with Daltrey. "No way," I manage, after a small coughing fit.

"What is it?" says my wife.

"Who, more like," I grin, showing her. "Seems I'm missing the dinner of the year."

That's when I remember that this is, in fact, our anniversary. I quickly raise my glass. "Though there's nowhere I'd rather be but here," I add hastily. And having quickly calculated the driving time back, there's nowhere else I could be.

"Who's this?" says the youngest, passing my phone back from her mother.

Uncharacteristically, I resist the urge to irritate with a 'Who. No, who? That's right, Who' ping-pong match.

"Roger Daltrey," I tell her. "He's the lead singer of a band called The Who."

She shrugs.

"Then you wouldn't be impressed to hear I was invited to meet him," I say.

"Um, let's see," she teases. "That would be... nope."

I look around the restaurant ceiling at the collection of Enya and Clannad's gold and platinum records. Wallpaper as far as our youngest is impressed.

"Bono," I blurt, putting down my fork. The youngest gapes at me.

"Enya sang that song with Bono," I tell her.

"Oh," she says, looking up at the records too and nodding. "Bono. Okay."

She looks back at me, cocks her head and closes one eye.

"Isn't he, like, super-old?"

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