Gobshite - a great Irish word if ever there was one. It's perhaps the most damning of insults in the Emerald Isle, spoken with a particular vehemence and finality that leaves no doubt as to the nature of the individual being described. Only people can be gobshites. Never do you hear "well, my dog/cat/goldfish is a total gobshite" although I reckon it could be applied to certain canine varieties. "That Pug/Chihuahua/Basset Hound/Yorkshire Terrier is a bit of a gobshite" works quite well. Could catch on I guess. I’ll leave it with you.
As the Celtic Tiger miaowed its last the Irish Daily Star newspaper ran the infamous headline USELESS GOBSHITES alongside a picture of senior government ministers and Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Said it all really. Recently Liam Gallagher publicly called his brother Noel a "fucking gobshite". No surprise there. Oddly enough, the word is more generally used to describe a person’s demeanour rather than being based on what spills from their mouth. A gobshite is just as likely to be a fool of few words as an idiot gushing inanities.
Stupid Gobshite. Ignorant Gobshite. Thick Gobshite. Total Gobshite. Uneducated Gobshite. Illiterate Gobshite. Awful Gobshite. and of course most damning of all Useless Gobshite. To my mind the word holds most punch when muttered under the breath and accompanied by a despairing shake of the head. This usually happens when an unwelcome drinking companion finally drains their glass and exits the pub.
So - there you have it - Gobshite. A marvelous bit of Irish slang. Give it a bash – goes well with beer.
Here’s a wee clip of Father Jack showing just how it’s done: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9R89oERKCaU
This week something completely different. My great friend Helen who lives in Tanzania sent this through to me a few days ago. I hope I can do the story and emotion behind the letter some justice.
Over the past 10 years or so Helen has established a business from scratch in Dar-es-Salaam making furniture and handwoven fabrics. She employs about a dozen local people.
We live in a frantic world of tweets, facebook posts and texts. I'm more than a little guilty of hiding behind them. Sadly it's all too easy to click out a couple of words rather than actually communicate one-to-one. As a consequence it seems we've all but lost the wonderful art of letter-writing.
My Mum on the other hand wrote every day. The bureau where she used to sit and compose letters to faraway relatives and friends stands in my hallway though I don't use it as intended. (Sorry Mum.) I can still picture her writing paper - Basildon Bond - translucent, delicate, lavender hued, and with the handy lined under-sheet to keep your words neat. In return for my Mum's efforts letters would arrive almost daily from across the globe, many to be read out in the evenings. Births, deaths, illnesses, marriage, divorce, joy, misery, hope, despair, holiday plans, shared memories, life's banalities and disappointments all spilled forth from those pages. Family discussions would take place, we'd ask questions, get answers and half-truths, be told tall tales, laugh and if there was sad news even shed a few tears together. Those letters were windows onto other worlds and lives that could only be imagined in my young mind. Perhaps it was just the mundane made marvelous but I don't think so.
And so, on to the wonderful letter Helen received. This is what she told me.
Dan (in the hard hat) & Moody
"Moody and Dan, two carpenters who work for me, gave me this letter. Moody's baby Hafsa was taken into the Muhimbili Hospital in June. Moody said Hafsa was constantly crying. People get forgotten about in the hospitals here so it's good if someone can check on them and make sure they're being looked after. Luckily I have a friend who kept me posted. The next day I got a call saying Hafsa had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and nothing could be done. She was expected to live a maximum of two to three weeks. Moody took the news very badly. When he came to see me he could hardly stand up. The decision was made to take the baby to stay with his wife's family.
There wasn't much I could do apart from give him some money to cover his expenses and plenty of time off work. After about two weeks he came back. I asked about Hafsa and he said he had taken her to the traditional Doctor and that she was now well. Three months passed and he seemed to believe she was ok. Sadly she passed away a couple of weeks ago.
What I'm trying to say, what I find incredible is, that despite the incredibly difficult circumstances people live under here and how little they have, they are so grateful.
Moody doesn't speak any English so Dan did the writing for him."
It's not just the words but what lies between the lines that matters...
If you'd like to know more about Helen & the work she does click here:
Edinburgh born Scottish exile living in Dublin. I love words & will be blithering on about them here. Feel free to blither back. I'd love to hear from you.