Vanity metrics: when does a beauty salon need 87,000 followers?

Vanity metrics: when does a beauty salon need 87,000 followers?

Good social media management is a real skill. And unscrupulous so-and-sos who promise the (social media) world really get my goat.

write your story - an irish voices storytelling project.


{the photo} - my grandfather, taken outside Kennedy's, Doocastle, Co Mayo

{the audio} - my dad, talking about my grandfather and Kennedy's Bar

{the writing} - me, remembering our holidays to Ireland in the 80s/90s



Every summer we go back to Ireland and every year Dad winds down the window and lights a fag as the car rolls off the ferry at Larne. “Smell that air!” he commands, not minding the fact that we’re technically on UK soil until we’ve crossed the border. The sky is a dirty, iron grey and squat boggy fields whip past in a blur. An eclectic soundtrack marks the last leg of this most epic of journeys: The Drifters, Fleetwood Mac, mawkish country hits on MidWest Radio (‘the magic’s in the music, all your favourite songs and more!’) There are sweet papers everywhere and elbows and bad tempers in the back.


We spend the evenings in Kennedy’s where we play pool and drink illicit Cokes that were never allowed ‘in England’. Aunts and uncles, cousins too extracted to pin down in single words slip us punts and fivers. Behind the counter there are crisps and sweets - purple Snack bars; the Caramello and Tiffin Dairy Milks you can’t get at home; Tayto, obviously. Dad comes back from the bar and scatters three or four bags on the pool table. We squawk and dive on them - “Mind me cigarette!” - then lick the flavouring off our greasy fingers. The game resumes. Leo Kennedy - he’s a ‘biteen simple’, Dad says, but can pocket those balls like lightning - thrashes James again.


It doesn’t fill up until 11 - it’s dead at 10, and then people start arriving in the hour between. The music strikes up - a band if we’re lucky, a DJ if not. They might not exchange a civil word all week, but here the local men in thick jumpers wheel their wives expertly around the floor to Galway Shawl and Pretty Little Girl From Omagh, mouths tightened to a thin line of concentration. “Sure you’ll never miss your mother’s love ’til she’s buried beneath the clay,” the singer warbles, tremulous and maudlin, vibrato thrumming in my chest. I think of open coffins, waxy yellow fingers, nails like polished almonds. Wakes are a social event; we attend at least one every year.


The carpark is full and might not empty till 4 or later, dawn light creeping back into a sky that never reached total blackness. Cars weave their way home at 20 miles an hour. It’s not unheard of for a bicycle to end up in a ditch and the owner have to fetch it out from the cowparsley the following day. When the crackdown on drink driving in the countryside finally arrived, even the teetotallers were aghast: “Arra, the Guards have it ruined.”


Every summer we go back to Ireland. Funny how I always say ‘back’, even though I was born over here.

Three Rural Writers You Need To Read

If the dark side of rural life is your thing - the odd sorts, the grip of the Church (in rural Ireland, anyway), the queer feeling of isolation, the lack of anonymity - then here are three writers you need to read.