Let’s suspend all false humility: there are lots of reasons why it is great to be Irish this week. Top of the list: the referendum which saw Ireland become the first country in the world to approve of same-sex marriage by popular vote. Yay!
Also up there, just as a by-the-by, was the Dublin International piano festival which took place over the last week and culminated in the grand finals on Tuesday night in the National Concert Hall. Four supremely talented young (19/20 years old-ish) pianists – 2 American chaps, a German-Japanese girl and a French girl seen as you ask – took to the stage on Tuesday night where they fought it out for four hours, regaling the the full house with an entertaining mix of Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.
I went with my mum and we put down bets on the order in which they would win. Again, I am going to brag – I predicted the winning order bang on! Super talents and we had a great night. Oh and it also proved to be an unexpected night for celeb spotting – we bumped into Senator David Norris in the car park and business mogul Bobby Kerr, who together with about 8 other people, we ended up giving parking instructions to a very bad driver who was attempting (terribly-I’m not being cruel, it was really, really bad, like scary bad…) to reverse park into a space outside the concert hall. In typical David Norris fashion (https://youtu.be/KQZRMiTQ4vQ) , he stood in front of the car shouting (helpfully) instructions clearly and loudly to the woman whilst waving his hands to assist her. I love David Norris and whether you’re with me on this or not, the man is very entertaining, so I just waited beside him, enjoying the whole thing, in between grimacing in fear every time the poor woman looked like she was going to slam into the cars beside her.
On the way into the concert hall, I couldn’t resist letting one of my favourite people walk by me without saying hello so I tapped Norris on the shoulder (he was plugged into his i-pod at the time), shook his hand and congratulated him on the marriage referendum. We had a little chat and it made my day 😀 Gay Byrne and his wife were also sitting a few rows in front of us. Oh yes, and the president and his lovely wife joined us for the evening, prompting an unexpected treat from the national symphony orchestra of the national address.
Good things come in threes, so I’ve been told. Why else is it great to be Irish this week? Because on Monday, Dublin will host the largest all-women’s event in the world. So not only is it great to be Irish this week, it’s great to be an Irish woman this week. We, a teeny minority, are about to host not just the biggest all-women’s event in the world, but until recently, were the only country to hold a running event of its kind in the world.
The VHI Women’s Mini Marathon takes place on the streets of Dublin on bank holiday Monday in June every year and this will be the 33rd 10 km run. I love this race for so many reasons. It’s different from every other race I do during the year, not just because it’s an all-woman affair but because the atmosphere it totally different from all other events. There’s an electricity in the air, an excitement and a buzz that just sings of fun. Look around you and you see girls and women of all ages, from young girls walking with their mates, club runners with their bibs on, national champions gunning for a pb, to old ICA women walking in big groups with all their mates. Some will finish in 33 minutes, others will take 3 hours. I have done it nearly every year with my mum since I was 14 and we are usually sitting up at the bar in Hourican’s pub re-hydrating hours after finishing while masses of female pride continue to pass the door. My Gran walked this race every year with her friends so this year, just after her first anniversary, I will be running for and with her every step of the way.
I love it for the huge amount of charity money raised – in 2014 an estimated €12m was raised by the participants bringing the total since the race started in 1983 close to €192m. It is now the biggest single day charity event in the country. I love it for the colour and variety – for the women of all different size, shape, age and fitness abilities, all setting out to do their 10 km. For the fellas who dress up as women and raise twice as much money for charity. For the eye-popping amount of different charity t-shirts on the backs of the 40,000 strong – today, charity t-shirts are running swag – today, your latest Nike running top will make you feel uncool... And I love it because when you’re in it, you feel like you’re running as part of an elite club – a team of 40,000 women, who are all doing this great big thing together.