When my first semester of classes finished in late January, a classmate and I decided to contribute to pandemic-conscious-population-dilution by renting a small cottage in Wicklow from a lovely woman named Mary. Back in August, when Trina was describing these blogs, she said we were encouraged to include pictures, but jokingly pleaded with us “please, no sheep pictures, we see enough!” Just to be safe, I have censored all sh*** from my photos and from here on out will refer to them only as “The Neighbors.” In Wicklow, social distancing is comically easy as our closest neighbor is a ten to fifteen-minute walk away. Our closest Neighbor, however, frequently bumps into the trash bins at night while making cartoonish bleats.
A key feature of Mary’s cottage is that there is only internet connection in one window sill. During the past couple months, it has been easy to waste away hours watching the news, reading long form analyses of the news, or reading many short form summaries of the news in rapid succession. But now, I finally have the isolation needed to connect with real Irish culture — the Father Ted DVD box set my friend brought with us as the sole source of digital entertainment. And who is there more understanding who could guide me through the existential time we live in now other than Father Ted? Like me, Father Ted also wakes up at 11 AM in his twin bed, in his house, in the middle of nowhere, (perhaps surrounded by fields full of The Neighbors?)
At other times I connect deeply with Mrs. Doyle — making endless cups of tea to stave off the threat of all-consuming dread. On rainy days, sometimes, I feel a teeny bit the Father Jack as I sit completely sedentary in an armchair reminiscing on the simpler, better times of my pre-pandemic youth. But at times I feel like Father Dougal, extremely confused about how I ended up a Catholic priest in a remote part of Ireland.
While sitcoms are by no means a substitute to in person cultural immersion, they do provide a window sorely needed when you are trying to get to know a new country from the confines of your room. At this point, I’d argue, that there’s no better tool for highlighting cultural in-jokes than a laugh track roaring when you are silent. So, whenever the country reopens after this pandemic, I will be totally au fait with the mid-nineties Irish zeitgeist.