Despite all the stories of doom and despair on the currency front that have been circulating about Ireland in the last month or two, the Irish Embassy recently held two events which went against the trend (how very Irish!). The first was a lunch-time degustation, of both food and drink, organised by Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) at which the star was the Irish beef supplied worldwide (including to H.M. The Queen, it was emphasised), and now also in Moscow. All the meat is hung for three weeks, and we had samples from off the bone and on it—both equally delicious. Afterwards a bottle of Tyrconnel went west so quickly that the last-ditch diners had to be rescued with a wonderful dram which was new to me: Kilbeggan. I tumbled out into the Moscow slush glad there was no ditch, or sheogh, to trap me in for the rest of the afternoon.
The other event, on Friday 10 December, was the European launch of the Ambassador’s book of poetry—his second— entitled The Song the Oriole Sang (Dedalus Press, Dublin). Philip McDonagh’s poems have a lightness and grace which I, personally, find very beguiling. Many are about India, where he was posted for a long time, and where his wife and children were born. He is as “cross-border” as his work. Philip read accompanied by Lily Neill on the Celtic harp. Afterwards, she gave a striking solo performance which combined both traditional and some elegantly modern playing. Also reading was Joseph Woods, the Director of Poetry Ireland, who managed to raise a number of laughs with his witty verses about life both in the sheogh and out of it. Clearly there is cultural light at the end of the gloomy Euro tunnel. To paraphrase Stalin on Hitler, currencies may come and go, but the Irish people remain.