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Always Keep Your Inner Aisling

It’s a funny world living in Ireland, I think as I grin my head off in bed one Friday morning, totally incredulous to the sight of Jordi Murphy and Sean O’Brien exchanging agricultural talk on the Facebook Page. More to the point, O’Brien asking Murphy the questions, the two of them clad in what can only be described as a most distractingly tight Leinster Rugby Kit.

‘’What do you call a female calf before they become a cow?’’ Sean bellows at Jordi, a shadow of hilarity crossing his attractive, smirking features. To which our favourite pretty boy of the Leinster rugby team frowns in concentration, remaining oblivious to Sean’s subtle rugby-boy hints. To all of you lovely city dwellers that occupy Trinity Hall this year, a young female cow that has not produced a calf is called a heifer. Heifer, not only merely utilised by the lads and girlos over in University College Dublin studying the auld degree in Agricultural Science, unfortunately gets the odd throw around down the country to describe a fine young one, in some local, Saturday night sticky club plonked beside the chippers in Bally-wherever. As an under nineteen until the month of January, I have yet to unearth if this controversial word encapsulates the true spirit of Tipperary bred women ‘hitting the diff’ in Coppers on a Tuesday night.

Illustration by Jack Smyth

Before you form judgement, the point of this personal piece is not to pinpoint the differences between city girls and country girls. I shall inform you briefly about a girl called Aisling. I cannot give statistics on how many Hall dwellers have or have not heard of Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling, it all depends on how often you nip in and out of Easons in town. The novel, an Irish bestseller, lines the shelves in glory. I have not read it. I have only seen the scattered paragraphs that lie open to the internet.

The novel was written by two close friends a couple of years ago because they started noticing a particular ‘type of girl’ around Dublin. The character they created is this honest, chatty girl who goes home to the country regularly, if not every weekend, every second weekend. She has a long steady boyfriend in the hometown, who lives on a farm or is doing his apprenticeship locally, selling a few tractors on the side. She is an avid supporter of the GAA. She loves her work up in ‘The Big Shmoke’ but ‘’my god Mam, wouldn’t you be well coming home for a nice big feed and the use of a washing machine’’ is a regular observation whirled down the phone line nightly in Dublin 8.

When I got accepted into Trinity last August, the thought of returning home to the ‘empty doomed hole’ that I saw my countryside and farm as, was to say the least, unquestionable. Dublin was a place of dreams. Imagine no more muck, ever again? I could walk to get coffee! I could eat a burrito twice a week and work it off in a shiny university gym full of people that made me feel inferior, yet motivated, and girls who had never even looked at a cow and probably were vegan to follow trends. As a farmer’s daughter that had never once in eighteen years loved the farm, new me burst out of the country black hole like a butterfly out of the cocoon, glittering in love for South Dublin and its wonders.

Until. Ah lads, why must ‘until’ always show its face? I was three weeks into Christmas holidays when the mother asked me to ‘kindly go out and muck out the ponies’ stables.’ Do what, my dear mother?

Sitting my growing derriere on the couch all Christmas had resulted in quite a lack of appreciation for the world of fresh air and true countryside. The time came to throw on the wellies and old farm coat and head off out, to be greeted by three not so sweet smelling stables. This is interesting, I mulled, as I scooped droppings and watched them fly through the air to land in the green wheelbarrow that was parked in the muckiest puddle in South Tipperary. I began to feel immersed in the task at hand, and a sense of appreciation washed over me as I finished the job and waddled welly-clad and gracefully to a shed far away to fetch big bags of straw. No joke, it kind of pulled my shoulder sockets out of their joints. Fresh straw scattered, it was time to smell the sweetness again and watch the faces of three happy horses fill me with pink rosy cheeks (a first in months) and pride.

I might talk forever if I continue on, but basically what I am trying to say, is that living in the country is an opportunity that one should not snub. By now you must think that farming is all about excrement, trust me, it isn’t (I am a student nurse. I would know). I felt alive again, getting off Facebook for an hour and inhaling fresh air and the lovely scents of the countryside. I felt sad for the people up in college that I had bumped into during various activities that had never ran across a field of wheat with their dog, cackling maniacally at the free nature of it all. Some people have never sat on a horse, or touched mud, or even had the pleasure of wearing boots. I whispered a silent prayer for the ones who’ve grown up in concrete with only a small green belt large enough to host a JCR Refreshers event on. Countryside: it’s the therapy to forgetting all stress of college in a way. Getting some headspace becomes crucial to surviving the arts block beauty at lunch.

Keeping and embracing ‘your inner Aisling’ is imperative. Everyone must date a farmer’s son at least once. You’ll be the talk of the town (trust me). I feel like I’m a halfway there kind of Aisling. I actually grew up without a passion for GAA, never even held a hurl (can I hear a gasp please!). Yes, I do go home most weekends for ‘the big feed,’ but no, I do not dream of those open, rolling fields until the time has reached 5pm on a wet Friday evening and I am sardined on the Green Line, suffocating from the city-ness of it all, as we reach that point between Ranelagh and Beechwood where one starts to plan dinner and huff about the hike up Temple Road to the wonderful campus we call home.

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