Tadhg has an eerie feeling – no – that ag iarraidh feeling to try to speak his native tongue. He wants to change to his teanga as a law for the lá, give his Gaeilge a go and be a good Gaeilgeoir. A kinder Cainteoir, ar fad, ar fad.
Tadhg searches his skull and his days sa scoil for the cupla focail. He does not find as many as he thought he knew and some time has passed since he spoke a word, either. All along, learning Gaeilge was a process of slow and steady improvement for Tadhg. Even as a buachaill in bunscoil, his first books were titled Bun go Barr. He started from the bottom. When the pressure for points loomed in mean, old meanscoil, Tadhg lost trust in his béal bocht, dropping from Ardleibhéal to Gnathleibhéal fearing that he’d fail. “Screwed if I do,” he thought at the time, quite simply under-prepared for the scrúidpháipéar. Not wanting to work for it, that was Tadhg’s fadhb and in hindsight, he quit on the language. Now he can’t simply pick it back up. Same old story as his thuismitheoirí before him. They warned Tadhg not to let his Gaeilge go to waste but he didn’t listen. Bhí brón an domhain orthu, ar fad, ar fad.
Tadhg regrets the lost time, yet that ag iarraidh feeling says that it’s never too late to try. If he fails or makes a mess of a cúpla comhrá, well then so be it. He decides to leave his flat, get out of his busy apartment complex (teach-a-block) and head into town, there to find a few like-minded Gaeilgoirí and pass a few hours ag labhairt. According to a forum ar an idirlíon, there’s a small open gathering taking place in a public house in the city. Tadhg only has to wait a cúpla nóiméad for the bus to arrive. He smiles at the bus driver, saying “Lar na Cathrach, le do thoil!” as he pays his fare. The Bus Driver nods, saying nothing in reply, eyes moving back to focus on the road rising up to meet him. Tadhg takes a seat, passing the journey by testing his vocabulary. Crann, balla, rothar… A voice on the speakers interrupts:
“Next stop, O’Connell Street.”
Don’t acknowledge that, Tadhg tells himself, not reacting in the slightest to the announcement. A moment later, the speakers crackle once more:
“An cead stad eile, sraid Ui Chonnail.”
Tadhg nods on hearing this and prepares to hop off the bus. “Go raibh maith agat!” Tadhg says to the Bus Driver as he exits the bus, not seeing the Driver’s bemused reaction. Tadhg looks around an slua mór, and at the siopadóirí aligning silently, observing their queueness and their ciúnas combined. He smiles to himself, making his way to the side-street on which the public house is located. On entry, great waves of Gaelic gush around Tadhg and his heart races with excitement. He orders a drink and shuffles nervously closer to a group already in full conversation. Tadhg can make out maybe every second or third word, but he’s captivated by each speaker. One of the group sees Tadhg on the periphery and pauses the scéal as it returns to him.
“Dia dhuit!” he says, “Cad is ainm duit?”
“Is míse Tadgh,” answers Tadhg, barely hearing the man over the noise in the room.
“Bhuel, failte romhat, a cara!” the man replies, tipping the pint in his hand slightly without spilling any liquid. The man looks to a woman in front of Tadhg and nods. “Lean ar aghaidh!”
Confused by the quick movement and noise in the room, Tadhg does not hear what he thinks the man has said to him. “Gabh mo leithscéal,” Tadhg starts, interrupting the group for clarification. “…Glan her aghaidh?”
The man bursts into laughter and the rest of the group follow suit as Tadhg’s face turns a deep shade of red. Someone next to Tadhg pats his shoulder, mostly for support as they double over with laughter. A little chant of “Glan-her-aghaidh, a Tadhg” starts up and the group all join in. Instead of feeling embarrassed, though, Tadhg feels as though he has made it into the circle already.
“My heart’s in the right place,” Tadhg reassures himself, even if it’s more mícheart than ceart go leor. Tadhg’s heart is in the right place.
Tá sé ag iarraidh, ar fad, ar fad.