“lakes!” he shouted. This was a word I heard many times in my youth in Tuam. I grew up in the arse end of nowhere, and my formative exposures to culture were a collective of seemingly random and incoherent words or repurposed phrases from a medium sized town (or tiny city, as we would like to claim then). I didn’t hate it. In fact, I very much loved the uniqueness of it all. The problem for me was that I had a very slow uptake of new vocabulary as I was growing up. I was also a little bit arrogant I suppose, and thought phrases like that were below me. But language doesn’t care about you or me. It just is.
If something was “lakes!” it meant that it was “crazy” or “mental”. I don’t know the origin of that particular phrase, but it was one that always stood out. I love lakes, and could never understand why the same word was repurposed to describe something crazy. Lakes for me represent a sort of peace in nature.
There are the lakes near my house. Lough Corrib and Lough Mask which were once to be connected via canal, which never happened because the engineers missed the geology classes and tried to build it over limestone land (notoriously terrible for holding water). I also have the “disappearing” lakes, the turloughs, in the area which don’t hang around during the summer.
But enough about actual lakes; when my mind wanders, I lose focus on my point. The reason, he said “lakes” was to indicate his response to some horrendous news. The lads in the local sweet shop had decided to raise the price of blue raspberry bonbons by 20c per 100g. It was a rip-off. There is no way we could go for our weekly brown paper bag of sweets at that price. The bag, once emptied, would induce a sugar high that kept the young population of Tuam city buzzing until the inevitable flurry of cars and busses to swipe them home. It for sure was “lakes”. The economy had only just finished collapsing (This was the summer of 2009) and we were landed with the unacceptable news that, as well as our parents’ jobs were at risk, but our favourite escape from bland, joyless food in the canteen, was now placed on a shelf a little too far out of our reach.
Lakes, indeed! I was furious. But like my stoic parents would always do, I showed little emotion. I kept my face as calm and as neutral as a silent body of water on a September evening. Calm as a lake. Calm as “crazy”.
Shane Broderick was born and raised in Galway in the west of Ireland. He studied there. He studied also in Belgium, before returning to Ireland to finish a degree in English, Sociology and Politics. In 2016 he moved to Barcelona, where he continues to live and work as an English teacher. He enjoys writing, photography, and walking with his dog. He loves music and when possible likes to go to concerts and festivals.
Photo: Caroline Johnston