Barbara Scully talks to Tara Flynn about her first book, You’re Grand, The Irishwomen’s Secret Guide To Life.
“According to the rhyme, little girls are made from sugar and spice and all things nice. That just doesn’t work here: sugar and spice would dissolve too quickly in the rain, and we’re not nice. Awesome, yes. Nice, no.” So says Tara Flynn in her recently published book You’re Grand, An Irishwoman’s Secret Guide to Life. As soon as I read these words which appear early on, I knew I was in for a good read. Tara goes on to explain that in fact Irish women are made of “hope, craic, waterproof material, turf, bacon products, limestone, iron and wool.” I just loved this book. It was as funny as I expected it to be but it was also very, very clever and sharply satirical.
Tara Flynn is an actor, comedienne and writer, probably best known for her comedy work on RTE’s ‘Irish Pictorial Weekly’ and the ‘Mario Rosenstock Show’. She has also been responsible for a couple of short videos which went viral on YouTube; ‘The Racist B&B’ and more recently ‘Armagayddon’ which she made for LGBT Noise in support of the Marriage Equality Campaign. It is this sharp eye for social injustice coupled with her warm wit that makes You’re Grand such a great read.
I sat down for a chat with Tara recently and began by wondering why she decided to write about Irish women. She explained that she is very used to the discipline of writing every day as she writes for her stand up, columns, blog posts etc. But she always wanted to write something long-form and she particularly wanted to write about Irish women. “I wanted to write about how great Irish women are and about some of the funny stuff about being an Irish woman. I wanted to write something we could share with the rest of the world. They think they know us but they don’t. There are a lot of clichés about us and so I wanted to look at those – the ones that work and the ones that don’t.”
A title for the book had been in her head for years… and it was Irishwomen Don’t Get Cold, a play on the bestselling Frenchwomen Don’t Get Fat. Then Paul Howard aka Ross O’Carroll Kelly pushed her into pitching it to a publisher and Hachette Ireland loved it.
So, how did Tara cope with writing in a much longer form that she was used to. “I bought a white board” she says proudly. “I made lists and wrote up all the ideas so I could see them and then sat down and wrote essays which were then chopped up into the format of the book, making it and easy read to dip in and out of.” Although I think if read from the beginning it’s richer. You can dip in and out afterwards.
But for all the humour and in places this book is laugh out loud funny, there are serious messages contained within. “Yes, there’s a bit of bite,” says Tara, “ a bit of edge. We have gone through and continue to go through a lot as Irish women and as Irish people.” Behind the “we’re grand” is the fact that a lot of the time we are not so grand but as Tara says “we survive and, to borrow from Maya Angelou, we not only survive but we thrive. We do somehow manage to find a way to triumph over misery with a great sense of humour and stoicism, although we don’t really take ourselves that seriously.” Tara says she wants us to know that we are great, brilliant even. “We must remember that although bad things may be happening we are still great.”
In a section called ‘Spiritually Grand, Staying Pagan’ Tara writes…’In ancient times we were happy, sex positive pagans. Far from being ungodly, we had loads of gods, many of them female. And those goddesses were powerful and hot. They were all about fertility, empowerment, magic and good craic. The menstrual and birth cycles were seen as great miracles. No wonder men were in awe.’ Unlike cats who I am convinced have never forgotten that they were once revered as sacred animals in Ancient Egypt, we Irishwomen seem to have forgotten just how powerful we once were and that we were once in charge. When Tara says we’re ‘grand’ I think she really means we’re still powerful goddesses and her book will help you to remember and reconnect with that.
Tara also writes about Irish women’s “bold streak” which is directly related to our lusty pagan past. She explains “the problem with being an Irish woman is that we have to pretend that we are not being bold. We are masters at that”. Our bold streak for example means that we only pretended to read all of Peig, although that did result in our beautiful Irish language suffering. “But that’s Peig’s fault” says Tara, “she was too miserable”.
Actually one of the funniest passages in the book is Tara’s reworking of Peig into modern life. Be careful where you read it because you will likely guffaw a number of times.
So, the big question – will there be another Tara Flynn book? “Well,” said she, “there is a brand new notebook just waiting to be filled and the white board is out. In fact I think I might need a bigger white board.” That’s all she would say and I tried my best to get even a hint of what she was going to tackle next. Whatever it is I am sure it will be another witty and wise read.
In the meantime you can confidently buy You’re Grand to gift to all your female friends and relations – and indeed the men in your life might also find much to interest and amuse them between its pages too. And much like dogs, this kind of easy to read wisdom is not just for Christmas – it’s for life. Treasure it and visit its pages often.
(c) Barbara Scully
About An Irish Woman’s Secret Guide to Life
Irish Women have been around for ages – some would say almost as long as Irish Men. We’ve learned a lot in that time but, until now, we haven’t shared it. Perhaps being shushed by priests/foreign invaders/the wind for too long has taken its toll – but our time has finally come to speak out.
Here comedian Tara Flynn shares the wisdom of the Irishwoman, and why she holds the keys to success in life and how to live it – especially the rough bits. Armed with her all-purpose ‘You’re grand’ philosophy, there is nothing the Irishwoman can’t weather (even the weather).
Need dating advice?
Ask an Irishwoman.
Need a recipe for brown bread?
We’re your gals.
Worried about death?
Put the fun back in funeral!
Covering all things grand, from the grand basics starter pack, to how to spice up your love life (a lesson in ‘Irotica’, anyone?) – if this book doesn’t change your life (and it will), it might just help you laugh at it.
An Irish Woman’s Secret Guide to Life is in bookshops now, or pick up your copy online here.