(Joseph O'Connor, brother of the singer Sinead, is a well-known journalist and novelist in Ireland. He wrote a running account in the 'Sunday Tribune' newspaper of his misadventures in the USA while accompanying Irish fans to the 1994 World Cup which had the whole country laughing itself silly and became an instant classic. The following is an excerpt from the diary covering the day when Joe and some of the lads took a day off to visit Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. Being able to guess what 'a ride' means in Irish slang sort of helps things along ....)
Our tour guide Wanda is waiting for us. Wanda is a very nice young woman from Kissimee. "There are some rully good rides here at The Magic Kingdom," she says, to a chorus of snuffles and titters. "We have big rides, small rides, scary rides, happy rides, whatever kind of ride you like you can find here at The Magic Kingdom." One fan is falling about the place now and another -- Crocko by name -- is laughing his bloody dentures out. Wanda must be wondering what it is she is saying that has all these grown men nearly widdling with laughter. But, true professional that she is, she continues.
"Er ... some of the rides have been here for a long time, but other rides are new, and here at Disney we're constantly looking at ways to make rides more exciting." The fans are slapping their thighs and guffawing at this stage. One usually quiet man from Laois is actually honking with laughter, throwing his ponderous head back and honking like a great big white-legged hysterical mallard duck. Honko, I'm going to call him from now on.
"What's so funny?" Wanda says.
"Nothing, Wanda," Honko replies.
"No, c'mon," she says, "Am I like, saying something funny?"
"Not at all, Wanda. You're grand, sweetheart. And c'mere, tellus, do you like the odd ride yourself, Wanda?"
"Oh yes, of course."
"And how many rides would you have a day?"
"Oh, I dunno, three or four I guess. Depends how much spare time I get."
Well, at this stage several of the fans have to go and sit down in the shade, or pour water over themselves, so frantic are their cackles. Some are actually sobbing with laughter. Donald Duck wanders over to one of them and begins gently to peck him on the head with his enormous yellow beak. "Go away ye big feathery fairy," the fan says. A hearty chant soon begins, the scheme of which is based on the considerable rhyming potential of the words Donald Duck. What a talent for poetry the Irish have! Seamus Heaney would have been proud.
Things are about to get even worse, however. An enormous structure depicting Mickey Mouse is pointed out on the horizon. Wanda tells us, her voice fairly brimming over with pride, "and guys, you know what, that's the largest self-supporting Mickey in the whole of the United States."
Well, I don't think I have to describe the communal reaction, really. It is as though the entire party has been blasted with laughing gas. Several of the supporters will need medical attention soon.
"Oh, there are other Mickeys," Wanda sniffs, dismissively, "there's a rully big Mickey in California, of course, and there are some rully large Mickeys in some of the other states, and a big old Mickey over there in Eurodisney. But I gotta tell you, we're real proud of our superb superbig Mickey that we got down here in Florida."
The sun is blazing hot now, and the white stone floor seems to be sucking the heat into itself. Tears of laughter are spilling down the faces of my companions. The seven dwarfs saunter past us, pursued by the mad hatter, the wicked witch of the west, the queen of hearts and various assorted fluffy tigers holding hands. The fans are chanting again now. "You'll never beat the Irish. You'll never beat the Irish." If Wanda smiles any harder, her eyebrows will disappear into her hairline. I close my eyes. I try to imagine just how much money you would have to spend on drugs to achieve this weird a feeling.
(Thanks to Dubliner in Japan (June 2008))