By the time you read this, it will be old news. This week, however, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is getting more attention than the escalating conflicts in the Ukraine and the Middle East. Soon every person on this island will have posted a clip of a bucket of ice water being poured over themselves to raise funds for Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disorder. As the kids got ready to go back to school, people poured buckets of water over their heads and nominated others to do the same. Some got quite creative in their bucket challenge. People dressed up, or found amusing locations. We spent hours watching people we knew getting soaked. None came close to the only bucket challenge that I actually witnessed.
We were up at the village for the festival. It had been a number of years since I’d attended. Bad weather and other commitments had got in the way. Looking around I was delighted to see how much has changed and how much it has remained the same. Our little village has grown since I first came to live here over twenty years ago. Young local people have remained here to raise their children. Many who left have returned, bringing foreign partners and children with them. The village is thriving with a diversity and an energy, which is great to see. Around sixty children of all ages, many in fancy dress, milled around the DJ table which was set at the crossroads (as per usual) but under a green gazebo rather than the traditional (though rather unattractive) flat-bed truck. Another novelty was bunting and a big printed banner. The little girls knew all the dance moves to Gangam Style, like they used to dance to the Macarena. The little boys ran up and down the streets in packs like puppies. The teenagers snuck around the corner to the dark bit between the pub and the church. In a world filled with horror headlines, it was great to see a bunch of happy healthy kids running around at ten o’clock at night having fun with their families and neighbours.
The DJ made an announcement that someone was about to take the ALS Ice Bucket challenge and asked the children to step back for their own safety. I wondered what he meant by “their own safety”. It seemed unlikely that he was worried that they might get splashed. Surely getting splashed was part of the fun? Then I heard a mighty rumbling coming up the road. The rumbling turned into a roar as the crossroads was illuminated by a powerful light. A giant shiny green tractor made its way past us, its giant bucket full of water sloshing over the sides to the shrieking delight of the crowd as we scrambled to the higher ground. Two chairs were duly placed under the overhanging bucket. The tractor’s beam was so bright that you could not see anything except for the shiny silver chairs. The crossroads was transformed into an spotlight stage worthy of the X Factor. After the nomination speeches, which were greeted with hoots, hollers and applause, the two men taking the challenge sat down as the tractor revved up its engine. The bucket tipped slowly at first releasing only a tap size trickle, before inundating the two men with a miniature Niagra Falls. The crowd went wild, as they disappeared under the curtain of water. The laughter soon turned to shrieks, however, as a small tsunami swept across the crossroads and past the DJ gazebo. It was epic!
By Halloween we’ll have forgotten all those hilarious celebs, friends, family and neighbours getting soaked in the Summer of 2014. The Ice Bucket Challenge will go the way of the Harlem Shakes (one billion views in 2013), but Ireland raised over €400,000 ( at last count) for charity and had a laugh at the same time. Sounds like a win-win.