The program is packed with events: midday screenings of “Sister Act,” 2:00 PM matchmaking with Mrs. Murphy, the Jesuit Country & Western Hour at 5. Furthermore, a Priests vs. Nuns Beach Volleyball Game at 2:30, the Lovely Girls Contest at 8ish, a noon bicycle ride to Chinatown, the Father Ted Prizeless Quiz at 7:30 … and so on. I mark down the events that interest me and make mental notes: be at Shebango’s Nite Club for the Lovely Girls tonight. Get to the beach at 2:o0 to make sure you get a seat for the volleyball match.
So I head down to the beach. On the way, I pass the protest.
And then, a milk float-cum-lovely horse passes me:
To the beach, everyone:
I’m there at 2 but nothing begins to happen until well past 3. When it does, the ball is batted across the net a few times before the game dissolves without warning and both spectators and participants stream into the pubs to watch the Ireland vs. England rugby game. Hungry, I head over, too, and squeeze into a table in the corner. I’m seated next to a gaggle of Lovely Girls who are absorbed in painting orange, white, and green stripes on their hands. At the bar, an elderly man in a baseball cap and a plaid coat eyes them, and they paint stripes on his hand and cheek, too.
Ireland wins and Ted Fest 2010 is kicked up a few notches. It’s back to the pubs, where Sister Boon and Sister Mills are playing covers on their guitars. A rousing acoustic rendition of “My Lovely Horse” flares up; the big finish: a bishop dropping his robe.
The sunset is pink over the blue Killeany bay and, after dinner, I head down to Shebango’s for the Friends of Ted Bangers and Mash, The Loveliest Couple, and The Lovely Girls Contest, which are slated to begin at 8. An 8 pm start means I’m there at 7:45. The club has been laid out with long, wooden tables; a disco ball shimmers. Nuns call: dinner is served! and spoon mash and bangers on to our tin plates.
It hits eight and there’s no Loveliest Couple. It hits 8:15 and there’s no Loveliest Couple. Nuns, priests, Dougals, Jacks, and Teds throw back drinks, seemingly unaware that time is ticking away. Camera flashes explode and a pile of empty beer cans grows next to me on the table. It’s 8:30 now, and there’s still no Loveliest Couple.
A Lovely Girl asks if I’ll watch her purse while she runs to the loo. Gladly. I glance at my clock again and watch my glass of wine turn purple, then blue, then red, underneath the disco ball. When the Lovely Girl returns, I remark that it’s taking a long time for the contests to start and, in fact, few of the events of Ted Fest have started on time.
“Ah,” she says. “Haven’t you noticed by now that it’s all just a laugh?”
“Yeah,” chimes in her friend, Father Dougal. “Ted Fest is a cover. It’s just an excuse to go down the pub. The events are loose ’cause we’re here to ‘Drink! Drink! Drink!'”
“Feck! Arse! Girls!” shouts the Lovely Girl.
“‘Drink! Drink! Drink’!”
And I laugh. I laugh because I get it and because it’s been almost a year and I still think I’m in Japan.