You know you are in Ireland … when there are more Protestant churches than eating places… or perhaps we just got hungry in a particularly fervent part of Belfast?
When the first thing you see when you step out of terminal one in Dublin is a large church tower in the middle of the car park with the words “God is love” at the top.
You know you’re in Ireland when the campsite manager has told you in less than three minutes: the salient points of local history, the location of the Chemical toilet, the names of both his aunties (pausing briefly to reflect on your name, ‘that’s irish you know’), the price of the local mansion up the sale (28 million euros) AND a long tragic story about a man called Tara who inspired a Beatles song. He even plays you the first few bars of this particular song on his mobile, just in case you are a cultural eejit, – and yes, all this and more, in less than three minutes whilst taking payment for our first night on a campsite. He’d definetely kissed the blarney stone!
You know you’re in Ireland when you confirm the location of the local pub with your Air B&B host by saying “it’s along the road, turn right and keep going” (these were my exact words spoken in clear English pronunciation) and she looks at you strangely and with barely a moment’s hesitation says,
“well now, I don’t understand a word you’ve just said, so let me just tell you how I feel you should go“.
Yes, seriously, she used the word “feel” for a set of road directions! She felt we should go along the road, she felt we should turn right and then keep going, ’round the bend, round the bend, round the bend…’ We were going round the bend trying hard not to laugh and I was backing away around the front door in the hope that she’d stop going ’round the bend’ before I fainted from hunger. As a parting shot, she then added that she had a feeling that when we got there we shouldn’t go in the front door, she felt we should go round the back.
No offence taken!
(The front door turned out to be a bar, and the backdoor was to the restaurant but she never explained that).
You know you’re in Ireland when you casually asked for a pub recommendation whilst browsing in a gift shop and the shopkeeper says ‘just a moment’ and goes out the front door of the shop. Two minutes later, two minutes of time when I could have helped myself to all manner of knickknacks there being no other shopkeeper in the store, I went to the front door only to see her coming back from 300 yards down the road where she has been to establish that “yes Joe’s is open tonight and yes, they do have space, but they do have two confirmation parties in at 6:30 PM, so maybe you should go earlier or later“.
She’d all but booked me a table! Meanwhile I’d been sorely tempted to serve the other customer who’d wandered in to the empty store.
You know you’re in Ireland when the tollbooth lady asks you where it is you’re going, reassures you that the weather is sure to be lovely and says she hopes you have a lovely time. And she wasn’t an exception, the second tollbooth worker took one look at the rented campervan and said ‘Ah now, shall we call it a car and just pretend you don’t sleep in it?’
You know you’re in Ireland when the tiny village shop uses its huge electronic message board to tell you that it sells:
No, I didn’t stop to ask. Any suggestions?
You know you’re in Ireland when instead of the dreadfully prosaic and dull “don’t drop litter” signs, you get a huge poster saying: “Where litter lies… Beauty dies” (I wish I’d got a photo but it was seen from a bus). Talk about poetry in the soul!
You know you’re in Ireland when you see this…..
and for your lunch time companion you have this little fellow who all but fed out of my hand,
When Dulse, which sounds like a sweet and is sold in sweetie shops turns out to be seaweed.
When ‘champ’ is mashed potato.
When you have one of these at 11 o’clock in the morning
When the man with the entire window full of footballs in a very small village shop who probably only makes 3 sales a day, refuses to sell you one because you’ve asked for dog proof football and he ‘can’t be sure your dog won’t eat it’.
When you see a road sign to this place
You know you’re in Ireland when you are leaving church on a Sunday morning and a stranger comes across the street to ask you if you’ve just been to church. When I told him I had just been to worship, he holds my hand recites several verses from the Psalms, shares a couple of pithy devotional poems and sends me on my way with the blessing.
You know you’re in Ireland when you can pick up prayer bookmarks for free at the post office (” I’ll have five second class stamps and 2 Hail Mary’s please” – tempted but resisted).
When you meet some well know people in a motorway service area, which turns out to be named after these same well know people and even has a musuem all about their links to the area.
You know you’re in Ireland when you walk into a ordinary supermarket in a small town and a perfectly ordinary young man who sees your walking boots asks you if you’ve just been for a walk and where have you been, and then if you’re a tourist and what country are you from and finally what your names are. ‘Give my regards to Rugby’ was his cheerful parting comment, once he recovered from the disappointment that we weren’t Australians, as for some reason he wanted us to be Australian.
But you know you are English when after such a short and pleasant exchange, you walk away feeling guilty that these simple pleasantries have made you suspicious and fearful of the young man in question. Were we being distracted while our pockets were picked? Was his mate outside breaking into the van whilst we were detained in conversation? I know such things do happen, but neither of those things did happen. He was just genuinely interested and openly friendly. So “Hello Rugby” from Shaun in Ballymalloo!
All in all, it was a great experience and you know you’re back in England when you don’t give or receive random personal comments or questions from complete strangers, other than inane remarks about the weather.
So that’s it for my sabbatical travels for a bit. Thank you to my companions, Sarah Barker in Northern Ireland for week one and David Bridge, valient campervan driver in the South.
credits and mentions for great service/hospitality
https://www.ballyeamonbarn.com/ a wonderful place to stay in the ‘Queen of Glens’ Glenarriff in Northern Ireland – we stayed in the loft, fab accommodation with a double room, a bathroom and a huge living space. Access to kitchen for cooking.
http://portrushholidayhostel.com/ great hostel with excellent facilities, super location and lovely and clean.
http://dublinwicklowcamping.com/contactus.html welcoming caravan park just 45 mins from Dublin, see above for description of welcome from owner!
http://www.bunkcampers.com/en/campervan-hire-locations/ireland/dublin/ the place we rented the campervan from
Eagle point campsite near Bantry Bay for most beautiful setting and Ouvane Falls Inn for most delicious dinner of roast beef.
https://www.airbnb.co.uk/users/show/189181481 https://www.airbnb.co.uk/users/show/189181481 Clem’s very special renovation of the school he went to as a child into a home and b and b on IslandMagee. The hugest bedroom we had on the whole trip, and entire class room with a PE changing room for a bathroom.