We all have that place that has a special place in our hearts and mine is Ireland. My mom was one of 7 and grew up on a small (very small) farm in the Irish countryside and I often get the chance to go to Dublin and visit my aunt and cousins who live there. I always get such good feedback from clients we send to Ireland. Dublin has become quite cosmopolitan – it is after all, the main city and capital. It is in the smaller towns and villages that you will get to meet the real Irish – and it is quite the experience!
As kids we would love to sit down and hear all the stories my mom would tell us about the place she was born called Ballyjamesduff. She told us about the man down the road who went out to work the one day and never came back. Apparently he had emigrated to the USA where he found and married (illegally) another wife. 40 years later when he was close to death he walked back into the same house and told his wife “I’m home”. She made him a cup of tea.
Then there was the lady who lived in a house that had a big hole in the one wall. There were different stories of how the hole came about – some said it was a bomb that went off by mistake and blew out the wall – others said that the hole was knocked into the wall when a charging bull was let loose. No one ever knew the truth – not even the local priest (and that is saying a lot because they know everything that happens in the small villages). When anyone came to visit her they could have easily have stepped right into her living room through the hole in the wall but they were polite and went round to knock on the front door. Sometimes she would pretend not to be home, even though they had seen her through the hole in the wall, and would shout through the letter box – “no-one’s home”.
Everyone helped each other out in that farming community. If things got very tough and there was no money to buy groceries my grandmother would slap her hands on her thighs, stand up with a sigh and announce “To hell with poverty, let’s kill a chicken!” One Christmas a kind neighbour donated a goose to them for Christmas dinner. This was a treat indeed. My mom was sent over to pick up the goose which the neighbour had killed and plucked. All the family would have to do would be to remove its innards, stuff and roast it. Mom dutifully carried the goose all the way home, which was no mean task for her – the goose was big and she was very little. She set the goose on the kitchen table and went out to the vegetable garden to call her Mammie. By the time they returned to the kitchen the goose was gone! Mystified they went through the house only to discover that the goose had not been dead, just stunned, and was running around the front garden as naked as the day it was born!
Ireland is full of stories and full of pubs and you will usually find musicians playing traditional Irish music on fiddles and Irish bagpipes. The funny thing is they are there to share a song and a drink with their fellow musicians and will quite often sit with their backs to the “audience” and will possibly accept the gift of a Guinness every now and again.
Now you may know that the Irish have a reputation when it comes to having a pint (or two) and so it became customary that at confirmation Catholic children had to take the Pledge to never touch alcohol. I can remember my gran having a little lapel button showing that she had taken the pledge. She was very strict about this but this did not change the fact that her daughter (my mother) married an English sailor. Hmmm. Not exactly the type to take the Pledge. My dad loved teasing her about this. On one outing to the local pub (yes even if you had taken the Pledge you could still go to the local) he went to the bar and got himself a beer and bought a lemonade for my gran. After she had finished it he said to her “So how did you enjoy your first gin and tonic?”. She nearly fainted. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”, she said “what have you done to me”. He had to confess !
Talking about beer – even if you are not a beer drinker you have to have a Guinness in Ireland. I can promise you it is NOTHING like the Guinness you will get anywhere else. It is smooth and sweet and, can you believe, very low in calories. There is a knack to pouring a good Guinness – if you watch the barman he will usually fill it about three quarters full and then leave it standing for a while for it to “settle”. I made the mistake at one pub of reaching out my hand to the glass standing under the pump. I just wanted to feel if it was cold but he thought that I was going to take the glass and literally shouted at me to leave it be! Very strict. I soon got around his good side and had a go at pouring my own –