Tag Archives: Guinness

Why Ireland is so special

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 –

Why you need to go to Ireland

Ireland is a wonderful land – a beautiful green island that has seen its fair share of war and famine.  Go there – soon!  Start at the top and work your way down to the bottom.  Walk the coastal routes and marvel at beaches that would rival anything you see in the Caribbean.  Travel on roads so narrow it is incredible how two-way traffic is allowed – and works.  Find yourself in a Derry pub with traditional music playing and the owner might even invite you behind the bar to pull a pint!

Guinness

You see it is the people and the Irish spirit that makes the island so special – and yes I say island and not country because Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland together make up the Emerald Isle.

I toured the cities of the “troubles” – Derry and Belfast – and saw this from the unique perspective of both sides – Loyalists and Republicans.  Our group drove through one of the many gates in Belfast which still separate Catholic and Protestant and closes each night at 6 pm.  We even had a chance to add to the multi-coloured murals with our own graffiti –
belfast wall

I was there during the semi finals of Gaelic Football with Dublin playing Kerry.  My goodness – makes the Red Mile in Calgary look sad.  Every house was decorated in the blue of Dublin’s team and although I didn’t go to the match we went to the local pub to “celebrate”.  I think the bar tenders there must be lip readers – they certainly couldn’t hear any of the orders shouted across the bar.

You see the Irish have a turn of phrase – a way of saying things that make you stop, think and then laugh.

Take the famous statue of Molly Malone – I am sure you have heard the old song – and the statue is a popular tourist attraction in Dublin.

molly-malone-statue

Leave it to the Irish – she is known locally as the “tart with the cart”.

Then there is the famous Spire …. The Spire of Dublin, alternatively titled the Monument of Light, is a large, stainless steel, pin-like monument 120 metres in height, located on the site of the former Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street in Dublin,   This was erected to replace Nelson’s column which had been blown up by the IRA in 1966.  They did have another go at it during the Easter Rising in 1916 but apparently the explosives failed to ignite due to dampness – my goodness me!  Rain in Ireland?  What a concept.

spire

Leave it to the Irish – known as the Stilleto in the Ghetto!

Or how about this beauty?  Meant to personify the River Liffy this statue was erected where the Spire is now.

floozie

Leave it to the Irish – this became well-known as the Floozie in the Jacuzzi.

So go there – have a Guinness – have a laugh – have a cry.