Friday, July 22, 2016

Irish addition by subtraction?

In continuation of last week’s post on Ireland, I feel obliged to mention what Ireland has few of, for better or worse.   Of course, I could be wrong about any of these points and confused the forest and trees. I am open to any correction.

Ireland has very few cats, pets or wild.  Neither in Dublin nor Galway did we see any cats in the streets or windows.  Apparently, something there, possibly the weather, discourages their procreation.  It certainly is not due to a lack of birds.

For that matter, Ireland lacks pests.  St. Patrick probably did not kick them out, but there are no native Irish snakes.  Furthermore, I didn’t see any cockroaches or mosquitoes either. The largest carnivore is a fox, not exactly a major threat to life. There are badgers but they apparently avoid the city and wreak only their havoc in the countryside. To be fair, midges can be problem at certain times but it is a much localized problem at that.

Curiously, with no connection to the previous paragraph, Ireland has few Israeli visitors. We were there some 12 days and did not meet a single Israeli.  I am not complaining but it was certainly surprising as Israelis are big travelers. I do not know the reason. It may the relatively high price or lack of Jewish roots in the Emerald island, but we could speak Hebrew freely without worry of being understood.

Continuing on the positive note, Irish food portions are respectable but not obscene. With no longer the appetite and capacity to burn calories that I had when I was in my 20’s, I appreciated getting up from Irish meals satisfied but not stuffed.  There was always room for the delicious dessert, which are also tasty but not copious. Less can be better.

While most people think driving on the left (not wrong) size of the road is very frightening, Irish road makers were very Scottish in their craft. The roads are so narrow. To my eye, the country roads are one way. However, somehow they serve two- way traffic, allowing even a bus and car to pass each other without damage.  I often thought of that scene in one of the Harry Potter movies in which the bus changes form in order not to hit a car. Those tight squeezes made me happy not to drive in Ireland. Phrased positively, Irish drivers are amazing.

Regarding subtraction, the politics of Ireland as expressed by the weather reports is quite fascinating. The Irish TV station always mentions the weather in Belfast and northern counties even though they are part of the UK. By the contrast, the BBC, including BBC Northern Ireland, steadfastly ignores the weather in the lower two thirds of the island, somewhat like the missing picture of the embarrassing aunt. By contrast, the Irish I spoke with rarely mentioned the British and their influence on Irish history. They were cryptically (sarcastically?) referred to as our English cousins.  The less said the better.

Finally, Irish (Gaelic) and Hebrew are both resurrected languages, effectively reborn for nationalistic reasons in the last century or so.  While in Israel the vast majority can and do use Hebrew in their daily lives, Irish is not widely spoken, only 16% of the population, mainly in rural areas, despite it being the first official language. My favorite Irish sound was the name of the Irish railroad, Iarnród Éireann. During our trip to and from Galway by train, we heard it at the end of every announcement, to my constant amusement. To an English ear, it sounds like here nor there, which is funny in the context of travel. In any case, I wish the Irish success in creating a true local national language.

To end my two-part Irish post, I heartily recommend a trip there. Come armed with a sense of humor and adventure. Both the country and its people are a bit wild in a positive way.

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