Tuesday, June 19, 2007

First impressions (of Ireland)

Hook lighthouse, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Well, the first imperssion was from the aeroplane as we looked down across the Atlantic Ocean to the south-eastern tip of Ireland, the coast was clear, and dark clouds were brewing a little bit inland, and as I mentioned we arrived to a mixture of sun and rain, both at the same time. Although low pressure systems were circling around, we were quite lucky with the weather and it only rained a bit on the cold Saturday lunchtime. Sun all Friday afternoon and Sunday all day.

We found the Irish very approachable, very talkative, inquisitive, their accents were not as thick as I had expected, maybe due to their closeness to Britain. They were less dark than I expected and a lot redder/gingery than I imagined, possibly a mix between Celtic and Viking.

The food was excellent, if expensive. € 2.60 for a bottle of diluted Ribena and € 3.60 for a packet of Hob Nobs! But the more serious food we ate at Fordes Restaurant in Wexford and The Lobster Pot at 'Our Lady's Island' were excellent.... with lots fo fresh seafood. I will make Mum and Richard, if he is reading, very jealous by telling them that I had a plate of delicious unshelled crab meat. Mmmmm....

It had not taken long before we saw some political slogans, the first even mentioning Cromwell, comparing him favourably with the Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. It was all to do with his policies towards the fishing industry. No exact details, but it seemed as if the Irish fishermen are suffering as much as their counterparts all over the world, smaller catches and smaller fish and supplies diminish. We saw a lot of small fishing harbours during our weekend. I particularly like them as they provide great opportunities for photography.

History is always near the surface in Ireland and as an Englishman (mostly) one feels a bit ashamed to read about the continuous waves of bad treatment we have meted out to the Irish over the last 800 years or so. It was interesting to note that the churches were all built in the same style and all built at a similar time in the mid 1800's (I think). I believe this is due to the fact that until then Catholicism was as good as outlawed and people had to be careful not to be too open about their religion. We were generally disappointed with the churches.

The countryside made a mixed impression. It was less wild than I had imagined, but was as green as anyone could imagine. It was often difficult to see too much countryside as it was quite flat and there were very high hedges. Many fields did not seem to support much cultivation and it looked at times quite messy.

A big blight on the landscape are the houses which seem to be built almost anywhere and everywhere. Big big houses in a modern tasteless style. Almost American in their bigness and brashness. One has heard about the Celtic Tiger and with low interest rates, a favourable tax climate, influx of money from Europe, there has obviously been a housing boom which has fed on and fed off a consumer boom and, all of a sudden, south east Ireland is under bricks and mortar!

Otherwise, we had a lovely trip from waterford to Wexford, crossing a river on an € 8 ferry (I told the ticket collector that such ferries are free in Holland and she just glared at me!). We took the coast road and had some beautiful views across the bay, the estuary, some cliffs, some beaches. The hedgerows may be high but they are full of beautiful flowers, including the fuchsias which Fred had told me so much about. Amazing... hedges red and pink with the flowers of fuchsias!

Tomorrow, I go to London, but should have the evening off and if I find any internet access I can talk about what it was like to discover my Irish roots! Getting a bit late here, for a working man!


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