With the Irish 03


The following is a report to friends from a lecture tour to Ireland, to Carrick-on-Shannon to be specific.

Foreign countries are, well, foreign. I am sure we read somewhere a cultural tip about tea time in the “British” Isles. “Have a cuppa” and “Tea” are used interchangeably and confound us yankees.

We drove up to Bundoran (Bun Dobhran) north of Sligo and took a long brisk walk along the coast. Waves were high and pounding the shore. Micheal and his friend Patrick kept exclaiming, “would ya look at that, do you think you could ride it? Yeah, but it would be a fast ride. It would take my 5 mm.” He wasn’t referring to a gun (we were very near the border) but the thickness of his wet suit. A 3 mm thick wet suit is insufficient for this weather, but the thicker suit would be just fine–or so they told us. “It’s no colder than the Pacific,” says Micheal, “because of the Gulf Stream.”

Afterwards we searched the resort town high and low for an open restaurant. Thousands of tourists in the summer, but when they go home, so do the shop owners. We settled for a Western-themed bar and ordered our “cuppa”. But, as I am gradually learning, “tea” means more than tea. It can mean sweets, light snacks, or a full-blown meal. Our tea was a meal. Patrick translated Tea as equivalent to our “dinner”. The Irish evening meal is more substantial and isn’t something to be tackled lightly, as we’ve learned the hard way.

Many restaurants and hotels here have double doors, but one door is always locked. Why, I don’t know. Of course it’s never the one I try first. Best bet is go for the one on the left, since they drive on the left, a l’anglais.

Pull out your credit cards and see what company acts as the clearing house. It’s likely MBNA. The have a huge, recently built operations center here, the driver for all the suburban sprawl springing along the floodplain of the Shannon. (Yep, they’ve learned some very bad habits at our knee.) At night the brightly lit building stands out with its large window openings each with false lights. So someday if you’re arguing with your credit card company listen closely for an Irish accent. Like the Indians in Bombay that handle many telephone transactions for the US market, they are trained to know the weather wherever you may be calling from and other tricks to put you at ease.

Got another good dose of Republican history (no, not those Republicans). On the way to Bundoran we passed Yeats’ grave and then the harbor where the IRA blew up Montbatten. During the summer’s marching season, many from Ulster take their holiday in the Republic to escape the violence.

Patrick lives in Donegal and teachs in Derry. That’s a test. I knew enough to know the word he used was significant but I couldn’t remember why. Those aging brain cells again. “Derry” he explained, “was a regional center before partition.” Ok, I think I got it, the town was split between the Republic and Ulster or Northern Ireland. But I challenge you to find Derry (Doire) on a map. If you point to “Londonderry” you’ve found it. To Republicans, it’s still Derry, though I think the name was changed after Cromwell’s victories in the 17th century.

Beautiful weather again today, cold, but clear. We may take that walk on the Miners Way afterall.