Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be visited by the most fun, kind and gorgeous pirate (yes, pirate) that I have ever met. I loved having him here; not only because it gave me the opportunity to catch up with a fab old friend, but also because for the weekend that he was here, I was reminded of how....simply wonderful Ireland is.
We had breakfast in Bewley's, took the walking tour of Dublin, saw spontaneous theatre on Grafton Street, wandered around the beautiful grounds of Trinity College, ate dinner in the tiny, hidden pizza place that is now famous for being Imelda May's place of work, and went into a lot of pubs and bars. We then took the luas back to the Prince's castle, and spent the next day wandering through the Irish countryside, feeling like Gerry and Holly in the Dun Laoghaire scene of p.s. I love you.
All in all, a fantastic weekend. And a brilliant reminder of exactly why I chose Ireland to move to.
Now it wasn't just the days that reminded me of why I love this little country. The Pirate himself got me thinking when he asked the casual question that I'm sure has crossed your mind as you've been reading this.
'Surely living in Ireland is just the same as living in England...isn't it?'
I'd like to begin explaining by telling the story of what happened to me several weeks ago....
It was New Year's Eve. In keeping with our hopelessly romantic tradition, the Irish Prince and I were in a gorgeous restaurant in Stepaside; looking back with the kind of bittersweet nostalgia only acceptable at that time of the year, and looking forward with the kind of hope for the future that only lasts until Epiphany.
By the end of course number four and two hours of discussing...well, everything, I was certain of three main things: 1) 21 was definitely the best album of 2011. 2) Even the Olympics would never beat the excitement of the Royal Wedding. 3) I would never need to eat again.
Which meant that when the waiter came over to take our order for course number five, I, in my prim and proper English way, politely refused with a small smile and a sip of my water, and waited for the man to nod and disappear.
I wasn't in Chelmsford anymore.
Instead, the waiter (or 'yer man' as the Irish Prince would say), pulled a shocked face, and exclaimed 'Ah you will! Go on, you will! You can't not have dessert! It's so good! Just have this one! This one's SO light! But SO good! Go oooon! I'll bring you that one. Fantaaastic.'
And was gone.
In my experience of Ireland so far, this is normal. Staff are happy. Customers are happy. Even the most miserable of all creatures- bus drivers- are jolly and friendly here. The other day when I didn't have my exact fare ( a stupid rule that does, unfortunately, travel across water), my bus driver smiled and said 'Ah well I'll just drop you up the road then will I? No worries about the money.'
So following the Pirate's question, I started thinking about all the little things that remind me every day that I'm not in England anymore....
*Every sign/notice/tannoy announcement is translated into Irish.
* Having an Irish TV channel.
*Chocolate Kimberleys (the BEST biscuits/treats in the world).
*Butler's Chocolate Cafe (if you don't know what this is, book a flight NOW. Trust me, it'd be worth it.)
* Everyone knowing EVERYONE. Seriously. I met someone on Saturday night that was surprised when I didn't know his friend Annabel even though 'she's from Essex too'.
* The way everyone speaks. And I don't just mean the accent (although if that's not a reason to move to Ireland I don't know what is...) It's the words they use, and the way they use them. Now I'm not claiming to be an expert in this, in fact I'd say at least 50% of the time I have no idea what's being said. Unless I'm with the Irish Prince's friends. In which case I'd rather they spoke Spanish. At least I have a GCSE to help me out with that. But for those of you who may be venturing to this glorious island in the near future, here's a handy dictionary....
- Grand: cool/brilliant/fantastic/fine/ok. General positivity on a wide scale.
- Give out: Tell off.
-Bold: Naughty. In the child-misbehaving sense. Could be embarrassing if you tried it in any other sense.
- Hot Press: Airing Cupboard. Unlikely to come up but good to know nonetheless.
- Yer one/man/woman: Any person, at any time, anywhere. Unfortunately I think the knowledge of who each person means when using this phrase is something Irish people are born with. Those of us not blessed with Irish genes will never know who they mean.
-Will: Used instead of shall. As in 'Will I stop singing now?' Advice from experience: resist the urge to answer 'God I hope so'.
-I'd say: Used instead of 'reckon'. Far nicer in my opinion, and one I hope to catch while I'm here.
-In: Used instead of 'at' or 'went'. As in 'I'm in Lakeside' or 'I was in St. Patrick's School'.
Now I am very aware that so far I have done the very British and very annoying thing of moving to another country and preaching back to everyone at home how much better my new found home is. Trust me, not everything is better. Here's my list of things I don't love about Ireland...
*Every single website is useless. Even the ones that we get in both countries like Ticketmaster or Vodafone are pointless here. 'Does nothing work outside of London? Hm?' (Little Bridget Jones reference for the film fans amongst you.)
*Buses don't run to a timetable. It's impossible to find a timetable online. If you do manage to find one, the locations are written in Irish, and even once you've translated them, the happy little drivers don't follow it AT ALL.
*It's SO COLD. All the time. August Bank Holiday weekend was possibly the coldest I've ever been.
*Radio stations do HALF the show in Irish. And not 10.30-11.30 in Irish and the next hour in English. Oh no! They actually just change language every few words. I had to listen to the news three separate times before I could work out exactly what Beyonce had given birth to.
* Everything is ridiculously expensive.
3€ for Glamour magazine.
5€ for a smoothie.
13€ for a Malibu and pineapple.
*Saying pardon 400 times a day and spending an unreasonable amount of time nodding and smiling vaguely.
Despite everything I've said I think that it's safe to say that I love Ireland and everyone in it.
So what exactly is that special difference that I see and the Pirate couldn't?
I was once lucky enough to meet a well-known, certified genius, who told me that the reason Ireland is second only to Disney World on the happy scale, is 'because they work to live there. We live to work. We've got it wrong.'
Perhaps we need to take a shamrock out of their book?
Something to think about :)