My blog title is “Life in Ireland“ yet there is very little to read just yet about well… life in Ireland. Somehow I ended up writing about what I know best for a few weeks, or about what I think I know best, so Ireland has been pushed a wee bit to the background in my head. Not that it ever should be pushed back to the dark recesses in my mind, because Ireland is so ever-present in daily lives, that we often wonder why on earth we are not better and more recognized for certain things because people would and might want to change their mind about the Irish if only they did, but that will be for a new blog sometime in the near future (Firstly though I want to apologize to those who think I am not Irish even though I refer to the Irish as “we”; legally I’m not but some well-established Irish people have told me several times I am more Irish than some of them… I can live with a tag like that so!)
When I moved from Belgium to Dublin in 2002, I was on top of the world. I knew all I had to know about Ireland and sure, I’d adapt very quickly to living life down the slow-lane. Of course I had travelled to Ireland before actually moving over here, and had fallen in love with this magnificent country even harder than I ever thought I would. Dublin might have been a small disappointment at first because the truth is, Dublin was and still is turning more and more European than we want it to. But the people, they were and still are the ones that would have me ending up in a stitch, or wondering about their sanity on more than one occasion. Even now, 8 years and 8 months into my living here, I sometimes still hear things some Irish people say like dialects, phrases, habits etc… And I keep on being surprised, and that in itself is a surprise!
A wise man once said: “This is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.” Sigmund Freud, when speaking about the Irish, could not have better said it than that. No, these people will have a party because they know that they will have another party in a week or so. These people find joy in everything and maybe that is why they are almost 99% of the time friendly. Yes, we say “thank you” to the bus driver, we talk to people unknown to us at a bus stop or a train station and we feel honoured when an Irish person pays a visit at home, because home is still the best place to be in Ireland, or the second-best place to be. George Bernard Shaw said that “Ireland was the world’s largest open-air lunatic asylum” and he was not far off the mark with this particular quote, in fact, if he knew that Ireland still is like an open-air asylum, he would be a very happy man indeed.
“Rain is very difficult to film, particularly in Ireland because it’s quite fine, so fine that the Irish don’t even acknowledge that it exists.” The man who said this was Alan Parker, director of “The Commitments”. Mr. Parker could not have said it better either because the Irish are a bit of a funny people at the best or worst of times. In some ways the Irish have learnt to deny or only half-acknowledge that certain things really do happen in Ireland, but sure they’re survived a lot worse than rain and the making of a couple of films so why bother?
Aside from the good-tempered character of the Irish, they also have the “gift of the gab” meaning they could talk themselves out of anything, anytime and anywhere. They sing, write and say the sweetest of words and do it with such gusto, that you cannot but believe everything they say. I often hang on every word my Irish friends say, and in the back of my mind I think “keep talking, keep talking”… That said, there have been times where I have been flabbergasted because I had absolutely no idea what language (even though English) or meaning they were giving their words, and years later I still find myself smiling at the true gist of them.
“You’re me board” had to be translated into “you’re my bird” meaning “you’re my girlfriend”. I replied to this “OK, I am not fat but not as skinny as a plank, you know!”… “No Billie, you are my B-I-R-D!!!” … “Oooooh… Okay… But I still am no…”… Sigh…
“Are you thinking of having a sprog?” was the question if I was thinking of having a baby.
Sprogs; something as useless as tits on a bull; stop acting like a Baluba; howaya; dander; being away with the fairies; you’re gas… I’ve had my eyebrows frowned more than once in the last 10 years or so. Sometimes you hear a bit of a curse in between their words, but you can never accuse the Irish of not being able to talk, properly or not. Or as Harold Nicolson said: “The Irish do not want anyone to wish them well; they want everyone to wish their enemies ill.” Playing with words comes naturally to them, and soon after visiting Ireland the first time I picked up my first words. Actually, so much so that today, I’m often asked if I’m from the countryside in Ireland. Or others would hint at my Dublin accent, or that maybe I’m a culchie now living in Dublin. Others would say I have a Scandinavian accent, but only the type who think that Belgium is actually a Scandinavian country. Go figure, I never knew that in all my years living in Belgium!
Winston Churchill said “We always found the Irish a bit odd, they refuse to be English.” Even ol‘ Winston had picked up on that, although 700 years of domination would do that to a country. The Irish just refuse to be anything but themselves. In all their words, their heartaches and their wars they will not give up on the one thing that makes them stand out from other people: they are one happy crowd, whatever their circumstances, because they are… Irish. They will sing, dance and write you poems, and only so because they have never stopped learning, loving and being so apt at having the gift of the gab!
“For an Irishman, talking is a dance.” Deborah Love
“The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scotts as a joke, but the Scotts haven’t seen the joke yet.” Oliver Herford
“Those who drink to forget, please pay in advance.” Sign at the Hibernian Bar, Cork City.
“When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.” Edna O’Brien
“When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, ‘Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don’t believe?” Quentin Crisp
“The Irish people do not gladly suffer common sense.” Oliver St. John Gogarty
“We Irish are too poetical to be poets; we are a nation of brilliant failures, but we are the greatest talkers since the Greeks.” Oscar Wilde
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