What I Miss About Ireland

Taking the advice of Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara, I’m spending this day not joining my 15 year old son and his five friends on the slopes of Shawnee Peak in Maine. Rather, as Eileen suggests, I’m sitting by the fire in the lodge.

While my son, his friends, and I hang onto the last vestiges of winter at a cabin in Maine, my wife and my other sons are enjoying a springtime weekend in Dublin, where – as per a previous post – springtime arrives a full two months earlier than in Boston.

Though I’m thrilled to be back in the States after four+ years in Dublin, thinking of my wife Jules and the boys in Dublin reminds me of the many things I miss about Ireland, ranging from the significant to the trivial.

People: It was great to return to the States and our many friends. That said, we left so many friends behind in Dublin. I miss them dearly and I envy the reunions Jules is having this weekend. But I also miss the people in Ireland we did not get to know as friends, the proverbial ‘man in the street.’ Irish people really know how to enjoy life – maybe that’s because, according to The Economist, the Irish enjoy……the highest quality of life in the world, as referenced in an earlier post. The Irish enjoy life by achieving a balance among work / family / friends that we Americans can only dream about.

Monday Holidays: A perfect example of that better work / family / friends balance is the Irish Bank Holiday Weekend held six times a year, discussed in a January post.

Interval Drinks: The Irish are not known for planning ahead. But one of the few instances when they do plan ahead is in buying the drinks for the interval (‘intermission’ to us yanks) at the theatre. You order your drinks before the show, so that at the interval you head straight to your pre-assigned table where your drinks are waiting. Though I was initially surprised at this one instance of the Irish planning ahead, I quickly realized that this bit of planning gives them far more time for drinking and for craic – two areas of extreme importance. Why have Boston theaters not universally copied this system?

Spontaneity: The beauty of not planning ahead is that it allows for spontaneity. Since people’s schedules are not booked weeks in advance, they can take advantage of last minute opportunities for fun with friends. It was perfectly normal for us to read about a play on the Monday, order up four tickets on the Tuesday, invite friends on the Wednesday, and enjoy a night out on the Friday with dinner, theater, and a pint. It was rare that the call to friends resulted in a “We’re busy that night” response; and if they were busy it was truly something interesting – a romantic weekend in Prague, dinner with the prime minister, a shopping weekend in NY City – not the American fare of ‘Junior Parents Night at the High School’ or some similar ‘event’.

Cut Flowers Not Needing a Vase: According to Food and Wine magazine, dinner guests should not bring cut flowers as a gift for the host, as the flowers require the host to find a vase. In Ireland, cut flowers are sold with an attractive clear plastic paper ‘bubble’ around the stems. The bubble is filled with water so there is no need for a vase at all; just plop the bottom-heavy bouquet down and they stand straight. We talk about ‘Yankee ingenuity’ yet I don’t know why American florists haven’t copped on to this very simple idea.

Dublin-specific Places: I apologize, as the following will be meaningless to those of you who’ve not been to there, but I miss many Dublin-specific places: Saint Stephen’s Green, where something is always in bloom; the Strand; the first smoke-free pubs in the world; Lansdowne; Dublin 4; the Luas tram, taking us from our house to center city in less than five minutes; the pervasive smell on rainy nights of Guinness being brewed; and the Diep Noodle Bar in Ranelagh, easily our favorite restaurant any place we’ve traveled. (Try the fried spicy chicken appetizer.)

As I wished Carl off on their journey, I said, “Order the fried spicy chicken appetizer for me.” I just wanted him to be sure to enjoy them, but he truly thought that I wanted him to try to sneak an order back through customs at Logan. I laughed and told him not to try – but as I view the poor food at the ski lodge here, I hope he does!

As per my post of 1 February, spring is the best season to enjoy Irish weather and avoid Boston weather. Sunday’s Boston Globe has a decent article on the subject, including a number of very low priced tours for April.

All the best.

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