Gotta love the Irish

I have already mentioned in a previous post how I have offended almost every nation I’ve been to simply through poorly timed personal observations or actions. I’ve spent almost four years living in Ireland at one time or another and have now learned never to wear British Union Jack socks. Apparently there were some ‘troubles’ in the country around the 1920’s which caused the Irish to hate the British for decades. I came from South Africa….how was I to know? Then again ignorance is a poor defence. That said, I love Ireland and the Irish. To live there is like taking a 10-year leap back in time. I have always said that there is something different about the Irish. Something I can’t quite define, but they’re different. Laid back? Sure. Friendly? Also true, but there’s something else that I can’t put my finger on. It’s like there’s something missing.

A Little Leprechaun

There’s a charm, innocence and naivety about them that is both endearing and frustrating at the same time. This is reflected in things like the lack of post codes for mail. Where every other country in the world has had post codes for decades, Ireland is only now planning to introduce this ‘new-fangled’ technology. Where every other country you go to these days encourages tourists to spend money when visiting, Ireland has very little in the way of tourist attractions and fails continually to capitalise on the tourist industry. Popular tourist spots like Dun Laoghaire (Dunleary) pier is sadly bereft of all but two small carts offering awful coffee and super-soft-serve ice cream. Bana Strand, a popular beach on the West coast, has no coffee shop within at least 2 miles. Again, there are refreshment wagons in summer, but no real provision for the tourist trade. This is surprising in a country that is crying out for job creation. On the other hand, most visitors to Ireland either love the refreshing absence of tourist trap hot-spots or spend their holiday too drunk to notice much else but the bar counter at the local pub. It’s the way that the Irish people think that fascinates me.

It’s not only the absence of post codes that’s surprising, but in many parts of the country not even the house name, number or road name are given. I moved into a house outside Tralee and had a chat to the owner before moving in. There was no signing of a written contract. Simply an agreement and a handshake. Or was there even a handshake? Come to think of it, it was simply a case of: “Sure, you’re fine. I like you. You’re in.” He told me that the address was simply ‘Knockglass More, Camp, Tralee, County Kerry’. No house name or number and no road name. I asked him how the postman would know to deliver my mail. The owner informed me that he would tell the postman my name next time he saw him in the road. Sure enough, my mail started arriving shortly after I moved into the house. At other times, when asking for directions, I have been told something like: “Well you go down the road, take a right at the Virgin Mary and then it’s the third gate on the left after the graveyard.” Strangely, once you become accustomed to this way of communicating, it seems to work – after a fashion, although it’s a nightmare for the GPS/Satnav. I imagine that sales of those things are pretty low in Ireland.

It was a sad day when I was forced, by circumstances, to move out of the house. I looked for storage facilities and found a company in Dublin that seemed to be well established in the industry. I contacted them via e-mail and told them the dates when I would like to move my things into storage. They sent back a confirmation and took a €50 deposit. So far so good. Since I would be in Ireland for only four days, my plan hinged on being able to move my meagre possessions into storage on that date. So there I was packing all my things over the weekend, thinking that on Monday I would have one more day to finish up when I received an e-mail from the storage company. The fresh-faced blonde receptionist (or so I imagined from her e-mails) invited me to move in on the Monday instead as the next day (when I was due to move in) was St Patrick’s day and they would not be open at all-at all on that day. I was incredulous. Could she not have told me earlier – like when I made the booking – that they wouldn’t be open on the day I wanted to move in?! She sent back a terse reply, but no apology. She said that I was welcome to move in on the day after St Patrick’s day, totally missing the point I had made about having to fly back to Denmark on that day.

Plan B involved finding a storage company locally in Tralee and at very short notice. As luck would have it, I found a place that looked half-way decent and called the number on the advert. “Yes, hello?” came the brusque, but guarded reply as if I were the police calling to enquire if he was storing banned substances. I told him I was looking to store my possessions for some months and enquired about the rate. It turned out to be €60 less than the storage in Dublin. More luck! He asked me what time I would be down to make the arrangement, but when I told him I would be there in the afternoon he replied that I should deal with his son at his son’s lawnmower business: ‘as you come from the main road’, he said. I asked if they accepted card payments and there was a confused pause at the other end of the line. “No, we don’t have any card machine now. We accept cash payments only”. I asked if there was some way for me to get the money to the company for future months’ rent. Perhaps a transfer into their bank account? Again a pause. Then he replied: “Well no. That would cost you 23% extra to do that.” I mentally stepped back 10 years into the past and told him that I would pay for six months in advance. It was cheap enough. He seemed happy with that. Now I was speaking his language.

After some confusion trying to find his son’s lawnmower business,  (they looked more like cars than lawnmowers), I found the son with greasy hands at the back of his shop. One of the few people actually working on the eve of St Patrick’s day. He took me through his secret door into the storage facility which apparently backs onto his business. I was expecting some hi-tech equipment such as I had been used to at the storage facility in the UK, but more was my surprise to find out that there was no sophisticated keypad entry or even security cameras. Merely a key and a key-fob to release the side door to the warehouse. The sign next to the switch for the roller door begged customers to please roll down the door while they were inside. “At this time of the year our furry friends are very active”, it said. I paid the son for six months in advance and asked for a receipt. Confusion again. He explained that he was merely taking the money for his Dad and that he had nothing to do with his Dad’s storage business. He said that I could ask his Dad who ‘might’ send me a receipt online. Fair enough. It’s all about trust in Ireland. I asked for the number of my storage unit. Again a shrug of the shoulders. It wasn’t marked on the door or the key. It’s a mystery to me how business continues to function in Ireland. Luck of the Irish I guess.


© 2016

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