Greetings from Dublin, as I take a break from +30 temperatures and settle for the “soft days” of Irish summer – a little rain, a little sun, and nothing more than +17 on a good day. But there’s so much to balance that minor issue. When Johnny Cash visited Ireland more than fifty years ago, he wrote a song called “Forty Shades of Green” about the incredible scenery he found here. I think he underestimated the varieties of green, to be honest.
But, not to make anyone jealous, let me point out some of the more practical aspects of life in modern Ireland. Like so many other countries, Ireland is dealing with an increasing cost of living, questions about climate change, and political shenanigans. While Canadians may complain about the price of gas, here a litre of petrol (why is a liquid called “gas”, by the way?) costs around 1.86 Euro, or roughly $2.50 Canadian. Diesel is worse: averaging $2.70 a litre.
Of course, in Ireland, you don’t have to go far to go far, if you follow me? You can drive from Clifden, on the west coast, to Dublin on the east coast, in a few hours, as the distance is under 300 kms. That doesn’t help when you drive in a large city like Dublin, where the rush hour traffic would make a denizen of Toronto feel almost at home. Dublin is an Eighteenth Century town at its core, not designed for modern traffic, but recent imaginative changes in traffic flow have made things much better than the gridlock that used to grip the Capital in days gone by.
Oscar Wilde once said (Oscar said a great deal, most of it worth repeating), that North Americans and the British/Irish are two peoples divided by a common language. We all speak English, of a sort, but it doesn’t always sound the same. It’s not just the accents, or the different words for the same thing (truck or lorry; garbage or rubbish; chips or crisps, etc.), it’s the use of language that makes us different from each other. Naturally, I think (as do most Irish people) that the only really pure form of English is spoken in Ireland. The rest is a pale imitation. That may be bias, but not necessarily untrue…
So, here I am in my home town for a couple of weeks, wandering the streets, listening to the buskers on Grafton Street, people-watching with great delight, and enjoying the occasional (?) Pint in the local pub. Ah, that’s another thing: the pubs. There is simply nothing like an Irish pub for atmosphere, conviviality, good food, and properly poured pints.
Ireland is a changed country since I left here so long ago. It is much more multicultural than it was, with people of all backgrounds, colours and beliefs living together, generally amicably, though there are always the ignorant, the racists, to cast disapproving glances at others on the bus, or make snide comments about “foreigners”, even though those foreigners were born and raised here and speak with astonishing Irish accents. Even for me, there is something wonderfully joyous about hearing young people with brown or black skin chatting happily together in strong Dublin accents. The Irish were used to being the immigrants in other countries; now we’re the destination for so many from other, less happy, nations.
But the Irish face the same issues as Canadians: cost of living, scarcity and cost of housing, especially affordable housing. The Irish wonder how they managed to elect such incompetent politicians, wonder at the apparent dimness of anyone in authority, and make marvellously witty comments about anyone and everyone.
A recent study on the effects of climate change showed that most of downtown Dublin will probably disappear under water in the next century: but that did not come as a surprise. You see, growing up here, I heard about the prophecy made by St. Patrick, that before the end of the world, Ireland would be saved from the worst disasters by disappearing under the sea. At least that’s how I remember it. These days, I’m not sure I see how that would be a bonus.