I like Ireland, and the Irish who live there. Ever since I was briefly befriended by the then prime minister’s (Teajoc’s) brother on my first flight to Dublin some years ago the people of the south have gained a special place in my heart and mind. I have so many tales about experiences there, usually based on the warmth and sense of humour of the people.
Our latest visit was occasioned by two events: our youngest son had acquired a son and house. My wife could not wait to get her hands on this latest grandson (I quote) and my acquired skills as a house renovator were needed to kick the other project off. And project it was. The house is not too far from the centre of Dublin where prices are soaring and, from first impressions, I found it to be a basket case in a dubious area. After two weeks hard labour where I provided a new shower and loft tank, rewired the kitchen area and fitted up a new kitchen I changed my mind about the house and the area – and reinforced my opinion of the Irish.
Just one example: the house is part of an old corporation estate and bordered by a scruffy lane which serves the next door launderette, Chinese takeaway, electrical supply shop and so on. We were living in our motor caravan, the house unfurnished and uninhabitable. There was nowhere to park, in fact most people parked on the pavements. So where were we to go? Luckily my son had spotted an unusual location near to his densely populated area: a dead end street overlooking a pleasant park and dribbling stream called the Poddle. At the end was a large space in which cars and lorries could turn. Great – we took up residence, nervously. Surely the permanent residents of this enviable plot of greenery would balk at gypsies moving in?
On the first evening an old man approached with his dog, presumably to complain. “Is it alright to park here?” I asked in an effort to pre-empt the onslaught, adding, “it’s just temporary while we help our son do up a house.”
“Oh, to be sure, you’ll be safe enough there. Nobody will bother you,” he said as my jaw dropped in astonishment. He then went on to tell us the history of the place, of his wife’s death and how his daughters supported him and finally to introduce his new “wife”, the dog, a little scrap of a thing whom he said, “never nags. Oh, and if you want you can park right outside my house”.
We became regulars at the Four Roads pub where we quickly made friends with the previous landlord and major contributor to the karaoke session on a Monday night. It was here that we saw a spitting image of Anne Widdicombe wiggling her bounteous hips whilst belting out Elvis’s ‘Teddy Bear’. And it was not just the Four Roads that welcomed us - we were chatted to by people in almost every pub that we entered.
My son allowed us just one day off work so we escaped to the coast south of Dublin. Finding it camping car unfriendly (not surprising, there are so many of the things nowadays and so big) we turned inland finally drawing to a halt above Parnell Park in the village of Rathdrum. The village was small but lively and we had a great evening of good, basic, Irish food, some quaffable local beer and visits to two pubs with live music.
Next morning I ran around the park, learning a little more about Parnell who was born nearby and was a great and dogged proposer of home rule for Ireland in the 19th century. Perhaps appropriately the park also had a plaque celebrating the constitution of an independent Ireland which I read with great interest. Two words leapt out at me, particularly because of the recent Brexit referendum in the UK. The words were ‘sovereign state’ and the context , of course, independence. My eyes widened as I read this at a time that the Irish government had just been reprimanded from Brussels for giving favoured tax rates to the likes of Apple and Google and ordered to accept unwelcome refunds! And, hang on, wasn’t sovereignty the major issue in the UK referendum?
Now, I know this is a long shot, but could it be the great change that is Brexit might be the context for a united Ireland with free trade links with mainland Britain and who know what else – sovereignty perhaps? Yes, just as long as they do not lose those palatial pubs of theirs where the greeting is genuine rather than corporate policy and the drinkers are there to talk and sing rather than adulate mobile phones.