The Graveyard in Inverin
On the Road to an Irish Graveyard
Dean Mulroy is the kind of guy who needs room to roam and access to the stars, which is why he lived way back in the bog behind the house I rented in Inverin. Only a certain kind of guy would want to live as he did. At the time, he was unimpressed with technological conveniences, including a telephone, and the first thing he did when he moved into the lackluster, two bedroom stucco house he rented beside the bog’s serpentine stream was rig the existing phone to such a pitch that people could call in, but he couldn’t call out. He had what he thought of as a reasonable explanation for this, but I didn’t learn it until much later, after our friendship had taken root and he no longer held me in suspicion.
It had been my habit to walk the endless bog behind my house after I got home from work in Galway. It was summer time, and sunlight hovered well until ten thirty during this halcyon time of the year. I ambled through the bog because it seemed to ground me to the soul of this particular region of Connemara. One foot after the other gave way to a rhythmic cadence that put me in tune with something soulful and unnamed. I did my best thinking on my walks through the bog because it gave my feet purpose and allowed my chattering mind to unleash into an impressionable, free-floating stream of consciousness. This is how I learned to interpret rural Ireland; by dreaming my way through, step after meditative step.
The third time I passed Dean in the bog, he abruptly stopped me. He’d had entirely enough of not knowing who this stranger was in his midst. A slightly built girl with long blonde hair and a pair of Wayfarers in rural Ireland must have been anomaly enough, but to see a face repeatedly in Inverin and not know the whole story was an unpardonable sin. People in Inverin don’t keep to themselves; tacitly, it isn’t allowed. By virtue of the fact that one lives in Inverin, they are automatically a part of a collective consciousness that operates under the assumption that all of its residents are members of the same tribe. And because the Irish are not prone to insinuating themselves upon a stranger, Dean Mulroy chose the colloquial way of introducing himself, which is to say that he cast his eyes skyward and commented on the weather. “Ah, she’s blowin’, all right,” he said standing firmly in my path, with his hands on his narrow hips and an even stare. I’d been in Ireland for two months thus far and knew how to respond in the Irish way. I raised my eyes to his dark frame of wavy hair and met his blue-eyed glare. “She is, yeah,” I said rhetorically.
We next got down to the exchange of names and I learned he already knew where I lived because there is no place to hide in Inverin. A single American female living in a holiday home on the side of the coast road is big news in a town the size of Inverin, but Dean still wanted the unadulterated facts. It took him all of two minutes to invite me to call out the next day for a cup of tea. I knew now that people in Ireland are always “calling out,” which shouldn’t be confused with just showing up, because calling out has a much bigger purpose. I turned his invitation over and jumped to what any American would immediately ask. “I’d love to,” I told him, “what time would you like me to come?” Dean looked at me for a heavy, pregnant pause, with a brow so knotted I thought surely it hurt. “Don’t put a time on it,” he said. “Come when it suits you.”
I had two thoughts as I continued my walk through the bog that day, and the first was about the weather. For a population that revolves around the vagaries of the weather, it’s easy to see why the weather in Ireland is personified as she. It’s because she is pervasive and dictates everything, so when someone in Ireland uses the word “she,” everyone knows what is meant. The second thought on my mind was how authentic and unselfconscious the Irish are as a culture. Had I extended an invitation to anyone for the following day, I’d be ready and my house would be perfect, but that is not the way it is with the Irish. Dean’s lack of concern over the timing of my arrival demonstrated the open-armed way the Irish receive anyone: there is always an open door, no matter the time, and they are ever at the ready to put the kettle on and offer a cup of tea.
It was a thirty minute walk from my front door to Dean’s rented house, deep in the bog in Inverin. I took my time the next day sauntering through what came to be a habitual pattern along a quiet gravel path through turf and brittle bracken. When I arrived, it was two o’clock in the afternoon and I found Dean in his kitchen, freshly shaved and waiting. He held a guitar on his lap, looked up when I appeared, and said as a matter of course, “I’ve been singing me heart out all day.” We exchanged personal histories and drank tea until our heads were swimming. Dean told me about the dolmen that lay in the bog behind us and said he’d show me himself, but he wanted it to be my own discovery. He next told me that the ancient graveyard down the dirt road across from my house was haunted. “Tis a brave soul, it would be, who would walk that road at night,” he said, fixing me with a challenging stare.
“Have you ever done it? “I couldn’t help but ask.
“I have,” he returned, “but no woman would want to.”
The sky turned the color of bruised eggplant, releasing a torrent of mercurial pelting rain. Running for dear life to Dean’s tan colored van, it took my full strength to pull the door closed against the rousing wind before we rattled the bog road to my house. Dean leaned his head through the window in the stinging rain, shouting as I ran to the shelter of my porch. “I’d call you, but I’ve cut meself off; too many late nights on the drink running me phone bill up. Unless it’s planning on bumping into me on one of your bog-trots, you are, you’re going to have to call in to me.” I told Dean surely I would then ducked safely inside.
Later that night, after the rain let up, I put on a light coat and stepped outside my door. I stood in the darkened stillness until I’d made up my mind once and for all. There are no streetlights that far out in Inverin, but I had the light of a waxing moon. Cautiously, I crossed the coast road. I heard the gravel scratching beneath my steps and put one foot in front of the other in an intonation that sounded like a military march. A slight wind blew like a whisper then rushed forcefully, just enough to startle me before it ebbed. I thought I felt a chill on the back of my neck and wondered if it was the night air or just my fear. Down the lane I continued, until the graveyard loomed on the hill to my left. Granite tombstones in varying heights crowned with Celtic crosses glowed eerily in the moonlight. It was a graveyard forever marking time, halfway down a lane all but forgotten. I walked steadily, not wanting to hesitate, not daring to stop; only wanting to walk the lane at night because Dean Mulroy had said no woman would want to.
Another photograph taken in the graveyard in Inverin, County Galway, Ireland
After more years than I care to count, Kieran has resurfaced. The last time I saw him, it was raining; it was one of those gray Galway days on New Castle Road, and I’d sleuthed Kieran out after swearing to Adrian I’d never tell who had told me where I could find him. Sometimes relationships get complicated.
It was fate that brought me to Kieran’s fold. It unraveled in increments, like breadcrumbs leading the way to The Galway Music Centre’s door. I was a newly arrived American, staying in a B&B on Eyre Square without much of a plan beyond spending a little time in Ireland. The nice woman who’d shown me to my room had left me with a copy of “The Galway Advertiser,” and I’d opened its pages to discover a singular sentence announcing the opening of The Galway Music Centre on New Road. There’d been no statement beyond the Centre being open, and, spurred by the lure of the word music, I’d walked round the next day to investigate. The Advertiser hadn’t lied. The Galway Music Centre was open, so I walked in. Then I saw Kieran.
He was standing in the loft of The Centre, tacking a poster of the singer Daniel O’Donnell on a bulletin board, on which he’d drawn a mustache and horns because that was Kieran’s idea of humor. I stood undetected, watching him before he noticed me on the worn, redbrick floor. Scattered about were hammers and nails, scraps of plywood, four mismatched chairs, and a fold-out card table, on which sat an electric kettle, a box of Lyon’s tea, and a pint of Oranmore milk. Kieran came clattering down the wooden slat stairs when we finally saw me. He moved with such sprightly agility, he seemed airborne, and when he landed in front of me, he held out his hand and said, “Can I help you?”
I had no way of knowing that moment would be the beginning of a relationship that would set the tone of the year I spent in Ireland, but then everything about Kieran was unpredictable. He was a vortex of frenetic energy; a twenty five year old, rapid talking, plan making youth from Derry with an unintelligible accent, who was the product of an Irish mother and a Chinese father. He was tall and neatly compact, with jet-black hair he wore in a high pony-tail that bobbed behind him with every step of his bouncing stride. He had olive skin, a devilish smile, and upturned oval eyes that could either twinkle like starlight or bore a hole right through you, depending on his mood.
Kieran had moved into Galway to make something of himself, but after knowing him for a while, it occurred to me he had moved into town to take over completely, which in many ways he did. Kieran couldn’t walk down the streets without something happening, and when he wasn’t out prowling around looking for the craic, the craic had a way of coming to him. It’s anybody’s guess if fate works similarly, whether it lays in wait preordained or we meet it halfway. But it seems to me some things are meant to be, for were it not for Kieran, I can’t say for sure that I would have stayed in Ireland for as long as I did. But Kieran’s job offer at The Galway Music Centre was too good to refuse, and one thing led to another, the way things do when you have youth on your side and life by the tail of its unlimited potential.
We were four that worked at The Galway Music Centre: Keiran and Shannon and Darren and me. We operated out of an old iron forge on New Road with the intention of creating something theretofore unseen in Galway: a musical haven aimed at furthering the careers of the local musicians. We had no business plan, but eventually created something notable as we went along. In time, we soundproofed a room downstairs and built the only rehearsal studio in Galway City, which sent word out on the cobblestone streets and put money in our pocket. And all the while, Kieran was the hub of the wheel the rest of us revolved around. He was the man with the vision, the face of the Centre, and everything hummed along nicely for a solid year, up until it didn’t. When everything fell apart at The Galway Music Centre, it was predicated upon things I now see as avoidable: misinformation, miscommunication, and the mishandling of funds, which explains why I had to wrangle Kieran’s whereabouts from a young lad named Adrian, for in fine old Irish tradition in the face of conflict, Kieran didn’t feel like talking about it and simply disappeared.
There are more enviable positions to find oneself in than to be an American in Ireland without an income. I had a score to settle with Kieran. All I was really after was the decency of closure, so I’d been grateful to Adrian when he’d said, “Well, I’m not telling you where he is, now; I’m just pointing the way.”
Armed with the full knowledge that the Irish see Americans as direct to the point of pushy, I figured I had nothing to lose. I walked to New Castle Road in the pouring rain, lifted the latch on the low iron gate of a four bedroom guesthouse, and knocked on the door. It was the setting of the last conversation I had with Kieran, and at the time I would have confessed I really wasn’t that mad. There was something so likable about Kieran that I forgave him his capricious edges, and there was no pretending I didn’t have a soft spot for him in my heart. Yet words had been exchanged that catered to our individual ego, which is to say that we never found a bridge on which to meet each other halfway. I wasn’t surprised years later, when I set out to write a novel set on the western coast of Ireland, that Kieran came pouring through my keyboard, traipsing in that bouncing walk of his all over my story. I know now that when something between friends is left unresolved, it will take on a life force all its own and find expression one way or another.
Although I still think it was fate that brought me to Kieran’s fold in the first place, the thing about fate is there’s no way of telling when the story is completely told.
I’m thinking about this now because yesterday I was tagged on Facebook by Shannon, with whom I’ve kept in close touch these many years. I clicked on the notice to see a picture of her with Kieran and I outside a pub in Kinvara, taken during the time we all worked at The Centre. I looked closely at the tag and realized somehow Shannon had reconnected with Kieran without telling me, for there he was tagged in the same picture. And as anyone would, I clicked on his name to find a picture of him standing beside his wife, who held their baby in her arms somewhere in County Antrim. Shannon’s dual tag has given Kieran and me a reason to reconnect, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Now I’m thinking of the adage: what comes around goes around, even though it’s prone to take its sweet time. And with regard to the unpredictable hand of fate, it’s interesting to realize it didn’t forget Kieran and me; that it found its way to Ireland via social media.
The Atlantic Ocean, as seen in Inverin
Taken into an Irish Confidence
This Irish vignette has stayed with me throughout the years, the way poignant moments tend to do. It was only a moment, really, yet even at the time I could have told you of its impact; there was something about sitting in Seamus O’Flaherty’s porch on the coast road in Inverin that made me think I’d truly arrived in Ireland, that I’d been invited into its inner sanctum and was a part of it now, even though I’d heard time and again that the green-eyed look of me would have eventually done the same.
The first time I met Seamus O’Flaherty, I didn’t know he was a big deal. I’d struck up a conversation with a woman in a café on Galway’s High Street, who was in for the day from Carraroe. She sat with her bags clustered around her: the red and white stripped plastic kind with the flimsy handles that are doled out in every shop in Ireland. She’d swept them aside to make room for me on the red naugahyde community cushion against the café’s wall, and I’d scooted in gratefully as she said, “You’re all right, there.” Her name was Kathleen O’Toole, and she wore her gray hair swept up in a bun over her round, blue eyes. Somewhere in her mid-sixties, I remember marveling at the quality of her skin: fair and translucent, the color of cat’s cream in white porcelain, with high coloring on her sharp cheekbones that made me think of my mother.
I’d only been in Ireland a week. I’d flown out of LAX to Dublin on Bloomsday, spent four days in Rathgar at the friend of a friend’s basement flat then taken the train across the island to Galway’s Eire Square, for I’d been told the west of Ireland would fulfill the image I sought: rolling green fields cut through with gray stone walls on the way to the dramatic sea. So it was here in the café on High Street that I told Kathleen O’Toole I’d be staying a while; I’d been offered a job at The Galway Music Center and needed a place to live. “Where are the fields with the gray stone walls?” I’d asked her, and without hesitation, she replied, “In Connemara; you should take the bus to Spiddal and call into Seamus O’Flaherty.”
I stood shoulder to shoulder with Kathleen O’Toole in front of a music venue named The Lisheen, waiting for the bus to Connemara. The bus surprised me when it finally appeared; it was one of those huge touring kinds, glossy and black and ominously official. It pitched and rolled through Salthill then turned left on the coast road and came to a teetering stop in Furbo then Barna, before it touched down in Spiddal, where I thanked Kathleen O’Toole and disembarked. I couldn’t tell you now where Seamus O’Flaherty’s office was, but I recall it was among a cluster of shops along the side of the coast road. At the time, I was so new to Ireland that I was swimming with disorientation over the sheer novelty of every Irish aspect, but I found Seamus O’Flaherty’s office easily because it was the only one with a full-size glass door.
He was on the phone when I walked into the linoleum floored room, and I felt his wise owl eyes take my measure, for surely everything about the way I was formally dressed screamed American outsider. He hung up the phone and listened patiently as I gave him my story, which he nodded through poker faced as if he’d heard it all before. Without preamble, he reached into his desk drawer and presented me with a lone key topped with orange plastic. He set it on the desk between us and said, “Now,” which I came to recognize later as the Irish way of completing a transaction.
The place I rented was a one level, two bedroom holiday home in Inverin, with a kitchen and living room behind a spacious glassed-in porch. It was one of four positioned in a row on the same property as Seamus O’Flaherty’s home, which was perched on a knoll facing the verdant fields ambling down to the sea. It was the modern architecture of the holiday homes that told me Seamus O’Flaherty was a forward thinker, for his real estate was conspicuously dissimilar to the white-washed, thatched roof cottages peppered throughout the provincial region.
And so it happened, one early evening that I came to call round to Seamus O’Flaherty’s back door to deliver my monthly rent. The kitchen door flew wide in mid-knock, and there stood Seamus O’Flaherty’s diminutive wife, wearing a white embroidered apron and holding a wooden slat-spoon.
“I was just after making dinner for himself,” she said, when Seamus O’Flaherty’s voice drifted from beyond to invite me in. “Well then,” she said, then she turned her back and led the way through the living room and into the screened side porch.
Sometimes you find yourself in the presence of someone whose very essence makes you sit up a little taller. Seamus O’Flaherty exuded authority in his low-slung, square intensity; his steady gaze and no-nonsense manner held me fast from his wicker chair as he offered me a seat. He conducted himself as if it were he who’d called me to his audience. He asked me about myself in that covert manner the Irish employ, which can best be described as leading the question.
“So you’re long here, working and doing some writing, you are,” he began, and one thing followed another in what morphed into a give and take exchange. Somewhere along the line he must have decided I was harmless, for the air shifted when his wife returned to bring me a cup of tea, and he motioned for her to join us. In soft rhapsody, their story unfurled: that she was from Roscommon; that they had met as teenagers; that they’d settled in Inverin decades before and raised their three sons, one of whom was no longer with us. It came to me slowly that this pair was no stranger to tragedy. They’d known life’s rough edges and cruel adversities, and on this particular evening, they confided that their deepest wound had come from the suicide of their youngest son.
There are some moments, when self-revelatory confession is shared, that mere language becomes too weighty and too much. They hang in the air with such reverberant force as to break the heart open, and as I sat in stunned silence after Seamus O’Flaherty told me about their son’s suicide, it wasn’t so much that I was shocked by the fact, as I was by the fact that he’d told me. It had been my impression that the Irish hold their cards close to their vest, yet here I was now, privy to an intimate family history. There I was in the midst of Catholic Ireland, dizzy with the realization that such a personal essential had been shared on Seamus O’Flaherty’s porch.
That singular night was the pivotal point of the year I lived in Ireland. I knew now that behind the easy banter that often masks the guarded countenance of the Irish people, there lies a secret story replete with life’s mercilessness. But you’d never suspect this in meeting most of them, for they are not a lot prone to laying their burden at your feet. Yet if they do, you’ve cracked the code. You are in-crowd, a part of it all, and to be in their confidence hovers like the largess of grace, and it stays with you forever.
A verdant field in Galway Bay, Ireland
Galway City, County Galway, Ireland
The streets of Galway were gray that night. Everywhere I looked, gray buildings, gray sidewalks, gray sky, beneath a mist that floated inward from the Atlantic and hovered ominously, casting contrasting coronas of light upon the sidewalk from the interior lights of the handful of pubs still open in the midnight hour. Our footsteps echoed as we walked from The Kings Head to the hackney office on Dominic Street, right across the street from Taylor’s, which was Kieran’s favorite pub. Kieran used Taylor’s as if it were his personal office, and many was the night he summonsed Darren and Shannon and me to the pub to talk business because Kieran never did see the line between work and play.
Were it any other night, the four of us would have gone into Taylor’s; we would have sailed through the door in Kieran’s wake, following that proprietary swagger of his as he made his way to the section in the back designated for Irish traditional musicians. But this evening had been exhausted at The Kings Head. It was beyond time to call it a night, and I had to get home to Inverin.
I was standing on the sidewalk when the hackney driver brought the car around. I said goodnight to the three of them and got in the front seat of the car for what would be a thirty minute ride along the coast road. You’d think the memory I retain of that night would be centered on the activity in The Kings Head. After all, close to seventy people had turned out for The Galway Music Centre’s musician’s showcase, which the four of us had spent an entire month orchestrating. But as Ireland has a habit of making art of the contrary, what stands out the most for me is the hackney ride home.
It wasn’t often I had cause to make the journey from Galway to Inverin by hackney at night, but when I did, it was always a rather eerie experience. The total darkness on the two-lane road, the way the moon illuminated the sea in hues of black, cobalt, and silver, the lonesome stretches of treeless landscape, and the complete absence of sound made the journey surreal as I watched the night for signposts guiding me home. The ride was a gradual change of consciousness as I left the energy of Galway City behind and crept stealthily into the bleak solitude of Inverin. Typically there would be conversation with the hackney driver from start to finish. It would be a stranger and me traveling together with the same destination, and in that singular pursuit, there was a comfortable tacit alliance. On this night, the hackney driver was a local named Michael Connolly, and I confess that what started it all is due to the fact that I’m the garrulous sort; I’m uneasy with weighted pauses and tend to fill in the gaps when I think there’s too much dead air.
“Are you from around here?” I asked Michael Connolly, who was raven haired and blue-eyed and looked to be in his early thirties. He was tall and lithe, with graceful hands that rested casually on the steering wheel, as if he’d cut through this particular swath of Connemara so many times, the car no longer required his guidance.
“I am, yeah, born and raised just up the road, but I’ve done me share of travelling” he said, in what I knew to be a Connemara accent. It got up under the vowels and rolled to a singing pitch then finished each sentence in a way that left me waiting for more. “You’re an American, yeah?” he continued, in that way the Irish have of letting you know that nothing sneaks by them.
“Yes,” I said. “I’m from Memphis, Tennessee, but I’ve spent the last few years in Los Angeles.”
“Los Angeles,” Michael Connolly said, confirming the name as if he were sorry to hear of my troubles. I can’t say I blamed him. He was so relaxed with himself, so bright-eyed and open that he lacked the requisite wary manner it takes to get by in a place where all that glitters is not gold.
“Have you been to Los Angeles?” I asked with a sideways glance.
“Oh God, yeah,” he said. “Lived there two years, so I did, and that was enough for me. My idea of heaven is Ireland with Los Angeles weather,” he offered. “My idea of hell is Los Angeles with Irish weather.”
It was such a seamlessly delivered line with such perfect timing that it left me speechless. Five months on the west coast of Ireland, and I still hadn’t loosened my grip of enthrallment over Irish banter; I found all exchanges thrilling, and would study the regional dialect and its distinctive phrasing of words in the vain hope that one day I’d be able to master it in an effortless manner. Because the Irish have this effect on a person. They’re so good at being themselves that it makes an outsider want to become one of them, to shed any awkward, unwieldy dissimilarities that leave one standing out like a sore thumb in their presence, and slip into that easy-going way of theirs where the art of communication is a banter that sings.
Horse in a Field in Inverin, County Galway, Ireland
Once upon a time, I spent a year living on the western coast of Ireland. From my American frame of reference, it took a bit of adjustment to become accustom to the Gealtech of Connemara’s shores. My acclimation to the culture came in curious increments comprised of chance encounters in unexpected places, but they gave me valuable insight into what I know now to be the social mores of the friendliest lot on earth.
Although I worked in Galway, I lived thirteen miles up the road in the village of Inverin, which is two miles up the road from the village of Spiddal, an area famous for its Irish traditional music. At night, Spiddal can seem like a ghost town, but that’s only because most of its activity lies behind closed doors. There are precious few buildings lining the coastal main street, but what little is there stands closely together. Most prominently is a boutique hotel in the middle of Spiddal, and across the street is a popular music venue called the Cruiscan Lan, which means “little jug of whisky” in the Irish language. It was at the Cruiscan on a Thursday night in October that a chance encounter gave me my first glimpse into the charm and character of the rural Irish people.
My friend Leigh and I were not long inside the Cruiscan before the two salt-of-the-earth men at the bar started “chatting me up,” as they say in Ireland. They’d been unabashedly watching us from the moment we walked through the door. They were “on the piss,” as it’s called when someone intentionally sets out to get rip-roaring drunk just for the sport of it, and suddenly one of the men reached out and grabbed my arm as Leigh and I passed by. It’s funny how things hit you at different times in different places. In most cases, an unwarranted gesture like that would be scary or offensive, but because it was rural Ireland, I only saw the humor. They may have been on the piss, but they were harmless, I knew it intuitively.
“What brings a lovely thing like you here this night?” one of them asked—the one who was holding my arm.
“We’re just passing through,” I said, turning to face him.
“Are you long here?” he asked, emphasizing the word long.
Am I long where? I thought. Am I long at the Cruiscan? Am I long in Spiddal? Am I long in Ireland? This is no doubt a translation issue, I thought. Anyway, does he mean have I been here long, or do I intend to stay here long?
There are many idioms flying around Connemara that have their origin in the Irish language. I’m pretty sure “Are you long here?” is one of them, and I couldn’t help but think when translated into English, something is missing. My mind was racing. It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked this question in Ireland, it seemed to be part and parcel to an Irish introduction, something commonly asked after the extension of “Nice to meet you.” Rather than risking embarrassment by asking what the question meant, I was in the habit of bluffing my way through the answer, hoping to appear as if I understood.
“I live here,” I returned, “I live in Inverin.” I had the feeling if you see someone once in Spiddal, you’re going to see them repeatedly, so I might as well tell the truth.
“What is it that brings you to Inverin?” he asked, finally releasing my arm.
“I’m working for the Galway Music Centre,” I said, “and I’m working on a book. I’m a writer and a poet.”
“Ah, aren’t we all,” he laughed, then he winked at me and raised his pint.
It was then I realized the Irish have a natural way of wielding the perfect retort. It’s more than a gift for the snappy come-back, it’s the art of banter in its highest form. My suspicion is the Irish employ it as a way of revealing themselves, as a way of communicating that they don’t take themselves too seriously, that life is a party, and you’re welcome to a seat by the fire. What I like best about Irish banter is when such a line is delivered, they expect you to match their eye-twinkling wit. It’s a cultural way of inclusion, a way of saying you’re welcome in their midst, which is exactly why they have the reputation of being the friendliest lot on earth.
There are practical logistics involved in travelling anywhere, whether it be down the road or to another country. Two months ago, I returned to the west of Ireland, after having lived in Connemara years ago. My recent trip confirmed what I’d learned about Ireland as a result of living there, and it has everything to do with relinquishing my neat grid of logic regarding how things should work, and embracing the Irish culture instead.
It is my belief that Ireland has a collective consciousness: an overarching energy to which the Irish people subscribe in the interest of pack mentality. It produces its own rhythm, and it helps to make the culture run like a well-oiled machine that defines personality. In my opinion, Ireland has a personality that dictates everything.
My best advice for anyone planning to travel in Ireland is to check your understanding of how society should work at the door. Leave behind your frame of reference, open your heart and allow yourself to be a student. For Ireland has its own way of operating, and at its core is a respect for humanity. The Irish are not impressed by your attachment to who you think you are, they are too busy welcoming you into their fold because they suspect once you understand their playing field, you’ll be much better off.
There are some things worth considering when travelling in Ireland, and the first is that the concept of time is very loose, therefore, the idea of thereabouts will suffice. If you were to call down to the front desk of your hotel to request the delivery of something, don’t stand at the door tapping your foot and checking your watch. Your request will be fulfilled as soon as is reasonably possible, and as impatience is bad form in Ireland, learn to relax. And because time in Ireland is loose, you’d be doing very well to make plenty of room for it in your daily schedule. Don’t schedule events too closely together, for were you to schedule a time and destination in town, it be best to factor in the exchange of pleasantries along the way, for the exchange of pleasantries is the glue that binds Irish society. And while I’m on the subject of exchanging pleasantries, be sure to employ your sense of humor, lest you find yourself out of sync. There is no higher crime in Irish society than a lack of humour, and no quicker way to offend than neglecting to engage in artful banter.
And should you find yourself in need of anything from an Irish local, whatever you do, don’t be direct. Learn to dance around the subject and articulate it underhandedly; the Irish are good at divining the spirit of things. The good news is if you wait long enough, an Irish person will tell you what they can do for you. Your patience will be rewarded presently, for your need will be met, and you will have given the Irish spirit of hospitality full room to roam.
Wherever it is you’re travelling in Ireland, don’t think twice about what to wear; nobody’s looking at your clothes; they’re looking at your smile, which should free you up for your only real concern, which is dressing appropriately for the unpredictable weather. And learn to be a good listener in Ireland, for the Irish have a wealth of stories and insiders knowledge they’re willing to share, but you have to let them do it in their own way. And should you find yourself with a comfortable seat by the fire beside an Irishman, close your mouth and don’t ask any questions. For at the heart of every Irishman is a performer, and the sean nos style of communicating is their cultural asset. This is how you’ll learn.