The first foreign county I ever visited was the south of Ireland or *Bandit Country* as my dad would refer to it. When I told him I was heading off south for a few days on a road trip you should have seen his face, had I gone over to the ‘Dark Side’, why would I want to go down there, it’s FULL of Irish…er yes dad, that’s why it’s called Ireland…and I hate to mention it but we live in Norn ‘Ireland’… do the maths Dad…
None of my friends really took much notice of the whole sectarian side of things, we were much more interested in the opposite sex and having fun…and our cars of course, all young men like to garner respect and kudos from their peer group and I was no different, we men go through the seven (or seventeen) stages of manhood; I used to think that my hair was important – cool haircut man, respect… (which obviously sounds a bit weird coming with an Irish accent but we men are men the world over..) Then I realised just how immature that attitude was, being cool wasn’t about having a great haircut, no, silly me, it was obviously about having an Amiga 500 computer, then all my friends would want to hang out with me cos I was cool, and that sufficed for a while until I realised that having an Amiga 500 with all the trimmings and go-faster stripes wasn’t how to earn respect from my peer group, nah, silly me, it was obviously about having a car, silly me, so I got cool car with go-faster stripes and that was it, I was made.. I bathed in respect from my friends, and then I realised, with some alarm, that having a cool car wasn’t important, it was a girlfriend, if I had a cracking girlfriend then I was cool and ‘arrived’ so off I went and got a nice bit of arm candy and I was cool… but then I realised just how juvenile that attitude was, the best way to get respect and kudos from my peer group was of course by having a great job.. or was it lots of money.. or nice holidays…or expensive jewellery..or big house…or promotion..damn…the goalposts keep changing but ‘one day’ I’ll have arrived.. just gotta keep keep keep on trying..
So anyway, a pile of us jumped into our cars and headed off to the south, our main aim being to get to Cork as it was pretty far away and more importantly one of my friends had a sister there who was apparently ‘hot’ and she wouldn’t be bothered at all if a dozen strangers from up north pitched up unannounced one Saturday afternoon..
Now, we have this funny thing in Norn Ireland, we tell jokes that go along the lines of “This Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman walk into a pub” and the butt of the joke is the silly Irishman, I believe in most countries they have some foreigner who is the butt of jokes, Polish for Americans, I suspect but am not sure it’s Newfoundlanders for Canadians.. So in Norn Ireland we make jokes about the silly Southern Irish but in the south of Ireland they make jokes about the people from Cork (yes, really!). What I’m wondering is, who do the people in Cork make fun of, is there one particular area of Cork and everyone in Cork makes fun about people from there, “Aye, those folk from Ballymacthomas are real idiots…” and do the folk from Ballymacthomas have one street that is the butt of their jokes, “Aye, those folk in Knocknaheeny Street, bloody idiots”, and the folk from Knocknaheeny Street, do they have one particular house they make fun of, “Aye, that family in number 32, idiots” …and the family in number 32, do they think “Aye, me Dad, bloody idiot..do the math”
Anyway, I must digress, so we all pitched up in Cork one Saturday afternoon and what was surprising about Cork was it was full of tourists. This may not surprise you, dear reader, but in Norn Iron because of The Troubles we have lots of terrorist but absolutely zero tourists, terrorist and tourist are two mutually exclusive species, find a tourist in Belfast during the 80’s: impossible, terrorists, two a penny, and now the situation is reversed, the place is stuffed full of tourist and where are the terrorist, nowhere to be seen, if President Obama wants to rid Iraq of terrorists then the obvious solution is to not to send in more army but to parachute shit loads of tourists into Baghdad.. problem solved.
So in Belfast during the 80’s there were very few hotels and no sight-seeing tours, you didn’t walk around Belfast during the early 80’s and get stopped by American tourists asking you which way was it to Corn Market, however what you did get was searched/scanned every time you went into Marks & Spencer or Boots The Chemist, you automatically raised your arms to be frisked every time you went out for a tin of beans and no cars were allowed into the City centre, so it was a lovely contrast to walk around the main streets of Cork and not be searched but also to see loads of American tourists looking for their roots.. which reminds me of this;
An American tourist travelling in County Cork came across a little antique shop in which he was lucky enough to pick up, for a mere 200 Euros, the skull of Brian Boru.
Included in the price was a certificate of the skull’s authenticity, signed by Brian Boru himself……..
Fifteen years later the tourist returned to Ireland and asked the man from Clare, who owned the antique shop, if he had any more bargains.
‘I’ve got the very thing for you, ‘said the shopkeeper, ‘It’s the genuine skull of Brian Boru.’
‘You cheat, ‘exploded the American, ‘You sold me that fifteen years ago, ‘and producing the skull added loudly, ‘Look, they’re not even the same size.’
‘You have got it wrong,’ opined the seller, ‘This is the skull of Brian Boru when he was a lad.’
You see, the secrets out, in Cork it’s not really the people from Ballymacthomas who are the butt of jokes, the butt of Cork jokes come from further afield.. :p