Thursday, April 17, 2008


"Name your price..."

The traditional image of Ireland portrayed in the cinema is one of timelessness, a slow pace of life, some great characters (typically drunk but in great spirits) and ever changing scenery. More recent films such as 'The Commitments' (and other Roddy Doyle adaptations) have attempted to create a more realistic vision of modern Dublin and Ireland. However, I can tell you that the mystical Ireland is still very much alive, especially outside Dublin.

In the mid-1990s we went on a one-week driving holiday with some pals around the south and west of Ireland during September. It is a great time to tour since the schools are back and the country is not quite so busy (by Irish standards). We had some great craic in Co. Clare where we walked the limestone pavements of the Burren, tried to (unsuccessfully) coax the chef in a cafe in Doolin for his recipe for delicious cheesecake and we also swam in the Atlantic (not necessarily in that order!).

We decided to head for the Dingle peninsula in Co. Kerry and were drawn by signs to the medieval Gallus's oratory, a gem of medieval architecture (it's still bone dry inside in all weathers although it looks like a upturned boat made of 'dry' stones in the middle of nowhere!). First thing was to park the car and we duly followed the signs. As we drove into the empty field, a man with a cap jumped out from behind a hedge and greeted us warmly. My wife rolled down the window and we had the usual hellos and how-are-yous. He was obviously collecting money for parking - the leather pouch and (even) his official 'Office of Public Works' badge gave that away. So when there was a slight lull in the conversation, she says "Well how much do we pay". His answer, after another slight pause was "name your price". This was a new idea for us and we looked very puzzled. So, after some knowing looks at each other, our pal David pipes up with "how about 50p?" [about 30 Euro cent - wouldn’t even buy you a cup of coffee]. So the man says "Fine" and we handed over 50p.

This episode tickled us so much that David designed a special section in their photo album with the narrative pasted around the edge of the oratory pictures. Our only regret was that we felt a bit mean only giving 50p but it was great entertainment! So the moral is that you can still have great experiences with Irish people on modern holidays - despite the lack of 'little people'!

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That was such a nice little story!
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