Recently I had the pleasure of coming across a blog by a girl from my home town. It turned into pure delight when I realised that she is fucking hilarious, and her take on life is everything that's good about Ireland. Hence, I urge you to check her out - her writing style is excellent, and if she doesn't have you snorting with laughter, well...you mustn't be Irish. :-)
Also, if any of you know any publishing types, get them onto her. She's got material, and her writing blows half the shite I've read out of the water. Seriously, like.
Anyway, between finding the lovely blog and me going back to Galway this weekend for my grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary (should be brilliant, the whole family's getting fluthered* in a hotel on Saturday night), I couldn't help but think about why I left home in the first place.
I left mainly because a greedy beast called the Celtic Tiger destroyed whatever opportunity for starting my life I may have otherwise had. For those of you too lazy or feeble to click the link, the Celtic Tiger is a synonym for the huge economic boom in Ireland in the 90's - 00's. Personally, I'd like the fucker to be flogged to death. See, if you already had a bit of money or property before the boom, this particular brand of feline helped you enormously, and you're probably pretty well off right now. However, if, like me, you had just graduated with not a penny to your name, and any house you could afford involved buying a car because it was so far out from town, and trying to pay car repayements, car insurance and mortgage payments on a shitey £16,000 salary meant you pretty much had to give up everything else in your life, including eating food, then all that bitch did was claw at you, like a cat teasing a mouse right before it rips the little fucker's gizzard out. Rather than let this happen, I decided to flee. Having a sexy Scottish girlfriend made making the choice of where to move fairly obvious.
Anyway, enough shite cat analogies. Did you know that a house in the city centre in Galway purchased for £50000 in the mid-80's is now worth ten times that?
Here are some things I miss about Galway:
Everything is in one place. Most things you could need (river, cinema, beach/sea, pubs, restaurants, shops, beautiful scenery, drugs, chatty cynical locals with their own particular brand of hatred for absolutely everything) are to be found within a ten-mile radius of the city centre. This is something you take for granted when you live in Galway, but you really notice it when you move abroad and suddenly it becomes mandatory to own a car because you have to drive 25 miles to work and the nearest good supermarket is 15 miles away.
Vibrancy. Yes, the word is flogged to death in every tourist pamphlet and brochure used to describe the city, but again, after over 4 years away, I think that yes, it is a really vibrant city. There's a huge diversity of people, places and events crammed into it's little streets. There's always something happening, even though most of the locals hate whatever's going on at any given time. When you don't have it anymore, though, you miss it. I've been to a lot of places in the UK now, and few can match Gaillimh for sheer liveliness and stuff to do.
The Village Mentality. This one's both a blessing and a curse. When I lived there, it was one of the most irritating things about being from Galway: everybody seems to know your business, and if they don't know it, they're trying their bloody hardest to find out the shcandal. Now that I'm away, though I know it sounds trite, I've grown to appreciate that this village mentality is the very essence of being Irish. We want to know stuff about you not because we're nosey (although we are), but because we want to have something in common with you. Irish people are great at forging common bonds. Of course, there are sometimes negative repercussions because of this, but more on that below.
The "h" in shcandal was intentional, my American friends. It's how we talk sometimes.
Anyway, the good side of the village mentality is when on Saturdays you'd go into town and wander aimlessly, meeting people you know at random and talking shite, maybe popping into the pub for a pint to catch the match.
(If I may digress for a moment to answer Duckie's question - see number 3 - asking why we're so obsessed with football, therein lies your answer. Football + getting drunk in the pub while watching football = Irish/UK national pastime. It always comes back to alcohol, mang. For some reason, the Aussies understand this cultural staple a little better than the Yanks.)
So yeah, it was laid-back and made you feel good to catch up on the news with people. If you've been to places like New York or London, you'll know how coveted this kind of lifestyle is. And true, it does sound like a great lifestyle, and it was, unless you just wanted to do your shopping and then get the fuck out of the place. In Galway, that was simply not possible. Wandering down Shop Street involves at least three "Howsagoing?"'s, and probably one or two chats as well. It's just something you had to accept.** The thought of moving to Scotland, where I would be completely anonymous, had serious appeal after twenty-odd years of this sort of carry-on.
The bad side of the village mentality is that there are alot of poisonous fuckers (male and female) who have fuck-all else to do except bitch and complain about people, and they insist on throwing in their nippy, snotty, small-minded, envious opinion at every opportunity, even if the subject or person in question is someone they know fuck all about. Example:
Me: I was chatting to Jimmy McGugget this morning.
Poisonous Fucker: That lad's only an oul cunt.
Me: Why do you say that?
PF: Wasn't he the fella that won the Lotto and gave half of the money to charity?
Me: That's right, yeah.
PF: Sure, he must be a right cunt. Trying to make himself look all holy and generous by giving away his winnings - you can be sure the fucker was making a few quid on the sly off of that little publicity stunt! He wouldn't do nathin for no-one, that cunt!
See what I mean? The species Poisonous Fuckerus can turn any act of good will, any positive aspect of someone's life or personality, and paint a skewed picture using motives they've dreamed up out of the blue, motives they then use to label that person a cunt, which somehow makes them feel better about their own banal life. I hate this type of person, and I was not sorry to see the back of a few of them when I left home.
The River/Lake. I grew up on the Corrib. Not figuratively; literally. This is the view from my granny's house in Woodquay, where I spent the bulk of my youth:
My grandad was a boat builder. My dad is really into boating and fishing, so I've been going up the lake practically since I could walk. It's the one place I can go to just forget all the shite that's going on. I love it. There's nothing comparable to it anywhere in Scotland. When I do get the occasional pang of desire to move back home, it's almost always memories of times on the lake, up at Annaghdown, Collinamuck, or Oughterard, or exploring one of the many islands, like Saddle, Lee's, Rabbit, or Inchagoill, that surface first. The attachment is absolute, but it's difficult to express to someone. I suppose you could say it's my first love.
If you're being really gay.
There's loads of other stuff I miss, but this post is becoming one of those so-long-there's-no-chance-anyone-will-read-it type of entries. I'll end on a high by letting you know some of the things I don't miss about Galway:
The Minks: I've rarely had any problems with travellers. I grew up in Castle Park, a council estate right next to a settled travelling community in an area called Hillside. They have their own customs and practices, but the general rule with these traditional travelling families is, you don't cross them, and they won't do a thing to you. I went to primary school with Francis Barrett, and his brother Jimmy - they were in my class. (Francis Barrett was a local Olympic boxing hopeful - I believe he even carried the Olympic torch for Ireland at one point? Correct me if I'm wrong.) Anyway, there's a huge difference between guys like Francis and Jimmy, and the crowd that I am talking about.
They've got lots of names. Tinkers. Knackers. Flicks. Pikeys. Gypos. Minks. Mostly derogatory names, because that's all they deserve. Alot of these cunts live on council estates, and their reason for existence is to terrorise and destroy whoever they can. Their modus operandi is to pick on some defenceless person smaller than themselves (or, if the person looks tidy, the mink will no doubt produce a blade), and either take their money and kick the shit out of them (that's what the smarter ones do) or just kick the shit out of them (the stupider fuckers don't even think about money, they just want to inflict pain). They do lots of other shit; that's just an example. If you'd like more details, have a read through the Court sections of any of the local papers and you'll see some examples of the kind of person I'm talking about.
The Racism and Bigotry: A significant number of Irish people still think, among other things, that:
- it's ok to call black people niggers. There are more of these than I feel comfortable talking about. In certain sectors of society, racism in Ireland is as ingrained and ever-present as it was in the 1860's in the Deep South of the US. Don't be fooled into thinking otherwise.
- immigrants are the scum of the earth and should be sent back to their own country. The hypocrisy in this one makes me laugh out loud. If all the Irish immigrants were forced to return to our fair land, we would have a fucker of a problem with overcrowding at the moment. It's ridiculous to me that Irish people complain about immigrants when the Irish are the biggest crowd of wandering pikeys you're ever likely to encounter. Fair enough if you get upset about the lazy bastards who come here just to sponge off the state, but don't tar all of them with the same brush. They're generally trying to make a good life for themselves, just like you are.
If you would like more information on the type of person who usually perpetrates this sort of shit, scroll up and re-read about Poisonous Fuckers; they're usually one and the same.
The Cost of Living - My first home in Scotland, back in 2002, cost me £41,250. That's about €61,000. It was a large three-bedroom place with a big garden front and back. An equivalent home in Galway currently costs in the region of €400,000. In Ireland, car insurance on even the smallest car would cost me almost €2500 a year, and that's just for third-party, not comprehensive. In Scotland, two months after emigrating and passing my driving test, I paid £530 (€780) for a year's fully comp insurance.
I worked in a pet shop in Galway when the Irish pound was kicked to death and the Euro came in. I saw how much people were being ripped off by the retail industry, no matter how much the industry denied it. If something that cost five Irish pounds was converted and cost €6.35, you can be sure that within a week, it's price would be €6.99. It happened, and it ripped a huge fucking hole in my pocket. Here in Scotland, I earn about double what I could earn back home, and almost everything costs less.
Which brings me nicely back to the Celtic Tiger thing. This is why the economy is "booming". This is why I emigrated.
I would love to move home some day. I just don't know if I'll ever be able to afford it. You never know, though. Some day, the EU grants will run out, and the government will shite themselves when they realise they aren't getting enough money to subsidise the vast amounts of debt that are being run up in every sector of the economy, taxes will shoot up, and it might all come crashing down***.
Then again, the same shit's happening in the UK, so I'll probably be fucked over here as well.
You know, I'm really looking forward to going home this weekend.
** The irony being that I got the anonymity I craved by moving to Scotland, and now when I return to Galway, I can walk down Shop Street and not see anybody I know there either. It's a bit sad. Literally sad, not pathetic.
Update: My complaints about Galway may make it seem as though I think Scotland is some sort of bigotry-free, peaceful fantasy land, but of course, it isn't. It's just that over here I can choose to ignore the people who start all that stuff. It's not so easy back home when I know the people involved.
Update eile***: Well, after doing some sniffing on the internet, turns out that Ireland's economy is hampered by subsidies, not the other way around. So, basically, I'm fucked, and I can never move home.