The Great American Reach Around - The Northeast & The Two Irelands
Peter "Teim" Keenan
Bray, The Republic of Ireland
When most people think of Ireland, they think of rolling green hills, Redheads in dresses, Monks getting bored and drawing in the margins of Bibles, Booze, Potatoes, and, of course, "Riverdance". Some people like to think that they are, in at least some little way, Irish. So for those of who fit this description, I'm here to help.
For those of you who don't know, Ireland is that small island next to Britain that's shaped like a teddy bear. We have a population of about 4 million, of which a small percentage are Irish speakers. In fact, more people in this country speak Chinese than Irish.
A couple of centuries ago, after a good long while of beating up the Vikings, (and, of course, ourselves), the former High King, Dermot MacMurrough made a sneaky deal with a Norman lord by the name of Strongbow. If Strongbow would help Dermot retake the country he could marry his daughter and rule the country after Dermot's death. It was a good deal, fame, fortune, conquest and a banging hot wife, who could refuse an offer like that?
Soon the country was theirs, we didn't really stand a chance, what with the Normans using such sneaky tactics as "wearing lots of armor" or "using bigger bows than everyone". When Strongbow inherited the country he renewed his oath of fealty to the King of Normandy (which is part of France), Ireland was ruled by foreign government for the next 800 or so years.
When we did get the country back (in the form of a Free State) the first thing we had to do was get back to fighting each other, but when that was resolved we pretty much mellowed out, became a Republic and declared that we'd never fight again.
I live in Bray, one large piece of concrete located on the east coast just south of Dublin. About a quarter of the town is actually part of county Dublin, but the rest is in Wicklow, the garden county.
Or at least, it was, until someone got the bright idea to use the forests and mountains as medical waste dumps. Still, if you get by all of that, you get a green rolling landscape which seems to be what everyone expects of the country, complete with a monastery, big lakes and more winding road than you can shake a used syringe at.
Bray town itself is a bit of a hole, if you want to be honest, it's filthy, "modern" and used up. It used to be a popular seaside town, (like Blackpool in England), but now, well, let's just say that the Town Hall is a McDonald's and leave it at that.
Now to dispel a popular myth about Ireland. Leprechauns. They never wore little green suits, in fact, they were more partial to wearing red. They are several inches tall, not like the 3 foot things that you Americans are so fond of. The film "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" actually has a pretty good portrayal of the Leprechaun myth, but be warned, it has such a skewed view of Ireland that I'd consider it a hate crime.
I hope you have enjoyed this installment of the Great American Reach Around! We will be taking next week off, but we will return in two weeks to conclude our tour of the Northeast. Our eyes will wander even norther on the map and discover the lost country of Canada.
What mad gods are worshipped in this strange land of the Canuck? Find out in two weeks!