Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Northern Ireland: What I have learned to love...

I have to admit, I’ve never had much respect for Northern Ireland. Yes, I was born there and yes, it has been my home all my life, but it has never really evoked any form of patriotism in me in any way. In fact, both the country and its people have always been a bit of a joke to me- ironically, with me being one of them and all.
So after a year in Southampton, the idea of spending an unwilling 3 months in a tiny of country of fields and farmers did not appeal to me at all. But really, my time away has made me notice a few things about home that I can’t help but fall in love with.
Like the greenness. It’s so green here. I’m pretty sure nowhere does green hills as good as Ireland.  I didn’t realise this until I took a road trip with a friend out west to Donegal this summer. The whole time it felt like we were driving through one big cliché, with scenes from a stereotypical Irish postcard surrounding us- the kind of postcard that makes us look like a backward land of nothing but mass fields and farmyards- the kind of postcards Americans like to send. But I had to admit, stereotypical or not, we do have some seriously good green hills.
                                                                      Typical postcard-perfect?
Number two- doing outdoor activities in generally inappropriate weather. Long countryside walks in gale-force winds? Trips to the beach in torrential rain? All of which whilst wearing an attempt at summer clothing? Yeah, only the Northern Irish would do things like this and not actually complain, because weather-wise, we don’t know any better. So you have to love our dedication to at least pretending to have fun on the typical outdoor-summer day trips. Just give us our good coat and a pair of sunnies and we’re loving life.
                                         My friend Becky, loving the beach and some clear grey skies

And lastly; the potato. Yes, I know we are notoriously known for them and everyone loves a good joke about us and our potatoes, but I had honestly forgotten how much people from Northern Ireland love a good spud. And we are so inventive with them!  I don’t believe anyone can do as much with one potato than any typical Irish mother can. Boiled, roasted, fried- champ, potato bread and Taytos; we know how to make something good of possibly the most boring food known to man, and I love it.
So yes, these are pretty much all total stereotypes and the reason most other countries look down on us with a satirical pity. Green, rainy, potato-loving farmers? Yes. But I’ve realised this summer that I wouldn’t have us any other way.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Little List of Life Annoyances

I don’t like to admit it, but I can be a very irritable person. When I was younger, my mum constantly told me off for being impatient and often plagued me with what has now become a dreaded phrase for me; “patience is a virtue, possess it if you can.”
But you have to admit it, we all have those little things in life that just get right on our nerves- and you know what, I think that’s fine. Whether it is people cracking their knuckles, or the sound of nails on a chalkboard- don’t be afraid to hate it! Little annoyances in life are something we all have, and today, I thought I would simply express mine in a healthy way.
So here is my Little List of Life Annoyances:
1)      Noisy Eaters- Yes, I’m sorry if you are the kind who love a good chew with your mouth open, but really, none of us need to see or hear the process of digestion to the extent that you let us! And the worst thing about being a hater of the noisy eater is that, ironically, it always seems to be me that ends up sitting beside them. Whether it’s the open-mouthed slapping at the dinner table, or the slow, awkward crisp-cruncher during a quiet film- there’s always one, and they are always guaranteed to give my nerves a little shiver of annoyance!

2)      Biscuits falling into tea/coffee- I think this has to be a fairly common one. You know the scenario- you’ve made a nice cuppa, treated yourself to a chocolate digestive and just got comfortable on the sofa. You dunk the biscuit in, and just as you bring it out again and give it that inspection to see how well the chocolate has melted, half of it literally crumbles and falls into a sea of murky tea right in front of you. Gets me every time.

3)      Fruit Flies- They are those little tiny black ones that just seem to appear in swarms in the summer. It’s the way they just fly so slowly and idly around your kitchen- ironically not even near your fruit! But the worst encounter with them is when you are standing still, and you’re suddenly aware of something small hovering near your face. You swat it away, but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. So you swat again, and again, and maybe even a fourth time. It’s only then that you realise what it is- and after another few failed attempts at swatting it away, you end up so frustrated and embarrassed that you’ve failed to scare the smallest house pest known to man. Always awkward and always annoying!

4)      The “millionaire’s shortbread” customer- I work in a coffee shop in Northern Ireland, and if you’re from there you will know that I sell Malteaser squares, lemon squares, mint squares and caramel squares. Yep, we Northern Irish are proud of our “squares traybakes”. So you can imagine my disgust when an English tourist comes in and refers to my caramel squares as “millionaire’s shortbread”. Millionaire’s shortbread? What is that, something off a Forbes list of most expensive cakes or something? No. It’s a caramel square. And it’s not just a caramel square- it’s a homemade, Northern Irish “cyaramel squuerrrr”. Get it right.

5)      Clocks ticking at night- Now, I don’t expect them to suddenly stop when it gets past bedtime or anything, but there’s something about the sound of a clock ticking while you’re trying to get to sleep that gets right on my nerves. Every tick, every tock just gets louder and louder; whilst you get more and more tired, and more and more frustrated. It’s like a constant thumping in your mind that wills you not to nod off. Unfortunately for me, my mother has an obsession with the things, and is, sadly, the proud owner of nine antique clocks- each with their own incessant tick and relentless tock. She keeps them just outside my room in the hallway, which, thinking about it now is a bit of a slap in the face to all those “patience is a virtue lessons” when I was younger. Good one mum.