Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Discovering Northern Ireland

Official Tourism Website
On our recent first trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland, I was impressed by the eclectic mix of old and modern. It was attractive with a constant undercurrent of wit and wisecracks flowing as freely as the beer. It is somewhere where you can have fun and make fun of others, where you can put up your feet and sit back and even  laugh at being laughed at. As pints are emptied, the humour is unbottled. The Irish are warm and welcoming and hilarious and they sure like to talk. You can let go of all your cultural inhibitions and jump into a conversation almost immediately. But you won't be allowed to speak for long, as you will be choking with laughter at their Irishisms when you are not choking with whisky (or both). You will end up cracking up at jokes in between cracking up at jokes.

They have a tendency to see wit and humour even in the gravest of situations and the tremendous quality of laughing at themselves - "you know they brought in a team of experts to blow this building up, well between a handful of Irish men, we could have done it ourselves, that's what we do best". They also have the infallible wit to pass on the blame. When the world pointed at them for the sinking of the Titanic, they came up with - "it takes a Scotsman to design, the Irish to build and an Englishman to sink the Titanic".

When they joke they exaggerate so much that for a moment you would even believe what they are saying, and when you realize you have been tricked you will laugh even if it turns out that the joke is on you. They have a patron saint, Saint Patrick. They also have a patron giant - Finn McCool. And the legend of the giant's causeway is the stupidest yet wittiest anecdote I have come across in a while. They make mountains out of molehills and myths out of those mountains (or glen as they call it there). The land sure nurtures legends as the glen of country Antrim in the shape of a face of a man looking up at the sky inpired Jonathan Swift (who at that time was staying in a cottage called the Lilliput Cottage) to come up with Gulliver and C.S. Lewis sure created Narnia with the image of homeland Ireland in mind.

On the bus back to the Belfast Int'l Airport - I came across the tourism advert that read - "the coast is clear, except for an odd cow" with a picture of a cow on the beach. Funny, yet fitting. After a past of turmoil, Northern Ireland is in regeneration, "catching up with the rest of the UK" as they say. They have seen quite dark days, but I think their ability to joke and laugh at almost any situation has seen them through!

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