Sunday, 31 July 2011

Notes from the Emerald Isle

Oh, boy, do I have a severe case of the post-holiday blues. As a result, I have spent most of today organizing the 247 photos I took on this week's trip to Ireland. To say it was idyllic would be a bit cliché, but it is the best word I have to describe our holiday.

We met up with my sister and her family in Doolin, in the northwest part of County Clare, last Saturday. It was the first time we had been on a family holiday together as adults. When I spoke to my mom this evening, one of her first questions was, "Did you girls get along?" Obviously, she remembers every childhood squabble we ever had (and I admit there were a fair few), but we're much closer now that we're both adults (and not living together!), and it was nice spending time together away from our ordinary surroundings. We weren't joined at the hip and didn't feel guilty going off and doing our own things some of the days, but we did do several things together, and Crumpet loved playing with (and bossing around) her big cousin.

We struck a nice balance between relaxation and sightseeing. Our cottage didn't have Internet access, which suited me just fine because it meant I had to switch off and leave work and other worries behind. In our down time, we took country walks, talked and played games in the evenings in front of the peat fire (yes, I know it's July, but it was Ireland, after all), and enjoyed some traditional Irish music at the local pubs. We explored seaside towns and parts of The Burren; saw the famed Cliffs of Moher (which I was more impressed with than The Other Half; I think he was just miffed at the 6 Euro per person charge for the car park!); visited the Aillwee Cave and Doolin Cave, the latter of which is home to the largest free-hanging stalactite in the world; and spent a day on the mystical island of Inisheer in the Aran Islands, where we toured the island in a traditional pony and trap, climbed up to O'Brien's castle for an impromptu picnic, and played on one of the best beaches in Europe. Even though the area we visited is a tourist hot spot, it didn't seem overwhelmingly so (except when we were unlucky enough to encounter giant coach tours), and it was still possible to get away from it all.

Our trip gave us a good taste of Ireland, but it has certainly whet my appetite for more. Unfortunately, we didn't win the Euromillions this week, so I'll have to make do with revisiting my photos for now.

Fisherstreet, Doolin
Doonagore Castle, Doolin
A country stroll
Shipwreck on Inisheer, Aran Islands
O'Brien's Castle, Inisheer

 The beach on Inisheer

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Decline of Civilization as We Know It (or Why I Am So Glad to Be Out of the Dating Scene)

Note: This post was originally written last month, but due to various other distractions I have only just gotten around to posting it.

Last night I went out with a friend to celebrate her birthday. We started the evening with a nice, laid-back Japanese dinner and then headed over to a local bar/lounge/club. My friend is a dancer, so she was in her element. I, on the other hand, have never really been a "clubby" sort of person (mainly because I have no rhythm on a dance floor), so that, and the fact that I had set myself a drinking limit before I left the house and was actually sticking to it, meant that I didn't really have the best time. I did, however, find myself in the middle of a comic episode which has inspired this post, so I guess the evening wasn't a complete waste.

One of the women in our party is recently divorced, so she has been enjoying reliving her youth and flirted mercilessly with a group of guys who said they were twenty-six but barely looked older than twelve. They were typical local boys ("townies," as a friend labeled them) and had been drinking for a while by the time they cozied up to us, so I really had to restrain myself when one of them asked me six times where I was from and then still insisted on telling me his friend had just moved to Canada too.

But the icing on the cake -- the moment I began to question my faith in humanity and worried about the future of civilization -- came when one of the other guys sidled up to me. The following conversation resulted (completely unembellished or exaggerated for dramatic effect, I might add):

"So what do you do for a living?"

"I'm a teacher."

"Really? That's cool. What do you teach?"

"English."

"English? So, like, you're an American over here in England teaching people how to talk?"

"No, I don't teach English language, I teach English literature."

Blank stare. "So, like, if a guy came up to you and said, 'You're really beautiful,' what would your response be?"

Blank stare, from me this time. "I'm not sure I understand."

"You said you teach English."

"Yes, I teach English literature."

"Like the romantics?"

Ah, now we're getting somewhere. "Yes, exactly."

"So, like, what if I said you were well fit?" At this point, I am really contemplating escaping out the bathroom window (which I did once or twice in my single days).

"Again, I don't understand what that has to do with what I do for a living."

"You said you teach English."

"Yes, I teach English literature. Like Dickens, Bronte..." His eyes have glazed over, and I realize I am talking way over his head. "I teach books," I finally say.

"Oh, right." It's a lightbulb moment. "So, what if an English bloke came up to you and said you were really beautiful?" Oy veh.

"Well, an English bloke did, and I married him." I flash my ring, because the ways in which I have subtly tried to attract his attention to it (brushing my hair behind my ear, taking a drink with my ring finger prominently displayed) have not worked.

"You're married? Awesome!" He makes a move to high five me, and I realize it's time to call a taxi.

When I got home, I took an extra long look at Crumpet sleeping peacefully in her bed, snuggled up to The Other Half, and silently thanked the gods that I am not in the dating scene anymore. Because, as I said, if that guy was a representative of the single man, I really worry about the future of civilization.