I cannot resist starting off this week by stating that China is not all that far away from Clare as the Crowe flies, and I explain that by relating that my friend, Councilor John Crowe from Sixmilebridge, is about home again after spending a week in China on behalf of us all here. Clare was in the very short list for a major international award for tourist attractions, largely because the Chinese ambassador was awestruck by the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.
Crowe was representing the county, and my best information is that there will be a twinning project soon between some area of this beautiful county and some Chinese region which is certain to lead to an influx of Oriental tourists even this season. That is good news indeed, even though we did not win the major award in the end.
Shannon Airport will become the hub for the new burst of tourism and, by then, very likely the said Crowe is likely to be our new mayor too. Remember ye read that here first. However, before this new Oriental tourist trade develops, it is already apparent that the first of you from the established diaspora are already arriving in the west in some numbers, and thank God for that.
And since my prime loyalty is to you and since I normally offer a few hints at this time of the season, now is as good a time as any.
I've already advised the majority of you to fly into Shannon or Cork Airports – to the real Ireland – rather than into Dublin, but there is a lot more than that which might be worth reading here and now, especially by those on their first trip. Practical things mainly. Firstly on that front, and largely due to our traditional hard-drinking international image probably, it is critically important for all of you renting cars to be aware that our anti-drunk driving laws are now as stringent as in the rest of Europe and are very rigidly policed by our standards.
A decade ago one could take a pint or two and drive home safely. NOT ANY MORE!
The consumption of even one pint can now put you over the limit as many discover too late to their cost every summer. We natives fear the stricter legislation so much that the country pubs in particular are suffering because so many men and indeed women who need cars to get to the pubs are literally afraid to take theirs anymore.
Rural taxis are scarce and the sober designated driver system is not always practical, especially, for example, for bachelor farmers living alone.
Nobody can argue against the stricter driving standards in relation to drinking, and that is for certain. It is an unavoidable consequence at present, paradoxically, that many of those now staying at home were those who through their personalities, music, balladry and sheer craic often added most to the special charm of the nights of the western summers.
But you have been warned now. Take a taxi if available or appoint one of your number as a designated driver for the journey home.
It is not common policy over here, also, to leave your change lying on the bar in front of you through the evening as I have seen on the other side of the Atlantic. The best advice is to put it in your pocket straightaway.
There is no fixed requirement to tip the barman either. You can do so if you wish but at your own discretion.
If there is food involved in your evening there is normally a service charge automatically grafted on to the bill and, again, an additional gratuity to the waiter or waitress is up to yourself. If you go into a relatively crowded establishment in the evening, either cafe or bar, you may likely see a prime table empty altogether in one corner with no reserved sign on it.
Generally it is a good idea not to sit there, however, because you are likely to discover later on that this is the table ritually used by the musicians who normally arrive later in the evening than you will. With very rare exceptions the No Smoking rule is rigidly enforced about everywhere. The downside of this, if you are a smoker, is that you have to leave your company to go outside to the smoke zone.
There is an upside too, though, out there because those you will chat with in the smoke zone, now a besieged minority, are frequently livelier and merrier companions for the duration.
Because of this reality many non-smokers often spend time in the smoke zone too to relish the craic and raillery. A strange reality. Do not be surprised if the native you meet in any socializing premises is measurably more guarded and careful about divulging personal details than yourself. The American ethos unlocked the Celtic mind much more than at home.
That is refreshing and we too are becoming more open-minded in this era. But we are not all the way yet by any means. Many of us, for example, in this recession, would almost rather go to jail than confess to a stranger that we are unemployed. Just be aware of that.
I think that is enough for now. I will be back with more later on but, in the meantime, there is some certain place I wish to visit before bedtime.
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