Firstly, please excuse my usual pessimism, but as I’m sure a lot of my fellow passengers on tomorrow’s flight from Kennedy to Shannon must be thinking: do we really have to come home?
Just in case I did have fond thoughts of returning back to the old sod after two weeks of lounging in Florida, though, Google News convinced me otherwise. The State of the Nation is a typically mismanaged one and could easily be mistaken for a third world country in the midst of a drastic humanitarian crisis: “A round up of water supply conditions nationwide” leads the Irish Times; ‘Burst Pipes Brings New Year Misery For Thousands’ intones no more cheerily the Galway Advertiser.
Seeing as America doesn't take kindly to extended Irish imports and I have a degree to finish that's not one of the options, so instead I said I'd divulge to Irish Central my yearly list of ideas that Ireland could borrow (or steal) from America, before it slips out of my head and into the recesses of distant holiday memories.
I know they’re bad for your health, and I suspect that that evil draconian bureaucracy machine the EU has something to do with Irish bakers’ aversion to them, but seriously, toast in America keeps for so much longer it’s ridiculous. I’m sure a lot of fellow lazy Irishmen will sympathize with me on this one. Toast back home is so fickle. It’s fresh and crispy one day then before you know it it’s sporting green mold spores the colours of Patrick's Day. The American solution seems to be to lace the bread with preservatives or some other magic ingredient that preserves it to the age of Methuselah. It may not be doing your insides any favours, but it says you running down to the local Centra (rough 7-11 equivalent) every second day.
TWO: Good English muffins.
I suspect the reason for this one has something to do with our sensitive colonial past, but again, seriously, there’s a time to move on, and importing or baking decent English muffins is one such way. English muffins are a way of life for Americans. Go to Publix and there’s about twenty varieties; go to Dunnes Stores and you’d be lucky to find one, and at that it's usually a horrible imitation of what you find over here. Plantations may leave lingering sentiments but let’s not let it carry over into the breakfast muffins business...
THREE: Portion sizes
I know America has an obesity problem and all that, but a bit of extra chips (sorry, fries) couldn’t hurt. It’s time for Ireland to move beyond kiddie size portions and start feedings its men and women with proper food. It might cheer us up a bit too.
Before I go overboard on this one, let me just say that Irish people are perfectly happy. I think I’ve narrowed the problem down to the media which is almost without exception relentlessly negative.
If it comes to passing a law (like they did in Romania) to stop journalists whingeing on about how bad things are, how many young people are emigrating, and how the recession is so terrible, then so be it.
I, of course, am as guilty as anyone in this regard, in fact more so, for an inordinate amount of blogspace I've written on Irish Central has been given over to said misery-laden lamentations. So moving forward with an American spirit to a more positive year and less political moaning and groaning. One more point, though. Not only does the content need to be happier, but Irish newscasters (particularly Dobbo) also need to make an effort to smile a bit more and stop speaking in a monotone. The news is painful enough in itself but why does it have to be delivered painfully as well?
FIVE: Decent beer and happy hours.
I know this is a massive paradox, but for some reason despite our reputation as the world’s greatest drinkers we seem a bit lacking on the beer front. We have beer of course, but besides several specialist outlets (and there’s only one such place in Cork), there’s a real lack of variety on the high street. Why, I ask and beg, can’t we buy Blue Moon in Ireland? Will nobody import it? Give me an import licence a millions dollars and I'll do it..and what about a pitcher of Yuengling? Surely it’s better than Dutch Gold and Bavaria. Happy hours must also take place on a greater scale, preferably in each pub in the each county and on a daily if not hourly basis. And finally: whoever managed to sneak the Intoxicating Liquor Act through the Dáil in ten short days, which mandates Irish liquor stores to close by 10pm, should be sacked.
SIX: Better cream cheese. Why does Philadelphia loose half its quality and smoothness on the way across the Atlantic? Nobody knows..
EDITED BONUS: a proper weather management system!
Seriously. A bit of rain, a bit of snow, and the entire country grinds to a standstill. They run out of salt one year, say it won't happen again, then run out the very next year. To the Government: wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that global warming - which also seems to entail a lot of global 'cooling- is not just hypothesis but reality. Irish people have a hard enough time with the unemployment and emigration without having the entire country break down when a bit of snow and rain rolls in...
Now to round things off, a few things we can export the Yanks in return.
5 things America could learn from Ireland.
ONE: Proper toilet cubicles.
I hope I’m not the only person who’s noticed that American toilets are somewhat see-through. While Irish (and European) toilets are hermetically sealed, American toilets, almost ubiquitously, have little slits running down each side from which one can observe and be observed. Not that people are generally doing much worthy of observation while in toilet cubicles, but that doesn't give toilet cubicle architects carte blanche to just let us go on show in them either. I know for a fact that this problem (regrettably) extends even in Irish Central’s venerable office space in midtown Manhattan. Perhaps Niall & co. can take a lead on this and show New York City that Irish-Americans do not and will not stand for visible toilet cubicles.
Because this point is us of such pressing national importance, it was necessary for me to don by Photoshop goggles and display the problem in image format to illustrate my point with clarity...
Left: American cubicle with slits. Right: Irish toilet, hermetically sealed.
Why do American bars serve glasses of beer and not pints? Some sell pints but not nearly enough. This has to be addressed and implemented on a national scale. American bartenders also have to stop staring in astonishment when your order your third or fourth drink.
“Have a great day!” (said at 2am), “have a wonderful afternoon”. Such expressions need to be replaced with the more honest (and Irish) “how’s it going”, which can be replied with “not too bad” (emphasizing, of course, a degree of badness rather than one of positivity). America needs to come down to our level of realism and stop being so damn cheery all the time.
No matter how much I watch American football, the constant interruptions still annoy me. And what kind of sport breaks for an advertising break? A sport where commercialism rather than athleticism and competition is the driving factors needs to take a reality check. Americans need to rid themselves of their padding, cheerleaders (well maybe not them) and Pepsi adverts and watch a decent eighty minutes of competitive sport without being interrupted by ads for the local Hyundai dealership..
Sometimes Americans’ amazing ability to get things done fast is great, other times I’m sure it can be annoying. Four o’clock could mean twenty past four without anyone being overly discommoded. A ten minutes break for Barry’s Tea (which by the way should be imported on the same scale as Guinness and Kerry Gold) will ease frayed, stressed-out, over-worked nerves, and make things that much slower. America needs to take this on board, without going too far. A recent drainage repairs scheme in my estate took six months rather than six weeks. That was a little too relaxed even for my liking.
SIX: Unpunctual buses (for amusement).
Where’s the fun in the bus arriving on time every time, to the minute? Same goes for the train and Subway system. An Irish bus, in contrast, is a real gamble. I spent many years riding local commuters buses before I bought a car. Sometimes they wouldn’t show; other times two (or even three) would arrive simultaneously; other times they’d arrive half an hour late, sometimes ten minutes early. It kept you on your toes and kept that infamous bus-stop ennui at a very distant bay. American buses should do likewise. This slavish punctuality is entertaining nobody.