Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Dublin - The Craic

Old friendships last in Ireland...

It's not often one returns from a hectic two day exhibition feeling exhilerated - usually the feelings are tired, worn out, weary and looking forward to a few days of catch up - yet after our trips to Ireland we always seem to be invigorated and ready to face the world again.

I suppose one could put this down to Guinness, perhaps the sea air from the crossing or the change being in another country brings. I think that we put it down to our friends from Ireland who always appear to be so pleased to see us, our acquaintances and Frankie's fans who unfailingly make us feel welcome - and of course the Craic.

To borrow from Wiki:
"Craic" (/ʔkræk/ krak), or "crack", is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.[1][2][3] It is often used with the definite article – the craic.[1] The word has an unusual history; the English crack was borrowed into Irish as craic in the mid-20th century and the Irish spelling was then reborrowed into English.[1] Under either spelling, the term has great cultural currency and significance in Ireland.

I'm not at all sure about the word 'reborrowed' but that's Wikipedia for you.  Anyway, the sentiment is about right, it doesn't actually cover any one thing - it's about the whole deal, the entire package of friendship, company, food, drink, entertainment, ambiance (a mix of cultures, languages and etimology never did any harm - honest!) and atmosphere - or - the craic.

It's great that one word can cover a whole range of actions, feelings and environments but that's exactly what happened on our first evening back in Dublin after two years away. We met up with our friends at the Lemon Tree and immediately we were comfortable, deep in conversation with great drink and food instantly at hand and with a room full of friendly people, any one of whom we felt might interact with us at any time and in an equally friendly manner. It was an amazingly comfortable feeling. 

Only in Ireland though. I can rarely recall feeling that at ease in mixed company anywhere else; and even during the exhibition people would treat us as long list friends or family - even complete strangers. The Irish attitude is that we probably are all related anyway and with a surname like mine it's a given. I'm the Plastic Paddy though - an appellation I treasure, given to me years ago by some very dear friends. "Plastic" in this instance also means many things, a wannabe Irishman, a long, lost ancestor, third generation, English sounding, not really Irish, Kerryman. That's me - all of the above - but not the reason that Ireland is a wonderful country to visit. 

It's a beautiful place: flat rolling fields, heather covered mountains, water everywhere and a heritage that could take several lifetimes to explore. All this and wonderful bars where you're made to feel instantly at home, locals who make your welfare their concern and food delivered to the bar if you can't stagger to the restaurant. 

Directions that start with "Well.... You can't get there from here...", a stone that needs kissing if you're going to want the charm, a beer as black as night with a white foam head - yet a music culture second to none, art and dance as intriguing as any, a love of horses and horse racing and of all sport that is spoken of in hushed tones in pubs all over the country. 

We always look forward to our trips to Ireland, they're always different, yet always with the same result - a relaxed feeling of satisfaction and time well spent in good company, a feeling that you're liked - treasured even - and a longing to return. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Deal - A Great Place To Visit

Deal Town has been listed as one of the top 30 best places to visit for a weekend retreat by The Times newspaper.
The Times commented on the town’s view of France on a clear day and its award-winning High Street as voted by the Daily Telegraph, with a busy Saturday market and numerous bars, cafes and restaurants.
The Times commented on the cottages in Middle Street, Deal
It also mentioned the cottages in Middle Street, a conservation area, just metres from the beach and picked up on Smugglers Cottage in Dolphin Street, a two-bedroom property currently on sale for £249,500.
Deal is known as one of London weekenders favourite places to visit with St Pancras only an hour and a half by train.
The town has recently announced its high speed services to London will continue with new plans to introduce high speed stops in Martin Mill and Walmer.
Deal town mayor Marlene Burnham said: “After Deal won the High Street of the Year award out of the whole country, then to hear that Deal was 17 out of 30, well, what an accolade.
“It’s the real Deal, that’s what they’re getting. It’s splendid news and extremely exciting.
“I’m very interested in tourism for the town and it seems Deal is on the up and up. Perhaps next year, we’ll be in the top three. Well done everybody.”
Peter Jull, chairman of Deal and Walmer chamber of trade, said: “It is pleasing that Deal keeps coming up top in a number of these polls.
“Earlier in the year it was the High Street and now it’s a great place for the weekend.
“Our members will be pleased that their dedication to good customer service has been recognised.”
Broadstairs also made it on to the list, featuring at number 21. The town has been long primed as the next Whitstable with its cliff top promenade and was once described by Dickens as “our English watering-place.”
(With thanks to KentOnline)
 I might add, personally, that Deal is my home town - my family moved here when i was in my early teens and I have many fond memories. It's a warm, friendly seaside town, oozing with history and legend. The ghosts of smugglers, miscreants and rogues still walk the centuries old alleyways, side roads and hidden shanty properties of the town and the pier is still open, accessible and always busy. It offers more pubs per hundred yards than many places in the UK and each of these caters for all tastes and requirements, and, if that was not enough, it has three (yes three) castles along its entire seafront.
Take a trip down and see for yourselves, but if you feel a draught, it's probably not the sea breeze, but the loitering remnants of an ancient mariner or the mischievous shadow of a 15th century smuggler sneaking past.