Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
* Yes, Virginia, they Do Drive on the Left Side of the Road
Which screws up everything, especially if you learned to drive in Chicago at the age of 16, and did so on the right hand side. Note the photo above. This is a pic of the interior of a Land Rover Discovery that I owned (I got rid of it 2 years ago, and really glad I did, in that no one wants to buy SUVs anymore). Note the placement of the steering wheel. IT'S ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE. The gear shift is on the LEFT HAND SIDE. Which can make life a little tricky, let me tell you.
* What You Don't Want to Do When Driving in Ireland
Do NOT look up and right, expecting to find the rear view mirror. That's up and left. Do NOT look to the left expecting to find the side mirror. That's on the right hand side. Do NOT reach with your right hand, expecting to find the gear lever. Your hand will crash into the door.
* Negotiating Round-a-Bouts
In Ireland (and elsewhere in Europe), they have developed a traffic tool known as a Round A Bout. This large circle in the middle of the road is supposed to help erst-while drivers make it from A to B with as little difficulty as possible. For Americans, negotiating these things can be a nightmare. First, remember that you're turning LEFT into a round a about, not Right. Turning right can result in assorted mishaps and a quick trip to the hospital. When approaching a round a bout, my advice is this: close eyes, put the peddle to the metal, and pray to the traffic gods for assistance. With any luck, you'll scoot right on through oncoming traffic with narry a scratch. That's what I've been doing, at least, and it still works.
* Transitioning Between Countries
If you travel from Ireland and the US (or other countries) and back again, be prepared to suffer from Drivers' Transition Syndrome. This ailment (which has not been recognised by the World Health Organisation) has the following symptoms: when travelling back home from one country to the other (from Ireland back to America for instance) and having grown used to driving in that other 'foreign' country, be prepared to climb into your car, secure your safety belt, look up - and realise that you're sitting in the passenger seat, not the driver's seat. This is due to the fact that you have momentarily lost your mind, and have become dis-oriented (dis-orientated over here, by the way), and are not quite sure within which your body is currently residing and driving. Also be prepared for assorted stares from nearby passerbye's who are wondering what the hell you are doing.
* To Recover
To recover from this position: nonchalantly polish the passenger's dash board, pretending that you were intending to sit there in the first place. Get out of the car (ignoring the now laughter filled stares of passing people), climb into the REAL driver's seat (confirming that fact by ensuring the steering wheel is now in front of you), start car, and drive away.
By practicing the above a bit, and by following local Irish rules of the road, you too will be able to drive and survive in Ireland. Either that, or rent a donkey and cart. Tom
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
- In 1980, and with a newly minted MBA under my arm, I decided to take a long holiday. After some considerable consideration, I decided to throw my bicycle onto a Freddie Laker flight, and flew onward to London. There, assembling the bike, and with only a couple of paniers, a passport, change of underwear, and some cash for company, made my way southeast. The plan was to journey first west, then north, and eventually to Scotland. Then back to London and a departure back to San Francisco.
- However, fate had other ideas. Making my way to Wales, and eventually to Holyhead, I decided to take the ferry to Ireland. 'Why not?' I thought to myself. 'I've never been to Ireland. I might as well have a look.' So I did.
- In Ireland, I disembarked in Dun Laoghrie, then peddled north. Past Dublin. And eventually to Dunleer in County Louth. There, I met a beautiful woman: Bernie.
- Three days later - and it seems like a dream to me now - I asked her to marry me. Yep, right here on the spot, with the wonder of Ireland surrounding me. Fortunately, she said yes. Little did I know that her simple agreement to my proposal would change my life so fundamentally.
We moved back to the United States. But in 1982, and facing the raging winds of Recession, and with Bernie begging me to take her back to Ireland - her homeland - I did what any husband would do: I agreed. Having sold off most of our belongings, we climbed on a flight and headed to here.
I've been in Ireland ever since. (For more information on why I came here, and why I've stayed for so many years in this terrific company, go to http://ebooks.escapeartist.com/products/country-reports/ireland/guide-to-living-in-ireland/).
The intervening 27 years have been a journey of discovery: of learning to understand a new culture, and a people that are the most welcoming in the world. There have been ups and downs and the occasional heartache. But all in all, I've discovered that this American can live in Ireland, and survive here.
If you'd care to, follow me now as I keep you abreast of the latest in this land that still possesses a certain magic.
(Pictured: the sun sets in West Cork)
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
And, this man is principally responsible for the sorry state of Ireland's current economy.
Ireland in Recession
For those of you who don't know it, or think that this God-aweful recession is only localised to you, take heart: it's in Ireland, too. As of this writing, over 10 percent of Ireland is out of work. The housing bubble - and yes, Ireland had a housing bubble too - has imploded, showering the country with trouble. Housing prices have fallen on average about 30 percent from their highs in mid-2007. What's left is chaos: falling home prices, foreclosures, and a construction industry that's on its knees.
The fall-out from this has been spectacular: unemployment has sky-rocketed. Today, Ireland's Celtic Tiger has ceased to roar. Instead, people who don't have jobs struggle with their bills and hope that they can pay their mortgages. People with jobs do their best to count their blessings. In the meantime, business failures continue to rise; Irish banks - still loaded with toxic debt and their share prices on the floor - find that they can no longer borrow money internationally.
In other words, the country is in a mess.
But Why is the Government Responsible?
I saw an article the other day which made heavy reading: in 2000, the total Irish government budget was approx 20 billion euro. In 2008, only 8 years later, that same budget had grown to over 60 billion euro. Bloated with new public employees and average public servant pay that is now higher than any poor slob working in the private sector, the government is now watching its tax take plummet as the result of a disastrous economy.
And who was at the helm of the Department of Finance when the public sector grew into an unmanageable state? Brian Cowan, that's who.
And who is still at the helm of the Irish government, only now its Taoiseach? Brian Cowan.
The people of Ireland deserve better. Unfortunately, we can only hope that the bloated public sector is forced to go on a strict diet. Just like our not-so-illustrious leader.
Monday, March 23, 2009
(Why not come along...?)