It is a well documented fact that I am turning into an old curmudgeon – well perhaps a curmudgeon who is getting older would better describe it – and in keeping with my curmudgeonly nature several things got my goat on this trip. I thought I’d take this opportunity to deliver a minor rant on several things in particular that had me bleating and shaking my fist at clouds.
- In the service industry in both Ireland and England there are representations from many members of the European Union. The predominance of Eastern and Iberian European staff in hotels, restaurants, bars and shops means that a variety of accents beyond the lilt of the Irish brogue or plummy English inflections are commonplace. On more than one occasion I heard the question “So where are you from?” asked of a server or clerk by someone in an accent that wasn’t exactly from Counties Mayo or Essex itself. And before anyone jumps to conclusions one of the most embarrassing episodes was a party of Canadians who were extremely insistent in knowing the server’s nationality. They kept saying she sounded Polish and when she said that she was Czech one of them actually said: well it’s almost the same thing isn’t it? This was a conversation that should never have taken place. I find it both a rude and an unnecessary question. What does it matter where the person is from? Will it affect how you are served? And frankly what business is it of yours?
- Another question that bothers me is “so what do you do?” as a conversation opener. I have decided that in the future I will smile beatifically and reply: My best.
- The insistence on “sanitizing” your hands with a disinfectant prior to entering a ship’s dining area drives me crazy. I had one very nice young staff member of the Queen Mary 2 stand in front of me much like an Angel with a Flaming Sword guarding the Gates of Heaven demanding that I spritz Purell on my hands. I suggested, very pleasantly as I am not always a curmudgeon that she get out of my way and let me get my breakfast. To my mind the exercise has two purposes only: to prove the shipping company has done it’s due diligence; and to enrich the Pfizer Consumer Healthcare division of Johnson & Johnson. It has been proven that in many cases the use of the product has little or no effect and often encourages bacterial growth if improperly used. And frankly the sight of people entering a room wringing their hands like so many smugly sleepwalking Lady Macbeths is faintly ridiculous.
- On our various tours through Ireland there were constant references to the United States. Now with all respect I acknowledge that a majority of the English speaking tourists are Americans (I use that term to mean citizens of the USA as opposed to inhabitants of the New World) and that there are historical links between Ireland and that country. But in our various groups there were also Australians, New Zealanders, and Canadians – all countries with strong Irish ties reaching well beyond Boston or New York City. At the time of the famine, as well as the times before and beyond, the United States was not the only destination for immigrants from the Old Sod; aircraft from “North America” made fuel stops in Shannon in the early days of aviation not just flights from the U.S.; the method of building open stone fences seen in the West Counties can also be seen in Irish communities in the Ottawa Valley not just in farmlands in the USA. And the list goes on. As I write this I know that it sounds like a petty concern but after a week of the assumption that we were all fascinated that the maternal grandfather twice times removed of some obscure American politician lived in Ballykissarse becomes as irritating as green beer and “Kiss Me I’m Irish” sweatshirts on March 17th.
So there we are – rant over and I feel better. We return to our regular programming:
On this day in 1880: Mexican soldiers kill Victorio, one of the greatest Apache military strategists.