After luxe-ing it up in Bangkok, my next stop is Ireland, which is lacking in outdoor Jacuzzis and infinity pools but utterly teeming with booze (which is normal) and sunshine (which certainly isn’t). The beach wedding that I have flown over is surprised by unseasonably pleasant summer weather. All the guests have brought umbrellas. None of us have brought sunscreen. P, my travelling companion and an Australian of the “Slip, Slop, Slap” school*, stares in horror at the guests, all turning steadily pinker and visibly dehydrating, who are making no attempts to cover up.
He pokes me and whispers. “The Irish don’t know how to deal with sunlight!”
True, but we know how to enjoy it, and everyone is maximising their chance of getting a bit of vitamin D to last us through the winter. There is a joke in Ireland about the odds of a sunny day coming up. “Did you have a nice summer in Ireland this year?” “We did, it was on a Wednesday”.
In 2010, the summer was on my friends’ wedding day. We stand there, on a beach so white and blue and sunny it could be in the Caribbean, blinking in the unfamiliar sunshine. Baking gently as the bride and groom swear their vows. I bury my toes in the warm sand as they swap rings and the waves lap behind them. Afterwards, all the guests go for a paddle. It’s simply a perfect day.
And it sets the tone for the Irish trip in general. It’s hard to get perspective on the country that I grew up in. Things that seem amazing to others (summer sunsets at 11pm, two thousand year old hill forts randomly sprinkled in farmer’s fields, pubs where the craic is always mighty) are old hat to me, but returning after five years living abroad it’s easier to see the great aspects of the Ireland and the Irish.
The landscape, swinging from verdant green to bare limestone hills and the wild blue of the Atlantic. The people, the chats, the wry sense of humour and the inventive and imaginative turns of phrase used. The castles, the cathedrals, the beer gardens and snugs of real Irish pubs.
The endless, endless quantities of booze. Oh wow, the booze. I had forgotten that Guinness is not meant to be slightly warm and greasy with a faint acidic taste, but a smooth and creamy cool on the palate draught.
It’s only when I find myself finding the distinctive sing-song accent of Cork cute, when I know logically that it sounds like the high pitched whining of a rusted hinge in a particularly temperamental gale, that I realise that it’s probably time to move on. Next stop, where luxury and Guinness will both be completely off the cards, New York.
That’s Slip on a teeshirt, Slop on a hat and Slap on the sunscreen. Basically it advocates total coverage on sunny days when you go outdoors and P, as a sensible Australian, follows it far more religiously that I do. He has been known to chase me around the house desperately trying to place a hat on me but has so far resisted the urge to place me in a hermetically sealed lightproof bunker on sunny days.