Friday, 26 March 2010

Why I love Ireland part I: the community leisure centre

Sorry its been a while since blogs, but between work, social life and training I guess I got lazy in between. Anyhow, I am in middle Ireland on holiday and I forgot my bog snorkelling gear. In fact funnily enough (after last episodes lambasting) I couldn't afford to put them on my Ryanair flight over here, which was as miserable and annoying as ever!

Ireland is a great place. It still retains about 33.3% more mysticism than England and even on our open top bus ride in Dublin yesterday the voiceover declared that if I chased a leprichaun (a pixie cobbler) to the end of a rainbow, all my dreams would come true! Well I had a few opportunities, what with the rain/sun/rain weather, but everytime I just couldn't keep up with his low centre of gravity, his knowledge of the landscape and his little revolving legs. It was like trying to keep up with Sonia O'Sullivan in Richmond Park after 5 pints of the black stuff and a sandwich Mrs Doyle and Scooby Doo would've been proud of!

But what I love most about Ireland is the warm-hearted nature of its people. If they can do something to help you, they generally will, which makes a nice change from London, where if you use more than 49% of the air in a lift shared with one other person, you'll get a polite elbow in the ribs or a smarmy comment. All of the following may seem negative, but I really do think they convey a positive society overall.

The generous nature of Irish people can be seen in any leisure centre and without naming names I went to a very hospitable one in Middle Ireland the other day.

As I walked in, there was a Royal Rumble of kids wrestling in the unisex changing rooms trying to be controlled by 2 or 3 female teachers, which took me back to the good old simple days. The patience of those women! - 'Miss, Connor has locked the door!' shouted one.
'Miss I think I'm going to be.....BLLLLLLLUUUUUURRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!' sicked up another into the communal washbasins.
LIAM's been sick, Liam's been sick everyone! etc etc. It was like a mini-person medical war drama like MASH or Catch 22.

Anyway, after finally finding a locker where the wristband key wasn't broken, I slipped in for a quick shower only to read the following sign: These showers are communal, for the health of others please keep your clothes on!

Doesn't that just whisk you back to the old stringent days where Catholicism taught you to believe your body was dirty! I just couldn't stop grinning, thinking about some slightly mad bloke (like Father Jack) scrubbing his spuds in the communal showers and whistling away - how are ya?

Into the pool and it was all a bit Mr Bean, but in a funny way. There was a wide pool, 25m in length but only two lanes (fast and slow) were marked out and they were very narrow. Had Grant and Phil Mitchell been swimming opposite ways the would have jammed in the middle! Forgetting my goggles just made every length an eye stingingly close colision with whoever was ploughing down the other side. It was crying out for a middle lane.

To make matters funnier the slow lane was so slow as to be laughable and the fast lane so quick you had to time each length perfectly as not to upset anyone. Thankfully it wasn't too busy, but the space in the open side of the pool for general swimming was another 4 lanes wide and there were 3 people in it, one being the spit of Roy Keane! This didn't stop Mr Novice from jumping into the fast lane and firstly swimming the wrong way around (admittedly this was confusing as the slow lane was clockwise and the fast anti-clockwise) and then secondly turning around halfway down the pool for the return 'length'.

At every length's end, an old man would tell me an opinion on something or other and was lacing into the eejit (Mr Novice) in the red cap and it was like he was waiting for me to return from the other end at times. I was almost swimming 3 lengths to his one and he really got het up when Mr Novice jumped into the slow lane and ploughed tediously half way down the wrong way before turning around and ruining everyone else's rhythm.

During a rest period I asked the old man if he had a spare pair of goggles as my eyes were very sore and all the lights ringed with sloppy rainbows (where were the leprichauns now?). He replied that I had to swim anti-clockwise in my lane. I tried but it didn't help. When I finished my third length and caught him up again, Detective Colombo told me that he had a spare pair of goggles in his bag and that it was probably the chlorine hurting my eyes.

By this time I had already done 30 lengths and goggles weren't going to help. I thanked him anyway, not that he had actually offered them to me. However a nice young lad who worked at the pool kindly offered me a pair of Junior ones that were so tight I thought they would suck my eyeballs with them when I finally prized them from my face. But its the thought that counts, I can't imagine anyone at home giving a shit about my forgetfulness!

I completed 1300 metres (52 lengths) as my body couldn't face the final 300 needed for a mile swim in about an hour, just as a new slow swimmer joined the fast lane, with the slow lane now completely empty, and swam front crawl with frog leg kick tirelessly at a snail's pace!

Go you're own way by Fleetwood Mac started playing in my head and I marvelled at the likes of David Walliams who swam the channel in 10 hours (2mph). I needed to get out the pool now and I sauntered off into the steam room for five minutes where between gulps of hot air I engaged in a conversation about the negative and positive effects of the Celtic Tiger and how we were lucky it hadn't fail ed during construction of the steam room we were in or we wouldn't be sat here now! Positvity that defied logic it would seem.

You cannot deny the truth and that's where am I going with this - Basically why I like the Irish is that they are not self-conscious and they genuinely don't give a shit, like Brits on holiday in Spain, but less aware of themselves.

They are optimistic in the face of adversity and they do the best they can. Okay so they can have a whinge like the English, but overall they possess a very human positivity. Each person knows their limitations and they don't care if you have a problem with that. In England (and London in particular) I think people care so much how they come across that it instills an overall negative vibe, because as we all know you can't please all the people all the time. But over here I get more a sense of I am who I am, and I do the best I can - deal with it or get out of my way and don't judge me. If that swim was in England, there would have been a lot more anger about the poor swimmers and a more tedious experience. Here, i got out, saw a naked guy in the shower and laughed. Then I dried my swim shorts in this awesome device, like a mini-tumble drier, for ten seconds and they were bone dry. By the time I left I felt like a local and that sums up the welcome of the Irish - unwavering and constant, like the rain and the Northern Star.

I know thi skind of thing happens when you're on holiday, but I haven't felt judged or self-conscious once since I got here, and I've been wearing an horrific Unbro tacksuit the whole time but hey - deal with it, because I don't give a shit! Now excuse me while I go find a pixie cobbler for my toe pinching winklepickers!

Until next time...dear readers!

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