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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Irish Facts Without Wikipedia

I'm not generally a major Twitter fan. There does be some interesting stuff but for the most part, I find it tedious and there is just too much crap! Occasionally though, you find some gems, like today. Rick O'Shea of 2fm started a trend by asking people to post #IrishFactsWithoutWikipedia, basically overly false 'facts' about Ireland. I spotted the trend and clicked through....and promptly nearly fell off my chair laughing. Someone had tweeted Rick suggesting that somebody should post it in a blog as they were too funny not to be published. Things are quiet in work right now so I decided to take it upon myself to transfer some of the ones I found most amusing here. Some of them are proper Irish universal truths, the others are pure hilarious. Enjoy!!

  • If your Granny doesn't light a candle for you before an exam, you're going to fail
  • You must say 'goodbye' at least 3 times at the end of a phone conversation or the phone won't actually hang up
  • Bono can shoot beams made of Tayto crisps out of his wicked uniglasses
  • In Ireland, Father Ted is seen as a hard hitting documentary
  • If you're sick, you don't need a doctor. 7up and toast will do the job
  • Abrakebabra have 2 Michelin stars but don't like to advertise it
  • Jackie Healy Rae is only man to hold the Irish, European and World Combover of the Year titles
  • Not turning off the immersion leads to a fate worse than death (classic)
  • Cork is actually only about half the size of the Phoenix Park but we let them draw it bigger on the map just to keep them quiet
  • If you say 'Gay Byrne' 3 times fast, Uncle Gaybo will appear and give lollipops to everyone in the audience
  • It's an old Irish custom to declare your intent to marry a girl by draping a large raw steak over her face
  • Iceland used to be a county of Ireland before it broke off in 1941. Nobody noticed because of the war
  • We are all fluent Irish speakers but we don't want to get stuck talking to Daithi O Se in a bar
  • Bono can hear a hungry child's tear hit the dust from 100 miles away
  • All toastie specials served in Irish pubs contain molten lava
  • There's no money resting in ANY Irish bank account anymore
  • 'An bhfuil cead agam dul go dti an leithreas?' is the most used phrase in the Irish language
  • Vincent Browne had a successful acting career as Worzel Gummidge
  • In Ireland, it's widely accepted by the Vatican to break Lent on Paddys Day for crisps and chocolate
  • The tallest mountain in the world is actually Muckish in Donegal. It's just lying down, so you can't tell
  • It is compulsary to say 'aahh' after the first sup of tae
  • Members of the Irish Parliament use croissants as emergency sideburns
  • If you die of alcohol poisoning, you're considered a lightweight
  • Contrary to popular belief, Jim Corr wrote the Irish National Anthem
  • Our blood is 90% tea
  • We're obliged to have a pint or 2 at the airport before getting on a plane - even if it's 7 in the morning
  • Red lemonade is the reason we are all mental because the chemicals used to make it are banned in every other country
  • By law, you are only allowed to worship Premier League Foottballers until they put on an England shirt
  • Honda Civics, Subarus and Mitsubishis are not as preferable modes of transport as horses
  • Dublin Zoo is running a captive breeding programme of leprechauns to replace the current government
  • If the perpetual lamp under the Sacred Heart picture goes out, all members of the household die that instant
  • Shortcuts always involve fields
  • St Patrick actually smuggled snakes over by accident, though diligently rectified the problem himself
  • Anne Doyle is completely octopus from the waist down
  • Starving is a word used by the people of Ireland when they haven't eaten for a minimum of 2 hours
  • To be considered truly Irish, the wooden spoon must have been a fundamental element of your childhood
  • The Vikings originally introduced the battered sausage to Ireland in 956 AD as building material for huts
  • The mass decline in population in the mid 1800's was actually caused by a zombie apocalypse
Moral of the Story - Irish people are great craic. Our sense of humour will get us through anything.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Finding the new Fitzgeralds

I've drank in many bars in my time. In fact, some people would even say that I may have been in a few too many bars and consumed more than my fair share of fizzy drinks. You would be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn't be of the opinion that I spent far too much time in one bar. No one ever said that to Cliff or Norm and they spent a lot more time in their bar than I did in mine.....

Fitzgeralds was the place that I could walk into anytime and be guaranteed to know at least one other person at the bar, as well as the staff. Comfortable. Friendly. Inviting. I could have a pint on my own and read the paper or end up having the craic with some random people and end up heading to the Czech Inn for some ridiculous dancing. And let's not forget the infamous Friday night sessions. Rare was the Friday that I didn't scarper from my office next door with a fierce thirst on me and eager to while away the evening with a few 'civilised drinks'. Until, lo and behold, a mere few hours later I'm weaving drunkenly on my chair with whoever I managed to drag from the office with me waiting for Totally Wired to start. Inevitably, despite many protestations that we would leave after the next pint, all of a sudden, we'd realise that one staff member was mopping around us while the other was vaguely encouraging us to drink up and go but not really forcing us out the door. Good times.

Obviously, when I got to Canada, one of the first things that I was keen to accomplish (apart from the very obvious finding employment and accommodation) was finding my replacement bar. I am quite easily pleased and like to think that my expectations are not too high but Fitzgeralds had set the bar very high. Below are some of the bars I tested out and my verdict on each of them....

  • Elephant & Castle - no, they did not have chicken wings (well they probably did but I was unwilling to order them and shatter the illusion). I did try the curry chips and they were pretty good. The beer was an alright price (so long as you stuck to the local brews) and the staff were friendly enough. They went to great lengths to try to find the Irish Euro 2012 Qualifier match for me on TV. I haven't been back since but would still give it 3/5.
  • Fynn's of Temple Bar - being a huge fan of the Temple Bar Bar, I was hoping for something vaguely similar but I really didn't find it here. The staff seemed friendly enough but I didn't feel enough of a pull to visit there more than 3 times in the last 10 weeks. Their food is pretty good though. 3/5
  • Pogue Mahone - now this one, I had to go into just to see what the bleeding story was. After having a chat with the bartender, he confirmed that the name was an attempt at wittiness. Good attempt There was no atmosphere there, the staff were surly enough to a point (although I did manage to get one of them to have a bit of banter with me eventually). Not likely to go back 1/5
  • McVeighs - everyone said to me, if you want a taste of home, get yourself to Mc Veighs. I decided to pop along on a Sunday afternoon to have a nose. It was dark, there weren't many people there, there were a few others on their own and the bartender was having the banter with a couple of lads at the end of the bar. Somehow though, it just didn't work for me. After a while, there was a group at the end of the bar, all Irish, gossiping about the night before in some other pub when this person had done this that and the other, and he'd kissed her and she'd punched him. And I realised that it seemed like just another small town in Ireland. And I didn't actually want to be a part of that. 3/5
  • The Bier Markt - here's one I wasn't expecting to like, it seemed a little bit pretentious at first glance but they had a lot of international beers on tap so we figured we'd give it a go. Not only do they have a lot of different beers but they will allow you to have little tasters of different ones to help you make up your mind about which one you want. The first night we were there, I tried a few different ones, as did my friend Viv. The following week when we went in, the same bartenders were there and they remembered everything we had tasted and which ones we liked and didn't like. Either we were very memorable or they were very good at their jobs! Been there a few times now and the staff are always lovely, the music sounds like a playlist from my own MP3 Player and their Poutine is delish. 4/5
  • The Foggy Dew - again, based on the name, I was hoping for something even vaguely similar to the dear old Dublin Foggy Dew. My first day there, I made friends with some locals and the bartender. This looked promising. Been back a few times since and even when I brought in the guys visiting from Ireland, the lovely Jeremy didn't even charge them for their tea and soft drinks which I thought was pretty decent. My only criticism is that their chips are not crispy enough. Otherwise though 5/5
  • And then we come to the closest thing I've found so far. The dear old Departure Lounge at Global Village. I know the staff, I'm getting to know the regulars, I get good deals on drinks. Couple of slight bonuses over Fitzgeralds - crazy drinks specials every night and karaoke on Fridays. However, Fitzgeralds still wins over slightly....although, ask me again in about 8 months time. 5/5
Moral of the Story - I will continue my search for a substitute bar and will ensure to keep you all updated. Don't worry too much Lennie; you're a hard one to replace. 

Friday, 13 January 2012

Likes and Dislikes in Canada so far....

I would like to preface this one by saying that I understand that these points may not necessarily apply to the whole of Canada but you can take that up with someone who gives a rats ass.....

  • Like.... the public transport system. The TTC (Toronto Transit Commission), as far as I'm concerned provides an excellent service, particularly when coming from the likes of Dublin Bus and Irish Rail. The subway and streetcar schedules are super frequent, I'm rarely waiting too long for one (except in the middle of the night, when you could be waiting half an hour.....when it's -15 out. Not that pleasant). My favourite thing has to be the drivers though. Maybe it's a public transport driver trait across the world to have an amazingly sarcastic sense of humour. Case in point; on a streetcar one evening and a woman got on talking on her mobile phone. Well, she was shouting and she had the other person on speaker phone so it was a very annoying conversation to have to listen to. Next thing, the driver gets on the intercom 'Excuse me lady, no one wants to hear your conversation. Please either hang up the phone, or get off the streetcar. Thank you'. I nearly wet myself. No one else seemed to think it was that funny though......
  • Dislike..... milk. At home we've got full fat, low fat, slimline, whatever. They've the same stuff over here but they also have 'percentages'. As in 2%, 1%. That's not milk, it's a percentage, as Tracy would say. Also, it comes in bags as well as in cartons. Plastic bags of milk feel so weird. I can't even describe it if you've never felt one. Everyone seems to have these special plastic jugs that they use for them. You cut a wee corner out of the bag and plop it in there. Why you don't just empty the milk from the bag into the jug, I do not know. Strange.....
  • Like.....the Plummers. I've had a few issues with the odd crazy Canadian since I got here, and haven't met a huge amount that I would be able to admit that I was overly fond of. Apart from the Plummer family. I don't think that there could be a more welcoming or easy going family within the entire North American continent. They should be on the Canadian Tourism Boards advertisements for reasons to come to Canada.
  • Dislike.....HST. Harmonized Sales Tax in other words. Nothing, NOTHING that you buy is actually the price that is listed. You get to the counter and realise that the exact change that you've scoured your wallet for is no use to you as you forgot to consider the taxes. According to Wikipedia (the bible of completely accurate information), when they were introducing the HST in Ontario in 2010 was opposed by 74% of the population. Nice to know it matters what the public think!
  • job. Not many people get to say that these days but I thoroughly enjoy my job. Not that I don't have my off days and I have met some crazy people (not the good kind either) but working at Global Village has been an extremely welcome break from the office work of the last 3 years. I've met some great people, there's a bar on the premises and a smoking patio. And, although I complain about it sometimes, I've learned that I really enjoy folding sheets!
  • Dislike.....lack of chicken fillet or breakfast roll availability. Snack food is very different here. It's all pizza slices and pizza slices and more pizza slices. They don't have the same kind of deli vibe that I'm used to where you can get an ol ham and cheese sandwich made up (or the legendary chicken fillet roll). Some of the convenience stores do have counters with samosas, meat pies, imitation cornish pasties, sausage rolls, etc. Even they're not the same. The only sausage rolls I've been able to find are beef ones, not even pork ones!
  • Like.....poutine. Yes, I do love poutine. Let me explain it for anyone who may not know about it. It's basically gravy chips with cheese curds but the Canadians consider it very precious and unique to them. Before I tasted it for the first time, I was advised that I had to be very careful where I tried it to ensure that I was tasting high quality poutine. Apparently, the cheese curds have to be really squeaky, the gravy should be chicken or turkey (with a hint of pepper), and the chips should be thin cut and crispy on the outside. I tasted it in the BierMarkt and was very happy with it!
  • Dislike.....LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). The LCBO and the Beer Store are the only places that you can buy alcohol in the province of Ontario apart from licensed premises like bars and restaurants (where you can't get take out). If the opening hours don't suit you or you don't have one too near to your house, it can be very awkward. Which I found out to my detriment last Sunday when I discovered that most of them close by 6pm at the latest. Shocking.
  • Like..... Steamwhistle Brewery. I've mentioned them in a couple of blogs before but I cannot get enough of these guys. Not only is the Brewery a great attraction and good fun, the beer is really tasty and has been made in the most efficient and green ways. As their motto goes 'Do One Thing Really, Really Well'. Too true, too true. 
  • Dislike.... there's no Fitzgeralds. It's been really hard to find a bar here that I can call home. I have searched high and low (which is really tough here considering how expensive it is to drink over here). Lennie and co have pretty much ruined me for any other bar. The closest thing I am likely to find is the bar at Global Village; I know the staff, I know the regulars, I get good prices on the beer. If I could get Totally Wired over to play there, it would actually be perfect.....
Moral of the Story - Moving to a new place is exciting....but sometimes it's just fun to make a pros and cons list!

    Wednesday, 11 January 2012

    Christmas in Canada

    On Christmas Eve, I posted on Facebook about not feeling very Christmassy. Because I just didn't. There were decorations up, people walking around with Santa hats, 12 Pubs of Christmas crawls going on. It was the little differences. There were Christmas songs being played, but I didn't hear Slade, Wizzard or Fairytale of New York ONCE! Except for when we did it at karaoke in the hostel after many many fizzy drinks. I miss the lights on Grafton Street. I miss the stalls on Henry Street, with the shrill cries of "wrappin paper, 5 sheets for a euro". I missed the 12 Pubs of Christmas with the girls. I missed doing Kris Kindle with the family and then all of us just swapping around anyway to get who we had a gift idea for.

    Working Christmas Eve also wasn't the greatest way to get myself in the spirit. I tried playing some Christmas tunes. No. I wrote my cards out for the Plummer Family. No. I Facebook creeped my friends to see what they were up to. That just made me sad. Then I found my saviour on the RTE iPlayer. "The Toy Show Unwrapped" gave the history of the toy show and showed lots of old clips. I could not help but get into the spirit. As much as people sneer, I do love the Toy Show. Dara O'Briain's explanation that the Toy Show is the reason for the recession because it showed us all the things that we could have but would never be able to afford!

    Thankfully, the Plummer family had agreed to take me in over Christmas. I only had Christmas Day off so it was a bit of a flying visit but it was nice to be with a family, even if they weren't my own. My family had sent some packages over for me too, so I was looking forward to opening them on Christmas morning while Skyping with them. The Plummers also made sure that I had several presents of my own to open with them, including this very fetching stocking filled with an array of handy gifts!

    There is very little that differs with Canadian Christmas to an Irish one. Time spent with family eating too much food, watching shite on TV and basically just hanging around, being together. St Stephens Day - now that was a different matter. I know at home a lot of pubs close early and what not but the city was like a ghost town! Thankfully, the hostel bar was open so I went there and spent some time with my new friends, lamenting my homesickness and getting over it by drinking $10 pitchers of Moosehead. That is definitely a good way to forget that one is homesick. That's how the rest of my festive period was spent actually, working and drinking with a whole bunch of other people who were also far away from home. In my opinion, New Years is always a let down but this year, I actually had more fun that I remember having most New Years. Champagne at midnight, great music, a bunch of strangers and new friends. It was pretty great.

    Moral of the Story - Christmas is about surrounding yourself with your family the people you love. When that's not possible, the next best thing is to get yourself a sweet Canadian family around and a hostel full of drunk backpackers. Just make sure you show up for work on time New Years Day......