Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stung by more than a stinging nettle

I've ummed and ahhed about posting this, not wanting to offend any of you.  But in the end I decided to press 'publish' as it is something I want to remember.  I may rescind this post later on down the track...

I'm in Ireland - or more specifically, just outside Belfast in Northern Ireland.  I was very much looking forward to coming here, to visit with friends, family and revisit the country I loved the last time I was here.  I've never been to Belfast.  We are spending two days here and then heading further south to see family.

We arrived yesterday, but I've had mixed feelings since being here.
Firstly, the flight was AWFUL - never fly easyjet if you can help it! - then on landing, Hertz mucked up our car hire booking, ah well it happens!, secondly it was a shock coming from warm sunny France to rain, cold, grey...driving in a car which has a speedometer in kms whilst the road speed signs are in miles is also quite confusing! ... and then I stung my foot on a stinging nettle as I was standing on the roadside talking to some sheep which I haven't done since I was a child growing up in the UK! (sting myself on nettle that is, not talk to sheep - I do that all the time as an adult)

There were no dock leaves handy either, so many hours later 
I'm sitting here by the window blogging, foot still stinging  :)

But my spirits lifted today as we drove through the Antrim glens and as the industrial feel of Belfast gave way to beautiful pastoral scenes, I felt my soul relax a little.  The glens are so lovely and most of the Irish people we've met have been just gorgeous, so friendly and warm exactly how I remember.  We had a lovely bowl of simple, nutritious, delicious leek soup with a fabulous wheaten scone at a little tea room.  I was starting to feel much happier!

Love the stone walls - not cemented or glued together, just cleverly placed.

Followed many tractors  :)

 Curious sheep - get up on such amazingly precarious positions. So brave! 
Yes those tiny white dots in the photo below!


Little villages in the glens

It was a lovely way to spend the most of the day.

That is, until we drove back up past Belfast further North through a town called Bangor looking for a cinema to take the kids to watch Kung Fu Panda II.  We had a few people tooting us and shouting and glaring at us until I wound down the window to hear what they were saying and understood the hostility...our hire car has 'Southern plates' (Irish number plates) and the town we were driving through was very can I say this sensitively?...sectarian, or unionist, or whatever the right term is?...clearly evidenced by the flying of the union jack, banners of the english flag everywhere and painted curb sides in union jacks.  Apparently they were offended by our Irish presence in their Northern Irish (but wanting to be english) little town assuming we were from the south (Ireland) by our car number plates.  I'm sure they were surprised to see a face looking like mine peering from the window grumpily back at them.  They would have been more surprised to hear my Australian accent yelling right back at them but Mr Bok quickly wound up the window.  You know, I get the history of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Whenever one country invades another, there is always going to be war, resentment on all sides...what I don't get is the whole on-going attitude - I don't hold with all of this sectarian nonsense.  Needless to say, we abandoned our search for a cinema in Bangor.

My husband is very Irish and extremely proud to be so and by his silence I know that this incident upset him.  He grew up in Derry with occupying British soldiers on his streets, harassing him as he went to and from school, tanks and violence and he still isn't 'racist' or sectarian for want of a better term.  If anything it's put him completely right off all of that, I have a lot of Irish friends and they are all the same - they are over the past, they want peace, want their country to move on and prosper and want to live in a happy nation.  Sadly it's idiots like the ones we encountered today that just want to keep the crap going but for what means? Honestly the people we encountered need to grow up, be glad they are living in a beautiful place and be peaceful.  I know there are idiots everywhere you go, on every side of any story but I find it just sad. I've encountered racism in my past too, being the only non-caucasian in my entire district (I was born and grew up in England many decades ago) I had a lot of 'Go back to where you came from' as a small child (which I didn't understand at the time seeing as I was born there, so go back to what?) - but I also had loads of friends and found the majority of people were kind and lovely and I focused on that.  And again, nearly everyone I've met here have been absolute gems - lots of them have stopped us to chat and play with our children.  Perhaps the bigots need to take up gardening. Gain some perspective somehow...get zen! 

Anyway.  I've broken all sorts of taboos and rules by posting my frustration and annoyance at what happened to us today, but so be it.  I'm just a dumb tourist after all and Mr Bok won't talk to me about it so I have to vent my annoyance here instead.  I'm keeping a travel diary here at the moment and this is what happened today.  I'm sorry if I've offended any of you especially my British and Irish blog friends! that is not my intent at all.  And really most people I've met so far have been absolutely lovely.  You get stupid, ignorant and/or bigoted people anywhere.  I just detest unfairness or prejudice of any sort.

I love Ireland and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it in the next week.  I'll show you lots of gorgeous places and hopefully we won't encounter any more abuse or behaviour of the sort we did today.



  1. What an interesting post! Isnt it a pity that a few (ahem) dickheads (sorry about that) ruin a lovely day for you. I don't get whole racist thing either. It amazes me that that behaviour exists. I'd have had to told them "what for". Sheesh.

  2. Heehee! Yes that term did come to mind...


  3. I'm so glad you decided to publish this post. I agree with you "perhaps they should take up gardening". By the way, I didnt realize that in was going to vicariously be tripping around Ireland as well, so thanks for the tour. My seat belt is done up awaiting the next exciting episode in "our" journey

  4. Very interesting post. I've never understood the whole Irish thing, despite being quarter Irish. But then I've never visited Ireland, so I'm finding your blog interesting on more than one level. I'm glad you posted your experience. A warning for others of what to expect and truth is truth at the end of the day. It's what you saw and felt. Hope the rest of your journey is more peaceful. Looking forward to hearing (and seeing) more. It certainly looks a beautiful place. cathie

  5. I love Ireland. In 2003 I toured Ireland along with a bus load of university students, English majors. We were studying the literature of Ireland and along with studying literature comes the study of history. Ireland suffered long under the rule of England and finally found its freedom. We didn't go to Belfast, and I well remember the violence over the years. It is good for you to write about your frustrations and your experience. We all need to be reminded of how our actions may affect others. You vented in a healthy, sincere way. Can't wait to see the rest of your photos. Ireland is so beautiful. Enjoy your trip.

  6. I saw a news item this afternoon which may throw some light on what you experienced:

    "Northern Irish police were dealing with "significant disorder" on the streets of Belfast after trouble flared following a Protestant march through the city.

    Police vehicles have been damaged and missiles hurled at officers trying to restore order, a police spokeswoman said.

    The rioting broke out in east Belfast, a predominantly Protestant sector of the Northern Irish capital, following the "mini Twelfth" parade.

    Police used rubber bullets and a water cannon to try and disperse the crowds, the spokeswoman said.

    "Police are currently dealing with significant disorder," she said.

    Officers were working with community leaders and advising members of the public "to avoid the area as they work to restore calm".

    Northern Ireland saw some of its worst sectarian violence in years last week, focused on a Catholic enclave in east Belfast.

    A photographer was shot in the leg and rioters threw petrol bombs and other missiles at police, who responded by firing water cannons..."

  7. Your post is not offensive, not to me anyway :) It's hard when your put in a situation which has nothing to do with you, and which you don't really understand, where people treat you poorly.
    When the US and allies invaded Iraq, my husband and I were backpacking around South East Asia. On the border of Thailand and Malaysia, we encountered some open hostility when some of the locals thought we were American, they lightened up a little when they realised we were Australian (although, Aust invaded too, but perhaps that wasn't put out there in the news as much.) It was quite frightening at the time, as it was out of the blue. Fortunately there was only the one incident, and although it did make us a little wary at the time it didn't taint the whole trip :)
    Hope you have a better day tomorrow x

  8. Please don't rescind anything in your post. I'm sure the majority of Irish people wish bigots didn't exist. Sometimes the silent majority need to say what they feel.
    Hope the rest of your holiday in Irelend is enjoyable.

  9. My husband's family comes from this part of the world! Just a bit further north again. It's so beautiful - I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit and a few idiots haven't soured your experience.

  10. Hope your foot feels much better. My father and mother were different race and religion before they got married. My father family could not accept her so it was really sad growing up watching your own mother being said not nice things. Hugs:). Hope you find many lovely surprise along your travel.

  11. I was saddened to read this morning that you had suffered such an unpleasant experience on your trip. I must say though that your Easyjet comment surprised me, considering they are a budget airline, I think that within those constraints they do a good job, or maybe we have just been lucky. Flown six times with them in the last six weeks and any complaints I may have had would be about other passengers not the airline. Here's hoping the rest of your trip is calmer and enjoyable and the flight ok. :)

  12. Don't let a few twats ruin your holiday. I'm sure they are a very small minority. Will they ever learn?

  13. It is passion and sincerity that makes a blog worth reading. You let us immerse ourselves in the experience, and reflect on it. My grandfather was one of the Anglo-Irish from Belfast, then met my grandmother in London.

  14. Hello everyone! Thank you so much for your comments. We are now in Derry and it's been lovely to see family and friends again. Have seen lots of the police landrovers about and assume as Cathie has said above, that this is due to the lead up narches to the Orange parade (July 12). This march in this country is performed by some protestants and celebrates the victory of William of Orange King of England over the Irish in 1690 and obviously stirs up a lot of emotion not much of it good I imagine. It surprises me that this annual parade continues centuries ahead to the present day, given how offensive it is to so many people (Irish catholics for example) and how naturally it evokes conflict and renewed resentment. They march through the streets quasi-military style regardless of the views of the residents. I can't see other countries doing an annual parade and in-your-face march to celebrate having violently conquered whichever people it was they defeated in their own country. Really it's just insensitive and given it commemorates something that happened centuries ago, quite unnecessary. Again spoken as a tourist outsider - but I don't really get how anything good comes out of this, maybe some of you can explain...? I need to do more research on this and be better informed, but I'm afraid of what I'll find. It just seems so unfair.

  15. Well, you know Rule Number One: People Are Stupid! That should explain everything, job done.... Unfortunately it doesn't help the way they make you feel. I know you will have a great time the rest of your holiday, and you will find lots of new exciting friends and plant life to damage yourself with!! Luv Mrs and Mr Waq.

  16. Add my voice to the others saying YES, POSt this, and NO, Don't Rescind it later. Your blog reflects your experiences -- good, bad, or ugly. It's your place to vent your spleen and say what's on your mind. We've all experienced incidents like this in our lives, some more significant and scarier than others. I'm glad you're finally having a wonderful time! Hope it continues!

  17. Venting is good for the soul- better than bottling it up. Hope things are on the improve now with your holiday experience.

  18. I am glad you, have a place where you can have your say and voice your opinion. Love your photos.

  19. Keep the post! An Irish friend told us a long time ago that often it takes travelling overseas to open the mind. And that the perceived norm is what the majority follow. He used to think the same way as what you experienced because that was the norm for him. It was not until he had travelled overseas that he knew that it was not and that it was experiencing different cultures, ideas and being perceived as the ¨outsider¨ that opened his eyes.

  20. Hi, your post is very honest and don't delete it, you have the misfortune to be in the north in the middle of the 'marching' season when old bigotries surface once more, the 12th July being the dau for the Orange marches
    I am surprised you got southern number plates if you picked up the car in the north!
    The majority of people in the north both catholic and protestant are decent law abiding citizens who abhorr violence and do not want a return to the troubled times we have lived through.
    Enjoy the rest of your stay, it is a beautiful part of the country.

  21. Sorry you had a bad experience, especially since I know Mr. Bok must have wanted you to have a wonderful time in his Ireland. I hope your foot is feeling better and that you have a great time for the rest of the trip.

  22. Sorry to hear about your experience when you arrived to Northern Ireland. I live near Belfast but I'm actually american so I don't really understand the 'politics' and religious divide fully so I'm no help explaining (it does't make sense to most anyways). I've lived here 17 years and I stay away from marches and bonfires, probably a good tip in your travels. Hope the rest of your trip is memorable. There's some amazing countryside here and lovely people. Kelli

  23. Coming from the Boston area( large Irish population) (think President Kennedy) we were always aware of the problems in Northern Ireland. To bad they still exist. Don't remove your post it wasn't offensive in the least. Hope the rest of your trip turns out well.

  24. Great post - I visited Ireland ten years ago, but we only had time to visit the Republic and didn't get up to Northern Ireland, so we had no exposure to anything like the situation you described. How disappointing for something like that to happen on a holiday.

    Your photos are lovely and make me jealous and nostalgic at the same time! I love the dry stone walls, and getting a farmer to demonstrate one of the gates is amazing! Happy travels!

  25. It is interesting reading your post to ponder that the beauty of a place is not always the whole picture. There may be politics and resentments that get in the way. At any rate, I hope the remainder of your time in Ireland is more about the beauty of that lovely country.

  26. I have always wanted to visit Ireland but always put off because of the thought of the kind of encounter you had, I hope the rest of your visit to that beautiful land goes well.


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