Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Car troubles and random acts of kindness

The kids playing in a racing car while my own car was being fixed...

As I was stuck in a traffic jam on Saturday morning, a driver on the opposite side waved at me and warned me I had a flat tyre. "What a kind gesture", I thought to myself. But that was only the beginning of a little "car troubles" adventure that made me realise there are still very good people in this world, and particularly in Ireland.

I quickly tried to find a petrol station to pump some air in the tyre and check if it was punctured. Unfortunately, at the closest petrol station was a giant truck blocking the air pump. While I was thinking about another place to go, another man knocked at my window to warn me I had a flat tyre... And told me there was a tyre place in the retail centre nearby.

When I arrived there, I discovered the place was closed. So I decided to drive to the other retail park on the other side of town, hoping my tyre would hang on until I reached my destination. Thankfully it did, and the mechanic from the garage told me he would ring me when it would be fixed. I just finished grabbing some lunch with the kids when the phone rang:

"Hi Anne, so, we checked your car, and it's definitely a puncture"
"But there's a problem, the machine we use has just broken, so unfortunately we can't fix your car. I've put some air in it, so you can drive a bit, at least to another tyre place"

Now, this was definitely not my day! Did I mention I was actually out to buy a present for a friend's birthday that was happening in the afternoon? Well, it was 2pm already, my car was still not fixed, and I didn't have any present bought.

Off I went to the next tyre place. At that stage, the kids were getting a little bit impatient (even with chips and chicken pop corn in their stomach...). Thankfully, the guy from the garage was very nice and looked at my car straight away.

The kids got very excited when they realised there was a damaged racing car in the workshop, and they got even more excited when the mechanic told them the door was opened and they could go inside to check it out. By the time I had taken pictures of the car and the kids behind the steering wheel, my tyre was repaired.

It was only 10 euros, but unfortunately (again!) they weren't taking debit cards. "No problem, just drive down the road, there's an ATM near the pub", said the mechanic. "Are you sure? Do you trust me?!" I replied.  Do you want to bet what his reply was? "Yeah, it's grand!". Of course it was, for one second I must have forgotten I was in Ireland...

I went to take money , the kids thanked the man for letting them try the racing car and of course I was told to come back whenever I needed new tyres, and that I would get a good price...

And if you want to know, I managed to get the birthday present, and I was only 2 hours late to the party!

I am still in disbelief as how kind people can be, and it's very refreshing especially in the fucked up world we live in. I mean, this man didn't know me, and I know it was only 10 euros, but still, I was amazed at how trusting he was.

Of course, it's also good business for him, because one thing for sure, if I ever need tyres, I know where to go now!!

What about you? Any stories you want to share about random act of kindness?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

It's Ireland vs France...and I'm torn!

For the past week, my Facebook feed and wall have been bombarded by videos and articles about the Irish fans having a great time in France.  I think they have given a very positive image of the country, and when I read the comments on Facebook like "I want to get an Irish boyfriend/girlfriend" or "that's it, I'm moving to Ireland", I can't help but think there might be a wave of French immigration on the way!! I knew the Irish were the best fans in the world, but I never suspected it would make the French headlines as much as it did.

Now, in some twisted kind of fate, France will play against Ireland on Sunday. For the Irish, it will be some sort of revenge on that infamous world cup qualifier seven years ago. The two teams haven't met since that day, but we well know that the Irish haven't forgotten the "incident". Thierry Henry better not be at the stadium watching the match! As a matter of fact, a few memes have already started popping out online...

One of my colleague told me if Ireland wins on Sunday, there will be nobody at work on Monday. No need take a day off to avoid the slagging then! Mind you, I now work in very small company so I'm not too worried about that. It won't be like the last time, when 80% of my colleagues were men and football fans.

The big question at the moment is more "Who will I support?" The answer should be obvious because I am French, but I've lived here for so long that I deeply care for Ireland as well. You should have seen me last night, I felt quite emotional when Ireland scored that goal. So no, the answer is not that obvious.

In a way, I'd like to see Ireland win because they've never gone that far in a Football competition, but on the other hand, I feel French more than Irish so of course I'd love to see my country win. There is still some patriotism left in me!! I think that either way, I will be happy and disappointed at the same time.

My plan is to enjoy the match as much as I can, even if I might risk a heart attack for 90 minutes! And well, all I can say is "let the best team win!" It's only a game after all (that's why I kept telling my colleagues after their loss against France). Once thing for sure, Ireland playing France in France will be a very special moment on and off the pitch, and I can't wait to see it.

Let's just hope the referees do a good job this time!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

20 signs that you have been in Ireland too long

For the past 18 months I've been working with French interns and it always amuses me to see how surprised or shocked they can be at typical Irish things that don't even record with me anymore. I've lived here for so long  I don't even realise I behave almost like an Irish person and I don't find anything strange or surprising anymore.

if you're a long term expat, you might relate to those signs...

1- You engage in casual chit-chat with strangers at the check-out or the bus stop, mostly about the weather

2- Most of your sentences end with "like"

3- Everything is "grand"

4- You think it's perfectly acceptable to bring kids to the pub

5- And have lunch there at 3pm

6- The barman knows your name anyway, and your kids, and what you're going to drink...

7- The slagging doesn't bother you anymore, you actually laugh and take part in it

8- You understand the accent

9- And you start taking it as well

9- You can speak the slang

10- You understand the jokes

11- And "Father Ted" or "The Commitments" references

12-You don't find it strange to develop pictures, buy make up, jewellery or even home accessories at the pharmacy

13- You're not surprised when you find a common acquaintance with an Irish person you just met. After all, there are no more than 2 or 3 degrees of separation in Ireland...

14- And you have more than likely come across an Irish celebrity

16- But you secretly wish you'd see Bono in the street

17- And you don't mention it to your Irish friends because you know they despise him

18- You cheer for Ireland in any type of competition

19- You have a mortgage, kids that go to the local school, a car, a long term job, holidays already planned for next year...In short everything that makes you think "I'm here for good..."

20- And the thought of all that scares you a bit...

What did I miss? Probably a lot, so don't hesitate to add to the list!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The best fans in the world

Unless you've been living under a rock or you're not a football fan, the Euros are starting tomorrow.

There is something quite paradoxal with the Irish and football. The national league doesn't have a great following, and yet,  when it comes to international competitions, Ireland comes to a standstill and an army of fans travels to whatever country the tournament is happening in.

Staff will more than likely be allowed to go home early to watch the game, and don't worry, if you're not Irish I'm pretty sure many companies will have screens in the office for their international workers. Back in 2002, the call-centre I was working in installed a TV in the break room and employees could watch their home country games at work, provided they made up for the time later.

It is often said that the Irish are the best fans in the world, and I couldn't agree more. Let's not fool ourselves here: we all know that Ireland has very little chance to get through the first round, and yet, the whole country is behind its team.

Irish fans are also very inventive when it comes to banners, always adding the extra "Irish humour" to the situation.

The famous banner of the Euros 2012

Irish fans just put a great atmosphere wherever they go, be it the local pub or a 70,000 seats stadium. I always had fun watching games in the pub, even if I was the only one dressed in blue amongst an ocean of green... And every time France won against Ireland, the Irish were very gracious.

Except that night. Oh you know what I'm talking about. Thankfully I was at home, watching the match with my Irish neighbours. When the Thierry Henry's "incident" happened, my first thought was "They're going to KILL me at work tomorrow". Ringing in sick even crossed my mind, not that it would have changed anything... And I was right. I never got that much slagging in a day than in my entire time in Ireland. The Irish have been very rancorous about that one...and even after 7 years, I still get slagged over it.

I'm not a big football fan, but I'll watch the French and Irish games and the great thing about living in another country is being able to cheer for two teams!

Friday, 3 June 2016

Beach or car park?

For some weird meteorological reason, Ireland is experiencing unusual hot weather at the moment. At the same time, half of France is flooded and colder than usual. I'm not going to complain about it, because I tell you, when it's sunny all day for more than 2 days in row, you'd better take advantage (you never know how long it's going to last...).

I love it when Ireland is sunny and warm. People just smile all the time and it's like the whole country comes alive. My boss brought us ice-cream for lunch the other day, my son's pre-school organised a water balloon fight, my childminder installed the inflatable swimming pool in the garden, and we've been soaking up the sun on the rooftop terrace for the past week...

I'm also lucky in the sense that I live near the beach. It's down the road so we just walk there, but the strange thing about that beach is that cars are allowed to park on it. The other behaviour I noticed is that beach-goers just stay next to their car and I really don't understand the reason behind this.

Parking is only allowed on one portion of the beach, so would you not rather lie down, have a picnic or make sandcastles with your kids on the car-free part?

We went to the beach last Sunday and took a spot quite a distance from the "No cars beyond this point" sign. As the time went by, more and more cars parked, until there was no more space on the "beach car park". So what did some drivers do? Park in the car-free  zone of course!

Before we knew it, the sea wasn't in sight anymore and all we could see was a line of cars. It was also quite worrying to see drivers trying to navigate between children playing in the sand. Surely having kids and cars in a place like that is a bit dangerous...

No cars beyond this point... yeah, right!

Coming from a seaside region in France where there is a proper cark park besides almost every beach and discovering cars were allowed to park on it here was quite a cultural shock at first.

I got used to it, like many other things, but I go to the beach to relax, listen to the waves and take a breathe of sea air... not see lines of cars blocking the view.

What do you think, should cars be allowed on the beach or not?