'A grand day it is!' an elderly Irishman said as he nodded in my direction when we were waiting for the local bus early one November morning. There we were, in the pouring rain, and I was basically trying to cling to a pylon in order not to risk being swept away by the frequent blasts of wind. After spending about three seconds in utter disbelief, I looked at his face and realized there wasn't a trace of irony in what he had just said. So I took a second look at the view of the rising sun in the horizon - local rain or not - over Cork during the fury of the elements and simply had to agree with him. No reason to be slightly depressed just because of a little 'soft weather'. It was indeed a fine day with lots of opportunities. I really love that unfailing good spirits and optimism most of the Irishmen I know have. 'As long as you're above ground, you're doing fine!'

I had been to Ireland twice before but never in the southwestern part of the country. I soon found out that almost all the boys, and a lot of the girls, carried around wooden clubs which seemed to have quite a potential striking power. It sort of reminded me of a time, when we had a subject on Australia at the school where I was teaching back then, and I walked around all day with an Australian wiradjari (asymmetrical hunting boomerang) sticking out of my bag. For some reason I don't remember any students - or colleagues for that matter - willing to get into any serious arguments with me that particular day!

Australian wiradjari

Of course the clubs the Irish kids were carrying around were hurleys, used for one of the major Irish sports: hurling. I watched a game once. 35,000 loud, enthusiastic spectators, 8 officials, 2 goals and 30 players each equipped with a hurley, and I estimate that every player must have got around 40 or 50 bruises during the course of the game, as the small, hard ball was hurled away and hit them. It looked somewhat like a cross between hockey and rugby to a layperson like myself. Miraculously everyone survived. Great day out!

Grey hound pub

We went to a pub afterwards, and as people were singing along with the music of the live band, all 398 verses, it struck me that maybe - against all odds - these people actually burned more calories than they consumed when they went to the pub.

Yes, I love the Irish. And if I work hard, I may even learn to understand Hibernian English some day. I am not a native English speaker and still need to remind myself that the bar man is not really concerned about my well-being when he asks me 'Are you OK?' He just wants to find out if I am being served. Nor can I just take all the time I want when a shop assistant says, 'That'll be € 7.50, when you're ready!' And some day I'll learn to appreciate 'A grand day' when there is a rain storm going on.

© emenel 2020