Today’s post is a guest post by my brother, Mark Rich, who recently returned from Ireland after a two-week stay with his wife. My brother has always been a talker and loves to engage strangers in conversation. His gentle and affable personality puts people at ease, and they end up pouring out their life stories. Here, then, is my brother’s post, a vignette from a day in Ireland.
We stood in front of the coffee booth. The large man assured us that the coffee would be ready soon. But we were patient, just enjoying the ambience of this little coastal village farmers’ market in southern County Cork in Ireland. This was our third farmers’ market in three days: Friday was in Bantry, Saturday was in Skibbereen, and now this one in Schull (pronounced “skull”). The large man joked with us and then a smaller man came over and joined the conversation. He was a friend of the large man. The smaller man started talking about coffee and the weather and I said, “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“Heavens no, I’m from England originally but live here now.” He added that both of them were from England. I suspected this but was just trying to start a longer conversation.
When we finally got our hot coffee, it was much appreciated in the chilly morning air. The men asked where we were from. We said “Virginia,” and they knew where in the U.S. that was. Somehow the conversation led to them telling us how experienced they were, owing to their being older. I said “I bet that I’m the oldest.” I figured if I was right they’d be surprised, and if I was wrong, they’d feel complimented. The large man was in his late 50’s and the smaller man was 63. At 65, I was the winner. I should have made a real bet, like free coffee.
The large man was increasingly more occupied with customers, many of whom were regulars from the village and nearby areas. So the smaller man stayed with me and kept up a good conversation. He had four grown children and was on his second marriage. From England he had moved to New Zealand and lived there for seven years before finally settling down in Schull. They loved the West Cork lifestyle – rural, small quaint towns and villages, no traffic, rugged coastline and lots of hills and small mountains. He was a free range chicken farmer and loved it (his wife was staffing their chicken booth) but said he did it as a hobby because they didn’t really need the money.
We talked a little about politics – always a dangerous proposition – but it was limited to healthcare and taxes. The most welcomed and unexpected comment he made concerned, well, us. We were talking about healthcare and healthy living and about taking responsibility for your health, preventative care and such when he paused and looked directly at us and said, “I don’t mean to say anything that might offend you, but Americans tend to be, well, rather large and, with no disrespect, and I mean this in a good way, you two are fit and skinny.” Wow! Skinny! To be truthful we were wearing light jackets (after all, this was peak summer in Ireland and it does get warm) and that may have contributed to his (mis)observation. Skinny may not have been good in the 6th grade, but at 65 years old it sounded grand.
Two old Irishmen (the one on the bottom is my brother):
This was a lot fun. Thanks sis!
I loved doing it for you!
The chattiness and put-peope-at-ease must run in the family! I remember one of your posts mentioned you like to engage a conversation with strangers, too. Good for you!
I lived in England many years ago when I was single. Then I moved to the States and married my American husband. After that I went back to my university in England for my PhD thesis defense. Anyway, one of my English friends blurted out, “Is your husband … large (meaning fat and obese)?” She was quite disappointed to see the picture of my hubby skinny, really skinny back then!
Inthinkmits funny that so many people think all Americans are fat, but it’s also a little sad, Shanghai, that we have that well-deserved reputation.
A little something for you: (http://idiosyncraticeye.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/flapjacks-for-al-and-sunshine/) 🙂
Why, thank you, Eye!
Oh your brother looks so kind and like so much fun. Must run in the family! 🙂
What a kind comment, Dor. Thank you.
Love this! I am second generation American, my grandmother learned to walk on the boat coming over from Ireland. I know I have relatives there, but have never traced them down. Love to hear Irish stories. Thank your brother for such a wonderful read today. DAF
I will, DAF. He’ll love to hear that. We’re Irish, too, from Ulster County originally, but quite a few generations back. George and I did go to Ireland once, but we didn’t go to the north.
When I visited Ireland I noticed that everyone seems to have time to chat. No one is in a big hurry for anything. The Irish people seemed much more friendly and polite than Americans. I was there before smart phones were around. Americans constantly looking at their phones seems rude to me – I wonder what the Irish are doing with theirs in comparrison?
The one thing I noticed everywhere, which I suspect never changes, is that all the men are charming flirts – no matter where we went, or their age, they were all charmers.
Good comment, HG. I’ll ask my brother about the phone thing. As for your last comment, my brother is an Irishman…
Thanks for the flashback to a week spent at University College Cork taking a class in Celtic Civilization! Thanks to your brother for improving America’s image in Ireland!!
What an interesting class that must have been, Carol! Both my brother and sister-in-law, and me of course, would love to have taken a class like that. My brother tends to improve America’s image wherever he goes!
Your brother and I would get along so well chatting up a storm with everyone in sight. This interaction is a wonderful reminder that we are all have more in common than we think. As for being told “you’re skinny”… well those are the magical words that bond.
Yes, Life, I know you and my brother would be able to carry on great conversations. You both have so many worthwhile things to say.
Yes, your brother appears quite fit and skinny. Now, there’s an Irishman in West Cork who may be able to help dispel the myth that all American’s are fat and obese. I like this story of coffee booth diplomacy.
Coffee booth diplomacy—I love it, Georgette!