Donald MacInnes: Ireland does it her own way when the local undertaker passes on
Donald MacInnes writes Tales from the Water Cooler, which can be found every Saturday on page 2 of i. And, although a financial near-imbecile, he writes a weekly column in The Independent’s Money section, also on Saturdays. He writes regularly on a broad range of subjects in i’s Freeview section and occasionally fills in on Simon Kelner’s daily column when emotionally up to it. @DonaldAMacInnes
Saturday 10 May 2014
Having just flown in from the island of the emeralds, my celtic batteries are sitting nicely at 100 per cent. Although we spent most of the weekend in Donegal, we bookended our trip by staying with friends in east Belfast which, those of you familiar with the demographic kaleidoscope of the city will be aware, could not be further, religiously or politically, from the island's picturesque north-west.
As with so many things in this dear, bruised land, where you are really depends on to whom you talk. Entering our taxi on arrival at Belfast Airport, we were immediately asked by the driver how things were going "on the mainland". We mumbled: "Fine," and thought no more about it. But his comment, of course, betrayed his Unionist standpoint. To Belfast's Nationalists, that would be as incongruous as someone arriving from Botswana and being asked the same question.
Mind you, I suspect the driver would not have let his underskirt show so swiftly had we had Belfast accents. He may have waited until we told him to which area of the city we were going. As Al Pacino memorably said in Glengarry Glen Ross, life's great lesson is knowing that "you don't open your mouth until you know what the shot is".
I only mention all of this because, visiting on the weekend when Gerry Adams was released from jail, does tend to offer an insight into a fractured society which, far from being all better now, presents all the symptoms of a stubborn malaise. The cough may not be loud enough to be heard across the water any more, but it's still there. However, I'm not qualified to comment on the region's enormously convoluted socio-political machinations, so I should probably just relate some delightful silliness.
When you get out into the near-lunar landscape of parts of Donegal, the lack of, well, any people is reflected in the way many local businesses double up; half-grocer/half-taxi office. This was best illustrated in a wee place called Church Hill, where the local boozer is also home to the local undertaker. Yes, it sounds like a pitch for a sitcom idea, but it's real. We also visited a half-pub/half-sweet shop ("Two pints and a bag of liquorice torpedoes, please"). Beautiful.
But it wasn't the most memorable instance of Ireland doing it her own way. Throughout the weekend, the local undertaker (who had recently passed away) was lying in waxy state in his erstwhile front room, while a traditional three-day wake went on around him. I was invited to attend, but declined, claiming that, as a Protestant, I wouldn't know where to look at such an occasion. What if I got nervous and said the wrong thing to the priest? Our host snorted: "Priest!? Nah, he'll just show up for 10 minutes, say a rosary and feck off."
You sense the future of Ireland isn't too bleak, given this approach to life and death.
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 2 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Dad attempts revenge on teenage daughter, plan backfires spectacularly
- 5 Ball pool for adults opens in London
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...
£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
Day In a Page
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion