The Dingle Peninsula

View of Dingle Bay from an Bóthar Fada (the long road)
View of Dingle Bay from an Bóthar Fada (the long road)

It’s just over two weeks past Saint Patrick’s Day—traditionally, the beginning of the tourist season in Ireland—and on the Dingle Peninsula, the beautiful west coast West Kerry hinterland where I lived from 2006 to the beginning of 2009, that doesn’t mean that they see huge influxes of tourists right away. It means (in this area that has one traffic light in 50 linear miles – though, in a place where roads are so intuitive, answering to local needs that were laid down several hundred years ago, linear is not really the right word), it means that the shutters open on the businesses that close for the winter. People come down for the Paddy’s Day weekend, and that’s the first concentrated business they see since New Year’s Eve. With daylight saving, the peninsula has come out of the darkness and into the spring (even though, in the Irish tradition, Saint Brigid’s Day on the 1st February is the start of it). It means that they start to see a trickle. It builds slowly through April and May, until the childrens’ school holidays opens the floodgates. The high water mark is the August Bank Holiday weekend, the last weekend before they go back to school.

View from Mount Brandon
View from Mount Brandon

I remember my first summer on the peninsula. I was driving through Ventry village at 1 in the afternoon on Monday 4th September, and it was as if it had lurched from fifth gear to first in a day. It was a rhythm that was difficult to get used to, but it has its benefits. A friend of mine, Justin, told me about walking down Dykegate Lane, off Green Street, near the library, on a beautiful early September day. He didn’t need to say anymore: I knew the kind of day—the sun is out, the sky blue, maybe a few clouds that don’t interfere; the temperature probably around 15 celsius, not balmy, but not brisk, a breeze, the sun, the smell of the sea, that gold early autumn light that makes Ireland seem both ancient and fresh. An old man passed him, “how are you? Lovely day.” “Lovely day indeed. And it’s all ours.” It was a day like that another year, another September, as I drove past Ventry beach, and listened to the radio’s urgency about traffic jams elsewhere, and I chuckled to myself. I seemed so far from that, and I was. It wasn’t that I was hiding, I was recouping, in the roads that pass through reed beds, green cliffs and green mountains beside the sea.

Ventry Beach
Ventry Beach
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Who is Saint Patty?

Getting into the spirit of kicking things off early (for example, I note American preparations for “the holidays” begin the day after Thanksgiving), I’m posting this the day before “Saint Patty’s Day”. Don’t blame me: sure, I’m just following the illustrious example of the New York City St. P Day Parade Committee to hold the parade on the day before the day itself. But before we get ahead of ourselves too much, who is this Saint Patty? I could have sworn it was Paddy’s Day, or Patrick’s Day, or Lá Pádraig, if you prefer. It wasn’t until I moved to New York in 2010 that I discovered that Paddy has a doppelgänger. Perhaps in the spirit of all-women performances of Waiting for Godot, or the strange insistence on pronouncing said “Godot” “Ge-dough” instead of “God-Oh”, a mysterious emanation has arisen to replace Paddy. Her name? Saint Patty, short for Patricia. Oh, she is vast, she is green, she is festooned with green beer, the green rivers of Chicago, and green water cress masquerading as shamrocks.

St. Patricia bleeds for Chicago
St. Patricia bleeds for Chicago

I wondered if the Saint Patty thing was purely vernacular, or “word on the street”, but no: Time Out New York , for example, gives its readers a primer to avoid the “shamrock-adorned bros and douchiness that comes with St. Patty’s Day”.

If you need guidance regarding how to, and why to, pronounce it correctly, while avoiding the douchiness (for there, indeed, you will find Saint Patty) here is Gawker’s take on the issue of the vital double DDs.

And, for a bit of craic, have a look at a website that is entirely devoted to the war against the dreaded Saint Patty. Ladies and Germs, I give you: Paddy,Not Patty!

P.s. Here’s a comment from Gawker’s site on the St. Patty’s Day article. ”

THIS! As an Irish person, this really annoys me. What really rankles me is every single Paddy’s day in Dublin, you’ll get at least one American tourist telling you to stop being offensive/telling you you’re spelling it wrong!

Also, just FYI Americans, Irish people do not hold a tradition of pinching people if they don’t wear green. You will get in trouble if you pinch someone who does not want it!

Oh, and naming drinks “Irish Car Bombs” or “Black And Tan” is highly offensive to the average Irish person! If you order one in Ireland, you should be prepared to have a history lesson and/or be asked to leave!”

On the last point, I remember sitting on my favourite stool in the Eighth Street Taproom in Lawrence, Kansas, over on the left, where they prepare their delicious ginger smashes (with that zing of freshly-grated ginger: amazing!) when some douches walked in and asked for “3 Irish Car Bombs”. My pal, mixologist extraordinaire Mr. Jeremy Sidener, pointed to the sign behind the bar that read “Car Bombs Kill”, and shook his head. For the nonplussed douches, this was the first time in their lives that they even had a slight inkling that the dreaded beverage might have a connection with something real from Irish history. They departed the premises.

(Photo credit: http://jetsetera.net)