Friday, August 17, 2007

Cook 'Em Slowly

According to the TV news, Dublin’s council estates are over-run by dangerous breeds of dog with irresponsible owners. Following ten dog attacks on people this year, Dublin City Council has issued a notice to its tenants, threatening them with eviction from their houses if they don’t get rid of their dogs.

Interviewed, the owners of these inbred hell-hounds claim that they love their dogs because of their sweet nature, which is about as accurate and honest as a gun nut claiming to love his Glock because of the colour.

“He’s so good with the children,” they bleat, gazing mistily at the slavering red-eyed wolverine frothing at their feet. Presumably what they mean is that the beast swallows toddlers in one gulp rather than messing the place up by leaving stray arms and ears all over the carpet.

“He’s like one of the family,” they whine, which is perfectly believable, as right now their children are outside in the street mutilating a tramp prior to setting him on fire and then eating him alive.

The dog lobby, and I have to say I'm slightly depressed that such a thing exists, puts forward the opinion that “it’s not the dogs, it’s the owners who are the problem.” Interesting, the parallel with the gun lobby. (“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”)

Well, actually, bad, stupid, aggressive people with guns kill people, and people like that should no more be allowed to roam the streets armed with an irascible pit bull terrier than they should be allowed access to firearms.

They may be an argument for keeping big, tough dogs in certain circumstances, such as if you live in a remote cottage in a corner of Ireland under constant threat of attack by starving bears or rabid badgers or something. Keeping a brace or more of testosterone-fuelled rottweilers in a two-bedroom apartment on the seventh floor of a Dublin tower block is a liitle harder to justify.

I know it’s the owners who are the problem, but people are more difficult to get rid of than animals, even in Ireland. I also know that “it’s not the dogs’ fault”, which is somehow supposed to make you fell less stressed about the fact that your babies have just been dragged from their pram and eaten.

The Koreans have the right idea about dogs. Keep them in the pound for a while to let them soften up. They’ll still be a little tough, but, hell, cook ‘em slowly.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Creak Slam Yak Squeal Chortle Guffaw Bellow

One thing is certain about Irish hotels; they’re not havens of peace and quiet. Unless you’re prepared to do a lot of painstaking research and / or spend a lot of money I wouldn’t advise staying in any Irish hotel on a Friday or Saturday night unless you’re prepared to sit up drinking until two in the morning. That’s what everyone else will be doing, and there will be no concessions to the feeble lightweights who want to get to sleep by midnight.

If you should decide to stay somewhere like Dublin’s Temple Bar, which is the epicentre of the city’s tourist area, you’ve only yourself to blame if your sleep is disturbed by the sounds of merriment and projectile vomiting, but heading out into the sticks may not prove much better.

In Ireland, country hotels are often hubs of the local entertainment scene (there’s nowhere else to go, for a start.) They’re always open to non-residents, and make most of their money from people using the bars and restaurant and attending weddings and discos – the wellbeing of those trying to get some sleep upstairs is not a priority.

The Old Inn at Crawfordsburn has a few notions of grandeur, making much of its 1614 origins – the brochure hints coyly at those who have stayed there. (“Highwaymen and presidents, Russian tsars and rock stars…” Yeah, yeah, very clever, I see what you did there.)

After a couple of disturbed nights I re-checked the publicity handout in the room, and to give them their due, at no point does the brochure use the word “quiet”, which is fortunate, because if the material had even hinted at tranquility I would have rolled up the leaflet very tightly and inserted it in the manager.

The brochure does mention “the picturesque village of Crawfordsburn”, and the place is attractive enough, I suppose. What they don’t mention is that the inn itself is right on the village’s main street, an after-hours rat-run which links the seaside resort of Bangor with the A2, which leads to Belfast. The traffic is constant, and even at three a.m. on Sunday morning there were still cars revving past our bedroom window at the rate of two or three a minute.

Our room turned out not to be, thankfully, directly over the bar or the function room where a wedding reception was taking place, but it was above the lobby and front door of the hotel. So, when the bar closed at around two a.m. the bunch of drunks moved first to the lobby (yak yak squeal chortle bellow), then out of the front door to the street right outside our window. (Creak. Slam. Creak. Slam. Creak slam creak slam creak slam creak slam creak slam. Yak yak squeal squeal chortle guffaw bellow.)

Much more yakking and squealing ensued, until the taxis arrived. (Vroom vroom slam squeal etc, etc.) Cabs continued to pull up, slam their doors and roar off for at least an hour. Then it went quiet. For five minutes.

Then the people staying in the hotel who’d been partying in Bangor or Belfast came back. By cab. (Vroom slam. Yak yak squeal guffaw. Creak. Slam.) They stumbled around the hotel for a while, trying their keys in at least twenty-five of the hotel’s thirty-two rooms before finding the right ones. They were, thank God, too drunk to have noisily enthusiastic sex, which would, I think, have been the last straw.

At around three thirty the remaining members of the hotel staff, waiting for their taxis home, moved to the lobby to have a boisterous and good-humoured discussion about their day. (Yak guffaw etc.)

At this point I finally lost my temper, put on a shirt, jeans, inserted one contact lens in the interest of speed and economy and padded, barefoot and enraged, down the stairs to the lobby. Due to exhaustion I was actually quite polite, but the staff members reacted with shock and contrition, and I was somewhat mollified, although I somehow felt that you shouldn’t have to have it explained to you that shouting at each other in a hotel lobby at four a.m. is not a civilised way to behave.