Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ireland on the Move

There used to be a hokey show (I think on Celtic Television) that had a show called "Ireland on the Move." Well, I'm here right now and Ireland is, of course, on the big move with an economy that leads the EU in growth. (Admittedly, it has helped to start from a relatively low base, but still, everywhere you turn, it's boom town.)

Since I was last in Galway (maybe 4 years ago), there have been lots of changes. Kenny's, one of my favorite bookstores in the world, has closed its bookshop business and is strictly an art gallery. Kenny's was such a great store with excellent, highly personal service. (I ordered books there for several years; I'd just e-mail Des Kenny what I wanted this quarter, and he'd send a parcel along. If I didn't have anything special in mind, I'd let him pick - and based on the authors I like, he'd always pick new writers that he knew I'd like, too.) But like a lot of small, indy bookstores, they fell prey to the chains. (Eason's is nearby.)

A very pronounced change in Ireland is the number of EU citizens working here, and the number of refugees: lots of African faces in the crowd, including among the gaggle of girls streaming out of the Mercy School. As with the rest of Europe and their "outsiders", it will be interesting to see how the African population integrates with the larger Irish society. One of the genius aspects of American culture has surely been our ability to melt a lot of different people in our big ol' pot. As much as anything, America is about a shared future, not a shared past. We'll see how it goes here.

In some ways, it's still the same old Galway. It's fall, and the smell of peat is in the air. For all the fancy, Euro-fashion shops opening, there are still plenty of ratty little one-offs, half of which seem to have a letter missing from their signs: 4 Star Pizz; a football pub called the Goal Po t; a place that used to be called O'Brien's is now O'Bin's.

The papers still remind you about the continued importance of the agriculture sector here. This week's headlines: "Buoyant weanling trade gets another boost;" "Producing grain is often more efficient than cereal;" and "Outdoor lambing: is it a viable option for you?"

Well, the weather is rotten today, so outdoor lambing is decidedly not an option.

Slan leat! (I think that's Gaelic for so long.)

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