MAYOR’S COLUMN – AUGUST 30TH, 2007

Below is a “Mayor’s Column” from August 30th, 2007
Ten years ago in August,  the Guinness Sisters Janis and Marlene invaded Ireland.   Ireland has never recovered.

THE GUINNESS SISTERS’ DIARY

 

“Deputy Mayor” Janis and Marlene a.k.a. The Guinness Sisters have   returned after two fantastic weeks touring Ireland by bus.  I got together with them to hear about the trip in a futile attempt to avoid having to look at the 9,000 pictures they took.  Despite taking the Fifth Amendment (the right not to self-incriminate oneself), I managed to get the following stories out of them…

Not long after arriving in Ireland, three of the people on the trip asked if they were the “Guinness Sisters” which is quite gratifying since it means that at a minimum a verifiable 11 people, excluding relatives, now read this column.  As the trip progressed, the question kept coming up from others on the trip “will this be in the column?”   Janis’ response was “only if you are bad.”

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Marlene was nicknamed “Sparky” by her fellow travelers–not because of her wonderful personality, but because, using her power converter, she managed to blow up a hairdryer and a battery charger.   When Marlene wanted to visit the cockpit on the air flight home, Janis said “NO”.

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The “Guinness Sisters” nicknamed themselves but if the truth be told that should have been called the “Pinot Grigio Sisters” for their love of wine. They quickly discovered the Irish sell wine at the local gas stations giving a whole new meaning to getting gassed up every time the bus stopped.

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Ireland has a tradition of colourful singing bus drivers/tour guides. On the trip, Joe Nix, their driver/guide, was engaging company and a joy to listen to.  He sang and told jokes throughout the journey.   His favourite saying was …”Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”  He claimed he gave up smoking using the nicotine patch but eventually had to give up the patch because it was too hard to drive the bus with one eye.  Joe was full of insights.  There was a sign on the side of the road   saying “Accident Here”.   Joe explained that was the way the government saved money on road repairs.  They don’t repair the roads they just put up a sign saying there has been an accident saving on doing the actual repair work. (Looking into a similar program here to cut costs!).

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Believe it or not language was a problem.  When Joe asked them if they wanted to visit a local pub and have a little “crack” they fled to the back of the bus.  Not knowing that in Ireland “crack” means fun.  A hotel desk clerk got a shocked reaction when they checked in and he asked “Can I knock you up in the morning”.  What he was asking them was “do you want a wake-up call?”   Wherever they went to shop they thought the   sales staff was either extra friendly or questioning their mental stability when they were constantly asked “Are you all right?”   They came to realize the question was the Canadian equivalent of sales people asking “Can I help you?”

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My Uncle Clary, despite being Irish, claimed he also has had language problems.    The Guinness Sisters mentioned to him they had visited Durty Nelly’s, the oldest pub in Ireland established in 1620.   Clary told them about his experiences there.  On a visit to Durty Nelly’s the bartender said “Hello.  Will it be a Guinness?”  Clary said “yes”.  After drinking the Guinness the bartender said “that will be three Euros.”  Clary replied “Oh, I didn’t plan on paying for the Guinness.  You suggested that I have the Guinness.”   After much debate the bartender told Clary to get out and not come back unless he intended to pay.  A few weeks later Clary showed up again.   The bartender said “I told you not to come in here again.”   Clary looked a little bit puzzled and said “you must be mistaken.  I’ve never been in the pub before.”   The bartender apologized and said “Oh, you must have a double.”   Clary said “Ok, make it whiskey”.

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From the first day on the trip, Janis and Marlene had Day Sixteen on the tour circled.  The brochure said “We travel to Kildare and a guided tour of the Irish National Stud Farm.”   Much to their disappointment it turned out that they weren’t meeting Pierce Brosnan but touring a thoroughbred horse farm.    One of the Guinness Girls (who I will only identify by her initial “M” to save her any embarrassment) said to the young good looking man who met the group “Are you the stud?” to which the other Guinness Sister responded, I told you it was the four-legged kind and not the two-legged.

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One of the many highlights of the trip was the visit to Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone.  The world famous stone is said to give the gift of eloquence to all who kiss it.  Blarney means the ability to influence and coax with fair words and soft speech without giving offense. (It’s one Irish trait I don’t have!)   Janis recounted the visit this way….“you climb 102 very narrow, steep steps, 90 feet up to the top of the castle, often keeping your balance holding onto a rope….You get to the top of the stairs, lay down on the ground.  Someone, who you have just met 3 seconds ago, grabs your legs, pushes your head back, pulls up your arms and you lean back and kiss a rock that thousands of other people have kissed…..and takes your picture… and you pay to do this.”  Didn’t tell Janis that in the old days to kiss the Stone, people were hung by their heels over the edge of the parapet.  After a pilgrim or two went for the high dive and a fast journey to the Promise Land, they switched to today’s practice.  Reflecting the power of the Stone, in the Nineteenth Century, an Irish Bard, Francis Mahony, wrote:

There is a stone there
That whoever kisses
Oh, he never misses
To grow eloquent
“Tis he may clamber
To a lady’s chamber
Or become a member
Of Parliament

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The Guinness Sisters flew home out of Shannon airport.  They visited the Duty Free Shop and asked the question that every Canadian asks no matter what country they are leaving—how many bottles can I buy?  Then it was off to board their cheap charter flight on “Air Scream.”  It wasn’t reassuring when they were boarding they were asked to produce passports, boarding passes and dental records.  However, the flight went well and they arrived home safe.  As we finished conversing about their trip, I asked if there were any disappointments.   They looked at each other nervously and said in unison “only one”.  Unfortunately because of weight restrictions on their baggage they had to leave behind in Ireland, the various gifts they had bought for me.
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