Tuesday 19 July 2011

Street life

"Yur fookin' hoortin' may! Yur fookin' hoortin' may!" Moment of drama on the streets of Kilkenny as a man who stole a big bottle of vodka was forcibly detained by a couple of burly store detectives while the Garda came screeching to the rescue, siren and lights going.

It was pretty much all about the streets today: wandering Waterford's maze of lanes before being escorted on a guided tour by the famous Jack Burtchaell, who's been doing it up to six times a day for 21 years and so can be forgiven a certain lack of energy in his performance. Still interesting, though, covering 1000 years of history in an hour and a mile, with plenty of digs at the British, plus sex, violence and the drink. Waterford, a Viking city, is older than all the Scandinavian cities and is third in age only to London and Paris, so there's a lot to talk about; although some things can't be seen any more - the Waterford Crystal factory closed in 2009, alas, though there's still glass being blown here.

Then to Kilkenny through the green as countryside, where the sturdy castle - invaded today by hordes of Germans - is surrounded by a knot of little cobbled lanes lined mostly, it seemed, by pubs. It looked a lively place, colourful and pretty, and it was a shame we had so little time there.

Back in Waterford, we ate in the completely empty Munster bar before following our ears down to the riverside quay to watch a troupe of scout bagpipe band members practising: they were good, though it was odd to hear Scotland the Brave. It was windy and cold, so we had to go afterwards to the magnificent Granville Hotel for a warm-up: all shiny brass, stained glass, comfortable chairs and original caricatures of golfers and jockeys; and birthplace of Thomas Francis Meaguer, who did many things including designing the Irish flag, but for me was special because at one point he was sent to Van Diemen's Land - otherwise known as Tasmania, where I went in February. So that's today's connection.

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