You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2012.

(Photographer unknown)



taken from: Steve Edwards’ website
Mysteries of the Irish House

Taps (faucets)
The bathroom taps are separate, hot on the left and cold on the right. It’s awkward if you just want to wash your hands, or splash your face with warm water. You have to be clever — or work harder…. It would be easy to send both hot and cold through the same tap — to mix them after they pass through the valves. They do that in the kitchen. Why not in the bathroom? Tradition, nothing more.*

• The lightswitches are “on” when the button is pressed bottom-side in.
• If a set of two light-switches are placed on a panel outside a room, the switch furthest from the room usually works for that room’s light.
• A lightswitch outside of a bathroom seems like a bad idea. Sure, it’s easier — for everybody, including the mischievous.

• Door handles are rather sharp levers, which can easily stick into the pocket of upper-body wear and catch in one’s cuff. They look good, and they open a door with an easy downstroke. But they are hazardous to clothing.
• Internal doors are still built with skeleton-key locks.

It seems that few Irish houses have a good shower. Of the older houses, none were fitted with anything like a normal water heater. The Irish counterpart is the old “immersion,” and these are common. An immersion is an electric water heater that you have to turn on, a while before use — and of course remember to turn off afterwards. The alternative is the electric shower heater, which heats on demand. They’re loud, sometimes hard to adjust, and the temperature can fluctuate.

And nowhere on this side of the Atlantic have I experience real water-pressure such as you’d find in America.

Skirting (baseboards)
The skirting* at the base of a wall in the Irish house is normally applied as part of the general construction, before the upper flooring surface is placed.

In many cultures, a principal function of skirting is to close the gap where flooring does not reach the wall.

Whether linoleum, laminate, or proper wood, the surface of a floor will inevitably come slightly short of the wall. A great craftsman can make the difference negligible — but cannot prevent it. An average craftsman will leave a gap that you can measure. This gap, whether considered hygienically or esthetically, is unattractive.

When a skirting is already in place, and flush with the concrete or wooden base-floor, there are two options for this gap — you can live with it, or place another molded wooden strip along the edge. This wooden strip, or “beading,” performs one of the functions for which, elsewhere, skirting is intended.

(Check his site)

__   ___   __
* I did a bit of work in Irish houses for several years, before the economy collapsed and construction stopped. In the normal residence built in the last few years, the taps in the bathroom are separated cold and hot, even though the kitchen fittings mix the two inputs before output.

Some defend this kind of outfitting with a kind of “why-don’t-you-just” logic, which presumes (in a mind-numbingly conservative fashion) that if you can make it work it’s as good as it needs to be. Fill the sink, they say, if you need warm water.

Of course, that implies the need to keep the bowl of the sink abnormally clean — an extra amount of work just to remain prepared to do the extra work** of plugging the thing and filling it (*if* you even still have a plug.)

And, yes, if you normally wash your hands after using the toilet, the sink becomes quickly too soiled to use as a washing/shaving basin.

The practice of installing such fixtures is illogical and based only upon tradition.

__   ___   __
** I’ve only ever lived with one Irish man who did housework. He turned out to be a prick. I’ve liked every other one of my Irish housemates — but the men generally do not do housework.

I was chatting with someone recently about my move here, and they asked whether I had any advice for others doing the same. As you know, this blog is full of my missteps, moanings and general experience of getting permission to relocate, finally moving, and then being here in the reality of it. There are lots of things I could say, and probably should. Important things, like: get Skype and use it, you will need connection with friends and family back home; bring sentimental items to put around your new house, those familiar things will be a life saver; this new adventure will put stress on your relationship, be gentle with each other; simple things will suddenly feel strange, it’s ok, that is normal; enlist a friend or family member to send you items from home, sometimes Texas BBQ sauce is like mana from heaven; and get to know your neighbors.

That’s what I really want to write about; neighbors. I did not experience this near Dublin, but out here in the country people want to know who you are. I don’t blame them. Most everyone on my lane grew-up here, so when we moved-in we were both novelty and potential trouble. (maybe that’s my Texas attitude showing) Regardless, if you move to a country area introduce yourself to your neighbors.

The folks on our lane are big walkers (and who wouldn’t be with heaven outside your front door!), so we try to get out and walk every day. This was a great way to meet people at first. If folks in your area don’t walk much, or you just don’t see them, stop in to them, introduce yourself and invite them around for tea. (they may decline, but the effort will be appreciated) Set a day and time that is convenient for them, and then make sure you have the following on hand:

black tea
tea pot
assorted little sandwiches
fruit bread

Our neighbors invited us around for tea when we moved in, and the lady of the house instructed me on how to provide “Irish tea”! She had wedges of chicken, cheese, ham, and egg salad sandwiches, as well as a variety of cookies, little cakes, and some sliced fruit bread (barmbrack). We set the time for rather late at 8pm, but they didn’t seem to mind. We brought a bottle of wine as a gift, and we all shared a glass first before being taken into the kitchen to have tea and food.

You might also consider exchanging numbers with the neighbors, and offering to keep an eye on their place if they are away, etc. Again, they may decline and have loads of family around, but the effort will be appreciated. Another thing I like to do is ask questions about the area, its history and the story of those living there. I think most people appreciate being asked about their stories, and Ireland, especially, has a long history, full of beautiful and heart-wrenching tales.

Finally, shop local. A wonderful ‘auld guy down the lane fixes tires on the side. We make a point of using his services when we need anything like that done. Likewise, we buy all our sausage, ham, and bacon from the superb organic, free-range farm across the valley (another shout-out to Woodside Farm). I also found a woman doing hair from her house in the village next to ours, so I go to her now. I recently heard of a seamstress in our own village, but haven’t given her a ring yet. All this to say, get involved in the community where you are.

And enjoy yourself! No place is like home, but every place has its wonders. Discover what the wonders of your new place are, and remember…… You are so lucky to have this opportunity. Soak it up!


I don’t write much about touristy things on this blog, mostly because I am living here now so have other priorities, but every now and then I come across something or think of a tip for visitors. It has been on my mind a lot this summer just how expensive it can be to travel here. (I may get pelted for saying this) If you rent a car you will pay more than any place in Europe (after adding on the horrendous extra insurance that is required for Ireland and…… Israel!!). Hotels and BnB’s do this really tricky thing called “per person”. You think you find a great rate, but then BAM, they charge you that rate for EACH person in the room. That great price suddenly doubles when you try to plan a romantic getaway. And don’t get me started on the price of petrol or eating out! So, here are some tips…..

Cook your own meals. Find accommodation that allows you to use the kitchen. Irish grown produce is good value, and the meat and dairy are top notch! I shop at the Midleton Farmer’s Market every week, purchasing fresh farm produce and grass-fed, ethically raised meats for a very good price. (shout out to Woodside Farm)

Check-out AirBnB. This company allows regular folks, like me, to list their spare room for you to rent by the night, week, or month. Some traditional BnB’s are listing their rooms on there, which I think is against the spirit of it and slimy (besides traditional BnBs don’t let you use their kitchen!) but there are loads of great values. Besides, you will get to stay with someone local to the area, in a low-key family setting that is often far off the tourist path (big tour buses), AND pay so much less!

Grab an O.S. Discovery map (Ordnance Survey) of the area you are staying. These wonderful maps list every ancient stone, ring, well, castle, fort and tomb. Ireland’s greatest treasures are NOT the pubs….they are the history and beauty of her countryside. Scattered literally across every square mile is an artifact older than most of us can fathom. Seeing these out of the way wonders is FREE. It just requires rain gear and wellies (which are easily gotten for cheap at ANY store here).

Now, book your ticket! Autumn and Winter are my favorite times to visit. You get the crisp feel in the air, the great smell of peat from chimneys, and Off-Season Prices! 🙂


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 457 other followers

Follow me on Facebook



Ireland and Back on Flickr

Twitter Updates

Y’all come back, ya hear!