Walking Etiquette

Is there such a thing? I’m thinking urban, city-street walking. At the moment specifically tourist cities, where there is a co-mingling of cultural differences and counter-movement of expectation when encountering fellow walkers of the street.

What the hell are you talking about Trish, you may well be thinking 🙂 ?

Look, from my perspective as an Australian, we drive on the left hand side of the road. Therefore, it makes logical sense (to me) that we walk on the left-hand side of the footpath. And so people walking toward me are to my right hand side. No?

At home that is what I assume. And I get cranky when I’m walking along, perhaps in my own thoughts, and I have to pull out of them because some moron is coming toward me on the left. And we have to play, who gives way to whom. I shouldn’t even have to worry about it. My radar is on, of course, to deal with obstacles. People coming out of the shops, for example. They can’t see ahead and it is therefore acceptable that I’m also keeping an eye out. Although, I have to say, that the number of people who practically fall out of shops without any seeming sense of self-preservation is amazing!

So, I’m in Galway (still) and as I say, a multicultural collection of trans-Pacific, trans-Atlantic, trans-Irish Sea via English Channel – with a range of different psyches. Especially when it comes to what is acceptable regarding manners, politeness, and sense of social etiquette in relation to where you now find yourself.

Add in very narrow, one-at-a-time pathways. Add in the couples who just cannot let go of each other long enough to navigate with respect and thoughtfulness the changed situation. Add in a general lack of foresight. Add in general bullheadishness – I will not give way, I will not give in, I was here first, I’m in a hurry, I’m oblivious and walking slowly; or walking fast – and it seems chaotic.

I did overhear someone in a group ask the question of their guide. What’s the rule for walking? Which side of the pavement? The guide laughed and said there wasn’t really any rule.

But let’s take Shop Street, Galway City, middle of summer tourist season, way too many people in the street. We’ll orient ourselves down from Eyre Square, which is the default landmark reference in town. We walk down Williamgate Street, on to William Street, which leads on to Shop Street, then on to High Street, further on to Quay Street which then ends at Spanish Parade.

The crowds move all which way and whatever! I walk into this mass of bodies and if there was a clear understanding of walking-the-street etiquette, it could be an easy and relaxed stroll.

The streets are cobbled – obstacle one. The streets meander – obstacle two. People pop unexpectedly out of shops, restaurants and pubs – obstacle three. People walking in groups, want to stay together. Middle-aged, elderly or poorly couples want to hold on to each other for safety. Suddenly, it is raining and there are now puddles, actually (most likely) the street is now flooded. Galway is a Medieval city. Bad tempers rule, thoughtfulness recedes. Obstacles four, five, six, seven and eight.

And I personally have seriously reduced vision in the right eye, so I’m almost oblivious to everything and everybody on that side. It also means my depth perception is ineffective and therefore I have eyes on the ground, in general. I wear glasses and (as all glasses wearing people appreciate) we could use wipers when it is raining, and so my head is down even more to protect my face. Therefore, I’m not as effective at watching where everybody else is in relation to myself. Obstacle nine!

Obstacle 10 is a lack of general consensus.

Seriously, if there was consensus that ‘when in Ireland’ we all walk to the left-hand side, because that’s the side of the road we drive on, then the risk of inconveniencing others, of causing a collision or an injury, would be mitigated. And of course, we’d then carry that awareness into other countries, based on their road rules.

Movement in the street would be easier and everyone could relax more with a consistent message.

See, I tell myself; it is a logical conclusion to have a walking etiquette built around accepted local road conventions. Now can I convince everybody around me?

Yes, I know. I think too much. Enjoy the holiday Trish 😀

Continue reading

Ode to the Irish Bus Driver

In Australia, roads are big! They’re long and wide. In some places, they’re extra wide where they used to be mining towns and needed the room for vehicles (horse and cart) to pass each other and for turning.

Even if you get off the highway and on to a secondary road, you really have nothing to complain about – size wise anyway. Condition and maintenance of is a different story.

In the 1970s when a child, we lived in Port Hedland, Western Australia for a few years. Often at Christmas, we’d all jump in the car (6 of us) and travel down to Perth. The road was gravel (not yet bituminised) and basically one long, straight, 1632 km (1014 mi) stretch. With wide open vistas. No fences or walls. Occasionally trees.

An unusual memory I have is of driving along this endless highway, in the summer sun, and coming across tiny patches of rain. Just above you for a very short spell. And then back into the sunshine.

Some years, for a change I guess, we’d go more inland via Tom Price or Marble Bar. I guess it broke up that straight line. Marble Bar has the reputation of being one of the hottest towns in Australia (I just read something that said ‘during summer, it’s quite normal for it to be the hottest town on earth). That’s extreme! 😀 We’d visit a pool there, among gorges, with Jasper banks. (Note: I’ve also read that it was first thought to be marble, and so the town was called Marble Bar, but it has since been proved to be jasper; a highly coloured cryptocrystalline variety of quartz).

Roads in Ireland, however, are narrow and winding and often slippery, with blind bends. Hindered by hedges, stone walls and ditches; by livestock and walkers and bicyclists and farm machinery, buses or trucks.

Sure, there are highways now in Ireland, just like in Australia. But for the sake of the drama, I’m not talking about them! 🙂

‘Have Leap Card, can travel!’ has been my mantra while in Ireland. In London, you have the Oyster card, Melbourne the Myki or in Perth the SmartRider (or in The Fifth Element New York, you have the Mooltipass!). This pass has me riding the buses like a local, everywhere I go. And then there are the tour companies, like Galway Touring Co, which I used this week to visit the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher and Doolin.

I have to salute the Irish Bus Driver. Before they have to even deal with the weather, or roadworks, they have to deal with the roads – and that can be a nightmare. This comes from a confident Australian driver who still closes my eyes if a road train is coming toward me! (Note: A road train is truck rig (prime mover) with two or more trailers attached). (Double note: It’s more a narrowing of eyes. Please don’t tell the police that I close my eyes!).

Now, I’m no poet, but below is my heartfelt tribute to the Irish Bus Driver.

Whether driving Bus Eireann through cramped city streets

or out in the country, with tractors and sheep

or high in the cockpit of a deluxe touring coach

the Irish Bus Driver is better than  most

Behind the wheel of behemoth beast

a wily character upon his seat

his wits about him every day

exuding humour, come what may

The roads are narrow, winding, steep

obstacles lurk and idiots beep

the Irish Bus Driver breathes slowly, deeply

and protects his passengers, anger not creeping

He has the patience of a saint

keeps temper even, when things ain’t

conditions worsen, eyes are burning

good music plays, DJ grooving

With nerves of steel, he makes no fuss

he charms the women on the bus

reaches a hand to help the weary

has knowledge to share and is rarely dreary

His driving day is very long

from Dublin to Galway, detour by Cong

he says to his clients “meet back here by 3”

the next stop serves the sweetest tea

Of course, there’s always one who’s late

the driver must smile, and never berate

he gets points for highest of driving skills

and also, for zero ‘recorded’ kills

At the end of the day, on roads not for bussing

he gets us home safely, tired but smiling

“Thank you!” we call to our Irish Bus Driver

who continues alone. Back same time tomorrow.

As I said, not a poet! But hope you enjoyed that tribute

I’ve had only a couple of complaints about the buses in Ireland in six weeks. Both times, the bus was late or didn’t turn up. And of course it was raining.

But on the whole, the service is excellent, they are mainly on time. And the Irish Bus Driver has only always been friendly and engaging.

GALWAY GAL 2019

There’s this thing in Australia called Long Service Leave. Typically at about 10 years, your employer lets you take 3 months paid leave.

I don’t get long service leave, because although I’ve been working with my husband for 20+ years, I haven’t been paid for that entire time, so technically I’m not an employee of 10 years standing.

But since my gorgeous husband (team Eric and Trish) work hard we’ve been able a couple of times now, to take extended leave. The last time was 2013 when we were based in Spain for 3 months, and added the Greek Islands and Morocco with a side trip to the UK and Ireland.

So, 2019. After one week in Dublin to catch up with some cousins and aunties, I moved into Galway. As I write I’m 2 weeks today into Galway. I spent a lot of that two weeks worrying about justifying the cost involved and should I be achieving something during this break. Specifically, something that is measurable, visible and productive.

The answer is NO! According to me and my husband, that is. Others may have a different opinion.

Because I’m effectively a tourist in Galway, there’s the risk that I’ll only get to do and be a tourist. Tourist tours, into a site via the entrance and out via the gift shop 🙂 Only engaging with the people of Galway as a customer. Another woman who has bought a Claddagh ring this year (I have bought one). 

So I was thinking, how can I find a community group where I could do some sort of volunteering, or at the very least engage in conversation with people about more than the weather, the colour or flavour choices in the shops, or what I want to eat for dinner.

I visited the library and looked for a community notice board. And unbelievably, I found a flyer for the Treasured Ladies Club. This is just an opportunity for women to meet over coffee with the potential to meet up with company for various days out during the year. And they have been so welcoming in the two visits I’ve had with them.

These lovely ladies are generally older than me, and mainly retired. Not all though. A lot of them have travelled. One of the ladies still working is a Project Manager who has been everywhere! Some of them have visited Australia, some of them have grown children living in Australia. Some of them have even been to Perth (my home town) which I found unusual because most people say they’ve been to Melbourne and Sydney, but not Perth.

Just in this last 2 weeks, someone is in Greece, someone is in France and somebody is going to France next week. So this is is a group of people with something to bring to the table, to add to the conversation, with open minds.

How lovely!

As a lady of middle-age, born in Dublin but having spent all of her adult life in Australia, this is an opportunity to just ‘be’ in Ireland. I want to listen to the Irish speak, watch their news, deal with their weather, explore their surrounds and engage with as many as I can.

I remain a shy introvert. But therein lies the challenge for me. Reaching out.

Talk soon.