Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Irish Whiskey

4 Jun 07
Whiskey invited us to another cook out Saturday night. I think claims of British cooking being bland and uninteresting are very exaggerated (though a curry dish is on the menu every night). Those guys cooked up some of the best burgers, chicken, and bratwursts I’ve ever had. But not just that, we eat very well each meal in the chow hall. We joke that they couldn't mess up chicken if they tried.

Anyway, it’s always interesting to listen to the accents at these gatherings to figure out where someone is from. We spoke with one girl whose accent was different from the others but I was thinking too confined to the main British homeland and guessed she was from Scotland but she said she was from “the north of Ireland” (when there are that many accents in one place it’s hard to single them out).

I asked, “The Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland?”

With a Cheshire grin she said, “I’m from Belfast in the north of Ireland.”

I had a quizzical look and was thinking through the geography of the island. She could see the confusion and added “I’ve just given you a lot of information there.”

Then it dawned on me what her point was. In 1921 the British partitioned Ireland into two parts and granted the Republic of Ireland sovereignty in the south. The Irish in Northern Ireland have never truly accepted British rule, however, because of the large Protestant/British population in Northern Ireland, the British refuse to give back the entire island. The British have only recently agreed to share power with the leading Irish party and former terrorist network Sinn Fein (“Sh-en Fain”) whose ultimate goal is a unified Irish nation.

I also thought Whiskey was Scottish but when I asked him he said “I’m from Northern Ireland…Belfast.” In light of the previous discussion I figured Whiskey had also given me a lot of information but in a far less intentional manner.

Sometime later in the evening the Irish girl asked me where I was from. I couldn’t resist, “I’m from the south of Carolina”…touché!

Whiskey told us about one of his “mates” that was killed in Afghanistan. It is a Royal Marine tradition to throw a party for their fallen comrades. The entire unit gets dressed in their service dress uniform for the party and they auction off all of his military items for exorbitant amounts. Whiskey bought the man’s service dress neck tie for £350 (about $700). All told, they raised £30,000 ($60,000) to give the man’s family in addition to the insurance and any other claims afforded to them.

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