There is a wonderful series of short stories, written by Somerville and Ross around the turn of the 20th century and collected under the name The Irish R.M., which was adapted for television in the early eighties. The main character (and narrator of the stories), is either seemingly English (in the series), or Anglo-Irish (in the stories). In one episode, Major Yeates and his wife Phillipa are late for dinner, and Lady Knox complains that she hopes they aren’t developing “an Irish sense of time.”

This is a completely ridiculous thing to say, because one needs to spend only a short time here to realize the Irish don’t have a sense of time. Oh, it’s true that many of them wear watches, but I’m convinced the Irish simply look at them as bracelets with moving parts, and can’t, in fact, tell time.

Many, many stores and businesses don’t bother posting opening hours, but the signs hardly help to know when a business will actually be open anyway, so I suppose it doesn’t matter much. I arrived one day at a store just before the posted opening hour, only to wait until a quarter after when the owner pulled up beside me in his car. He proceeded to sit in his car and read for several minutes before getting out and opening the store. Just before our latest holiday, I went to an internet café we sometimes use when our computer is on the fritz, as it is now. It was scheduled to open at 9:00, but it was still closed the last time I looked at 10:45.

Several months ago, a group of Amy’s co-workers planned to have a team compete in a fund-raising quiz night, and Amy and I were invited. We arrived just moments before 8:00 in the evening, when we were told the quiz was to begin, where we met Iris, a German co-worker from Cope, who had also just arrived. The poster on the door said the quiz would start at “8:30 promptly.” So we waited, and as it turned out, we were the only ones who came from Cope. 8:30 came and went, then 9:00, and finally at 9:15 the questions began. Promptly.

Our favourite story, though, is arriving at pub to listen to music that was scheduled to start at 9:00, according to the posters we’d seen. Of course we knew it was foolish to arrive at nine, but being American we did and listened for 30 minutes while the band worked on the amps and speakers and mic thingies (sorry to use jargon on you) to get everything just right. At 9:30 they were finally satisfied, so they put on their jackets and told the barman, “We’re going to dinner.” Forty-five minutes later they came back and began playing, 75 minutes after their scheduled start time.

There have been two events we’ve attended here that have begun on time. The first was an international choral competition, but I assume one of the German or Swiss singers prompted the host to begin at the right time. The other was the American football game, but here, too, I can only imagine that one of the American players on the team nudged the Irish players to go onto the field for the coin toss at the correct time.

The Irish know things start late here, so they don’t bother arriving at events until at least half-an-hour after the scheduled start times. While our arriving at scheduled times does mean longer waits for us, this usually works to our advantage, since most of the time we arrive before any of the Irish do and can get good seats. And sometimes, just sometimes, this can bite the Irish in the ass.

Dolly Parton had a concert here in Cork in June, and Orla, a co-worker of Amy’s, was going, as was her sister. Ten minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin, Orla realized that it was looking distinctly like the concert was going to start on time, so she called her sister who had not yet arrived. Her sister, it turns out, was just sitting down to dinner, not in Cork, but in Douglas, a nearby village. She, like countless other Irish fans, was late to the concert, which began on time. God bless Dolly Parton.

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