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The Vacuum - Issue 17 - Fashion spacer The Vacuum - Issue 17 - Fashion
Lukin' at Wabsteids
by Michael Begg
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'We are all in the basement, but some of us are looking at the first floor.'
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Dream Ireland is a web-based holiday home rental agency offering self-catering places to stay at locations of charm and beauty all round the island. The other day I ankled on down to their website to see if my dream was amongst them.
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On pitching up at the site's home page, I was greeted by a white vastness, the bareness of which was emphasised by mistily-revealed and sterile on-screen phrases such as 'endless activities' and 'pristine beaches', a couple of twitching pictures of blurry cottages, and the offer of a German version. Round the edges, some whimsical lilac curves and a swatch of generic sky lent an air of the afterlife to the whole thing, and the legend in 70s celtic script of 'We'll leave a light on for you' seemed to add to the impression that this was in fact a website for the purchase of cemetery plots. I decided to take the advice offered on 'How to use this site' and was directed to a page promising to 'give you several good reasons why you should plan a holiday in Ireland.'
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On the heroically-titled 'All About Ireland' page, I found the most foolish collection of hackneyed images and descriptions I've seen since I last inadvertently picked up a Jeffrey Archer novel, lumped in cut-and-shut style with paragraphs obviously lifted straight out of a 1930s guide for the Pevsner crowd. 'A 'soft day' best describes the climate with rain never far away and sunshine appearing to make the country shine like a jewel' (and presumably smell like a wet dog). We're told the island is stuffed with 'the flash of silver in darting streams, meandering rivers and hidden lakes,' not to mention 'the blue of the sea with its golden beaches, dramatic cliffs, hidden harbours and secret bays' while being reminded that, of course, 'the Burren, a unique limestone area in County Clare, contains Arctic-Alpine species surviving from the last glaciation together with Mediterranean species in a unique ecological mixture.' And it's not just the geography. 'The country's famous writers, such as Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats, have influenced literature worldwide and their genius has been inherited by a whole new generation of writers, playwrights, poets and musicians.' From George Bernard Shaw to Phil Lynott to Ronan Keating, the succession couldn't be clearer. It all begins to sound like the third essay in someone's school exam, long after cribbed answers on plug volcanoes and the industries of the Ruhr valley have been wrung dry. After the obligatory references to pubs, Guinness, ceilis, sessions and bloody craic, I gave up and sought relief on the 'Hard Facts About Ireland' page. Here, surely, would be something of interest and use to the tourist without a winking leprechaun perched on it.
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Well, one out of two isn't bad. The facts were certainly hard. I've no doubts whatsoever, for example, that, in Ireland cars, buses and lorries drive on the left hand side of the road. I am similarly free of scepticism that Ireland goes to daylight saving time 2 weeks ahead of the U.S. And I was impressed by the solid logic of the statement that 'you can get from A to B quickly using A roads.' Obviously, you come back using B roads this much is clear. I'm just not sure about the usefulness of knowing that the roads in Ireland go between A and B, rather than nowhere near either of them. To be fair, there are some startling facts on the amount of rain you can expect to be drenched by during your stay, although I'm less convinced the assertion that mean summer temperatures of 14-20 Celsius constitute 'a Mediterranean style climate' isn't fiction worthy of the great cultural tradition traced out previously. Anyway, fully in possession of facts both hard and sugary, I pressed on with my journey.
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Back at the 'How to use this site' page, I carried on down the instructions: 'Once you are convinced, go to holiday homes for a complete list of our properties'. I decided to ignore the feeling that, were I a holiday-hungry world citizen, it would take a lot more than the promise of certain rain and having a choice of several words for 'piss-up' to make me divert my gaze from Italy, and I had a look at the houses on offer. And this is where it struck me. They were all bungalows. From the charming turf-silled ruin nestling, moss-wigged and soggy, in the arms of the purply, purply mountains, to the utilitarian, pebble-dashed and pine-lined box standing above the golden strands where the sea meets the sky and you'd swear you can see the steamer funnels in New York harbour, they're all bungalows. I don't know why there's no mention of why this is, not even amongst the Hard Facts. Perhaps it's because, after all the Guinness, ceilis, sessions and bloody craic, your average holidaymaker prefers sleeping on the ground floor. Or maybe just any floor. Anyway, I'm not surprised that half the country seems to be 'secluded', 'hidden away' or 'a well-kept secret' when the highest up anyone's ever been is when they installed the satellite dish on the side of the garage. Even the neighbours' vegetable patch must be the subject of wild speculation, with 'here be man-eating parsnips' inked onto the crinkly vellum of the family map.
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So I know what I'm doing this summer. I'll be setting up a website offering holidays in blocks of flats, to clean up in the niche market for holidaymakers who can do stairs.
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