I'm not sure which of the following might be obvious and
which wouldn't so I'll just put it all down
Everyone here takes a holiday every year. People with
children would mostly take it in the summer when the
kids are out of school (our school year runs from
September to June) when, of course, the prices go up
so that's why I generally head off at other times.
Most people just go for the two weeks and in Northern
Ireland that usually means the 'twelfth fortnight'
which is the fortnight containing the July 12th
holiday when factories usually close down. Usually
people head off somewhere warm and sunny which in
most cases means Spain or the Greek islands though a
lot of people have started going to France (usually
taking their own car on the ferry).
Literacy runs to getting on for 100% although you do
hear of people managing to get right to age 16 and
not being able to read.
Everyone has electric in their houses. Except for us!
Well, in our country cottage anyway. Likewise for
mains water and flush toilets. (we've to go across
the road for these in the country!) We used to have
gas (propane) too but that was stopped quite a while
ago although they're currently in the process of
putting it back in again. It seems like everyone has
a phone too but it's actually 'only' about 90% of
people. You can call anywhere in the world from any
phone (private or payphone). We've phone cards as
well as coins but I'm never really using payphones
that much and I just use my phone chargecard when I
You've a tax return to do each year on the self-assessment
basis (ie something like in the US) which covers the
year from April to March. We're taxed independently
so that each person gets one of these. In practice,
unless you're getting income apart from your salary,
you don't get a return to complete as it's all worked
out automatically in the simple cases (ie for most
We don't have rabies (yet) so there are strict
quarantine controls at the borders of the British
Isles (you can take pets back and forth to the
Republic). We've agriculture inspectors at the
entrances to Northern Ireland too in the same way as
you get at the California/Arizona border.
The island of Ireland doesn't have any snakes at all.
Supposedly because St Patrick banished them but more
likely because they all got wiped out in the last ice
age and nobody was daft enough to bring more in.
We don't have any poisonous insects. We do have bees
and wasps that sting but they're not deadly like the
ones (I think) you get (unless you're allergic to the
venom). We've also got little biting midges but you
usually wouldn't run across them and they're not
poisonous anyway: just annoying.
We don't get things like termites and the like as it's
too cold for them.
We don't get things like typhoid or malaria or any of
the tropical diseases. Mostly it's the flu that
floors everyone! Kids get stuff like mumps, measles
and all the other kiddie diseases.
All the water is drinkable. Point to note: we're very
careful when abroad to operate on the basis of 'no
uncooked food and no ice in the drinks' and, thus far,
we have never been sick on holiday from eating the
food (even in India when I was expecting it).
It's safe to walk out during the day and at night
though naturally there are areas in the city where it
would be more sensible not to. Well I feel safe
walking out at night, a girl on her own mightn't I
suppose. Children would generally walk to school if they're
close enough but you really notice the extra traffic
caused by the school runs when classes start after
Famous residents... Quite a surprising number
for such a small place, here's a brief selection:
S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles
of Narnia, whose life was depicted in Shadowlands
George Best, the footballer (autobiography)
Galway, classic flautist
Branagh, the actor/director
Liam Neeson, star of Michael
Collins (based in Ireland), Schindler's
Morrison, the singer/songwriter
and, of course, the Titanic, star of many films such
the Titanic, and Titanic
- The Story, to name but a few, not to mention the designer, Thomas
Andrews whose house is still standing as indeed is, I
think, his boat house at Whiterock.
Guidebooks... There aren't a whole lot of
guidebooks on Northern Ireland. In fact there is only the Visitor's
Guide to Northern Ireland that covers the province
specifically. All the others cover the whole of the island of
Ireland and generally skimp on their coverage of NI (which makes
for a confusing read sometimes) but if you want to give it a go,