Saturday, September 25, 2010

Town or City?


I live in a sleepy little town that qualifies as a city. There are certain criteria you have to meet in order to be a city, and Galway’s status as a city has always been debatable. Nevertheless, it is historically known as ‘the City of the Tribes’, and if you happen to be around Eyre Square, in the heart of the city, at around say 3a.m, you may spot various tribes engage in combat outside Supermacs ( a Galwegian fast food outlet specialising in contemporary Irish culinary delights). 
But city or nay, most people have heard about Galway. There’s the races, who hasn’t been to the races? Then there’s the Arts Festival; there’s Cuirt, the international festival of literature; Baboro is a festival for kids; there are at least two Oyster festivals with a film Fleadh thrown in somewhere in the middle.
More recently there was the Volvo Ocean Race and on foot of that there have been a good few boat festivals attracting polo shirted men in deck shoes accompanied by leggy blondes with an attitude. And there doesn’t even have to be a festival for the place to fill up in the summer months. You always know the tourists: sensible raincoats, aran sweaters, expensive cameras and a stressed out frown brought on by the price of Guinness and a bowl of chowder. They call Galway ‘Gallaway’ if they’re European, whilst Americans pronounce the ‘gal’ in Galway as if it was the Galway gal and not gal as in gallstones.
So in other words, I live in a so called city that has been taken over by festivals or tourists for most of the year. The thing is, though, this place really only comes to life around late September, when the rest of the world goes home and Galway turns back into a little town again. The rain doesn’t get any worse than it is during the summer months, but you don’t feel cheated anymore, because although the weather is more or less shit all year round, the calendar is telling you that it’s ok to light the fire and order pizza. You can watch telly without having that guilty feeling that you should be at the launch of some book or play or film and if you do go out the pubs start offering alternatives to Irish dancing, Irish music and traditional Irish shows that traditional Irish people wouldn’t ever set foot in.
That’s why today was a good day in Galway. It was pissing rain and not a raincoat in sight, there wasn’t a queue for the ATM, everyone was in bad form and the general consensus was that really, what else could our leader have done here last week but get pissed and make an eejit of himself on national radio?  It just made me ask that question again, are we a town or a city?  Then I remembered that KFC recently opened in Galway and that it costs €2.50 an hour to park in town. There’s a place near the docks that sells Japanese food and a transvestite works in the hairdressers on the main street. So yeah, that’s it really, isn’t it? City. Definitely a city.


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