WHAT AN EXCITING week it has been. One that has shown what a great big melting pot our little island has become – albeit with the occasional cultural misunderstanding.
Fr Samuel has come all the way from Ghana to stay with us. Fr Lawlor is particularly excited because he sees it as an opportunity for a “vital cross cultural exchange.”
Fr Samuel is in typically jovial form when he arrives at the door.
Fr Lawlor is listening very attentively to him as he makes a little speech. Everyone claps politely but Fr Lawlor looks a little bit confused. There is a lull in the conversation, and Fr Lawlor takes his opportunity: “YOU. ARE. VERY. WELCOME.” he shouts.
Fr Samuel looks at him. “Thank you,” he says. Fr Lawlor smiles.
Everyone heads to the common room for celebratory sandwiches. Fr Lawlor is shaking his head and marvelling at it all. “Amazing. I have no idea what he just said.”
Chaos in the local newsagents as Fr Lawlor offers to haggle over the price of a packet of crisps for Fr Samuel in an attempt to make him feel “more at home.” Shop owner Betty Daly is having none of it.
“You’ll pay the full price for them Taytos, or you’ll get out!” she says to Fr Lawlor.
“Think of it as a cultural learning experience,” says Fr Lawlor.
“Think about explaining that to the guards,” says Betty.
Fr Lawlor leaves in a huff with a packet of Polo mints and a copy of the Racing Post.
I have been invited to the opening of a new community centre. There I meet Councillor Patsy Deegan. Patsy is disgusted by this morning’s report of a young Polish woman, as he puts it “cocking a snook at the nation” by taking full advantage of our welfare system.
“I’d have her on the first flight out of here. We need to take a harder line with these type of people,” he says. The capillaries in his ruddy cheeks are even more scarlet than usual. He is obviously very annoyed about the whole business. In fairness to him, though, he doesn’t let it interfere with his civic duties, and he manages to cut the gold ribbon in front of him with great aplomb.
“I declare this new multi-cultural education centre open,” he roars. Everyone cheers.
Fr Lawlor has introduced Fr Samuel to our young handyman, Pavel “who is probably from Poland.”
He then has an impromptu “foods from different countries” tutorial in the kitchen. “IN IRELAND WE EAT PO-TAY-TOES,” he shouts at Pavel. A panic stricken Pavel looks at the door.
“NOT SO FAST,” shouts Fr Lawlor wagging his finger. He then shows Pavel and Fr Samuel how to boil cabbage “LIKE. NEVEN. MA-GUIRE.”
While his back is turned, Pavel “who is probably from Poland”, sneaks out to fix the sitting room window. When Fr Lawlor realises he has gone, he blames the pressure of the three jobs Pavel probably has to do in order to keep his head above water.
He turns on the radio to hear Patsy Deegan railing against the scourge of welfare tourism. “How dare you call my position knee jerk and reactionary,” he fumes.
“I didn’t say anything,” squeaks the show’s host Danny Byrne.
“DO YOU HAVE RADIO IN GHANA?” Fr Lawlor asks Fr Samuel.
Fr Samuel, who has been creeping towards the door, stops in his tracks.
Apparently Pavel “who is probably from Poland” is actually Czech. We now know this thanks to the note he gave to his replacement, Jón, who is definitely from Iceland.
Fr Lawlor is particularly put out because Fr Samuel had also left that morning. “He probably found it too cold here,” he says sadly.
Meanwhile, Patsy Deegan is being interviewed on local radio again. He wants to make it clear that he responded to the facts as he was given them “at that specific moment in time” regarding that young Polish woman, and maybe, just maybe, he was a teeny weeny bit knee jerk and reactionary but ultimately he wants to move on and the vast majority of the Polish community are hard working and diligent people who contribute in their own special way to Irish society and he meant no offence whatsoever.
Danny Byrne asks him where he’s ringing from, as the line is a bit on the crackly side. He tells Danny that he and the rest of his council colleagues are away on “important business.”
“What business would that be?” asks Danny.
“We’re in Gdansk looking at a mural,” he says.
Later that day Fr Lawlor asks Jón if he knows Björk.