Some funny, and some that had me contemplating what Scotland would look like if the country voted for Independence in September, which is not that far away so needs to be thought about. I have to confess I'm as confused as I suspect many of Scotland's citizens still are. I'm not the brightest bulb in the showroom by any means but sometimes it helps to see another island (Republic of Ireland- Northern Ireland in this case) and compare them as they are as close to us as you will get. A large percentage of Scotland's inhabitants came originally as settlers from there anyway.
This is an impressive sculpture called "The workers" at the dry arch bridge roundabout in Letterkenny, a good piece of public art, but nearly every major roundabout in Donegal has one. Many are really creative and outstanding examples as you can see here.http://donegalpublicart.ie/
Another roundabout on the way to central Donegal. Pole Star. This one changes shape dramatically as you circle it.
Every time I've passed here though it seems to be shut so maybe that's one sign of the recession as many of the products are well made, whatever your tastes on garden extras.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Dunree We visited here on a wet day as you can tell from the moisture on the camera lens.
Even in rural areas examples of housing stock like these are not uncommon in what was (according to online research ) one of the poorest countries in Western Europe before Independence. Indeed I would go further and say that the number of properties like the houses above, scattered across Donegal, are far more in evidence here than similar sized rural areas in Scotland where only top footballers wife's and high paid directors can afford them. This is just an average street here and not a posh enclave like say Bearsden or Kilmacolm in Scotland where mainly wealthy people live so the money seems to be distributed slightly more evenly among the general population in the Republic although a lot of people were hit hard by the financial collapse. Not being a local I don't know if they are all holiday homes for the wealthy who just like Donegal but I don't think so as the number of independent small businesses here seem far larger than our own. There's more of them in rural areas I mean. I also noticed every town and village we passed through seems to have shops with some local service to offer, like hairdressers, chemists, florists etc. Local people having the backing and drive to start their own business obviously. Also the pubs in these areas seem to be still open and doing far more trade than in Scotland where large numbers have closed already. I know property prices have dropped through the floor here and there are examples of " ghost estates" throughout Ireland where houses have been build and are lying empty as no one can afford to buy them but visible evidence of a recent property boom is all around as well. Many young people have had to leave their families and go abroad to find work during the recession but that's also true for Scotland as well. I'm sure some aspects of Independence have a negative input as well but being a casual visitor I can only go on what I can observe around me without an in-depth understanding. Mind you I don't understand Scottish politics either half the time :o)
As a visitor I cant help comparing Donegal to many corresponding areas in Scotland of similar size I've been in ( like Burntisland say) where the main street last year, with its many fine old fashioned buildings, had several lying boarded up and abandoned in an appalling state of falling down, not likely to attract many tourists to the area. Which is a shame as it's a lovely place with great tourist potential given a boost. Too many places in Scotland I've visited in my travels over the past five years just seem to be clinging on and even during periods of prosperity when the economy has been booming I've honestly never noticed much difference to my neighbourhood and I suspect Northern England down to Birmingham and working class parts of London are much the same. Boom or bust in the UK we're still in the same leaky boat paddling hard just to stay afloat.
Maybe that's the real lesson of Independence Ireland can teach us. It may be a risky strategy going alone, and it may all go pear shaped as no-one can see into the future but the rewards as well as any drawbacks are greater and any wealth created through hard graft, if it comes, makes a more visible difference to that society. In many parts of the UK over the last 30 years it always seems to be Austerity Britain.
Also, that's twice in Scotland's recent history that we have been saddled with a government that the majority didn't want or vote for up here yet have had to suffer the consequences with many years of cut backs and more austerity still to come. According to the view of Boris ( The Mayor of London) Johnson's own sister, Rachel, a journalist, on a recent programme for Sport's Relief, Britain is divided into two different worlds. (This fact seemed to come as a surprise to her but certainly not to many). Worlds that never normally meet and ignore each other when they do. Those who need to watch every penny and those who do not need to bother how much it costs for any items they buy. This gap is widening every year and under the current system it can only get worse. I applaud her honesty though as I've seen too many politicians who have been on similar programmes over the years and always brush it off at the end of their stay by stating. "It's meant to hurt- Get a job." In this programme however, many of the participants already had jobs but thanks to the price of food and fuel, bills, low pay, zero hours contracts, and exorbitant interest rates charged on pay day loans which are ubiquitous on our television screens nowadays they were still earning buttons. Some were living on a pound a day and skipping meals as they could only afford to feed any children in the house but not themselves. Five fruit or veg a day ( up to 7 now) is just a joke for many people, including myself and I consider myself one of the lucky ones as I eat three meals a day. A single turnip or two grapefruit is £1 now and I would rather eat beans and toast or pasta and mince anyway when I'm wanting a main meal. Fruit and certain veg are luxury items these days. I was glad they showed this programme as at least it's a Britain I recognise more than the usual collection of misfits, alcoholics and drug addicts the media put together when depicting the lower rungs of society. This was ordinary people trying their best to bring up families and still struggling which is more like the reality I've observed around me. After all, I should know what they look like as I've perched beside them on the same rungs all my life happily enough, although, being single, I'm still lucky to get around on a tight budget so far. The Guardian with its take on it.
I thought I'd end with another of Gerry McVeigh's brilliant short videos on Donegal, this time a coastal walk from the village of Port with world class scenery throughout. Sea stacks, natural arches, and cliff top footpaths aplenty. Great camera work as well. Five minutes of visual bliss.