Author Alice Taylor said that she got a cool reception when she walked around Innishannon recently, so Niamh Hayes took a trip to the village to find out why everyone was looking so glum
INNISHANNON-based author Alice Taylor said in a recent interview that she finds there’s a wave of unfriendliness descending on Irish people. She was walking in her home village and found that her friendly smiles and ‘hellos’ to passers-by were unwelcomed.
It’s hard to imagine that people in a small village weren’t giving the same friendly response back, so I went to investigate myself.
I walked through Innishannon on a weekday afternoon, starting on the main street, heading east. I didn’t meet a single person. Not a great start. I called into the café to ask the opinions of those working there.
‘I’m not from the area but since opening here, everyone has been very friendly,’ said Deirdre Kelly, owner of The Found Out Café.
When I told her what I was doing, she said she’s the type of person who does acknowledge strangers on the street and was almost taken aback at the thought of people not smiling or saying hello back.
‘I think people find January hard. Some don’t get paid until the end of the month. I’ve noticed it here. It’s been a quiet month. People get down in themselves. Maybe that’s why they’re not so friendly, but it has picked up in the last week. We have been busier, and people seem happier,’ she added.
Perhaps the people that Alice met were busy thinking about money and other woes, and were too distracted to acknowledge her?
I returned to the street and spotted two nuns on their way to their car. They would tell it to me straight.
Sr Anne and Sr Thaddeus had travelled from the city to West Cork for a funeral. After the service, everyone went for food in Bandon, but they decided to come to Innishannon as they had been in the café before and really enjoyed it; both the atmosphere and the people.
A sincere compliment for the people of the village.
‘If people don’t acknowledge my smile or hello, I’ll elbow Sr Thaddeus and say, that was another frosty face,’ said Sr Anne, with a cheeky smile.
‘I don’t understand why people are always on their phones when walking. I made a resolution last year to let people walk into me because it gives them a wake-up call,’ she added, with an even bigger grin.
Neither of them had experienced unfriendliness in Innishannon and will continue to visit.
But local resident Liam O’Reilly shares Alice’s feelings and says that people have become insular, but that it’s not just a local thing.
‘People are stressing over material wealth and only concerned with themselves. They’re forgetting the basics of being a human, of being kind.’
‘We don’t know what someone is going through. A simple smile or hello could change a person’s life,’ says Liam.
I agree. Sure, we all have our own woes and worries, but it costs nothing to be nice.
I wanted to test my experiment in Cork city. Walking around, I was surprised by how few were on their phones, but those who were, were stuck in them. I chose not to be as brave as Sr Anne and instead got out of their way!
Everyone else was walking around looking at the ground. Anyone who looked up and caught my eye or smile, looked straight back down again.
Was it shyness? Fear of strangers? Being too much inside their own head?
As Liam said, a simple smile or hello could change a person’s life, so next time you are out and about, get your eyes off the ground and acknowledge the stranger you pass. It might just brighten both of your days.
As for the people of Innishannon, they are a friendly bunch!