Your survival guide to Poland... and Ukraine if we venture that far!
THE clock is counting and a populace left punch-drunk from government entreaties over fiscal treaties has - suddenly, miraculously - been presented with a joyous excuse to wipe the morbid look off our impoverished faces. Forget austerity ... let's party for posterity!
But first, a warning for all you intrepid travellers destined for Euro 2012. Us Paddies are not accustomed to the porter in Poznan or - and let's pray we get that far - what constitutes the craic in Kiev.
To journey in ignorance is a recipe for ruin, so it's imperative that every paid-up member of the Green Army is au fait with the local customs of Poland and Ukraine. Otherwise, you may end up on the wrong end of some linguistic catastrophe and/or a cell door.
Thus, a few pointers before you hop aboard that plane, train or camper van.
LESSON 1 - MARRY A POLE QUICKLY, OR NEVER
According to Polish folklore, only marriages that happen in months that contain the letter 'r' (in Polish) are said to be successful. Those of you fluent in Warsaw's mother tongue would know that this excludes May,
January, February, April, July and November.
You might note the absence of June from that hit-list, so if you happen to bump into the most drop-dead gorgeous local 'laska' in the coming weeks, and she doesn't recoil in instant horror, we say strike while the iron is hot. Get hitched in Gdansk - so long as it's before the end of June.
PS: Statistically, Poles are the youngest people to get married in the EU (24 for women, 26 for men). So, chances are, you won't end up with a weather-beaten laska either. This gets better and better!
LESSON 2 - POLISH YOUR PLURALS
Be careful to enunciate every single word to avoid acute embarrassment. For example, when taking a break from the 'Ole' brigade to cheer on the hosts, emphasise the plural when singing "Ooh aah, up the Poles!" Otherwise, the aforementioned 'laska' will turn suddenly hostile and reject your marriage proposal, convinced you have just alleged: "You are up the Damien Duff."
LESSON 3 - BEWARE FLYING UKRANIAN PIGS
Cynics say we'll only win the Euros if pigs are spotted flying over the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. Well, stranger things have happened ... how else do you account for Ukraine's disappearing pigs? Since the declaration of independence in 1991, its porcine population has fallen from 19.4 million to 8.3m - even though your everyday Ukranian eats only 18kg of pork a year, three times less than your average German. We've read this on the internet so it must be true. (Editor: As opposed to a complete porky, right?)
LESSON 4 - KEEP IT ZIPPED
Ukraine's sex industry plans to be working flat out throughout June - but reports warn that the championship co-hosts have the highest rate of HIV infection in Eastern Europe.
"All men are the same and football and beer are more important for them, but they aren't going to spend the whole night drinking," says 24-year-old Natasha, who hopes to entice enough clients to buy a car. One hopes she isn't banking on the 'bonking' Irish, who will indeed spend the whole night (and month) drinking.
LESSON 5 - BEWARE CHAMPAGNE FOOTBALL
Ukrainians are responsible for the world's largest champagne glass, but they still haven't figured out how to imbibe from this 56.25 litre tumbler. This won't be a problem once the drinking Irish become the toast of Europe on July 1; it may be a problem for you, though, if you sample the lethal concoction contained therein. Cheers!