Leaving Ireland with Melancholy and Hope

Dark blue sea meets kohl-smudge horizon in the very last light of day, a buoy light and low clouds.

17 – 22 August 2015 (Days 84 – 89 of my Midlife Gapyear) Monday 17 August 11:30 am – Flanders Cross And just like that, time is fleeting. The Kilkenny Arts Festival is finished and all my new acquaintances have begun to fade away. I returned to Kilkenny via Dublin sharing a festival courtesy car with American author Jane Smiley and her husband Jack. They were both lovely. We talked about Australia. (Jane wondered why the people of Adelaide think so little of their city. “They live there even when the festivals are over,” I said). Not surprisingly, for an Iowa …

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In Northern Ireland the Troubles Still Bubble Beneath the Peace

13 – 15 August 2015 (Days 81 – 83) Thursday 13 August 4pm, Connect Hostel, Derry Small cities, I should only visit small cities. It’s 4pm, I’ve done the lot and feel I’ve given everything it’s due. It’s been a gorgeous and sunny day. I started things off revisiting the Guildhall – where President Clinton spoke in 1995, a trip I worked and wrote of in my last blog post. Derry isn’t as much changed as I’d expected. It still has a working class, slightly hard-done-by air but with more tourists and tourism-related businesses. There are new cultural institutions and …

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In Ireland They Offer Chips with Your Chinese Food: Tuesday 11 August 2015 (Day 79)

9:10 pm: A Chinese Restaurant, Kilkenny I may regret this but I’m so hungry. I’ve ordered sweet and sour chicken – it’s like battered and fried balls of chicken in the usual flouro sauce. It’s Ireland: I had the choice of rice or chips. Being here, in Kilkenny, is becoming normal. I run into familiar people on the street. I know my way around town really well. After a couple of months on the road, of being someplace new every day, every hour, this is nice – this being of a place and part of a community. I slept in …

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Poetry, Light, Ice Cream and Friendship on a Beaut Irish Summer Day: Monday 10 August 2015 (Day 78)

11:20 am – The Gourmet Store Café, Kilkenny We are finally getting a run of sunny and warm days. Cornelia says this sort of day is exactly what one hopes for when thinking of an Irish summer’s day. 7:30 pm – Zuni Café I’m feeling like a local. I know where everything is and I run into people I know on the street. At the café this morning Hazel, Cornelia’s right-hand gal, passed by with Robert Pinsky. He’s just arrived from Boston and they were looking for an Irish SIM card for him but said they’d come back for coffee. …

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Coffees and Jews in Dublin: Wednesday 5 August 2015 (Day 73)

11:50 am Wednesday 5 August – Kaph A lot – Dublin reminds me of Melbourne a lot. Maybe because they are both river cities with dubious weather. But they have Sydney’s pedestrian-crossing system, though, same buttons, same sound – which is strange. This is the café suggested by Baz – it is not like Melbourne. They call a macchiato and ‘noisette’ (I guess it’s the French name for the same thing) and it’s meh – a little thin and bitter. So, the bitter is like Melbourne but … you know, not so nice. (The music is good, though). Speaking of …

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At the Graiguenamanagh Tinnahinch Regatta: Sunday 2 August 2015 (Day 70)

We had lunch at the Step House Hotel in Borris then visited the Graiguenamanagh Tinnahinch Regatta. The regatta entailed, mostly, young people who looked very cold for having spent time in the Borris River while swimming, splashing, diving, etc. There was a brass band with an average age in their late 60s, an excitable announcer I couldn’t understand, cheering friends and family, and a photographer from the local paper to record the lot. It was really charming. We finished the day with 99s and I felt a part of this quiet country Irish lifestyle.

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Such a pleasant and full day: Saturday 1 August 2015 (Day 69)

Saturday 1 August I worry I’m not paying enough attention to the details lately and will have less to say, in the blog, in the book, when I get here. I fear that I’m not engaging as much as I was at the beginning of my journey. Today I went for a bicycle ride with Jerry (whom I recently met at the shop with the door to the pub ) – he’s Scottish and married to Helena, an architect and friend/colleague of Cornelia. The day was dry but chilly and the ride was lovely. The roads are unmarked and it …

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Starting to See How People Get Stuck in Ireland: Friday 31 July 2015 (Day 68)

Friday 31 July – Cornelia’s (Day 68) I understand how Jim gets stuck here, in Ireland. People are welcoming and, as Cornelia’s guest, I get invited to things. Tonight, there was a barbecue. We dropped Cornelia’s daughter Isabel off there first and went on to Osbornes – a pub in the tiny village of Rathanna, recently reopened by a returned son. It’s really lovely. There I met an American couple, from North Carolina and Rhode Island but more recently Washington DC – who are now travelling. He’s a film maker and she’s a photographer. He’s making weekly one-minute documentaries. They’re riding …

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I Need Some Time to Rest and Plan: Tuesday 28 July 2015 (Day 65)

Tuesday 28 July, 10:25 am – Cornelia’s As we drive Cornelia is telling me tales from her life and work when this oh-so-Irish comment jumps out at me: “All they talk about at tea breaks is hurling.” Hurling is a religion in these parts. The Kilkenny team is the Yankees of the sport having won 36 championships (of 129 played – they’ve also been runners up 26 times). Next closest is Cork with 30 championships and 19 as runners up. We’re in season and the team’s colours fly everywhere in Kilkenny. I don’t understand the game but am charmed by …

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Ireland – I’m too tired to be excited:Monday 27 July 2015 (Day 64)

Monday 27 July 11:55 am, Café La Coco, Kilkenny I’m tired. I had cramps in the night. When I rise at 6:45 to go to the loo Cornelia says “Good Morning!” – so I’m up. We drive to Kilkenny and I have a look around while she attends to some business. The camping store in town stocks the tent I’m thinking of buying. It’s been well-reviewed by Tom’s Bike Trip and I can get it on-line for € 140 – which I’d call a decent mid-level price.  In the shop it looks fine, but is rather more expensive, I’ll order …

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