As we stumble upon Saint Patrick’s Day, we thought that a few blogs about the old sod may prove appropriate. To cut to the quick, let us make one thing clear. If you see some big goon in a kilt at a bar or Irish function on Wednesday, it is surely an idiot who does not know the difference between Scotland and Ireland and probably bought the kilt as a convenient way to get into a fight.
Avoid men with kilts, in general, in America, 364 days of the year. They are allowed one day unless they are first-generation Scot. Now, that we have annoyed that foolish segment of the population, allow us to continure with the actual story.
As this is a personal (albiet ficticious since nothing on here is real) tale, permit me to continue in the first person, I, to make it a bit easier. The ‘I’ in question is full of bright ideas. Many are fueled by booze and sentimentality, so the term ‘bright idea’ is a touch of the old sarcasm. This time, this bright idea, came to pass beginning in late 1999, the year my mom died. It was a particularly grim holiday, either turkey day or xmas, and the old man and I sat at the table with the full meal and fixings. It must have been turkey day, the first holiday without my mom around.
He was getting teary and, in an effort to switch up the mood of the meal, I suggested that we take a trip to Ireland the following year. He was one of those types with the ‘honk if you’re irish’ license plate holder and was easy to deal with on holidays because you just needed a new book on Ireland, which he would never read anyway. It was a chance to go to Ireland, which I had been thinking about anyway; it was also a way to show that life was not over and there were still things for him to do that he had not even dreamt of.
As it turned, a golf buddy of his, Louie, ran tours to the Emerald Isle for several years and we joined a trip he was putting together for the upcoming May. It took all the planning off my hands, so that was just perfect…until we got there and it dawned on me that he went to sleep at 10pm every night and the sun didn’t even set until close to 11pm that time of year.
I had never considered the implications of taking an 80-year-old man with a 70-year-old tobacco habit on a plane or how the altitude would affect his lungs. We started off with a couple days at the Royal Dublin Hotel on O’Connell Street, with the statue of Parnell, the Great Patriot of the Irish Nation. The old man took it easy, after the scare at the airport, where they put him in a chair and gave him oxygen for a bit.
So, here I was in Ireland, the only young man in a group of senior citizens, the youngest of whom may have been in her mid-sixties. At least nobody would try to hang around with me.
It was great to be on the main street of the city, in walking distance of Trinity College, the famous old government buildings, the Book of Kells, the house where Bram Stoker labored over his novel, Dracula, which would sell many hoodies, hundreds of years after it was printed.
There was a stain on the pillow, which I noticed the first morning and took to be a result of drooled-out tobacco juice, which stained a number of his clothing items. There was another stain the next morning, as was discovered as bags were packed to leave Dublin and head down coast to the Munster area, where many of the first great kings of Ireland came from and where they fought many of their fiercest battles, defending their homeland from the inevitable pillaging which plagued the People for centuries.
While in this corner of the Isle, we stayed in Clonmel (meaning honey meadow), near Tipperary. The Hotel Minella was home for a few days, in the middle of the orchards where the apples for the wonderful Magner’s Irish Cider are grown. The hotel was an extravagant affair.
It lay along the River Suir, with the Comeragh Mountains looking behind. Here, again, we spent a few days. Dad had gotten a bit tired and so was I, so after a few drinks, we retired to the room on early-afternoon to get into an argument over the television. I was watching the movie Butcher Boy, the disturbing tale with Sinead O’Connor as the Holy Virgin Mary. While an excellent flick, it was beyond his sensibilities, so I tried for a short nap and went for a walk.
The grounds were fantastic and, as stated, were surrounded by the orchards and farmland. A dirt road ran sort of parallel to the river. Apple trees and livestock ran along the gurgling waters of the Suir. This was more like a creek than a river. This was not the grand, majestic Shannon but it was lovely.
Returning from my walk, a shower was in order and as I shaved before stepping into the tub, a few specks of blood near the mirror got my attention. It was not a lot but it was in a small ‘spray pattern’. I cannot even say that i knew it was blood at that point, looking back. It totally surprised me. A nice meal and an evening of drink, and at the light of dawn, the little dirt road beaconned. Nobody was awake, not even the hotel staff, as I slipped out the door in my running shoes.
I found some cows, feeding in a lot along the road, just a quarter mile from the hotel. Having seen cows many times before, I am not sure what attracted me to them but I sidled up to the gate which held them in, to take a picture. They all were chewing at the tall, green grass. I got a shot or two of them chewing and thought it may be a good time to practice my ‘moo’, so one was brought up for the benefit of the bovine and it got their attention, as you can see in the photo.
Having made a good impression on the cows, the brisk walk continued and after a few hours, the hotel appeared in site again and it was just in time for a continental breakfast. I stopped at the room to shower. There was no blood on the wall, but here were bloodied paper towels in the trash. It looked like he had been spitting up into them. This was starting to get serious and we still had more than half of Ireland waiting for us.
We will pick this up tomorrow, at the Hotel Minela. Thanks for your patience.