Celebrated connections

On the drive back to Dublin we stopped at Clonmacnoise, a monastic settlement that used to be the most famous destination in County Offaly until somebody discovered that Barack Obama’s great-great-grand-something-or-other came from Moneygall.

The complex beside the Shannon felt less remarkable than some of the other medieval sites we’d visited, but we enjoyed the high crosses in the museum. Some of the reliefs looked like stony versions of marginalia from the Book of Kells.

Nearby is one of the most thoroughly ruined castles I’ve ever seen.

Farther east we made a minor detour to Mullingar, where my great-grandmother grew up (the family pub is pictured in the header image up top). It seems unlikely that the Texas Department Store was around in the nineteen-aughts; otherwise, judging by family stories, the town today is probably about as glamorous as it was back then.

We saw a couple of buildings that looked like they might conceivably at one time have been Gaynor’s, but the pub itself is long gone. We did not visit the Ulysses Pub, which pays tribute to Joyce with photos of footballers.

Is “celebrated” exactly the word?

We celebrated getting back to Dublin with dinner at the Winding Stair, a restaurant that wins points for also being a bookshop, and for a bread-and-butter pudding that might contain more warm butter than bread. Then we took the bus back to the airport and got ready to go home, which, eventually, we did.

Some things had happened here while we were away. Not all of them were bad.

Some get a kick from craic

We have been listening to a lot of RTÉ podcasts lately and have been repeatedly startled by the word craic. People always seem to be casually referring to which pubs have the best crack, going out looking for some crack, how crack is really all you need. It’s hard not to picture Ireland as a nation of hollow-eyed refugees from an ’80s TV special. Just say no!

Speaking of social ills, R has noted mournfully that it seems wrong for Limerick to have so many problems when the poetic form named after it is so beautiful and uplifting.

Ní thuigim

We imagined it might be amusing to learn a few Irish phrases before making the trip across the water, so we checked out some AV instructional materials from the library. As a result of effortful study, R and I have now mastered the vocabulary required for the following Irish dialogue:

–Well.

–Slán.

Now, technically the first line of this exchange is in English, but since the word figures in 95 percent of the first-person narratives on the Irish-language immersion DVD, I believe it counts. The second line translates as “Goodbye” and was the one syllable on the Pimsleur Irish CD that both of us could realistically reproduce. (Thankfully the library’s CD was unplayable after Lesson Two. I suspect the scratches on the disc resulted from being thrown across the room rather than from years of devoted use by other citizens of Contra Costa County.)

There are worse words than goodbye. At least we will be well prepared for leaving the country. The parting glass! Slán.