[This flashback follows on the heels of that earlier lament that I’d missed my chance to go to Ireland with my friend. At the eleventh hour, cheap airfare was found!]
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Ireland is still here. Sometimes when I leave, I wonder if it disappears in a mist. An Irish Brigadoon. Since I was here in November [for a week-long writing workshop hosted by the Aspen Writers’ Foundation at Kinnitty Castle, led by Hugo Hamilton and Colum McCann], not much has changed except the flip flops are in the stores even though it’s only 8 degrees Celsius out.
Uneventful flight. Uneventful departure from my poet friend Belle, as she headed off to Waterford, where I will meet her and her boyfriend later. Uneventful bus ride to Galway alone. I got here at 10:30, dumped my suitcase at the train station, and decided to pack as much into the day as I could before my cousin Mary and her husband collected me at 3:00. At home, I could spend a Saturday such as this doing nothing but painting my nails and looking at the window. That’s it. A day just disappears. So it is nice to know that if I really want to, I can move quickly and accomplish more than usual. Like this blog, for instance, which will end in approximately five minutes so I’ll have time to go to Charlie Byrnes, buy a postcard & a couple of books, and trot over to station to pick up my suitcase and catch my ride with my cousins.
So, I got here, I looked at the eyesore which is still an Eyre Square under construction, with fewer trees, but otherwise looking like it did before the city planners spent their millions refurbishing it.
Saturdays in Galway are market days–a sort of farmers’ market with cheese and veg and hand-woven bracelets from Guatemala (Genuine Irish). While there I found the baby shirt I had wanted for my U2-lovin’ Writing Program Director last fall when she had her baby. It says “U2: Rattle and Mum.” It felt good to be shopping like I belonged there, like every Saturday I popped down to squeeze produce and buy presents for co-workers.
Then I turned a corner and saw what looked like the poet Michael Gorman, who taught a summer course I was in four and half years ago at NUI Galway. He walked like him and wore a hat like him, so I yelled, “Mickey???” He snapped around, looked a bit frazzled, like perhaps he had enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day too much last night, and stared at me blankly. I didn’t expect him to remember me though I had had a quiet summer crush on him that was almost painful. So I re-introduced myself, shook his hand, and he said, ‘Ah, yes! Beth!’ I’m not convinced he remembered, but it was nice to hear him say my name. The “h” doesn’t quite come out all the way. He said he was in a hurry to get the shopping done and something about a football match, but he wrote his number in my journal (“A Moleskine, I see!”) and told me to call him tomorrow for coffee. I won’t BE here for coffee and am sure he forgot as soon as he hurried off to fondle carrots, but boy if it didn’t make me feel good to bump into someone I knew here. Particularly him, still looking befuddled and artistic and cute.
In order to celebrate, I went to my favorite sweater shop and bought a new cardigan. The woman who owns it was back. In November when I’d visited, she had been out with a broken knee cap and her very charming son managed to sell my friend Isabella and me about 400 euros worth of woolens. So I asked after her knee, asked after her son, and then talked to her friend who now lives in Canada but is moving back. It was a perfect morning–making me feel, as I almost always do here, that I am HOME.
After I was warmed up by my sweater, I sat by the Corrib and watched it race towards Galway Bay. For lunch, Fat Freddie’s for my favorite pizza. And then the Ninja Shopping commenced. Less bought than looked at, but two books, a notebook, some pens I like, and a birthday card for a kid’s birthday in June. Zipping in and out of shops on the aptly named Shop Street is invigorating in ways that shopping in the mall at home is not, though I don’t know why. My own romanticism, probably.
So, all in all, a very fine day indeed, and one on which I could reflect indefinitely about how the conundrum of feeling so home in a place so far from where I live. Instead though, I’m off to buy a few books at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop and then meet up with my cousins to find out how the Ireland-England rugby match went yesterday.
There is a hot whiskey in my near future.