> I lie. The title of this missive lies. In Ireland, there is no “summer” as we know it. Not for the last several years anyway. Could be the pernicious effect of global climate destabilization, I dunno. But throughout June and now one third into July, “summer” has been a fleeting phantom.
. It is true I have had several absolutely gorgeous days here, but these have been the outlier- not the rule. The rule: rain. Overcast, muggy fog, drizzle and rain. Today the wind is up and the rain is not falling vertically- it’s a nearly horizontal phenomenon. Actually, I’m (relatively) okay with it. I mean- I’m in Ireland after all, not sunny central California. I get that Irish weather comes with Ireland. One cannot separate the two. But after enduring it for six weeks, one begins to understand why the Irish are so obsessed with the weather. Ireland is lovely in “soft” weather, but on those rare, clear, dry days this island is one big gasp of unbridled beauty. But with the trifecta of inclement skies, a bereft wallet and frequent ill health, I’m pretty much stuck indoors and I find myself being something I have not been since childhood: bored.
. The days appear to be passed when I could afford Irish roadtrips to my favorite spots like Dingle and Doolin and Donegal, even if I were well enough to undertake them. When I first started coming here (in 1993) this country was on a different currency- the Irish pound, or “punt”. The exchange rate back then was considerably worse than it tends to be now, when one pound cost about $1.40. (This “summer” the current currency, the Euro, costs about $1.11.) But before Ireland joined the E.U. prices were far, far below the levels we see today. Back in the good ol’ days, one night at a bed & breakfast cost roughly 12 pounds (or $16.80). Today, a night’s lodging can cost between 30 and 140 Euro, making the bottom end roughly twice as expensive in dollars. Sure, the mid-90’s was a long time ago now. Everything costs considerably more in 2016. But my wages have not changed. In fact, they’ve gone down. I earn considerably less in 2016 than I did in 1993. I am fond of saying: “A 747 jumbo jet is not expensive… if you are Bill Gates”. It’s true. The cost of living is directly proportional to one’s income. $33.30 is just more than I can afford to stay anywhere for a week or two at a time. Might as well be $333.00 a night! Food in grocery stores is almost shockingly inexplicably inexpensive, but all restaurants have gone upscale- too upscale for me, even considering the fact that there is no tax or tip added on. So roadtrips are off the menu for me now. When I come visit my mom at Toad Hall, I pretty much have to stay put in (stunningly beautiful) Glengarriff. (Poor, pitiful me!)
. Yes, I do love Glengarriff. It is more the home of my heart than too-busy, unafforable Santa Cruz ever was, or ever will be again. But there really isn’t much to DO here. There is no cinema to assuage my movie jones. The only live theatre I’ve ever experienced here was from the stage, not the audience. My mom gets very few teevee channels. The newspaper she gets is an absolutely useless Tory rag imported from Britain. (Mom gets it for the crossword puzzle more than anything else. The rest is used to line the compost bin.) After twelve previous visits, I’ve pretty much photographed everything I would want to photograph. Many locals now recognize me as a “regular”, but I haven’t any real friends here other than Michael Power- and he now lives and works in Liverpool, only returning home for the odd weekend. And those fabulous, stimulating conversations I used to routinely engage in with strangers? They seem to be history now. For one thing, the Irish people have grown somewhat jaded, now that they are part of a European community that includes the free flow of people from other cultures. They used to be very, very interested in visitors from other countries, wanting to know all about you and the way you live your life. No longer. If anything, now they are weary of being inundated by “foreigners”. They are very well-traveled themselves. (Been there/Seen that.) Pub craic used to be legendary. Once upon a time, I would walk into an Irish pub and my long hair and obvious “Americanness” would turn heads. No longer. In fact, I can’t really go pubbing anymore. My body no longer allows me to drink much, and the price of a pint has skyrocketed far beyond my ability to pay. I couldn’t even afford to sit there and nurse a soda (a “mineral” here) in this economic climate. As I have observed during previous visits: the Euro has effectively killed Ireland for the budget traveler.
. So what can I do with myself? I don’t attend mass on Sunday. Can’t go out for the long walks I used to love so. Can’t participate in publife. Can’t watch movies or television. Can’t take roadtrips… Good thing my mother is such delightful company! But even then- she can’t hear very well anymore. I can’t talk very well anymore. Outside of the nightly 6:01 RTE news ritual and the occasional Scrabble game, (now that her eyesight is returning after surgery for a detached retina), there isn’t much to do but read- and write when the Muse provokes me. I do love to read, but I can read anywhere. When in Ireland, I would much prefer experiencing Ireland!
. There is one bright spot in my weekly schedule though: Thursday is market day, when my mom’s friends Kathleen and her beau Michael swing by at noon to take me into Bantry with them for a couple hours of shopping and prowling the town on brief photo safaris. Bantry is a big enough town that I have not exhausted the photo possibilities. They drop me off at the only health food store within miles… er: kilometers, a great market/restaurant called Organico, then go about their business. I visit the local library, get caffeinated at a sweet little cafe called “Box of Frogs”, wind through the charming streets snapping pictures, then stop into the SuperValu market with a shopping list provided my my mum before we rejoin forces at 2 PM in their local- a very old bar called “Lucey’s” and compare notes.
> One story to share:
. On last week’s jaunt into Bantry, I found Kathleen and Michael at their habitual table, nursing their habitual afternoon drinks- white wine for her, a pint (or two) of stout for him. As I sat on the bench beside them, a man at the adjacent bar made a comment clearly directed my way- something about clipping off that long ponytail! I was taken aback. It took me a moment to collect myself before offering my pointed rejoinder: “Well I haven’t heard THAT attitude in Ireland for about 20 years!” To his credit, the middle aged Irishman laughed, walked over to our table and took me warmly by the elbow saying: “Aw, yer okay! No worries. Just ribbing ya. You are welcome here! I was rememberin’ how things used to be. It was a flashback… from all the, uh- aspirin I used to take!”
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