Saturday, January 10, 2009

20 Lúnasa, 2007--Slán ag Tigh Bhric

It's been quite awhile since my last post and it's been over a year since i went to and came back from Ireland. But I'm nearly finished so hang in there.

The 20th was the day i had to leave Tigh Bhric. By now i felt like i lived there, like the pub abd restaurant was my livingroom and dining room, and the hearth was mine too. I wish. Anyway Adrienne gave me a nie deal on the stay, we chatted awhile and i got a ride into town with Martin who was going that way anyway.

Slán agat a Thigh Bhric! Go n-éirí leat!

I had already made arrangements to stay at the Goat Street Cafe, so i went there for a cup of coffee while i waited for my room to be ready. I still had the bike so i had to leave that outside for the time being. I'd be returning it the next day because today i needed it to do a bit more exploring. I'd seen this weird tower on this point on the other side od Dingle harbour so i thought i'd check that out.

Once i was settled in i went off to find the tower. It wasn't particularly far. the whoe peninsula is surprisingly small—if i'd had a road bike i could have gone further than i did, but i wouldn't have been able to go off-road like i wanted to. Maybe next time i'll bring the Surly Cross Check i'm hoping to buy next spring.

anyway, the tower. theres a road running down the point from the main Slea Head Drive, not more than a few miles probably, that leads out to the tower. the tricky part is that it's on a really really steep hill, riddled with sheep and cows. and bulls. lots of signs warned tourists and would-be tower seekers not to go through particular fields because of the presence of bull. might have BEEN bull too, because you have to pay to use the “official” trail, which i did—partially. I had less than a euro in my pocket, please forgive me if you are the owner of that land and you are reading this through some miracle of Google technology. I swear i was very low impact, and did not intentionally scare the sheep, although this guy scared ME a little.

It was one hell of a steep climb. Lovely. the trail switched back on itself numerous times and went through a couple gates. The tower itself was pretty impressive—not for its size or design really, but for the fact that you knew that a bunch of famine era guys had to gather the stone and pile it up just so in that remote location, on that super-windy hill. for all i know they had to haul the stone up the hill from the bottom. anyway, the tower's called Eask Tower and its purpose was to guide ships into Dingle harbour—the harbour's mouth was hidden in a way because of the way the land sort of protects it, which could be why they called the town “An Daingean” in the first place, which means “the fortress.” there was once a big wooden hand pointing toward the harbour. That's apparently blown away, because there's no sign of it nearby.

The view from Carhoo hill on which the tower is situated was incredible. I could see seaguls wheeling around far below me, and hear the waves smashing the rocks. and the wind was madness on the climb up. see THIS video and THIS video too.

After i left the tower, i was ooking for something else to see and I noticed that there was a little red dot on the map i had near my location. so i decided to go ahead and try to locate it. you never know what challenges are ahead using this “wing it” aproach. Turns out it wasn't a red dot at all in reality but a ring fort. It was out in a field, and there were some guys building (yet another) new house nearby so i asked if they knew who owned the land as i'd like to get permission to cross their land. they said not to bother, so i left the bike, hopped a wall and walked. Windy here too. It was a really interesting fort, nice and lumpy, suggesting the presence of something below the surface. There was a hole in the ground that looked like it may have been the entrance to a souterrain. These pictures will tell you more than i can say in words, but even the pictures don't quite get the feeling of being there.

After the fort i was ready to give up the bike. I brought it back to Paddy's Bike Rentals and paid my balance—i had the bike for a few extra days over what i'd paid for. It was a decent bike, definitely not the lightest frame out there, but really great for exploring off-road. and i never got a flat, luckily.Thank's Paddy! I highly recommend you pay Paddy a visit if you're in the market for a bike in the Dingle area.

As i walked trough town i noticed a place caled the Dingle Music School. They apparently give lessons in tin whistle, fiddle, bodhran and the like. I brought my bodhran with me on the trip, thinking i might get a chance to use it at a session or something, so i thought i'd see if they had someone at the school who could give me an advanced lesson so i could improve my chops, or at least know what i was supposed to be doing so i could practice on my own. they didn't have anyone there who taught at the advanced level, so they gave me the phone number of a guy named Eric, who's French, and who is, or was, THE bodhran player in Dingle. I called but had to leave a message. he never did call back but i ended up meeting im at a pub called Ó Flaitheartaigh's, where there was a regular (day of the week) night seisiún. We agreed to meet the following day. I brought my drum to that session but he never did step aside to let me play. looking back, i think this was a hint of what i was going to experience at our “lesson.”

in this photo, Eric is on the right, me third from left, then Dan and then Maria is to Eric's left. I met Dan and Maria on the boat to the Blasket Islands, but that's tomorrow's story.

So that's it for the 20th. my first night at the Goat Street Cafe was a little noisy—the sounds of the nightlife in Dingle filtering in through the sky light. but it seems to end early over there anyway.

one other thing—i bought a ticket for a trip the following day on the boat The Peig Sayers. The Peig Sayers sails from Dingle Harbour out to the Great Blaskett Island – an Blascaod Mór – and i knew that if i didn't go to the island, i'd get no end of grief for it when i got back home, considering the fact that of the folks who lived on the island all those years ago, many of them ended up in the Springfield Massachusetts area – my back door. Honestly i would have gone anyway.More on that trip next time.

Friday, June 20, 2008

19 Lúnasa, 2007—ag stealladh báistí

Weirdly, i didn't get a hangover the entire time i was there. ok, actually there was the one. but just one? i don't get it. probably mixed my drinks the night before.

on the sunday after the course was finally done it rained, of course. it didn't start out raining, but waited behind the hills to ambush me as soon as i was out and about.once i was far enough from warm dryness to really pour it on and make me suffer. weather is cruel. my pathetic raincoat, bought at sears about 8 years ago, more for show than for weather, didn't help much.

morning—breakfast. then straight out on the bike into the murky day, with the sky above simmering like a pot about to boil. part of me could feel the rain coming, the other part assured me it didn't matter. the little red dots on the map that marked all the interesting archeology were glowing like little holy grails, daring me to find them. connect the dots. that poor map was more water damaged than i was by the end of it, like a dollar bill that's left in your pocket through the wash, rinse and spin cycles.

my goal was to hit as many dúns, raths, ruins of whatever sort, as possible by lunchtime, then climb up Cruach Mhártháin (a mountain nearby) afterwards. i figured the bike trip wouldn't be too long. i took the Slea Head drive anti-clockwise and headed for Dun Caoin. Most of the sites i picked were off the main road, closer to the coast. Some of them were leave-your-bike-at-this-gate-and-walk-a-mile-through-this-field sorts of places. totally worth it though. some were marked by the “official gate”--sort of a modified turnstile. reminded me a bit of a toggle switch. you can't get a bike through, or really more than one person at a time, and i guess it prevents sheep and cows from getting in or out as well.

a particularly cool place i managed to get to was labeled “Ferriter's Castle” on the map. That's “Caisleán an Fhéirtéaraigh” in Irish. it was out on a headland stretching out sort of westish. I had a bit of trouble finding the road in. it was there on the map, but wasn't so easy to spot. i had to go down what looked like somebody's driveway to get to it. the road itself was ankle deep in mud, so i knocked on the door of the nearest house (still under construction) and asked could i leave my bike in their drive. they said yes, so i did and then footed it.

totally worth it. what a great place. deep cliff-faced coves on either side, water churning and grinding into the rock. private property signs prevented me from going out to the very end of the point, (well, a sense of respect did, i suppose) but the castle ruin was right there where the private land started. if i had tried to trespass, i'm sure the local sheep would have had something to say about it.

afterwards, as i rode the bike around some more, i realized i was on a marked trail, i think it's called the Dingle Way. I nearly fell into a puffhole. at least i think that's what you call them. the sea carves a cave into the cliff face, then the ground above gives way, sometimes creating a hole in the ground that goes down to sea level. i'm imagining the water rushing through to be jettisoned out the top like a geyser. voila! puffhole.

finally, it was time to have some lunch. there was a cafe on the main road, so i stopped. inevitably, someone who had taken the course walked in. a very actorly looking man with eyebrows like caterpillars and a voice like a foghorn. friendly, open face, and very curious about the american who could speak the Irish. we chatted for awhile as we ate. also saw this adorable cat.

(tangent--i got stung by nettle at some point too. here's a picture of what it looks like, so you can avoid it if you're ever in a country where it grows.)

well i had wanted to climb Cruach Mhártháin, but it was raining so hard by the time i left the cafe that i decided i'd settle for this attractive

lump of rock.

i was attracted by the line of boulders on the top that looked a lot like the broken teeth of a giant, and as i have a thing for teeth... i could see the Blasketts from there anyway. but the clouds came right down to my eye level, so visibility was pretty bad.

afterwards, i collected the bike from the roadside, took the surprisingly short ride back to Tigh Bhric, and asked Pól for something warm with whiskey in it. i took my drink and sat by the fire. there is NOTHING better than that sort of comfort after that sort of complete soaking wetness! This would be my last night at Tigh Bhric as well. The next day i'd be moving to the Goat Street Cafe for 2 nights.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

18 Lúnasa—lá déireanach an chúrsa

Today was a happy and sad one. Last day of the course. We had a class in the morning, then a big meeting of everyone who attended in the meeting room. There was a bit of music, a lot of thanks-giving. and we were all presented with certificates that state we completed the course—well, more like attended the course, as there was no test or aything at the end.

I had arranged to have lunch with Fergal, Patricia and Elaine. I think we went to Tigh an tSaorsaigh but i really don't remember. after lunch we said our goodbyes and promised we'd see each other next year. well, we'll see, i guess. shit happens.

Here's a lovely picture of the four of us Gaeilgeoirí--

Obviously, after saying goodbye, i felt like i didn't have anywhere to go for awhile. So of course i spent some money. That always makes Americans feel better. At least i spent it in support of Oireacht Chorca Dhuibhne by purchasing stuff at their museum's gift shop. I didn't actually spend a lot of money on “stuff” while i was over there—mostly i went and looked atthings or drank my money down. after i'd spent enough at the shop, I wandered back to Tigh Bhric for awhile. I ended up going to the Gallarus Oratory, which is a small stone structure, shaped like an upside-down boat, in which early Christians in Ireland would hold whatever “services” they had back then. It was built using a technique called “dry corbelling” which means there's no mortar used in it at all. The thing still sheds water better than most modern houses. and it's centuries old. the walls are 3 to 4 feet thick. it's sagging a bit in the middle, but i don't think it's going to be collapsing anytime soon.
The man at the desk there at the Gallarus Visitor's Center was an Irish-speaker, and so we talked for a good 20 minutes or so. that made me feel a bit better about the folks i COULDN'T understand—the locals with the really heavy accents. maybe this guy was a transplant—who knows? After i paid him, i watched the little movie about the place, its history, etc. on my way to the oratory itself, i realised there was a way in where you didn't have to pay. led right off the road directly to the site, bypassing the visitor's center altogether! crap. well i didn't need that €12 anyway. i bought a stupid little keychain with the name “Horgan” on it too, as it's related to mom's maiden name “Hourihan” by way of “Ó hAnragháin” and “Ó hAnracháin.”

there at the oratory i saw this little guy, or gal--the fearless sort, if a bit small.

oh yeah, the other touristy thing i did, other than just being an american in Ireland, was to go check out the Láthair Mhainistreach an Riaisc (The Reask monastic site,) about a quarter mile from Tigh Bhric. Its's thought this settlement was established in the 6th Century. It's features include a handful of beehive huts made of native stone, one of which would have been an oratory like the Gallarus one. It was encompassed by a stone wall, and split roughly in two by another, creating seperate living and sacred spaces. None of the structures still stand as they did originaly, but all the stonework has been built back up to about waist height to show the layout. It was fun to try to imagine waking up in the morning, stepping out of a stone hut to greet the day. And you're half a mile from the ocean there too, so that's not too shabby.

I met this guy Tim there, from Cornwall, i think, if i remember at all. He was riding his motorbike around after just having bought it. Took the ferry over into Dublin or Cork or somewhere. I can't remember how we got to talking, because i was about to mount my own two wheeled conveyance and leave. I must have had a fit of friendliness. Anyway i'm glad i did, or he did—he was a nice guy and i told him about a concert that night at Tigh Bhric. (Martin, the Dutch born waiter and housekeeper there was percussionist in a band that was playing.) He was fun to talk to on account of his accent. We drank way too much—closed the pub. which is fine for me since all i had to do was crawl up to bed. He on the other hand had to get on his bike and head back to his lodgings and hope the Gárdaí didn't get him. I assume they didn't. I don't really know, but i'm the optomistic sort. sort of.

Damned if i can remember what he did for a living. oh shit, i just remembered that i was dancing at that concert. i must've had a few too many...

as mo dhialann Gaeilge...

ó a íosa chríost, do bhí an díoma orm inné. ach tar éis piúnta Bulmer's agus dinnéar mór—agus píosa cainte le mo chailín thánaig chugam fhéin arís.

bhí an-oíche againn aréir—chuamar go dtí áit a thugtar “an teach siamsa” air—tigh ceann tuí is ea é, agus tinteán mór istigh ann. bhí tine móna lasta, agus fáilte roimhe! bhíomar go léir fliuch báite de dheasca na haimsire. b'fhéidir le gach éinne amhrán a rá nó tiúin a casadh agus chas mise mo bhodhrán agus dúirt “cailleach an airgid” den chéad uair in Éirinn (tá sí ráite agam i Mericeá cheana)

Anois insan phub le Tim, duine a mbuaileas leis ar an mbóthar inniu agus mé ag tabhairt cuirte ar an Riasc Monestery. Tá banda Mháirtín ag seinm anocht, leis. bíodh geall go mbeidh sé sin an-simiúil ar fad.

Cúpla seanfhear anseo ag caint na Gaeilge, agus boladh deas na mona ar snámh ar an aer...

shite, is file mé...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

as mo dhialann Ghaeilge--17 Lúnasa, 2007

(ná déan dearúd—ní usáidtear “breá” ó thaobh na haimsire. usáidtear “go hiontach” ach usáidtear “go breá” i gConamara. sin a dúirt múinteoir na damhsa dúinn—is as Conamara í, so tá a fhios aici ar a gnó!

Cloch Ógham (le aibítear ann ag Cill Mac Calder (litriú???)

anois-táim CHOMH TUIRSEACH! agus saghas braon den Ghaeilge- brathaim níos mó agus níos mó dúire gach lá. agus táim ag feitheamh ar leath a sé chun dinnéir a fháil.

bhí léacht againn iniu mar gheall ar “Hy Bhrasaíl”--an t-oileán droicht a sholáithríonn gach 7 mbliana. tá scéal in a taobh ann chomh maith. ba bhreá liom an scéal a léamh.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

17 Lúnasa--fillíocht agus siamsa

Funny thing—i've been trying like MAD to get a recording from Radió na Gaeltachta of the interview i mentioned in the last post. my emails were either bounced back or whatever. but yesterday i got home and there was a copy in the day's mail! i listened to it and i have to say i have trouble listening because even though the interview went fine i get so embarassed about my voice, my Irish, how nervous i was, etc. if i hadn't been so nervous it would have been 300 times better. “I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Etc...” but it was good to finally get it. they made my voice sound more manly than i really am too. Bonus!

by now (on the trip i mean) i'm getting a bit sick of speaking in Irish. well how long do you expect me to go? don't get me wrong--i still love, teach and speak the language as often as i can. but i have a new respect for anyone who moves to a new country and has to learn the language of its people. it's frustrating and exhausting. this is the day i actually started avoiding people so i didn't have to talk so much. it didn't work, though. apparently i did talk to people because there are lists in my journal of poets that i should read, which i haven't yet. reading peotry in a foreign language is difficult but the nice thing about it is there's not necessarily a particular context so you get all sorts of words thrown together. well—depending on the poetry i guess. not like in a newspaper where you can expect a certain vocab and certain words pop up again and again—which is also helpful. blather blather.

class as usual today. i think this was the day of the “Great Debate”--”An Díospóireacht Mhór” is something like it in irish, i think. there were 2 teams—one in favor of the decision to cancel all Aer Lingus serveces from Shannon and move them to Belfast, the other against. i said not 2 words as i had not any opinion on the matter, and i had not all the facts. i don't know what merciful power was at work there, but i thank it from the bottom of my soul!

There was also a lecture given on the topic of the magical island of Hy Bhrasaíl (prononced “high VRASS-eel) which supposedly is to be seen every 7 years from the westernmost coast of Ireland, somewhere in the vicinity of the dingle peninsula. there's a lot of legend built up around it. some think it's the lost city of Atlantis. I suspect that when J.R.R.tolkein was researching mythologies he was influenced by this one—his "Numenor" also disappeared in the west.

Later we all went to this place called, em, what was it called? An Teach Siamsa, or something like that. Síamsa means entertainment. It was a big open seisiún where everyone had an opportunity to do a song or tune or recite poetry or whatever. I did “ceallach an airgid” again, accompanied myself on the bodhrán. it was a particularly wet night, and very dark out in the countryside there. the house was a jumbo-sized version of a teach ceann tuí—a thatch-roofed cottage. there were freakin' bleachers in there! and a lighting rig! i got a few good vids and pics.

after that, the four of us fine friends went to a book launch at An Leabhar Pub, somewhere nearby. we got a little lost but got directions from someone. the book was poetry (again with the poetry!) and written by the wife of a guy in my class, Billy, his wife's name was...was...Carolne, i think. don't quote me. we sort of missed the launch, but there were a few musicians there, and this guy from Turkey, who had a lot of opinions. i was a bit drunk so i didn't really care much. Patricia gave me a ride home and that was a night.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

as mo dhialann Ghaeilge--16 Lúnasa, 2007

ócé so tá sé déanta anois—an t-agallamh ag Raidió na Gaeltachta i mBaile na nGall. Dara Ó Cinnéide a bhí an t-agallóir--sarimreóir peile is ea é arbh as an cheantar seo dó.

níos déanaí--

amárach atá ann—bhíos insan phub le mo chairde nua-Feargal, Pat agus Elaine—tá an-ghean agam ar mo chairde nua. níos luaithe bhí ceolchoirm ar siúl ag ionad na Blascaoid, agus do chas mé an bodhrán le dream ann. roimhe sin, bhí dinnéar agam le Tomás Ó Muircheartaigh. Sin é anois.

Monday, February 25, 2008

16 Lúnasa--Lá an Agallaimh!

The morning—like any other so far—was begun with a lovely big breakfast complete with rashers, eggs, sausage, pudding and cereal. Then, it was off to school to get whisked away to--


dum dum DUUUUMMMM!

I got basically crammed into a tiny car with 4 other people and driven to Baile na nGall (Ballydavid) to the local Raidió na Gaeltachta station, to be introduced quickly to the secretary at the radio office, sign a few release forms, pushed into the studio to meet the presenter, Dara Ó Cinnéide—yes--the famous Gaelic Footballer—along with the other three. It happened pretty quickly. I make it sound like it we were treated like cattle, but really we weren't. It was just so damned efficient. Almost like they did that sort of thing every day or something. ;)

So there were the 5 of us, Dara included, sitting around a smallish round table with mics bristling from its center, and the room itself was fairly spacious. I presume they have bands and such in there from time to time. I expected to be in a pretty confined space, but that was just nerves, probably. We waited about 5 minutes in silence, waiting for the engineer to give us the ok after the news and weather would be over. It was weird listening to the news, as i've done so many times on Raidió na Gaeltachta, knowing that it was me and my friends that were going to be on NEXT! i was quite nervous, but it was over quicker than you can imagine, and, being the least fluent one there, i was spared a longer interview by the gracious Dara, gentleman that he is.

It was quite exhilerating even considering my nervousness and the gibberish that must have issued from my mouth. Everyone was quite happy at the end of it all, and the two women with us were GUSHING over that handsome Dara all the way back to the school.

After all the pats on the back from my classmates, we got back to work. On what specifically i do not remember. In the afternoon a series of visits to various sites of archeological significance had been arranged, and that is what i spent part of the afternoon doing. We visited the Gallarus Castle site, and a “cathair,” called "Cathair Déargáin," which is like a stone-walled fort, and we visited another fort with earthen walls called a “dún.” Not much was left to see of the dún, as the walls have worn down to a low earthen ring covered in tufty grass. This is what is often called a “fairy fort” and they appear all over the place in Ireland. There's a lot of superstition built up around them, and people often avoid them, especially at night, when the border between this world and the other blurs. in actuality they were the locations of stone huts surrounded by the earthen wall, and were where a farming family would have lived centuries ago. Likewise with the stone-walled “cathair,” but that would have been a landowner with slightly more means. I visited quite a few of the earthen-walled sites on my own, and had no bad luck, except that i had to wait 11 hours at JFK on my return trip—but that's a later story.

the Gallarus castle, it was explained to us, was not so much a castle as a tower house. It was an example of a typical rich landowner's house of the time period (15th century in this case) and its style was derived from styles popular in Europe at the time. It was indeed a very well fortified fortress of sorts, and had one or two interesting features that impressed me greatly. One was the outward slope of the bottom portion of the outer walls. this was arranged so that any bodies falling from above might bounce off the slope and into the attackers below, thus throwing them off balance, i guess. It's just the idea that someone thought of that that really delights me. The other feature that impressed me was the Murder Hole. This was a hole in the ceiling above a small (3 x 3-ish foot) room. The intruding enemy could be trapped within the room, then boiling oil could be poured down upon him. Crispy fried soldier! It was pretty interesting.

I had dinner with Tom Moriarty, as happened pretty often once i discovered that Café na Cille had the best food in town and the most reasonable prices. In fact, if it weren't for that place, i would have had to double my Guinness intake just to stay regular.

Later all of us students went to the Blaskett Visitors Center, where we were entertained by loads of local talent. The M.C. was another local Ráidió na Gaeltachta presenter, Pádraig Ó Sé. I didn't understand everything he said, but i did get to play my bodhrán at the end with a bunch of other volunteers, who came up to finish the night with a song or two all at once. From there it was off to the pub, where i spent a lovely evening with Fergal, Patricia, and Elaine.