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.

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