Nine Things I Think

Nine Things I Think is an irregular feature whenever I have a list of things I want to talk about that aren’t long enough for their own individual posts.  Normally there’s no theme, but this time there is – these are the odds and ends from last month’s trip to England, Wales and Ireland.

Bath, England

1) England drew the short straw on this trip in both time and impressions, but I hope my English friends don’t think I don’t like their country.  It’s beautiful and fascinating and it has more history than I could absorb in a lifetime.  But all five of us had been to England before, so we cut our time there short so we could spend more time in Wales and Ireland.

My long range plans (i.e. – before I die) include at least two more trips to England – one an extended stay in London with a side trip to Canterbury, and another to Glastonbury and points west.  Plus I’d love to participate in a seasonal ritual at Avebury some time, preferably with a local group.

2) Neither the English nor the Irish can make a decent sandwich.  But other than that, the stereotypical bad British food was more urban legend than fact.  Now, none of it was pizza-in-Sicily good, but I didn’t have a bad meal the whole trip, and the fish was excellent – whether it was fish & chips (I so wish we could get that here!) or grilled fish or one of the seafood soups/chowders.  And English bacon is about a hundred times better than American bacon – it’s more like a mild version of country ham.

Two other nice things about eating in the Isles:  whether we were at a deli, a pub, or a restaurant, I don’t recall one time when someone tried to sell me something I didn’t order.  And the price on the menu is the price you pay – taxes are included in the menu price.

3) Guinness tastes better in Dublin.  I don’t know why, but it does.  I’m sure some of that is due to it being fresh, but it was better in Dublin than in Galway, all of two hours away.  And the bartenders know how to pour it – slowly, in stages.  It’s just not the same out of bottles or cans in America.  If you’re going to drink beer, drink local beer.

4) I didn’t watch much TV while we were gone, but I did catch some newscasts here and there.  And when I got back, it struck me just how bad American TV news is.  I’m not talking about Fox’s right-wing propaganda or MSNBC’s ineffective attempt to provide balance.  I’m talking about the vapid emptiness of local and national news:   cutesy anchors and mindless banter, meaningless remote locations, endless teasers, obsessing on celebrities, and an emphasis on personal anecdotes instead of the big picture.  I’m not sure when news stopped being news and started being entertainment, but that’s all it is any more.

Galway

5) I’m done with rental cars outside the US and Canada.  I had a stressful experience driving in England in 2007, and the mechanical problems with our car in Ireland on this trip cost us a significant amount of money and time, including our planned stop at Rathcroghan.  Trains, buses and taxis are far more readily available in Europe than they are here, and the added cost is more than offset by the lower stress of not driving on the wrong side of the road, dealing with narrow roads and heavy traffic, and shifting with your left hand.

6) Dublin is great and Dublin has a lot of cool stuff in or near it, but for just hanging out and relaxing, I loved Galway, on the west coast of Ireland.  Lots of good food, lots of good music, and it’s all walkable.  Yes, it’s a bit touristy – especially on the weekend with all the bachelor and bachelorette parties – but not in a bad way.  Just remember you’re on the Atlantic coast – you’re going to get rain.

The Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin

7) As a bibliophile, seeing the Book of Kells was an amazing experience.  But walking through the Old Library at Trinity College in Dublin was even more impressive.  My vision of the afterlife includes a place very much like this – only without the green ropes to keep the tourists out of the stacks.

8) Did you know that beard trimmers can change their settings when they’re packed in your luggage?  Either that, or the Welsh faeries decided the visiting Druid needed a much shorter beard.  I keep my trimmer on “5” and use it about twice a week.  On the last morning in Wales, I picked it up and turned it on for the first time on the trip.  In my half-awake state, the first hint that something was wrong was after I had already made a pass along one side of my face and realized “that’s a lot more resistance than I’m used to…”  followed by a rather panicked look in the mirror.  The trimmer was on “1” – the shortest setting.  Nothing to do at that point other than trim the whole thing short.

Oh well – my beard is more white than brown these days, but it still grows fairly fast.  All was back to normal in about a week and a half.

9) My Paganism is both Nature-centered and Deity-centered and I’m in a constant dance to find the right mixture of the two.  But on this trip – and especially in Wales – I felt a deeper connection with the land than I’ve experienced in many years.  I had that connection to the land when I lived in Tennessee, particularly when I still had access to the land where I grew up.  The land is different here in Texas, and I haven’t developed a deep connection with it even though I’ve been here for 12 years.

I think it’s time to make that connection a priority.

That’s the last of my trip-related posts, although the impressions and memories – and the pictures – will keep coming for a very long time.

About John Beckett

I grew up in Tennessee with the woods right outside my back door. Wandering through them gave me a sense of connection to Nature and to a certain Forest God. I’m a Druid graduate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the Coordinating Officer of the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and a former Vice President of CUUPS Continental. I’ve been writing, speaking, teaching, and leading public rituals for the past eleven years. I live in the Dallas – Fort Worth area and I earn my keep as an engineer.

  • http://tommyelf22.wordpress.com/ Tommy Elf

    4) — I am glad I am not the only one that’s noticed that about Fox, MSNBC, the local chatter….news just isn’t news. Its a matter of spin, combined with Gotcha (!) Politics…and its a real shame that we here in the Colonies are fed such a steady diet – and seemingly digest it as fast as it is shoveled onto our plates.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      It’s like everything else in our profit-obsessed society – there’s a difference in providing a good service and making a profit while doing it, and in trying to make a profit while providing a service. I get it – most people would rather be entertained than informed. I just wish there was a news channel whose first goal was reporting the news and not maximizing viewers.

      • http://tommyelf22.wordpress.com/ Tommy Elf

        BBC America’s news reports comes close…not quite all the way, but far closer than any of the other news programs….

  • JasonMankey

    Fantastic! I’ve really enjoyed all of the trip related posts!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      Thanks, Jason. I’ll look forward to reading your trip posts in the Fall.

  • Denise LeGendre

    9) I wonder if a deep connection with the land in any give place is something we can choose? There are definitely places where I always felt out of place, no matter how long I lived there.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      I don’t know that we can _choose_ that connection, but there are things we can do to help form and strengthen connections with a place. It came naturally where I grew up, and it comes easily in places that look and feel like eastern Tennessee. North Texas is different, but it’s not _that_ different.

      • Michi

        it is _that_ different, from an ecological point of view. I know things as small as the moss covering the rocks and trees in Anglesea make a huge impact. I feel so much more comfortable in places where the humidity is high enough to promote the growth of moss . Is it the moisture in the air or the acidity of the soil that gives me that feeling of comfort? I don’t think so. Is it the moss? Maybe. It’s familiar. I grew up in an area covered with moss. Maybe not the same species, but close enough. Maybe not.
        The rocks are definitely different from where I grew up, and I still felt as if I belonged in Wales.
        It is a magical place and we are magical people of the same “flavor”
        North Texas is a magical place, but the “flavor” of the land is very, very, different. My mother would have attributed this to “racial memories” instead of flavors of magic of the land. She would have drawn the connection back along my ancestors, to the Celts, back to a real connection with the land. Except that I don’t think any of my ancestors were Welsh.
        I do not know who is right. Ultimately we feel what we feel, regardless of why, and if we go with the flow of those connections, we will be rewarded with a deeper understanding of the land, and of ourselves in relation to it.

  • yewtree

    Re 9) I have a thing for landscapes with an underlying geology of chalk.

    Re 2) Yeah, Canadian sandwiches are a revelation :)

    Re 7) That sounds great, hope it is real.

  • yewtree

    Re 4) Liffey water

    Re 2) Mmmm, fish and chips :)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      Thanks for the comments, Yvonne. Can you give some context for “Liffey water”?

      • http://tommyelf22.wordpress.com/ Tommy Elf

        Yvonne might actually be referencing your comments on Guinness. There’s a Guinness brewery that overlooks the River Liffey…and the River Liffey, well…its NASTY….and the waters are kind of muddy, and murky. So, its usually a little run of banter in the pubs concerning the source of water used to brew Guinness Stout….the water actually comes from somewhere up in the Wicklow Mountains…but there’s always that wink and a nod towards the River Liffey….

  • pagansister

    Having been fortunate to have visited some of the places you mentioned (plus Stonehenge at 6:00 AM on a rainy morning—inside the Stones with my 2 sisters) I enjoyed reading about your trip. I did see the Book of Kells (amazing) and walked in Glastonbury’s ruins, ( you mentioned you wanted to go there). If you can, take a trip to Scotland also. It is beautiful. Actually, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are worth a trip anytime and I hope someday to be able to return. And I agree—public transportation is so much better than attempting to drive!

  • Rebecca

    I doubt we can choose our connections, I feel a relentless, strong connection to England after living there only five years, in my childhood, and yet I have zero connection to the Central PA land on which I have now lived for nearly two decades. I do not belong to this place in the way in which I belong that wild, North Yorkshire landscape. People ask me where I am from and “England” pops out before I think about it, yet my life is here in PA. There is a pull that I feel almost constantly these days, to return and I hope to return someday!


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