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.
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.
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.
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.