THE STACKS Travel Diary

Obstinate Rememberers

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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some barmbrack for the birthday of an enigmatic Irish novelist.
** Linger to ponder 80 years of a country’s troubles.
** Savor a last ½ cup on a tour through beautiful Ireland, circa 1989.
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First Sip:

County Kerry, Ireland
June 1989
photo by me

Besides the pink cherry tree,
there was not much in the garden…
But every blade of grass, pricking up, shone;
the wind puffing the poplars in other gardens
shook white light from the April sappy leaves.
Many sensations of pleasure made up the moment
and hummed in the silence
between Max and Karen like bees in a tree.
The yellow-brown brick house with its dark windows
glared at them down the lawn.
Not speaking, and their pleasure in not speaking,
made an island under the boughs of the cherry.

But silences have a climax, when
you have got to speak…

“This time to-morrow, you’ll both be—where?”
“Still in the Nord train. We do not reach Paris till six.”
At his words, the English Channel
rose to cut them off like a blade of steel…
She even smelt the salt air that would blow on deck.

She said with a touch of pretty-woman extravagance:
“I feel you are both going away for ever.”
“Please miss us,” said Max with the same ease.

– from The House in Paris
Elizabeth Bowen

County Kerry, Ireland
June 1989
photo by Prof B


Slice of Cake:

Elizabeth Bowen is an enigma in many ways…

** Bowen is an enigma because no one seems to have heard of her.

Have you? Until about two years ago, I certainly hadn’t.

It means her books can be hard to find.
Salt Lake City Library has 8 neighborhood branches. Not a single Bowen novel.
Salt Lake County Library has 18 branches. (Yeah, it’s odd. I have two library cards.)
Yet they carry only one Elizabeth Bowen title.
(Death of the Heart. Her most popular novel.)

I picked up one of Elizabeth Bowen’s novels randomly off the shelf at my local bookshop.1
The cover is pretty. Then I read the blurb on the back that called Bowen:
‘the link that connects Virginia Woolf with Iris Murdoch and Muriel Spark.’

…. Okaaaaaay.

That quote is from her biographer, Victoria Glendinning.2
I began to see Glendinning’s point when I read passages like this one:

It was about two years since
Lady Latterly had bought this

unusually banal Irish castle,
long empty owing to disrepair.


which had proceeded her into the country,
had not yet by any means

died down, and were unlikely to.

Her trials, since she took up residence here

the delays, non-deliveries, breakages, leakages

had lost nothing in telling except

sympathy for her:

One is as rich as that at one’s own risk.
She was
nouveau riche; but,

as Antonia said, Better late than never.

– from A World of Love
Elizabeth Bowen

** Bowen is an enigma because she sets us up.

At the very beginning of the A World of Love, Jane finds a packet of letters—
in fact, we know about Jane reading one of these letters before we even know Jane’s name.

We think we will get to read the letter, too.
We don’t.
We think Jane will certainly read through all of the letters.
She stops at one.

Not since Virginia Woolf have I read someone who has required me to
let go of expectations, and let her lead where she will.

At least, Bowen brings her Irish humor.

After a tense scene with nearly all the characters at odds with each other,
we get this beginning of chapter 7:

In the small hours of that night,
Lilia reached a decision.
She came downstairs next morning

pale, as always,
but steadied

“I’m going in this morning to
have my hair cut.
And we need salad servers.”

– from A World of Love
Elizabeth Bowen

** Bowen is an enigma because she can seem to be writing in circles,
yet come to such a sharp point.

There is a party scene in her 1955 novel A World of Love that is haunted by a ghost. I came to the end of 10 pages of this party scene, and thought, Wait. –What? And I had to go back and re-read it.

The ghost (his name is Guy) slips in and out of those paragraphs the same way he weaves among the well-dressed, cocktail-sipping, banal-conversing guests, so that I had to look and then look again to trace his course.

About seven pages into this party, Jane says she had ‘evoked him by name.’
She did? I had to go back, and, yes, here it is:

She drew a profound breath. “My cousin Guy—”
But Peregrine stood over her with the shaker;
Jane held up her glass to be once more filled—
at which Mamie could not but pop her eyes.
“Those are powerful, you know—
or perhaps you don’t know.”

Guy was among them.

– from A World of Love
Elizabeth Bowen

Okay! Feeling brave? Good.
Let’s leap in

for the novels of Elizabeth Bowen

** The House in Paris (1935)

Novelist A S Byatt thinks this is Bowen’s best novel.3
I think it’s definitely the best Bowen novel to read first.

Two children, for different reasons, spend the day together in the house of a woman and her ill mother.
As the story goes on, all sorts of secrets come out about their parent’s past.

Elizabeth Bowen writes children very well.
And it’s brilliant how she let’s us see the adult’s faults and failures through the eyes of these two children.

He had seen, from the way she had lain
stretched on the sofa before waking,
that even in sleep Henrietta was being exposed to
unfamiliar sensations.
She had lain, hair hanging down,
like someone in a new element, a conjurer’s
little girl levitated, rigid on air,
her very sleep wary. But now she woke,
her manner at once took on a touch of
clear-sighted, over-riding good sense,
like Alice’s throughout Wonderland.
She might marvel, but nothing, thought Leopold,
would ever really happen to her.
He said: “Miss Fisher says you’re here for the day.”
“I’m just crossing Paris,”

Henrietta said, with cosmopolitan ease.
“Is that your monkey?”
“Yes. I’ve had him ever since I was born.”
“Oh,” said Leopold, looking at Charles vaguely.
“How old are you?” Henrietta enquired.
“Oh, I’m eleven.”

– from A House in Paris
Elizabeth Bowen

** The Death of the Heart (1938)

This is Bowen’s most popular novel. And it’s been called her greatest.

In the first chapter, Anna finds the diary of her young sister-in-law Portia—and then reads it!

Sixteen-year-old Portia is living with Anna because Portia’s mother recently died, and she’s now an orphan. An orphan who’s diary is being read.

Portia cheers up when she meets Eddie, but he turns out to be a user.

Eddie’s relations
with the firm of Quayne and Merrett
were…uncertain enough.
He had annoyed many people
by flitting about the office as though he were
some denizen of a brighter clime…
The apparent susceptibility of Merrett
to one’s personal charm
had beguiled Eddie into excesses of savage skittishness:
he had bounced his weight about…
at once more coy and insolent in his manners
than…was acceptable here.

– from The Death of the Heart
Elizabeth Bowen

I found Anna puzzling, and Eddie tiresome.
I really wanted more of Portia with her mother.

Here is one of my favorite passages in any Bowen novel.
It’s Portia remembering living abroad with her mother.

What she did see
was the pension on the crag in Switzerland,
that had been wrapped in rain the whole afternoon.

Swiss summer rain is dark, and makes a tent for the mind.
At the foot of the precipice, beyond the paling,
the lake made black wounds in the white mist.

Precarious high-upness had been

an element in their life up there,
which had been the end of their life together.
That night they came back from Lucerne on the late steamer,
they had looked up, seen the village lights
at star-level through the rain,
and felt that that was their dear home.
They went up, arm-in-arm
in the dark, up the steep zigzag,

pressing each other’s elbows,
hearing the night rain sough down through the pines:
they were not frightened at all.

Their room, though it was a back room
facing into the pinewoods,
had a balcony; they would… lie down
covered with coats,
leaving the window open, smelling the
wet woodwork, hearing the gutters run.
Turn abouts, they would read aloud to each other
the Tauchnitz novels they had bought in Lucerne…

Between five and six the rain quite often stopped,
wet light crept down the trunks of the pines.
Then they rolled off their beds, put their shoes on,
and walked down the village street to the viewpoint
over the lake…

– from The Death of the Heart
Elizabeth Bowen

A World of Love (1955)

This one is not as well known,
but I like it better than the more highly-acclaimed The Death of the Heart.

It’s about the not-quite friendship of two women, Antonia and Lilia,
in a house that includes Lilia’s husband Fred, and their two daughters, and
a lot of unfinished business with a ghost named Guy.

He had stirred up too much;
he had scattered round him more promises … than one man
could have hoped to live to honour.
Yet…had he lived…
would this extraordinary power of his illusion
have stayed so strongly?
As it was, here it hung in the air over scene and people,
going on affecting them, working on them…
He had not finished with them…
It was not memories

but expectations which haunted Montfort.
His immortality was in their longings

– from A World of Love
Elizabeth Bowen

Eva Trout (1968)

In the first (and best) half of this novel, a rich orphan
in her ‘stealthily purring’ Jaguar carcareens between different caregivers.

Reviewer Stace D’Erasmo5 called this novel the ‘later, impossibly snarled Bowen’
and even included this warning: ‘attempt it at your own risk.’

I was at first put off by this assessment, but then took it as a challenge!

We must face this:
Eva’s capacity for making trouble,
attracting trouble, strewing trouble around her,
is quite endless. She, er, begets trouble—
a dreadful gift. And the more so
for being inborn. You may not realise
for how long and how painfully closely
I’ve known that family. The Trouts have,
one might say, a genius for unreality…
Eva is tacitly hysterical.

Has Eva been truthful with you?’

‘Not lately.’

– from Eva Trout
Elizabeth Bowen

I enjoyed young Eva.
Here she is at a new school:

Eva was therefore assimilated…by the
good-mannered if not enthusiastic
companions, whom she was slow to distinguish
one from another.
Floppy clean hair smelling of the school shampoo,
oblong wrist watches, Connemara pullovers
and a habit of humming seemed to be universal…
The five co-existors with Eva in the white dormitory
did what they could to put her into the picture.
Guidance was offered, in sentences beginning,
‘I shouldn’t—’ or ‘I don’t think if I were you—’
…Not by them…was it brought home to Eva…
that she was unable to speak—talk, be understood, converse.

– from Eva Trout
Elizabeth Bowen

I also sympathized with Eva’s early attempts at independent living.

‘You must take care,’
he put to her, extra softly…
‘People are harsh, Eva.
…You know you will be conspicuous, with this money.
The world will be only waiting for you
to blunder, to crash,
to be cast on its tender mercy.
Watch yourself, I implore you…
At every minute, you’re giving yourself away.’

– from Eva Trout
Elizabeth Bowen

I wonder how many folks in the autism community have discovered Eva Trout?

And the LGBTQ community, too.

Here’s what Constantine, a ‘friend’ of her late father, says about Eva:

She belonged in
some other category. ‘Girl’ never fitted Eva.
Her so-called sex bore and mortified her;
she dragged it about after her
like a ball-and-chain.

– from Eva Trout
Elizabeth Bowen

There’s a brilliant chapter (chapter 11), wholly comprised of a letter to Eva
from her besmitten seat-mate on a trans-Atlantic flight.

It’s brilliant because it gives us an outsider’s view of Eva.
And it lets us imagine not only Eva’s reactions to this person,
but how her reactions might have changed over the course of their long flight.
At the end of the chapter we find out where the letter goes, and that’s brilliant, too.

In general, though, I don’t like the 2nd half of this novel.
The later chapters feel like a different book, more like a sequel to the first half.
Yes, it lets us see Eva as a more mature adult and as a mother, and it even sheds light back
on events of her young adulthood. But very little of it feels compelling or unique.

Here are some exceptions:

I like all the scenes with Henrythe Cambridge-scholar, ‘miserable-aged,’ over-strained, self-obsessed, ‘split-up-character’ Henry.

Plus the second half does give us one very compelling new character: Eva’s son, Jeremy. I’d like a whole lot more of Jeremy. Yet it seems such a waste that we never get to hear anything from his perspective.

Here’s what I’d have said, had I been Elizabeth Bowen’s editor:
(precocious of me—since I couldn’t read yet in 1968!)

She should end this book somewhere in the middle of chapter 10—
in the Dickens Museum with Eva and her former teacher, Iseult.
As soon as we’re assured that Eva’s got her Jaguar back, end there. That way
we could just imagine the reactions Iseult would have to Eva’s decrepit ‘new’ house.

She could then write a second novel with Jeremy as the main character.
Let us see Eva and Iseult, America and France—everything through Jeremy’s eyes.
I would love to read that Bowen novel!

As it is, I like almost everything about the last scene of Eva Trout.
(Other than the very last paragraph, which is prosaic.)

The final gathering at the train platform is terrific!
After we’ve gone through a fake engagement, a fake pregnancy, and a fake divorce with Eva—
getting to see her off on her fake honeymoon feels very satisfying.

Well, there’s my assessment of Eva Trout.
Hope it emboldens you to ‘attempt it at your own risk’ !

The Last September (1929)

I have not gotten to read this one yet.
(I’m waiting on an order from my bookshop.) 1

I just watched the 1999 movie. (Quite good, with Fiona Shaw, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon.)
There’s a bit of graphic violence that I wasn’t quite ready for.

The novel is set in an estate house in County Cork in 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. An elderly couple carries on with tennis-party normality. Their young niece publicly dances with the British soldiers and privately sneaks food and cigarettes to a fugitive fighter.

Bowen wrote this novel when she was in her 20s.
Of all her novels, she called it the ‘nearest to my heart.’ 4

And because no one answered or cared
and a conversation went on without her
she felt profoundly lonely,
suspecting once more for herself a particular
doom of exclusion.
Something of the trees in their intimacy of shadow
was shared by the husband and wife and their host
in the tree-shadowed room.
She thought of love
with its gift of importance.
‘I must break in on all this,’ she thought
as she looked around the room.

– from The Last September
Elizabeth Bowen

Here’s what a blogger named dove grey reader6 wrote about Elizabeth Bowen:

‘I needed to set aside long-enough reading slots to enable me
to really pick up the threads and totally immerse,
there is so much here to miss.’

I wholeheartedly encourage you not to miss the exquisite writings of Elizabeth Bowen.

Happy 121st Birthday
** Elizabeth Bowen **

– born 7 June 1899
in Dublin, Ireland


Linger Awhile:

I’ve been thinking this week about the very human experience of grief.

Bantry. County Cork
June 1989
photo by me

It’s quite clear that Elizabeth Bowen knows grief.
Very few of her characters die, yet her novels all seem so much about loss.

There is a passage in A World of Love that I found particularly moving.
(You can scroll down—I quote it at the end of the timeline below.)
It’s prose, but it reads like poetry, and so
I gave it a poem’s title: It Was Unlike Him To Be Dead.

So far, I’ve read four of Elizabeth Bowen’s novels and seen a film version of a fifth.
She wrote them in the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1950s, and the 1960s.

It became impossible for me not to wonder about how these
five novels by this Irish author
slotted into the timeline of the enormous concurrent events happening in Ireland.

And so…
I learned a lot of Irish history this week.

An Amateur’s Recap of Irish History
interspersed with a timeline

of novels by Elizabeth Bowen

Side note:
For this timeline, I’ve listed
both when the novels were published
and when the stories were set.

World War I

Almost 210,000 Irish soldiers, mostly volunteers, served in the British forces during World War I.

There was no draft, but there was an economic motive.
Times were hard, and an unskilled worker might more than double his pay by joining up.
James Connolly, the socialist revolutionary, called it ‘economic conscription.’ 7


April 1916

The Easter Rising was an insurrection against the British to create an Irish independent republic.

The uprising was crushed in one week.
Nearly 600 people were killed. More than half of them civilians.15

Yet popular support for independence gained ground…


November 1918

The Armistice ending World War I was signed on November 11, 1918

Nearly 35,000 Irish died in World War 1.


December 1918

In an election of December 1918,
the party of Irish independence (Sinn Féin) won a landslide victory.

The Irish War of Independence

Also called the Anglo-Irish War, this was an ‘irregular’ war between the Army of the Irish Republic (IRA) and the British Army.

January 1919

On January 21, 1919, the newly-formed Irish parliament,
the Dáil Éireann, declared Irish Independence.


September 1919

In September 1919, the British government outlawed both the Dáil and the IRA.


Elizabeth Bowen’s novel
The Last September takes place
in County Cork in 1920.


January 1920

Beginning in January 1920, the British sent 10,000 officers into Ireland.

The Irish nicknamed these new, under-trained troops the
Black and Tans because of their improvised uniforms:
A mix of British Army khaki and the black-looking (actually dark green) uniform of a traditional local police force, the RIC (or Royal Irish Constabulary), which the British had administrated in Ireland since 1822. 8

The Black and Tans quickly gained a reputation for police brutality. 8


December 1921

On December 6, 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed.
This created the Irish Free State and ended British rule in most of Ireland.
(Northern Ireland was—and is—still British.)

Elizabeth Bowen’s novel
The House in Paris takes place
over one February day ‘after the war,’
Probably 1921 or 1922.

The Irish Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923)

After gaining independence, the Irish faced a long fight over
what independence means.

The Provisional Irish Government had crafted the Anglo-Irish Treaty with the British government. It included measures for the British military to withdraw and the RIC police to be disbanded.

But the ranks of the IRA were split. 9
Most had opposed signing the treaty since it gave Ireland only partial independence, requiring the new Irish Parliament to take a loyalty oath to King George V.

The conflict lasted a little over a year.
and resulted in 2,000 deaths in Ireland.
No formal end to the war was ever negotiated. 9


August 1923

In an election in August 1923 the pro-Treaty party won and
the Anglo-Irish Treaty stood. 9

Elizabeth Bowen’s novel
The Last September was published in 1929.

Elizabeth Bowen’s novel
The House in Paris was published in 1935.

Elizabeth Bowen’s novel
The Death of the Heart was published in 1938.

World War II (1939-1945)

The Heat of the Day,
Elizabeth Bowen’s spy novel,
takes place in London during WWII.

Ireland remained neutral during World War II.
From what I’ve read, here are the two main reasons:

There was a worry that allying themselves with Britain may re-spark Ireland’s Civil War.

Ireland was too poor to be of much material help and joining the war would surely worsen the already devastating poverty. 10

This independent decision of neutrality was very popular with the Irish citizenry, but—not surprisingly—
not so popular with Britain and the United States. 10

However, to this day, many Irish citizens take pride in the fact that their country wasn’t so very neutral.
Starting in 1940, Ireland quietly provided the British with flying boat bases on Lake Erne, as well as air space to fly from there along the Donegal Corridor to the open Atlantic Ocean. This gave the Allies its most westerly point to dock and refuel patrol planes on the hunt for German u-boats and battleships.14

Elizabeth Bowen’s novel
The Heat of the Day, was published in 1948.

Elizabeth Bowen’s novel
A World of Love takes place in the early 1950s.

A World of Love was published in 1955.

The Troubles (1966 – 1998)

Another ‘irregular’ war, known as the Northern Ireland Conflict,
this time fought for more than 30 years.
The issues were sovereignty, demilitarisation, discrimination, and justice reform.

The Irish call it The Troubles.


March and April 1966

Parades throughout Ireland marked the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

On March 8, a statue of a British Naval hero was dynamited.
Military-style groups began forming on both sides, along lines similar to those who had fought the Civil War conflict decades earlier. 11

All of us who grew up in the south of Ireland
in the 1970s or 1980s
were aware of the shadow of the ‘Troubles’
as we called the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Even though it rarely touched our daily lives,
it subtly affected almost every part of our society.

– John Dorney 9


August 1968

On August 24, 1968, in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland,
thousands of protesters marched from the small coal mining town of Coalisland (an IRA stronghold) to the larger city of Dungannon (an Ulster center for centuries). 11

They were protesting for fairer voting practices, against job & housing discrimination, and against police brutality.

The march ended with the song ‘We Shall Overcome.’ 11

Elizabeth Bowen’s novel
Eva Trout takes place in the mid-1960s.

Eva Trout was published in 1968.


April 1998

The Troubles died down after the multilateral Good Friday Agreement was signed on April 10, 1998. 12


May 1998

In May 1998, Irish voters approved the articles of the Good Friday Agreement. 12

By then, the Troubles in Ireland had lasted more than 30 years
and cost almost 3,500 lives.16

It Was Unlike Him To Be Dead

Life works to dispossess the dead,
to dislodge and oust them.
Their places fill themselves up; later people come in;
all the room is wanted.
Feeling alters its course, is drawn elsewhere
or seeks renewal from other sources.

When of love there is
not enough to go round,
inevitably it is the dead who must go without:

We tell ourselves that they do not depend on us,
or that they have not our requirements.

continuous dying while we live,
their repeated deaths as each of us die who knew them,
are not in nature to be withstood.

Obstinate rememberers of the dead seem to queer themselves
or show some signs of malady;
in part they come to share the dead’s isolation,
which it is not in their power to break down—

For the rest of us,
so necessary is it to let the dead go
that we expect they may be glad to be gone.

Greatest of our denials to them is a part to play;
…not only are they not here to participate,
but there would be disorder if they were here.
Their being left behind in their own time
estrangement between them and us,
who must live in ours.

But the recognition of death may remain uncertain.

And while that is so nothing is signed and sealed.
Our sense of finality is less hard-and-fast:

Something has challenged the law of nature:
it is hard, for instance, to see a
young death in battle as in any way the fruition of a destiny,
hard not to sense the continuation of the apparently cut-off life,

hard not to ask, but was dissolution possible so abruptly,
unmeaningly and soon?

And if not dissolution, instead, what?

…Though a generation was mown down
his death seemed to her an invented story…

It was unlike him to be dead.
…He and life had had much the same tricky temperament;
they kept one another in play; they were on terms.
He was a participator: how could he be expected to cease to act
or agree to hold off?

…These years she went on living
belonged to him,
his lease upon them not having run out yet.
The living were living his lifetime;
and of this his contemporaries…
never were unaware. They were incomplete.

So it had gone on.

Meantime, another war had peopled the world with
another generation of the non-dead,
overlapping and crowding the living’s senses still more with
that sense of unlived lives…

Others younger
were creatures of an impossible time,
breathing in wronged air—air either
too empty or too full, one could not say which.

– from A World of Love
a novel by
Elizabeth Bowen

I can’t quite leave the history of Ireland without adding in a bit of music. 13 Irish grief and Irish music have long been intimate companions, after all. Remember, it’s the Irish who invented the wake—for mourning and merrymaking.


“Half Cup More”

Glengariff Woods
June 1989
photo by Prof B

When anyone asks me if I’m Irish, I like to answer:
My grandfather’s name was Francis Finnegan. And he played the fiddle.

I got to spend a week in Ireland in June 1989. I loved it.

In my adult life, there’ve been three places that felt like home
from the moment I arrived:

San Francisco, because after growing up watching orchards torn out and houses going up in my small hometown, the city felt safe from that grief. It was already built up—had been for 150 years! I trusted that it’s green spaces would stay green.

Yosemite, because of the trees. Acres and acres and hundreds of acres of ancient trees, with plenty of rivers flowing into lakes and meadows damp with ponds. My drought-filled childhood took a deep breath and relaxed.

Ireland, because…. I don’t know.
Mitochondrial longing finally fulfilled?

All I know is that seeing those green hills, after 5 generations away,
made some spirit of my Irish ancestors well up in me, and…
‘dance like a wave of the sea.’

It was the spring of 1989,
I spent 9 weeks traveling with my still-new-ish husband.
In all, we saw 8 countries.

But Ireland was unique.

Ireland was the ONLY country where we did NOT:
Stay in campgrounds. Instead we indulged in the luxury of B&Bs.
Take the train. We took buses, rode bikes, and hitchhiked!
See a cloud in the sky. Everyone enthused about such warm, sunny weather!

Here are some notes from my Travel Diary
** Ireland, June 1989

Bantry Bay

** What a wonderful place. We splurged on two nights at a B&B here.

It’s sort of funny how we ended up in Bantry. The person at the Dublin tourist office told us to take a bus at 2pm from Dublin to Cork, spend a night in Cork, and in the morning we could catch a bus to Kenmare. We arrived early at the bus station, but found out that the bus had left at one p.m., not two. We barely caught it. Rode of about five hours through very pretty scenery.

Me writing my mom a postcard
Bantry Bay, County Cork

We arrived at Cork at 6:20pm. B went to call about room in a hostel for the night while I stood in the information line to see about the morning bus to Kenmare. Found out that the only bus to Kenmare was an afternoon, not a morning bus. And it had already left. So we sat down with our tourist book (‘Let’s Go Ireland & England’) to pick a new destination. Found another town in that direction, Glengariff, that had a bus at 6:30pm. Not too sad at having to give up staying overnight in Cork, we took off for Glengariff.

But I was very tired of buses and round about 8 or 9pm we stopped in Bantry, a pretty town by a bay. We debated, then just hopped off the bus.

Ireland is so great: The driver told us that using the rest of the ticket tomorrow would be ‘no problem.’

** Spent the day cycling on back roads looking at cows and horses and lots of sheep. I had one mechanical failure when one of the bungee cords fell down & got caught in the wheel. Getting the cord out was fairly quick, but it had damaged the metal casing of the chain and we had to bang that back out. Afterwards it was noisy but rideable.

We only lost about an hour and were helped by a lot of very nice people.

** Last night, walking along the bay, we met a couple from England. (The woman had grown up in County Limerick, but had spent her adult life in England.) We stood and spoke with them for a very long time. This Englishman was funny. Anything English was naturally the best way and new ways or ‘European’ ways were both wrong and annoying. Defending the system of money that had 12 something or others make up a one-pound note is better than a 10-based system—because then ‘if you’re out to the pub with 3 or 4 friends it was easy to work out your tab.

Side note:
Twelve pence made a shilling,
twenty shillings made a pound.

Since then, of course, Ireland switched to Euros.

** Last night, as we wandered around looking for a place to have dinner, we met a couple from the Netherlands.  We walked down to the pier and sat talking for quite a while.  She was a nurse and we spoke about women and professions, child-care problems and pay problems.  Their names were Paula and Niels and I wished we could have talked with them longer.


Prof B in Glengariff Woods

** Glengariff feels a little bit touristy after Bantry.

We again rented bicycles and (eventually) found
a lovely road
through Glengariff Woods Nature Preserve.

We biked along a river and climbed up to a wonderful overlook.

Count Kerry

** More warm sunny days. This morning we got up early and, with our full packs, stood out on the road hitchhiking. I was worried it was so quiet. Maybe one car every three or four minutes. But the third car picked us up and gave us a ride to Kenmare. Then we tried hitchhiking on the Ring of Kerry Road. No luck and much competition. We talked to a farmer who came walking up (I think we were in front of his property) and he told us that the road was basically flat for at least 40km. He also told us that there was a bicycle shop in Kenmare that rented bikes. Thus inspired, we abandoned hitchhiking and went to get the bikes.

It took the rest of the morning, but we found:
a place to check our big packs,
a place to dry some laundry that was still damp, and
the bicycle shop: ‘Finnegans’ !!

So with just small overnight packs and our ‘hired’ bicycles, we took off along the Ring of Kerry Road.

Taking a break from cycling
Ring of Kerry Road

We made about 11 miles. It was such a pretty ride and not too hilly. Views of the bay, sometimes just below us.

We stopped for the night at a very nice B&B past Blackwater Bridge and before Sneem. The owner is named Helen and it was very interesting talking with her.

fishing boat on Kenmare Bay
photo by Prof B

After stuffing ourselves with a great meal that Helen cooked for us, we took a walk down to Kenmare Bay.

There was a very pale moon that rose over the ridge.

The water was so glass-smooth that B’s skipping rocks created circles and lines that we could still see 15 minutes later. Peaceful.

A fishing boat came into sight and docked near us. The family that came to meet them chatted with us for a while. We told them we’d been bicycling and they were very impressed. They didn’t now they were talking to the wimp twins.

** Talked to the owners a bit when we returned the bikes to Finnegan’s bike shop in Kenmare. They said their family’s been in Kenmare for over a hundred years and to give them a call if my research came up with any relatives in Kenmare.


** We set out to hitchhike to Killarney. Fortunately it only took about 20 minutes (in a very warm sun) to get a ride.

me hitchhiking
(the sign misspells Killarney)
photo by Prof B

The guys that picked us up (Marty, pilot; Jim, navigator) were renegade American tour-bus riders who rented a car and felt themselves quite the daring rogues.

They went to all the same spots the tour bus did.

On the way to Killarney they stopped twice, once for a great view of Moll’s Gap—a valley with a winding river. Next stop was at a palace, just outside Killarney. B and I opted to relax on the shady lawns while they went in. When they came back out they said we were smart.

** It was quite a hike to the hostel in Killarney from downtown where we had them drop us, but the hostel nearer the train station was full. That hostel was the first and only night on the whole trip that we couldn’t sleep together. But we were in the same room—in bunk beds.

It was at the hostel that we found out about Slattery’s—a bus that went from Killarney straight to London (with the help of a ferry, of course) so we abandoned our plan for an early morning hike to catch the BAM train to the Dublin airport.

** Next day we bought the bus tickets and mailed in the Dublin-to-London plane tickets we’d bought. This saved us a bit of time and money.

** We took the Slattery’s bus line straight from Killarney to London.
(Bus from Killarney to Rosslare; ferry across to Fishguard, Wales; bus into London’s Victoria Station.)
It cost £34 (Irish pounds) each (about $45).
We left Killarney at 2pm Monday and arrived in London at 7am Tuesday—half an hour earlier than the set arrival time.

The hardest part was the delays involved in getting from the ferry to the bus at a very sleepy hour.

In that very early morning sky, just as our ferry arrived in Wales, I saw a very round, very gold, full moon trailing its reflection in the water and I thought about the moonrise we’d seen over Kenmare Bay.

All around, Ireland couldn’t have been nicer. The weather was gorgeous, renting bicycles was fun, staying in the B&Bs was a real treat. And so many people were so nice.


Take-Away Box

When I play on my fiddle in Dooney
Folk dance like a wave of the sea;
My brother is priest in Calvarnet,
My cousin in Moharabuiee.

When I pass by my brother and cousin:
They read in their books of prayer;
I read in my book of songs
I bought at the Sligo fair.

When we come at the end of time,
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;

For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance:

And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’
And dance like a wave of the sea.

The Fiddler of Dooney
William Butler Yeats


Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

You Can Read More…

notes & footnotes

King’s English Bookshop
1511 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84105

Elizabeth Bowen: Portrait of a Writer (1977)
by Victoria Glendinning

Her publisher calls A.S. Byatt
‘the patron saint of bookworms’

I found the quote from E Bowen in this article:
In praise of Elizabeth Bowen
John Banville
The Irish Times
Mar 7, 2015

Banville also writes:
“Had Elizabeth Bowen been a man, she would be recognised
as one of the finest novelists of the 20th century

Elizabeth Bowen: A Fan’s Notes
by Stacey D’Erasmo
New York Times
Feb. 20, 2005

Quote from a blogger named dovegreyreader
writing about A House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen.
February 13, 2012

Ireland and World War One
by Professor Keith Jeffery
Last updated 2011-03-10

The Black and Tans and Auxiliaries – An Overview

by Sean Gannon
The Irish
13 January, 2020

The Irish Civil War – A brief overview
John Dorney
The Irish
July 2, 2012

Review by Eoin Dillon
Copyright © 2020 History Publications Ltd,

The lost story of Northern Ireland’s first civil rights march
Freya McClements
Fri, Aug 24, 2018

Review by John Dorney
The Irish
8 October, 2018

I once got to hear Líadan live.

They opened for a Chieftains concert that B & I saw in Tucson on the University of Arizona campus.

In the video, Líadan sings An Spailpín Fánach.
The song is from 1797, written by ‘an itinerant potato digger from Kerry.’
We don’t know the songwriter’s name.

(An Spailpín Fánach is also—not surprisingly—the name of a pub in County Cork.)

The lyrics begin with:
‘I’m a lively and versatile Wandering Man.’

As you can imagine, he ‘wanders’ in various ways…
‘For I am a lively spirited young fellow and I’d woo the gentle beauty.’

But here’s the poignant 3rd verse
about enlisting as a sailor and sending wages home:
(below in English and in Gaelic)

Five hundred farewells to you, my father’s native land, and
To the beloved island,
and the crowd of young men behind me
who helped me in time of need.
Dublin is burnt away and Galway will be taken—
bonfires will have flames—
But my father’s table will have wine and ale,
that’s the help of a Wandering Man.

Is mo chúig céad slán leat, a dhúthai m’athar, is leis an oileán grámhar,
Is leis an scata fear óg atá ‘mo dhiaidh ag baile
a dhéanfadh cabhair orm in am an ghátair,
Tá Bleá Cliath dóite is tógfar Gaillimh,
beidh lasair a’ainn ar thinte cnámha,
Beidh fíon agus beoir ar bord ag m’athair,
sin cabhair ag an Spailpín Fánach.

You can learn more about this song here:,was%20more%20used%20in%20Ireland.

Plaques mark secret wartime air corridor in Donegal
Anita Guidera
Irish News
April 19, 2007

Joe Duffy’s list of Children Killed in 1916 Rising
RTÉ Irish radio host Joe Duffy

Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN)
a pdf provided by Ulster University


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© Kelly J Hardesty 2024

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