YOUGHAL, IRELAND – We left the warm and friendly west coast of Central America on Friday. Now, we are on the south coast of Ireland. Still friendly, but less warm.
We are here to check on Home Sweet Home… our new home in Ireland, that is.
It’s being renovated. And here it is: here it is:
Bill’s new home in Ireland still needs some work…
Uh oh. We’re supposed to move in in April. It doesn’t look like it will be ready. But we’re meeting the builder later today; we’ll see what he has to say.
Since we have been traveling, we should probably take a moment to look up at the stars and get our bearings.
And before that… it is only fair to stop and warn you, dear reader. Normally, we don’t ask much of you, just a few minutes of your attention. But the next day or so may be more demanding than usual – of reader as well as of writer.
So, if you want to get off the bus here, there will be no hard feelings. First, because the going might be rough. And second, because you might not like it very much when we get there. And third, because once you get there, you may not be able to ever come back. This is a one-way ride.
“Oh, people are funny,” said our driver, bringing us from the airport to the hotel. It was a long way, giving him plenty of opportunity to express himself.
“See that highway…” He pointed to a turnoff. “It’s the road to Limerick. The engineers had all done their work. The planning was done. Contracts were let out. The bulldozers and trucks were all lined up. And then a local farmer asked: What about the fairy tree?
“Now, you ask anyone and they’ll tell you they don’t believe that nonsense… about fairies and the spirit world. But down deep we all believe.
“So, they had millions and millions of euros already set aside to build the road. But nobody would cut down the fairy tree. I can just imagine the conversation.
“‘Sean… you cut it down.’ ‘No… Paddy, you cut it down.’ ‘Nooo… Ronan, you’re a good man with a chainsaw… go ahead and cut the damned tree down.’ ‘Look, if you want it cut down… you cut it down yourself.’
“Nobody wanted to cut it down. Because there would be a curse on whoever did. In the end, they had to reroute the road.
“And probably, on some level, they don’t really believe in the spirit world. But nobody wanted to put it to the test.”
“That’s the way it is with a lot of things,” our driver continued. “What we say we believe is not always what we really believe.
“You ask people in Ireland if this Brexit thing makes any difference. They’ll say they don’t care. But you just wait until they put that border back.
“Deep down, we Irish consider Ulster [the northernmost province, now part of England’s United Kingdom] a part of Ireland. And now that we can come and go [there are no border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland] there’s a truce. An armistice, if you will.
“But I wouldn’t want to be the first English customs officer who stops the Irish from going to the north. ‘Cause he’s going to die.”
These were strong words. But people have strong emotions. And often, it is hard to square them with what we consider right and reasonable.
A “hard” border – with razor wire, and armed guards – would be inconvenient for travel and commerce.
Apart from that, would it make any real difference? Would the quality of food or housing decline? Would lovers’ kisses be less sweet? Or, their breakups less bitter? Would roads be more bumpy or shaves less smooth?
We Americans can look upon this Brexit battle with equanimity and humor. Like the crucial soccer match between England and Ireland, on Saturday night, we don’t know what is going on… and hardly care.
But it might have been the crucifixion of Christ to the Irish in the hotel bar. They cheered each Irish goal as if they had scored it themselves… and then, when the end came, and England had pulled ahead, it was as if all their favorite dogs had been run over… and the bar had run out of Jameson.
Young Men in Trenches
On Sunday night, on TV, was a documentary on WWI, “They Shall Not Grow Old.” The filmmaker had taken old footage from the war, slowed it down and colorized it, so that it looked modern and realistic. The resulting show was heartbreaking.
So many young men, blown to bits… mutilated… or sometimes just drowned in the mud. A million of them – on the British side alone (including 37,000 Irishmen) – died between 1914 and 1919. And for what?
None of them could say. The young men in the trenches didn’t know. And as old men, interviewed decades later, they still didn’t know.
But it was “us” vs. “them.” No other explanation was necessary.
And here, dear reader, we come to the hard part.
Whence cometh these strong feelings… these desperate longings… these fatal attractions?
From careful thinking and right reason? Is that how we decide whom to love, how to vote, and whom to kill?
Tune in tomorrow for a very important insight.