I was warned that there was no way I could keep up with the Irish when it comes to drinking, especially since in real life I don’t actually drink that much. The first night I was feeling somewhat accomplished after 3 pints of Guinness until back at the house Kiah, stared blankly and said “yeah, ok, that’s like lunch”. I decided not to even try to keep up and to definitely not report back to the twenty years old about how “good” I was doing.
It’s cold out here and coal and oil are expensive so it’s also cold inside which explains both the huge number of baby carriages around and the high consumption of alcohol. The “It’s noon somewhere” theory clearly applies here and honestly, was not to difficult to adopt. The Irish coffee by the fire at 11:00 am did warm me up. It’s much warmer indoors in Iceland because they pipe water all over the island including under the sidewalks and certain parts of the highways. Scalding hot water from hot springs is always available and runs through pipes under every building. Birgir said he pays the equivalent of about ten dollars a month to keep his house warm. They use their geo-thermal energy well. Here, it’s whiskey.
All of the pubs have fires burning and all kinds of people congregate around them. All kinds of people that is except for the young girls that can be found in any city anywhere. The ones with 3 inch high heels they can’t walk in, skirts far shorter than the thumb length rule and a constant smile. The girls who are freezing and drinking creamy whiskey drinks, the long blond hair that they flip around when they laugh the only thing keeping them warm do not stand by the fires. Grace and I discuss that that is a hell of a lot of work to get laid and we agree that we are grateful for the wisdom that has come with our years. And… we are grateful for the fire. We ask a man sitting at the table next to us to take our picture which will go on my wall at home.
The next night the same man was in the next pub. He took our picture again I said I felt like a lush and his girlfriend laughed and said “Of course you do, your in Ireland”.
Grace and I explored a couple of castles way out in the countryside and on the way home we stopped at a little country pub near the farm she use to live on. She is friends with Maggie, the owner. There had been a funeral that morning so Maggie served us left over sandwiches as we drank Jameson Whiskey by the fire. The pub was dark and candles burned everywhere. We were the only people in the pub but Maggie lives upstairs so the doors are open even when it’s likely to stay empty. She had been a midwife in London years ago so we had a lot to talk about.
Every week Grace meets up with a friend at another little country pub just next to a cemetery filled with high crosses and surrounded by seemingly endless fields and sheep. We park at the cemetery. The night is cold and clear and very dark out here away from it all. When Grace walks away I crouch down low, nearly lying on the ground, so that when I look up I can see the outline of the crosses and a million stars above me. I feel a little surprised at how peaceful I feel, alone with the darkness and the dead.
Graces friend is an interesting, sweet woman who is also a titled “lady”. Direct relation to Lord Waterford she visits her family at the castle. Had I not been told I would never know. She wore jeans, drank beer and said fuck, but in that nice Irish way.
The story came on the news about the race horse that was recently cloned in Ireland. We talked about how terrifying that is and I’m not entirely sure I made many friends in that pub after I said “The scientist in me finds it fascinating”. And while I do find it terrifying that a select few will have the sort of ultimate power to create a clone army or a master race or manufacture perfect horses or sheep or whatever, I do think that medically, if we were able to maintain some level of morality we could possibly reverse or repair some of the damage we have done as people. The “Lady” said it was interesting viewing it from a scientific perspective rather than religious. I explained that my brain is a somewhat messy combination scientist, artist, believer and skeptic. We agreed it was wonderful to meet, we hugged and said goodbye and I finished my whiskey.
Kyteler’s Inn is the former home to Dame Alice who was the first woman in Ireland prosecuted as a witch and sentenced to burn. She had friends who assisted her out of Ireland to disappear somewhere in England, never to be heard from again. They have been serving food in her former home since the 1300’s. The walls are stone and there are fireplaces in every dining room. Above the fireplace in the bar is what at first glance appears to be a painted portrait of James Smithwick, the beer guru. He is easy to ignore until just at the end of my second pint, in total Harry Potter fashion he starts to move. It doesn’t matter where I move his eyes follow me. He shows me a map of the brewery and does a card trick and winks and laughs. The girl at the table next to me says “your not hallucinating” which was actually a bit of a relief. James Smithwick on the wall in the witches house is delightfully creepy.
I have spent a fair amount of time alone writing in pubs while here and each one of them had a happy fat bartender and a warm fire. I could get use to this whole vacation thing….