Tag Archives: porridge

Youghal Come Back Now

Goat Head Island
Goat Island

I was unemployed. Davida was underemployed.

Looking back, we had no business going to the UK. But I’ll always be glad that we did, for that first trip together, in January 2000, proved just the start of a now 15-year journey.

Another part of the underlying magic of that first trip was the friends that we made. Our first three nights we stayed with zinester friends, Rachael and Jo, in southeast London whose flat – the converted chapel of a former school, adorned with everything from 70 years worth of toy robots to Trashwomen ephemera – remains to this day my all-time favorite dwelling. From London we headed south to Hove, a suburb of Brighton, where we stayed with friends of Rachael and Jo, in a cold-water squat without heat. So cold was the house that, when I got up to pee in the middle of the night, the cold porcelain produced an instantaneous cloud of steam. Yet another zine-friend put us in touch with a friend of his, a most gracious pensioner with whom we stayed the next night, in her posh house in Hastings.

The Room Bed, Hove squat (January 2000)
The Room Bed, Hove squat (January 2000)

Meeting locals always adds another layer of excitement to travel, one you would never otherwise experience. You learn of places and things and customs exclusive of any travel guide. And if you’re lucky, you gain a new friend from it. Zine connections are often particularly fertile given the automatic shared interests. And so, for these reasons, we looked forward to meeting yet another friend of a friend during our trip to Ireland.

The road to Youghal
The road to Youghal

Anto, his wife, Aine, and their two young sons live in Youghal, a seaside town about a half-hour’s drive east of Cork, on Ireland’s southern coast. He and Davida had been in touch via email before our trip, and with a quick phone call on the road from Dublin we arranged to meet not far from their home.

Sunset in Youghal
Sunset in Youghal

Quickly proving to our mutual satisfaction that neither of us was creepy or conservative, Anto invited us back to his house. There, we met Aine and the boys, with whom our son happily played despite a few years difference in age. Aine prepared an impromptu dinner, after which we retired to their living room.

The boys cavorted and Anto played records while the four adults talked of everything from parenting to zines to travel to politics to our shared love for the ocean. The single bottle of wine they had on hand didn’t go far, so Anto and I drove to a local supermarket, where I made sure there would yet be wine in their cupboard after we left. On the short ride to and fro Anto pointed out local landmarks like the Clock Tower Gate, in downtown Youghal, which housed prisoners during the Irish rebellion of 1798.

Back at the house, Anto and Aine invited us to stay the night. We gratefully accepted, and we all spent the rest of that evening talking and drinking wine by the fire, while Anto spun Irish records and we talked of our favorite music. Later in the evening, he gave me a Dubliners record to take home. When we went to bed, hours later, it was to allow our curious young one to finally sleep.

Goat Head Island
Goat Island Beach
Goat Head Island
Goat Island Beach

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast of Irish porridge, we piled into the cars and drove to Goat Island Beach, a favorite destination of theirs, in nearby County Waterford. The frigid wind did nothing to dissuade Anto from stripping down to his swim trunks and going for a dip in the cold sea. He and Aine also introduced our son to Irish sport of hurling, while Davida and I explored the rocky, majestic coastline. Afterward, they took us to the 13th-century ruins of Ardmore Cathedral. Anto pointed out the adjacent 9th-century stone round tower, used by local monks to protect their valuables from marauding Norsemen.

Anto swimming (in January)
Anto swimming (in January)
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Goat Island Beach
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Goat Island Beach

While the three of us would have gladly spent the rest of the weekend with our new-found friends, the road beckoned. Our plans called for us to be in Killarney that night, and to ensure time enough to see everything we wanted to, we reluctantly bid our hosts goodbye.

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13th-century ruins of Ardmore Cathedral
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13th-century ruins of Ardmore Cathedral
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13th-century ruins of Ardmore Cathedral
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9th-century round tower amid the 13th-century ruins of Ardmore Cathedral
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9th-century round tower amid the 13th-century ruins of Ardmore Cathedral

But Anto and Aine’s hospitality and generosity left an indelible impression on us for the rest of the trip, and beyond. I’ve played that Dubliners record countless times since returning home, while Davida has worked to replicate the delicious pasta dish Aine prepared for us. And we’ve both been reading his zine, Loserdom.

One day we will go back, while we’ve made it well known to our Irish hosts that they will always have a place to stay in Baltimore should they ever venture stateside. For now, I can’t help thinking that, but for 3,000 miles of interfering water, we would all likely spend time together.

11 Unexpected Things About Ireland

Ireland was really WPT’s trip. I had a few places I wanted to see, but it was really more about fulfilling a promise I made him several years ago. So expect more in-depth posts from him and some nonsense from me. Starting now…

1) DRIVING

I expected to drive on the left-side of narrow roads. I had driven on the left before, but that was 15 years ago. What I didn’t expect was to find the drivers in Ireland to be the most polite I’ve ever encountered. I’m used to driving in one of the most aggressive regions in the US. The drivers in Ireland were such a pleasant surprise. Slower cars and trucks pulled over to let faster traffic pass, people took turns merging, and there was friendly waving and a lack of beeping. I shed my East Coast skin of speed and rage and cautiously wound my way around the island.

Driving the Ring of Kerry
Driving the Ring of Kerry

Much like people ask, “Did that tattoo on your foot hurt?” and my response is generally, “Why, yes, it did. Quite a lot.” People similarly ask about driving in Ireland. The narrow, often dark and rainy, winding roads were very challenging. In fact, after driving all day I was completely spent. I was usually rewarded with scotch and a hot bath for my efforts. I should also mention the black ice. Yeah, that was unexpected. I deserved a badge of some kind for dealing with several miles of that shit and not a scratch on the car or any of us. Ultimately, after 1829km, I could hit a roundabout at speed and merge like a pro.

Pointless studying
Pointless studying

We brought several maps with us, but they were useless at times. Actual street names are something of a secret handshake known only to locals and postal carriers. They change block-to-block and I saw one instance where different sides of the same street were known by different names. WPT deserves a badge for navigating.

2) PORRIDGE

Oatmeal tastes better when you call it porridge.

3) SELFIE STICKS

People really use selfie sticks. This is weird. We saw one guy with a selfie stick and iPad at the Giant’s Causeway. He appeared to be having a great time with himself.

Selfie Date
Selfie Date

4) THIS DISPENSER IN A HOTEL TOILET

What more could you need?
What more could you need?

5) MY BRAIN EMPTIED

Those of you who know me in real life know that my attention is all over the place. I tend to have 2-3 trains of thought going at any given time. Not so in Ireland. I had to concentrate fully while driving. The usual din of brain chatter was quelled. I focused like I hadn’t focused in years (maybe decades). I was thrilled to see it was still possible. An odd side-effect was that my brain was empty and quiet at night. I actually slept. It was amazing.

6) THE QUIET MAN

In the village of Cong there’s not only a statue of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, there’s a museum and a gift shop devoted to The Quiet Man. You may want to take a moment and sit on the bench devoted to the movie and reflect on that.

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7) EIGHT-YEAR-OLDS IN BARS

People are downright pleased to see an 8-year-old in a bar, requesting songs, at 10pm on a Tuesday night. The 8-year-old was ours.

I loved the child-friendly attitude and that people were so nice to our son.

8) JOHN DENVER

Based on live music we heard, John Denver is very popular in Ireland. Or maybe just the song Country Roads.

9) PICKLED ONION CRISPS

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Simply undeniably delicious.

10) AIR

For unknown reasons I expected the air to be clean and smell of damp earth and the ocean. Instead it often smelled smoky from all of the wood and peat burning hearths. It was also colder than usual.

11) CONFLICT

Conflict
Conflict

There is a constant struggle between the permeating damp and dry heat. The greatest casualties in this war appear to be paint and hair.

Battle of the Split Ends
Battle of the Split Ends