It’s been dry, it’s been very dry. . .

It’s been dry, it’s been very dry here in Cork City by the Lee, my hometown here in the deep south. [APPLAUSE] Yes it’s been a very dry Autumn, and also very still for weeks now, hardly a puff of wind, which means that we still have a spectacular Autumn array of colourful leaves on the trees, even though we’re coming into November and on past All Soul’s Day. Wonderful colours on the leaves on the branches of the sweet chestnut trees, down by Pairc Ui Chaoimh, on the lime trees by the Marina, on the sycamore trees lining Colmcille Avenue in Mayfield and down The North Ring Road, on the weeping willows and the great willows in the Lee Fields, on the walnut trees in John F. Kennedy Park.

Margo and the Snakes

Margo, our innkeeper, wanted to talk about snakes. This was at breakfast, in Galax, North Carolina. In fairness, the Canadian woman, Lori, brought them up. She and her husband, Glen had a close encounter the previous day when cycling on a trail. At the inn, you have breakfast with other residents. 8am. Breakfast on the table.

Repeal the 8th

Wasn’t it great when we owned the women we married, when, effectively, they were our property? ’Twas. Proper order, made things a lot simpler. We owned our daughters too, and they were very useful, in forging alliances with other men of power and means.

Strange and Wonderful Sights in the US of A

A young man walking down Haywood Street in Asheville, NC, with a snake wrapped around his arm. He looked pleased with himself, to be shocking passers by – the man, not the snake. The snake was maybe five or six feet long and hung its head out from his hand, sniffing. I wondered what it was thinking. Mind you, the snake looked better than some of the tattoos we’ve seen on people here. Ó, mo léir.

Three Drives in the USA, almost 1,000 miles.

Down the I95 It was a long drive down from Washington DC to Athens, Georgia. We were 12 hours on the road, including three rest/food/toilet/gas stops. 600 hundred miles, the longest drive we were ever on. Up and down the middle of Ireland twice. Those huge signs on poles higher than pines. Waffle House, McDonalds, Subway. Holiday Inn. Chicken Filet. Adult Store.

Walking Through Georgetown & In The National Gallery of the USA

Walking Through Georgetown Georgetown, a university area of Washington DC, had that understated style and nothing-to-prove confidence about itself. Houses looked modest enough in size but seemed really stylish inside with soft light and muted graceful décor.

Notes on Athens, Georgia

Joan Didion wrote on the South in her book South and West: From a Notebook which was based on notes she took on a one month trip around the gulf states in 1970. She paints a backward and unflattering picture of the South when she compares Louisiana and Mississippi with California. Her main premise is that the South looks to the past, while California looks to the future. To me, her writing is dismissive and somewhat arrogant, and says, at times, more about her than the place she was writing about. I have only been in Georgia and South Carolina for a few days and I didn’t go to rural and remote places as Didion did, so I’m not going to make generalisations like her. But I will follow her style of using notes she made along the way.

On Airports and First Impressions of DC

On Airports I used to describe Heathrow Airport as ‘the worst place in the world’. That was when I travelled a bit for work and I’d often be sent through Heathrow. That was the time when you had to walk over two roads and into another county to get to the specific far-away-as-possible little terminal (that we christened Paddyland) to get to flights home. I wasn’t comfortable in airports generally that time, it wasn’t just Heathrow.

Good Friday, 2018. Reminders of Dermot.

The day has greyed over from the sunny frost of early morning when I go out to the car. A discomfort in the cold northerly wind, its bite on my face. I don’t close my coat. Colum phones just as I am parking on Cove Street, and we talk a bit about work. He’s trying to contact Eileen to call up to her before he heads home to South Kerry. Which is a reminder of Dermot, not that I need one. I’ve been trying to write something about his funeral – only four days ago, which is as impossible to believe as the fact that he’s gone. Trying and failing; the words – nebulous to begin with – wisping to nothing somewhere between my mind and my useless fingers on the keyboard.

Listen to the robin

As I write this, the robin is singing outside. The sun is slanting up over the hedge. I can hear a rook on the roof. I heard a lot of robins in Dublin too last weekend. It’s time. The days are lengthening. We have daffodils and snowdrops and crocuses. It’ll be Lá Fhéile Bríde in a few days. Listen to the robin. It’s worth your while.