All my clothes, but the suit I was wearing while job hunting, were gone. Fortunately I’d been wearing my money belt with my passport in it. I bought some more clothes, that sort of fit, from the local charity shop. I got a gym bag there, to put them in. I took a job tending bar in Tullfaris Hotel & Golf Resort, in Blessington, Co. Wicklow, which provided me with a uniform, room and board.
I wrote in that room, and read, when I wasn’t involved in an all-night card game with the other staff—from all over Europe and one Canadian— that were working and staying there. On my days off I travelled to different parts of Ireland.
I went for an interview for a film editing position in Dublin, but after watching my short, student film they weren’t sure if I’d be happy in entry level. I tried to assure them that if it paid, I’d be happy. But I didn’t get the job.
Then I visited Galway City. I fell in love with the place. I’d saved enough money that I could at least afford to rent a room. When I returned to Wicklow I gave my two weeks’ notice at the hotel.
This was in the days of the Celtic Tiger and jobs were aplenty. I found a place to stay and worked at two full-times jobs to replenish my funds further: from 8:30 am to 5 pm at APC (American Power Conversion), shipping promotional material throughout Europe; from, 10:30 to 8:00 as a night porter at Jury’s Inn, Hotel; where I got all the sheets, towels, shampoos and soap I needed.
I settled in and started making friends. I left the night porter job and kept the one at APC. I stopped looking for work in film though. I later heard that Galway is known as town that killed ambition. I can understand this—it’s an easy place to settle into.
But, I was still collecting stories, watching films and reading. I was a regular at both the book and video store, and every Saturday I’d walk over the bridge, look down the river to the ocean, and continue to the Galway Market near St. Nicholas Church. There I’d get a sundried tomato and feta crepe and small tub of seasoned olives before heading to the cinema. I also got to take in some live Irish theatre and a lot of live musical performances.
Some of my cousins from Milwaukee came for a short visit. Two of them, Spike and Emmy, were a little tired. If I recall the story correctly, they had been kept awake most of the night by a weeping women in the next room. They informed the staff but found out that the room was empty. They went on to discover that the guest house they were staying in was once a place where unwed mothers were sent to, to have their babies. That’s how I remember the story, anyway. The story’s a good one so we won’t let ourselves get hung up on the details.
My sister and Mom came for a visit. I drove with them around the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. I stayed on the correct side of the road the whole time. They said I was driving like the Irish. I don’t think it was meant as a compliment. More stories were collected.
Some of the best stories I heard, and lived, came from two of my house mates, Joe and Daffy. A friend from home, Cole Jackson, came to visit during the Galway Races. All of Galway became a party as the factories gave people the week off and pubs extended their hours.
One day, during race week, all of us sat down by the ocean, near the Spanish Arch, drank Buckfast, and told jokes for at least 10 hrs straight. Even a stray dog got in on the action. After we watched the dog play a practical joke on an unsuspecting tourist we decided it was time to move to the pub and switch from tonic wine to beer. The jokes stopped after Daffy told one that was so bad we realized we’d reached the bottom of the barrel, and probably scrapped through it.
It was the combination of a letter from my father, one of the family cats, Blinkin, going missing, and my sister moving to England that made me decide to move back to Canada. My parents were older and I thought someone should be close. I didn’t tell anyone that though, Mom and Dad would have told me to stay wherever I was most happy.
Before returning to Ontario I went back to Belfast and took a course in editing using Avid software. While in the North, again, I saw Don And Jakki and we said a farewell for now. I stayed with my old Belfast housemates for a couple nights and had a good catch-up.
Then I continued to Edinburgh for a couple days where I ate fresh fudge, developed a taste for Scotch and did a City of the Dead ghost tour. The tour started in the square where they used to have the public executions, continued through the abandon underground city, and finished in a graveyard behind an old church. The Scottish accent adds great deal to stories of ghosts and torture. The final story our guild told us was shared while we stood amongst the tombstones. It was a story of about two grave robbers who got the fright of their lives when the corpse of the woman whose fingers they were cutting off to get her rings, woke up. They were so terrified they ran directly to the police station. The police went to the graveyard, found the woman and took her to get medical attention. Aside from the 2 missing fingers she was in otherwise good health and lived a happy full life after that. The men, however, did not. They were hanged for grave robbing.
I don’t recall why I went to Edinburgh, I think it was partly because I remembered its beauty from when I was there at 15, with my mom, and wanted to see it, again. And partly because of my love of the film Shallow Grave which was set, if not filmed, there.
After Edinburgh I stopped in and saw my sister in Tunbridge Wells before flying out of London.
I flew over Ireland, the land of saints and scholars, and got to say one last good-bye. I later read how Ireland changes the people it touches and it certainly touched me, and I was changed in indescribable ways. The land, its people, the love of stories and the written word, why it was almost as if wanting to be a writer wasn’t a shameful thing. Perhaps it was time to get on with it.