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   Ireland
Explained

















Ireland Explined Cover




  Ireland Explained

(Formerly In Search of Modern Ireland)
By Bryce Webster












Excerpt:


I rounded a corner I saw an elderly man with wild white hair mowing his tiny front lawn--hardly more than a grass patch--with a hand mower. I noticed two things right off. The man, who must have been in his late seventies, was wearing a white shirt, suspenders, and a tie to mow his yard. That formality over a simple chore impressed me as part of the man's strength of character, about which I soon learned more.
    Second, and more important, the yard boasted the most spectacular display of tulips I had ever seen outside of a botanic garden, and in a space not more than thirty square feet. There were many colors, yellows and reds and whites, and many multicolored ones. The white tulips that seem to drip with pink or red stripes I particularly admired. And, like most growing things in Ireland, they were enormous, some as much as two feet tall, well past my knee. The petals of the overblown blooms spread larger than a pianist's hand.
    I walked up to the gate and said loudly so the man could hear me above the clippity noise of his mower,     "Those are very beautiful tulips." The man stopped and turned. He took out a handkerchief and wiped his face as he sauntered over to the gate. "Aye, they're not that much. They're about done. They have to come out next week." He had that air of modesty I have come to appreciate and enjoy in the Irish.
    But I refused to take his modesty seriously and praised his flowers again. This time, he recognized my American accent and asked, "Well, now, are you from the States?" I said yes, and he asked me where I was from and, for a moment, we made small talk about his relatives in the States and my travels in Ireland.

***

    I turned and watched as a cat in a kitchen garden stalked a bird. It was a huge cat and a small bird, but the cat missed. He did not, I surmised, get so fat on a diet he caught for himself. Nor did I. Despite my filling breakfast (two actually, both the one on the plane and one Egan's provided when I checked in), I was hungry. I had missed my lunch in favor of some sleep. The sun was going down, but very gradually. I knew it wouldn't be down--and it wouldn't be dinnertime--until at least 8 P.M. But I could go to The Maples, a nearby small hotel with full bar and restaurant, and have a glass of something warm to prepare myself for dinner.
    I had very badly misjudged the need for woolens. When I left New York in May, it had been warm, definitely weather for a silk or cotton blouse under a lightweight wool suit. I assumed a trench coat over that would take care of Ireland in May. Although May can be quite warm in the Emerald Isle, this year I was wrong. I needed some woolen turtlenecks and hadn't any along. And even a pair of gloves would have been welcome at night. Luckily, the country still boasts fireplaces in dining rooms, and The Maples had a good one. The hostess/waitress (there was only one, as high season had not really begun) must have noticed my shivering, for she cleared and set immediately a table next to the fire.
This was the first of my huge dinners, the beginning of the end of my figure for at least a time. I have found it difficult, when traveling, to be careful of how much I eat and how often. Frequently, it is not under one's own control--when one is a houseguest, for example. Ordinarily true that you can choose what you want in a restaurant, where you're paying for the privilege, it is not true in Ireland. Leaving food on the plate will bring, as often as not, a query from the cook as to its quality. "Did you not enjoy your meal, then?" the waitress will ask. The country had been poor for a long time, and no one visited it to eat. Indeed, in stories from relatives who traveled there in the early 1950s, it was apparently hard to get a steak. When you did, it would be meager and it might be boiled. Today, they make absolutely sure that you've had enough, and then some.


















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