It’s September 18th and four rowdy Northern Irish boys check into the hostel (I say boys but in reality they are about 30 years of age). They are pissed drunk when they arrive and literally remain that way until they leave two days later. They are up til’ 7AM listening to loud music. They are so loud actually that we have to refund the German men for the cost of staying the night. At 9AM we serve them a traditional Irish breakfast. They lightly hassle Caroline and I as we do laundry, clean rooms, and “manage the front desk”. They remind me of frat boys in America minus the fact that they are not annoying for some reason. They don’t refer to us as sweetheart or make jokes about how our place is in the kitchen or anything like that. Which Is something American frat boys would totally do. Caroline and I actually enjoy their company as they are entertaining and full of energy.
Since the day we arrived the town has been talking about tonight. It’s a local boy’s 21st birthday and literally the whole village will be there. There is going to be a DJ and dancing. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is so excited. Caroline and I decide to go and check it out after we cleanup after the guest dinner. We are both pretty tired as it seems impossible to catch up on sleep, but it’s literally a block away in one of the two pubs in the village. The party is in the second pub but everyone started out at the first pub. I guess it is their way of bar hopping. It is packed. There are swarms of people outside smoking and elbow to elbow inside. The classic pub is decorated for the party causing comical mash of vintage family photos, classic wooden furniture, silvery party streamers, a strobe light, and even a smoke machine. The guests are just as eclectic. From the well dressed elderly people sitting in the corner to the crop-top-high-heeled-over-made-up girls on the dance floor. I think are probably in their early twenties. A couple of these girls embrace beside me and one asks if the other if she has had her sixteenth birthday yet. She says not til next year. Oh.
I get Caroline and I each a Guinness at the bar and find her sitting with the older people. In the corner. Reading a book. A Babysitter’s Club book that she found at the hostel. We are truly the life of the party.
I watch the middle aged people get so down on the dance floor to super hype techno music. Everyone is a terrible dancer. These are my people. The boys from the hostel buy Caroline and I a drink and she dances with one of them for a moment. Annie is taking amazing hilarious photos of everyone. I will bring a nice camera with me on my next trip.
Today is a misty day with strong winds, so we keep inside most of the day. I go outside to do laundry in the outdoor room when the boys check out and stay to watch the fog roll in over the cliffs. I think I could live in Northern Ireland for a year or so and write a decent novel or something. There is an ancient energy here and I try to imagine all the things this land has witnessed. I try to imagine this village as Viking territory. Apparently it wasn’t, however, due to the fact that Vikings traveled by boat and the coast proved to be too treacherous.
Mary says she prefers to stay in Dublin. She grew up here but she said back then food was scarce at times and everyone in her generation were “tramps” because they all left Ireland in search of more stable lives. She says they used to joke that they all had “stamps on their arses for export to England”.
She knits wool hats and scarves for the tourists though I’ve never seen them because they sell quickly. She is fond of John who brings her food and cigarettes because when Mary is in Glencolmcille she never leaves the hostel. She stays up the hill for the whole Summer until the season calms down and she can return to her home in Dublin where she says she is happiest.
She tells John to make sure he’s charging enough for the meals he cooks for guests. John says he should just give them the butter-sugar sandwiches he grew up on.
“Do you remember them Mary?” He laughs jovially, “Just two slices of bread with butter scraped on it and the tiniest bit of sugar. Sort of a poor man’s treat twasnt it Mary?”
“Was a war thing I think it was,” Mary smiles good-naturedly at me and Caroline, “There were sugar rations during the war.. Very hard to get sugar then I think.”
“Fuck you Mary!” John slaps his knee, “I grew up on bloody fuckin’ sugar sandwiches and I’m not damn near old enough to remember no fuckin’ war!” He leans back in his seat and lights another cigarette before putting his previous one out. ” Eventually jam slowly got introduced into the sandwich now that was a real fuckin’ treat.”
The locals of Glencolmcille live pretty modestly as you would expect since it isn’t exactly a thriving metropolis. The buildings are all well cared for and freshly painted. They are charming and definitely postcard worthy. Apparently this is because the government gives money to the locals for upkeep to encourage tourism. Our hostels numbers aren’t very pleasing however and shortly after we arrive John is informed it will be closing down for the season the same day Caroline and I leave. He has to find work elsewhere, but has a lot of experience in hospitality and doesn’t seem nervous at all.
“I shouldn’t have trouble finding something local, and if I do I have an offer I can accept in Wales.” He tells us the next day. Randal finds another volunteer job locally tending to horses.
The wind blows loudly through the valley making incredibly loud almost musical sounds. The fog closes in on the cliffs and it is impossible to see the top half of the mountains surrounding us. The greens lose their luster with the absence of the sun and suddenly everything is grey and almost haunting. There is a fiddle player playing at one of the two pubs tonight. Annie meets Caroline and I at the hostel and we walk up the hill at 6 o’clock to hear him play. We each get a Guinness and listen to classic Irish songs with the small group of locals gathered there. John has been there all day and is apparently completely smashed though I can’t tell much of a difference in his demeanor. He has heard Caroline sing around the hostel and asks the two men on stage if she can sing a song. They call the “green haired girl named Caroline” up on stage and she sings one song from O Brother Where Art Thou, one Dixie Chicks song, and a song from the musical Chicago. All the locals clap and shout and cheer her on. They come up to me and hug me and tell me that my sister can really sing. They think Annie is our mother and that we are from Texas. Annie thinks this is hilarious and we play along. Everyone in Ireland has called us the girls from Texas despite how many times we correct them. Texas must be more famous than Tennessee.
An old man comes in and everyone shouts and clasps him on the shoulder. They call him names until he sings. He sings a slow Irish ballad and forgets the words several times so everyone sings along with him. He ends with a colorful array of curse words and everyone curses back and laughs. The band has another gig to get to and they announce their last song. The tall skinny balding fiddle player suddenly stiffens up and literally becomes Brian Johnson. His American accent is amazing and the crowd laughs and tries to sing along.
Cliff drives us back down the hill because it is raining. We do not work the next day and I hope it is sunny because we plan to walk to the beach near the hostel. Sometimes I think I can hear the sound of the waves crashing against the cliffs at night. It could just be the soft roar of the wind. Either way it’s comforting.
I will probably blog a little less this next week as we are not on the move or doing anything too exciting. I have been writing loads of postcards that I need to find a way to send on Tuesday.
I have also been practicing my French as it is the first non-English speaking country we will be going to and I want to be at least semi-prepared.
Slan go fóill, Internet!
(Goodbye for now)