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This is an online diary of my latest trip to Ireland.
Dennis J. Ahern

Saturday, March 12th

A word about sleepwear. At home my customary attire at bedtime is a nightshirt. I used to have a nice Irish one of heavy cotton flannel that was white with thin, vertical, blue stripes that looked like mattress ticking. It wore well over the years, but alas my girth eventually exceeded the available material. I've brought a lightweight knit cotton one with me on this trip, but my night sans locker made me realize it's much simpler to just sleep in my underwear. Part of the reason is that the rooms at the hostel all have keycard access locks on the doors as well as the doors from the public areas into the guests areas. This nightshirt has no pocket, as some of my other do, and so there is nowhere to keep my card at night and when I get up in the morning and go to take a shower, or use the toilet, I have to carry my keycard around somehow. It's much simpler to just strip off the surface layers and climb between the sheets under the duvet. Having pockets also enables me to carry my notebook with me in case I am going to be a while and want to catch up on my notes. [You may wish to avert your gaze from the image of my recording these thoughts, but keep in mind, even a queen must use such a throne at least once a day.] Now, I do not have pockets in my underwear, but I do have a pair of shorts with me and I keep the keycard in the pocket and put the shorts on if I make a trip to the leathreas (toilet in Irish). This way I can save my nightshirt for when I am a guest in someone's home and do not wish to confront them in my skivvies if our paths should cross in the night. While some of you may be able to picture me in a nightshirt, it is more difficult to visualize the alternative due to the inevitable, elemental question, asked even of Presidential candidates; "boxers or briefs?" I'm not going to say at this point, but I invite you to email me your guess and we will see if the majority guess correctly. Vote for boxers or briefs and at the end of the trip I will announce the results and the answer. Entries from people I have slept with will not be counted.

This morning's awakening was ruder than most. Someone in the adjacent bunk had set his alarm clock to go off at 5:00 a.m. but failed to wake up and turn it off. It beeped most annoyingly for a bit and then retired to rest for ten minutes or so. Whether this was automatic or dependent on the intended victim hitting the snooze alarm I do not know, but it began to beep again twice more. The third time it happened I got out of bed, grabbed the bunk and shook it, but failed to wake either the upper or lower occupant, the latter being the guilty party. Eventually I got back to sleep for a couple of hours, but later, after breakfast, as I was in the room along with a couple of other men who were getting ready to go out and about, this English fellow comes into the room all upset and demands to know why nobody woke him up when his alarm went off. He's missed his bl**dy flight and can't get another one today. On learning that his destination was England, I suggested he take the ferry, but he disparaged that idea because it would, in his estimation, be crowded with drunken Irish rugby fans returning to England. He kept going on about how he had to get home because someone emailed him that a smoke alarm was going off in his apartment. The way he acted you'd think this was something we should care about. After he stormed off to the front desk, no doubt in search of sympathy, the other two, a Swiss and an Austrian, and I shook our heads in collective incredulity.

While I make use of cybercafes all over town, there are some locals I need to ring up by phone. There are two types of payment for public phones on the streets (and in the hostel), card or coin. And the choices are further divided by type of card. You can buy "official" Telecom Eireann cards at newsagents in varying amounts of units. You put the card in, make the call, and if it connects, the units are deducted as you talk and a display indicates how many you have left. The other type of card, which you can buy at the hostel and elsewhere, use a number you must dial first, and a pin number which comes with the card. This method is to complicated to suit me, and I prefer the Telecom Eireann card to coins because the euro coins are too hard to distinguish denomination, unlike to old decimal "new pence" or the older shillings, florins, half crowns, sixpence, etc., which had replaced the monarch's head with a pig, a salmon, a hen, a rabbit, and other easily recognizable graphics. The shapes and the metal used were all different as well. With the euro I find myself trying to figure out a handful of loose change while the person on the other end of the line waits to find out who's calling. Take it from me, the card is a lot easier.

One of my list of people to link up with while in Ireland is a woman from the States who has come to Ireland with her four year old daughter intending to emigrate rather than bring the child up in a country that has become too conservative for her liking. I know how she feels. After the last election I began to toy with the idea of making full-time use of my Irish citizenship, but I can't imagine what I would do with all the "stuff" I have accumulated over the years. And it is not up to me alone to decide what becomes of our family. She's a friend of one of my oldest friends, going back to when we were in boy scouts together, and that was a very long time ago. It had taken me several tries to get ahold of her on the phone, but when I did we made plans to meet at the entrance to the National Library and spend Saturday afternoon together. I had wanted to ride the new LUAS train and we decided to take the one from Stephen's Green out to Sandyford and back. I had a vague idea that Sandyford was near the coast and we could wander around a but and then come back on the return ticket. The LUAS terminus was still where I had seen it the previous Sunday when I went to the Unitarian church across the street. The difference today was that there were about 40-50 people in line to buy tickets. I had read in the timetable that you could buy tickets at the machines, or from local stores, but the two stores I tried only sold monthly and weekly passes so we got in line and counted our coins to see if we had the right change for two adults (3.80 ea.) and a child (1.50), zone 3, return (round trip). It went rather smoothly with attendants to help people confront the machines, and as at that time of day the trams departed every 7.5 minutes, we were soon on board, choosing seats right behind the driver so I could watch how the controls worked. I noticed a TV monitor of a camera looking forward along the passenger-boarding side of the tram. It's double-ended so this depends on whether it's coming or going. It's all quite nice really, and a very smooth ride. The computer voice that announces the stations gave the names in Irish as well as English.

LUAS train at Stephen's Green

Unfortunately, our expedition was not well-planned. When we got to Sandyford we discovered that there is no "there" there. Unlike the early American trolley companies that built amusement parks at the end of the line to draw people out from the city, the LUAS green line ended at an industrial park, which no doubt is convenient for workers commuting out from the City, but it did little for us on a cold, windy Saturday. There were two teenage girls sitting on a bench at the station and when we asked them if there was anything to do there we got the anticipated response. We found we could go down the road a bit and get a #75 bus to Dun Laoghaire, which is a touristy seaside place (called Kingstown when Ireland was still under British rule) but it was too far to walk with a four year old who already was asking to use a toilet when only a bush was at hand. The biting wind was the deciding factor and we caught the next tram back to Stephen's Green where I pointed out the Unitarian church where mother and child would find a welcome in a strange land.

As my companions were vegetarian I suggested we seek out a Chinese restaurant for what by now would be a very late lunch as it was almost 3:00 and I was decidedly peckish. Wishing to avoid the crowds on Grafton Street I opted for Aungier with a goal of a restaurant across O'Connell Street from the Dublin Bus Headquarters called, I think, the Summer Palace, where I have dined on past trips. On Aungier I saw a car being "towed" by the parking enforcement police. The system they have is a flatbed truck with a crane and slings they position under each wheel. Then they hoist the car up in the air and put it on the truck. While I paused to observe this operation and make notes in my book, a man came up to me and held a piece of paper with small block-letter writing on it that began "PLEASE HELP. I AM FROM KOSOVO. I HAVE A WIFE AND CHILDREN...". It takes a hard heart to turn away from such tales.

When we got to the restaurant on O'Connell Street we discovered it was not open for lunch, at least not in mid-afternoon, but a man standing on the corner with a sign advertising a Chinese Restaurant/Cybercafe around the corner on Cathedral street saved the day and we had a nice lunch, vegetation for them and a bowl of soup with roast pork and duck for me.
Parting company at this point I headed back to the hostel to drop off my bag and then turned around and headed back to the South side of the Liffey over the Ha'penny Bridge and through Temple Bar to the Irish Film Centre where I saw a new Kurdish movie called "Turtles Can Fly" about children living in a refugee camp near the Turkish border in the days just before the American invasion of Iraq. They eke out an existence digging up unexploded land mines and selling them. It is a movie both funny and tragic. I hope it gets to play in the States. I would see it again. Irish Film Centre
Irish Film Centre

One thing I learned today at the National Library Genealogy Advisory Service was that Eugene is an alternate, or baptismal name for Owen. That may explain why I wasn't finding an Owen I was looking for in the parish records. I had thought that Owen was an alternate name for John. I also made use of the service to look up some Griffith's Valuation pages on their subscription. I used the last half hour to peruse a volume of a 1935 Carlow paper that Paul Gorry had ordered but was done with and found some names to add to the Irish death notice database.

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