Ireland! Monday

Monday — arrived at 5:30 am.  Spent time in Non-EU immigration wondering why all the signs in Non-Eu Immigration were in English and Gaelic.  (ALL the signs are in English and Gaelic.)

Laura and I went straight back to her room and she gave me the mini tour and then we slept for about 4 hours.  There was some concern that they’d get inspected but it got delayed due to break, which was good because we slept right through the time that we thought they’d be inspected.  God I was so conked out. That was about 2 am to noon my normal local time.

After that we got up and went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Laura Taking a Picture
At St. Patrick’s Cathedral park, looking for dogs.

Our tour guide was giving her first ever tour. She was very interesting.  Super short lady, maybe in her 40s, a couple of moles on her face, no makeup, an open expression.  She told us within moments that she was giving her very first tour, and checked a number of times to make sure we could understand her.  She asked us to ask her if we needed her to slow down. She had a lovely Irish accent, the first one that I’d heard uninterrupted, so that was very nice.

During the tour we got to a statue of … someone…, who was dressed in the regalia of the Order of St. Patrick.  On his chest he wore a necklace which was the perfect sigil of an X within a circle. I leaned over to Laura, uncertain of whether she would be impressed with these antics, and murmured, “He’s an X-Man.”  She looked at me with wide eyed amusement. Suddenly she took much more detailed pictures as the guide went on to explain that this is one of the most detailed statues in all of Ireland. Yeah, right, lady, this is clearly a guy whose ability is to turn to stone during the day and go out and fight against the evil Brotherhood of Mutants at night.

We went through the choir area which was simply stunning.  Every seat was decked with a helm and sword (non-functional, not for sudden attacks) and the mosaics on the floor were breathtakingly complex and beautiful.  The ironwork on the wooden windows at the back was elaborate and delicate. The stitch-work on the altar cloth at the front was the best I have ever seen: old but perfectly maintained, intricate and rich.

St. Patrick's Cathedral Lenten Altar Cloth
I could never sew that much.

Laura ran across the history of some names she was familiar with, I believe it was Fitzgerald, whom she had been working with in her internship at the Royal Society of Ireland.  She had been within weeks past trying to decipher the very man’s handwritten letters.

We learned about Jonathan Swift and his time as a priest.  The tour guide showed us the pulpit he used, explaining that it was on wheels, and if congregants fell asleep during the sermons, he would have the deacons wheel him to stand above them while he preached, raining fire and brimstone to awaken them.

After that we had to hurry over to Marsh Library, which was just next door, and a complete fairy tale of a library.  We entered through a mossy green stone archway to discover the first public library of Ireland.

Marsh Library gate entrance.
I’m pretty sure it’s magical.

The interns there (gentlemen in their 30s or 40s, not what you normally think of) were very helpful with the questions we had.  (As librarians we had better questions than most.) They ran through their normal spiel about Narcissus Marsh (straight outta Hogwarts, I say) and how he decided to start the public library for people who weren’t rich enough to have their own books.  Apparently Jonathan Swift hated the man and, as our librarian put it, “Basically called him fat and ugly until he went away.” Charming. He also showed us some of Swift’s marginalia about the Scots, which was unflattering to say the least.

We browsed back through the shelves.   I did ask how it was organized and was told, “Hierarchically, basically.  And the librarian doesn’t really explain further than that, to prevent theft.  But the big books are on the bottom, and the small books are on the top. And the controversial books.”  He mentioned a French book, which the title translated to something like The Illustrated Woman. Racy!

They had a photobooth set up at the back near the reading cages, which went along with their current exhibit about Hunting Stolen Books — they’d discovered, when they’d finally done inventory, that about 900 books had been stolen over the years.  

I'm a wanted poster now!
And I’d do it again.

After that the strict security measures were put into place — bars on all the shelves, and the reading nooks were essentially cages (!) where you could read as long as you want, with a little bell inside to let the librarian know when you were done and wanted to come out.  All the previous reading nooks between all the shelves were barred off so that nobody could sit in there and read and slip the book into their bag or pocket. We weren’t supposed to take pictures anywhere except for the photo booth but Laura is a rebel so we managed a few around the corner.  We had a couple of the volunteers point out the bullet holes from some violent engagement that took place in the churchyard during the 1916 Rising. They just left the damage because at this point it is history, too.

I bought Mom the book of the current exhibit — they are much nicer exhibit books than some that I’ve gotten from the DUC grant in the past.  They have a lot of the history and stories about the exhibit written as well as photographs of the content. This one is the Hunting Stolen Books exhibit, which I decided on as opposed to the one about the marginalia, which I also think she would have liked.  I got Ron a postcard with an old book that definitely needed some preservation, so I think he’ll like that due to his interest in archives.

After that we went back to Laura’s room.  I was still fairly exhausted. We grabbed some food at the local KC Peaches (cafeteria style eatery, yummy food, beer in the cooler) and ate it in her kitchen, chatting and catching up a bit (though we generally stay pretty well caught up).  The mac and cheese was delicious. We watched some youtube videos and read some buzzfeed lists and stayed generally entertained until we passed out in exhaustion.