ON THE TRACK OF “THE QUIET MAN” – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Track

In 1990 in Ireland, Garry and I decided to find where they had filmed John Ford’s “The Quiet Man.” We were in the right location and it turned out that we were not the only seekers of that location.

There were little maps that showed you where to go, where to walk. You couldn’t get there by car alone. You had to park, then trek through a field where sheep roamed — which is not good for your shoes.

Garry in Cong

Maureen O’Hara had to do one scene in a field like that barefoot and she said it was absolutely disgusting. I’d probably have to wash my feet at least 100 times before I thought they might be clean enough to go to bed with me.

Cong, September 1990

Anyway, we got maps and we got moving and then, we saw it. We didn’t see the cottage because except for a bit of rubble, the cottage was completely gone. It wasn’t even the remnants of the cottage. A few rocks and that was it. But the setting was the same. The stream across which they drove the carriage and the long field.

Ireland

We followed the track, explored, and then went back to town. Many scenes for the film were actually shot in and around the village of Cong, County Mayo, on the grounds of Cong’s Ashford Castle. Cong is now a wealthy small town and the castle a 5-star luxury hotel, but when we were there, it was another small, struggling town who were trying to keep the remnants of the movie’s fame because that was the only notable thing which had ever happened there.

Now that we live in an equally small town, we get it. If anyone made a major motion picture here, you can bet it would be the feature of everything.

Somewhere in Ireland

That was our “track following.” It was a lot of fun. I have followed a few other tracks. I followed a mountain path up Mount Gilboa to see the wild irises in bloom and climbed down Land’s End. So there have been a few tracks, here and there.

But no fast tracks. I seem to have missed them.

CODDIWOMPLE IN IRELAND – Marilyn Armstrong

Monday Prompt: Coddiwomple


The definition made me laugh. This is the perfect description of our trip to Ireland. After the plane landed in Shannon and we managed to negotiate our way to the B&B where we were staying, it was coddiwomple for the next three weeks.

We never knew where we were, where we were heading and mostly, we didn’t really care. We found places we loved, avoided any place that had more traffic than we cared to drive it, and had a wonderful time. We missed most of the “favorite” tourist stops — too much traffic. We don’t go on vacation to sit in traffic jams, so if we bumped into one, we took the next uncrowded turn in the road. But we found stone circles and old graveyards and ancient round towers and at least one nearly unknown author who signed his book and let us play with his pet chickens.

Somewhere in Ireland

We stayed in some wonderful B&Bs and a fantastic one in Dublin that was really a small hotel where they also had a great dining room. We shopped in stores no one had heard of, got great prices on clothing that I still believe will never wear out. Garry’s tweed jackets don’t look any older than they did when we bought them almost 30 years ago.

Maybe it’s because neither of us have any sense of direction, but maybe this is really the way to vacation. Just go. Find a place. Look it up in one of the dozens of books describing every piece of land in the country. You mean … you don’t travel with a working library of the country you are in?

That was always the first thing I did when we were going someplace new. I bought every book I could find that had the historical details of the place. No book has everything, of course, so I bought all of them. A small traveling library was always with us.

Ireland

Along the way, we stayed in B&B’s that were known for having private libraries so we could read up on everything as we went. We took a million pictures, ate lamb and salmon and drank a substantial amount of Irish coffee (it’s never too early …) and Jameson. We sang in pubs and told stories.

If we should ever travel again to another continent, I would do it again, just like that. No fixed destination, no formal reservation except for the plane or to meet others.

Coddiwomple, all the way!

NAVIGATION: NOT OUR STRONGEST SUIT – Marilyn Armstrong

Ragtag Prompt # 26 – Navigate

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I will say it again.

I am lost. I am always lost.

Sometimes, this is a great thing. On vacation in Ireland, having no idea where we were or even where we were going turned out to be an adventure. We discovered things you can’t find in guidebooks. We missed most of the places everyone goes, found places no one discovers.

Somewhere in Ireland

We navigated our way from one end of the island to another. We found stone circles and earthworks and pubs. Lots of pubs. Historic Pubs. The pubs in which Peter O’Toole drank far too much.

Singing pubs. We told everyone it was our honeymoon, which was true, so we got a lot of extra mead and Irish coffee and better rooms.

We never knew where we were and that was fine.

Ireland

Navigation. We don’t navigate. We just drive around until we found another great pub or better yet someplace that sold Harris tweed suits.

Dublin, September 1990

My moral?

Don’t navigate. Give it up. Go forth. Find what comes. Don’t worry about whether you’ve found the right place. They are ALL right places.

Discovery is the name of the game.

HONEYMOON IN IRELAND – HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY

We surprised everyone — except ourselves — when we announced our plans to honeymoon in Ireland. “Neither of you is Irish,” they said, foreheads wrinkled. I’m not sure why everyone assumes the only reason to go to Ireland is to look for “roots.” While we were there, we were often asked why we’d come and on hearing neither of us is Irish, would get looks of puzzlement.

Then, they’d look again and ask “Are you sure?”

It was a great place for Americans. There’s strain between the Irish and English for longstanding historical reasons, but they have nothing but smiles for Americans. From Dublin to Sligo, Shannon, Galway, Cashel and all the lovely towns in between, people were friendly and welcoming. When they learned we were honeymooners, we were treated to rounds of drinks and offered the best accommodations. Avoiding big hotels, we stayed in bed and breakfasts which we found using the National Tourist Board guidebook and a map.

We’d zero in on a destination and phone ahead. After a while, it began to work the opposite way. Wherever we found ourselves as evening approached, we’d see who had a room and stay. We always found a place and each home was spotlessly clean and comfortable, although tiny by American standards.

Cong and Garry
Cong and Garry

Our first stop after Shannon was Cashel. The bed-and-breakfast was like a little European pension. In the shadow of the Rock of Cashel, adjacent to the ruins of a medieval Dominican church, the location was perfect. We stayed two nights, then headed for Dublin.

Dublin was magic. Once we found our feet,  it was a city of music and good company We’d been planning to stay two nights, but stayed five. There were evening’s at Foley’s, where Irish music played every night and we all joined in, each in our own key. There were the pubs, where the Irish Coffee was always strong and the folks eager to wish us well and advise us on our itinerary. We shopped, sang, and drank, not necessarily in that order. (Note: Probably you should shop then drink.) We listened to stories, told some of our own, and would gladly have stayed another week or more.

Ashford Castle

From Dublin, we drove cross-country to Sligo. As we entered Sligo, the rain began to pelt down. For perhaps five minutes, it poured. Then, as the rain slowed to a drizzle, in front of us appeared a brilliant double rainbow. Welcome to Sligo. Our destination was a bed and breakfast called Rathnashee, which we learned means “fairy ring.” There’s an earthwork fairy ring in the field adjoining the house. I chose it because it had a room with a private bath, was on a main road (we never stopped getting lost, but we did learn to enjoy it), and had a library. Books are my weakness. Maybe my strength too.

The parlor of the house was a library, mainly the history of Ireland and Sligo in particular. Evenings, by the warmth of a peat fire, we settled in with a pot of tea and a plate of cookies. We read about Yeats, the Great Hunger, and the long, often tragic history of the north. In the course of events, Garry discovered he did, after all, have Irish roots, while I dreamed of fairy circles and magic mountains.

Abbey ruins near Ashford Castle

Sligo is bursting with magic. You can feel it as you explore the ancient earthworks, standing stones, cairns, and castles. I became convinced that the “Little People” live there still. Loch Gill, where lies the Isle of Innisfree, has its own kind of magic. We spent a grand afternoon exploring the recently restored Park Castle.

The crystal waters so clearly mirrored the sky that those viewing the pictures we shot that day have trouble telling which is water and which is sky. Later that same day, while heading toward Knocknarea, the mountain top cairn of the legendary Queen Mab, we met Gordon Winter, ex-spy, author, and local character. We were photographed in close encounters with his pet chickens, sipped tea in his kitchen, and bought an autographed copy of his latest book “Secrets of the Royals.”

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens
Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Throughout our vacation, the weather never stopped changing. The sun shone, disappeared and reappeared in rapid succession. Wind blew, and clouds rolled in, and it rained. A few minutes later, the rain stopped, the wind died, the sun came out, the temperature rose, and just as you had taken off your jacket and put on your sunglasses, you’d realize it was raining again. We took our sunglasses on and off twenty times an hour, and took our jackets on and off almost as often. The second morning in Sligo, we awoke to pounding rain. I peeked out the window to see another rainbow, even brighter than the one we’d seen coming in, in the field across the road.

Rainbow over Sligo
Rainbow over Sligo

By the time we went to breakfast, the sun had come out, but by breakfast’s conclusion, it was again drizzling. Such is Irish weather. It never rained all day, but it rained a little almost every day, and we learned to ignore weather and proceed with our plans, counting on the ever-changing skies to give us enough clear weather to tramp through a ruin, scale a castle wall, or walk down by a riverside.

MarilynInnisfree

After three days in Sligo, we traveled down to Connemara. One afternoon, we drove to Cong, where John Ford shot “The Quiet Man.” Ardent movie buffs, we literally climbed over fences and wended our way through sheep pastures (Garry always greeted the sheep by reminding them how good they would taste with a bit of mint jelly; I thought in terms of sweaters and tweeds) pastures until we found the “quiet man’s cottage,” now in ruins. The setting is as idyllic as ever, though, and the stream still flows past the cottage door and under the little bridge. Clearly the movie was the biggest thing to ever hit the town. Cong is full of Quiet Man memorabilia, and the local residents full of anecdotes and memories.

Cong, September 1990
Cong, September 1990

Our time was almost up, and as we continued down along the coast, we began to realize that we would really have to go home. The idea was so depressing that we stopped in the nearest pub for solace.

The only part was driving. Keeping left was a problem. The roads were another. Narrow, a terrifying mix of blind curves, roaming sheep, and meandering cattle, locals drive these narrow roads at supersonic speeds. On roads hardly wider than our tiny compact car, we were passed, after which we felt obliged to check if the door handles and mirrors were still attached.

Irish Signs

Eventually we stopped worrying where we were or how to get someplace else. We let the road take us where it would. We knew whenever and wherever we stopped, we’d find a good pub and friendly faces.

We hoped we’d go back again, but other places called and the years ran faster than I believed possible. But we remember.

Yeats in Sligo

Post Script:

When we got home, we were visiting Garry’s folks, showing the photos to Garry’s Dad until he stopped us. It was the pictures of Yeats’ burial site. “Those are your people,” he said, pointing to a group of stones slightly behind Yeats’.

“Our people?” asked Garry.

“Your grandparents were from Sligo,” he said. “My mother,” he clarified. That explained the very light-skinned red-headed grandmother Garry remembered.

“When were you going to tell me?” he asked his father.

“I was waiting until I thought you were old enough,” his father explained. Garry was 48 at the time.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

PHOTO CHALLENGE | NAMES – WHAT’S IN A NAME?


From Romeo and Juliet

Act II. Scene II.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes 
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Irish Signs
At a crossroad in Connemara, Ireland. September 1990

At a crossroads in Connemara, Ireland in September 1990, a newly married couple (us) was trying to navigate from wherever we had been the previous day (Sligo maybe?) southward. The map was in English. The signs were all in Irish. The bullet holes in the sign are probably comments and opinions from others, like us, hopelessly lost and realizing there was no help forthcoming.

What’s in a name? A rose by any other might smell as sweet … but a road by any other may point us in the wrong direction and end us up on a dark, dirt road with no way to turn around. Or, in other words, a road by any other name is probably the wrong road.

Just saying.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2017
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

OUR IRISH HONEYMOON

We surprised everyone — except ourselves — when we announced our plans to honeymoon in Ireland. “Neither of you is Irish,” they said, foreheads wrinkled. I’m not sure why everyone here and there assumes the only reason to go to Ireland is to look for “roots.” While we were there, we were often asked why we’d come and on hearing neither of us is Irish, would get looks of puzzlement. Then, they’d look again and ask “Are you sure?”

Somewhere in Ireland
Somewhere in Ireland

It was a great place for Americans. There’s strain between the Irish and English for longstanding historical reasons, but they have nothing but smiles for Americans. From Dublin to Sligo, Shannon, Galway, Cashel and all the lovely towns in between, people were friendly and welcoming. When they learned we were honeymooners, we were treated to rounds of drinks and offered the best accommodations. Avoiding big hotels, we stayed in bed and breakfasts which we found using the National Tourist Board guidebook and a map.

We’d zero in on a destination and phone ahead. After a while, it began to work the opposite way. Wherever we landed, we’d see who had a room and stay there. We always found someplace nearby and each home was spotlessly clean and comfortable, although tiny by American standards.

Cong and Garry
Cong and Garry

Our first stop after Shannon was Cashel. The bed-and-breakfast was a little pension. In the shadow of the Rock of Cashel, adjacent to the ruins of a medieval Dominican church, the location was perfect. We stayed two nights, then headed for Dublin.

Dublin was magic. Once we found our feet,  it was a city of music and wonderful company We’d been planning to stay two nights, but stayed five. There were evening’s at Foley’s, where Irish music played every night and we all joined in, each in our own key. There were the pubs, where the Irish Coffee was always strong and the folks eager to wish us well and advise us on our itinerary. We shopped, sang, and drank, not necessarily in that order. (Note: Probably you should shop then drink.)

We listened to stories, told some of our own, and would gladly have stayed another week or more.

From Dublin, we drove cross-country to Sligo. As we entered Sligo, the rain began to pelt down. For perhaps five minutes, it poured. Then, as the rain slowed to a drizzle, in front of us appeared a brilliant double rainbow. Welcome to Sligo. Our destination was a bed and breakfast called Rathnashee, which we learned means “fairy ring.” There’s an earthwork fairy ring in the field adjoining the house. I chose it because it had a room with a private bath, was on a main road (we never stopped getting lost, but we did learn to enjoy it), and had a library. Books are my weakness. Maybe my strength too.

Dublin, September 1990
Dublin, September 1990

The parlor of the house was a library, mainly the history of Ireland and Sligo in particular. Evenings, by the warmth of a peat fire, we settled in with a pot of tea and a plate of cookies. We read about Yeats, the Great Hunger, and the long, often tragic history of the north. In the course of events, Garry discovered he did, after all, have Irish roots, while I dreamt of fairy circles and magic mountains.

GarryInnisfree
Garry at Loch Gill, at the Isle of Innisfree

Sligo is bursting with magic. You can feel it as you explore the ancient earthworks, standing stones, cairns, and castles. I became convinced that the “Little People” live there still. Loch Gill, “where lies the Isle of Innisfree,” has its own magic.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

by W. B. Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

We spent a grand afternoon exploring the recently restored Park Castle. The crystal waters so clearly mirrored the sky that those viewing the pictures we shot that day have trouble telling which is water and which is sky. Later that same day, while heading toward Knocknarea, the mountain top cairn of the legendary Queen Mab, we met Gordon Winter, ex-spy, author, and local character. We were photographed in close encounters with his pet chickens, sipped tea in his kitchen, and bought an autographed copy of his latest book “Secrets of the Royals.”

Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens
Author Gordon Winter, Garry and chickens

Throughout our vacation, the weather never stopped changing. The sun shone, disappeared and reappeared in rapid succession. Wind blew, and clouds rolled in, and it rained. A few minutes later, the rain stopped, the wind died, the sun came out, the temperature rose, and just as you had taken off your jacket and put on your sunglasses, you’d realize it was raining again.

We took our sunglasses on and off twenty times an hour, and took our jackets on and off almost as often. The second morning in Sligo, we awoke to pounding rain. I peeked out the window to see another rainbow, even brighter than the one we’d seen on arrival, in the field across the road.

Rainbow over Sligo
Rainbow over Sligo

By the time we went to breakfast, the sun had come out, but by the time we finished breakfast, it was drizzling. Irish weather. It never rained all day, but rained a little almost every day. We learned to ignore weather and so whatever we had planned, counting on the ever-changing skies to give us enough clear weather to tramp through a ruin, scale a castle wall, or walk down by a riverside.

Marilyn at Loch Gill
Marilyn at Loch Gill

After three days in Sligo, we traveled down to Connemara. One afternoon, we drove to Cong, where John Ford shot “The Quiet Man.” Ardent movie buffs, we literally climbed over fences and wended our way through sheep pastures.

Garry always greeted the sheep by reminding them how good they would taste with a bit of mint jelly. I thought in terms of sweaters and tweeds. We tramped through the pastures until we found the “quiet man’s cottage.” We recognized it by the little stream the runs in front of it … the location, the picture perfect location. But the cottage was a ruin.

Nowadays the Irish Tourism folks are advertising it as “restored.” Having seen it in 1990, there was nothing to restore. The foundation was barely visible. A few pieces of wall, but otherwise gone. They may indeed have rebuilt it, but it was no restoration. Hey, we’re talking Hollywood, so you don’t care, right?

The setting is as idyllic as ever, though, and the stream still flows past the cottage door and under the little bridge. Clearly the movie was the biggest thing to ever hit the town. Cong is full of Quiet Man memorabilia, and the local residents full of anecdotes and memories.

Cong, September 1990
Cong, September 1990

Our time was almost up, and as we continued down along the coast, we began to realize that we would really have to go home. The idea was so depressing that we stopped in the nearest pub for solace.

Cong and Garry
Cong and Garry

The only part was driving. Keeping left was a problem. The roads were another. Narrow, a terrifying mix of blind curves, roaming sheep, and meandering cattle, locals drive these narrow roads at supersonic speeds. On roads hardly wider than our tiny compact car, we were passed, after which we felt obliged to check if the door handles and mirrors were still attached.

Irish Signs
Somewhere … but where?

Eventually we stopped worrying where we were or how to get someplace else. We let the road take us where it would. We knew whenever and wherever we stopped, we’d find a good pub and friendly faces.

We hoped we’d go back again, but other places called and the years ran faster than I believed possible. But we remember.

Post Script:

Yeats' Grave in Sligo
Yeats’ Grave in Sligo

When we got home, we were visiting Garry’s folks, showing the photos to Garry’s Dad until he stopped us. It was the pictures of Yeats’ burial site. “Those are your people,” he said, pointing to a group of stones slightly behind Yeats’.

“Our people?” asked Garry.

“Your grandparents were from Sligo,” he said. “My mother,” he clarified. That explained the very light-skinned red-headed grandmother Garry remembered.

“When were you going to tell me?” he asked his father.

“I was waiting until I thought you were old enough,” his father explained. Garry was 48 at the time.


Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap – What’s your dream tourist destination — either a place you’ve been and loved, or a place you’d love to visit? What about it speaks to you?

Daily Prompt: Non, je ne regrette rien … Well, not much, anyhow.

If I have any regrets — real regrets other than “gee, it would have been nice if I’d gotten around to doing that” which is not a regret, just something that got missed …. they are about money. The personal mistakes? They are part of life and although they may have been regrettable, they became a piece of who we are … and you can’t go back and fix life.

On the other hand, I wish we’d been better about money, a little more savvy. We didn’t expect to be unable to work so young. I’m not sure we ever really thought about it in a clear-headed way. It was always far off in a misty future, a “someday” that might never come. We planned to be young and healthy forever.

Sunlight through bright maple leaves by the lake's shore.

Then, one day, bang. There it was. I was disabled. Garry was retired. Where an income had been, we had a donut hole. We’d used our savings to buy the house we could no longer afford, which seemed like a good idea when we believed we had another decade of income from work. Not such a good idea without those salaries.

We had worked and paid taxes for a collective 75 years between the two of us. We worked until we couldn’t work any more. It was time to start collecting. Retirement was supposed to be the end of stress, the beginning of the rewards.

There are rewards. The freedom of time is the big one. You can go to bed and get up on your own schedule. You can do everything, more or less, on your own schedule. I don’t know what day of the week it is most of the time. If you don’t have a job, one day is very much like another. Weekends take me by surprise. If you are in a good marriage, you have time to really enjoy each other. You get to know your grandchildren. You read, watch movies, pursue hobbies, pet your dogs.

We worked hard, played hard, so our memories are a treasure trove. We did almost all of the things we really wanted to do and hopefully, there are still a few surprises to come. Good surprises, not the other kind.

Sadly, though, retirement has not turned out to be the end of stress. Just a different kind of stress. It’s no longer about meeting the expectations of the workplace. It’s about meeting the bills.

Our pension plans are inadequate to the world in which we find ourselves. When we planned them, they sounded good and probably were … then. But the cost of living went way up and what it takes to maintain a life that would free us from stress is probably about twice what we really have. After making huge cutbacks and eliminating many (most) things we used to do, we hang on. Barely.

So I wish we’d been smarter about money. The irony is we thought we were being smart. We did what we thought we were supposed to do. It just didn’t work out as planned. What made perfect sense 20 years ago doesn’t make sense today. We didn’t grasp that pension amounts stay the same, though the cost of living continues to rise. The meaning of “fixed income” hadn’t really grabbed hold. It has now.

We have adapted, but life after paychecks is not what we intended. Being poor is like walking around in shoes that are just a little bit too tight. They almost fit. Sadly, with shoes and budgets, “almost fits” is surprisingly different than “fits.”

But looking back … we had fun. I had fun. Garry had fun. We had fun together. We still have fun. We just need to fit our fun into an incredibly tight budget, taking into account our arthritic bodies and diminished energy levels.

Few regrets and great memories. We didn’t do everything, but we did a lot. More than most. We made some unfortunate — maybe stupid — choices, but we didn’t wimp out. If life were a movie, we would be on schedule for a previously unknown but fabulously rich relative to pass away leaving us gazillions of dollars and a mansion on a cliff in Ireland. Pity a team of Hollywood script writers isn’t in charge of our lives.

In the deathless words and music of Edith Piaf, I would like to say this about that:

Non, je ne regrette rien ... or at least, not much.