After the Wigtown Book Festival in Scotland and a family reunion dinner, I got a ride with a local woman from Wigtown who trafficked me into Ireland in her car, which we’d park on a ferry traveling across the sea to Belfast. After a little hitchhiking, I wound up in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, which many of the locals with anti-British sentiments call “Derry.”
Derry was the site of “Bloody Sunday,” when, in 1972, thirteen civil rights protesters were murdered by the British military. There’s an excellent movie about the massacre (Bloody Sunday), and while we’re on the subject of the “The Troubles” represented in cinema, you can’t go wrong with Hunger directed by Steve McQueen and The Crying Game by Neil Jordan.
The people of Derry have painted murals of Bloody Sunday on the sides of the buildings.
I took a bus down to the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast in County Clare.
When I arrived in Annascaul, Ireland after a long walk on the Dingle Way, I went to the South Pole Inn to grab a fish dinner. A violently affectionate “stag party” (the Irish version of a bachelor party) was loudly drinking and would soon place two giant pints of Heineken on my table, making me the party’s American mascot.
Inside the South Pole Inn, next to my booth, was a porthole covered by a small wooden door. Every five minutes, a member of the stag party would ask me to open it, and when I did an audio recording of chilly, Antarctic gales resounded throughout the bar. (Tom Crean was an Irishman who went on Antarctic journeys with the likes of Ernest Shackleton.)
They urged me to drink the two pints with them, and then made me stand up and read off all fifty American states. I insisted to the guy keeping track that he forgot to make three tallies, as I was sure I hit all fifty, but the next morning I realized I forgot to mention Utah, Nevada, and Michigan.
They bought me two more bottles of Heineken and then offered a third pint, but I was already thoroughly soused, and I was only another drink or two away from being whisked away off to Killarney, where they were threatening to take me on their pub tour across the southwest.
I was able to slip out, but, again, I was thoroughly drunk, and I completely missed my turn back onto the Dingle Way. So now I was aimlessly walking up the steep, winding, no-shoulder N86 highway. Every time a car sped past I had to shove myself into blackberry thickets.
It was getting dark, the hills were rolling and tent-unfriendly, and the trail was out of sight, so I randomly knocked on a door, still thoroughly drunk, and struggled to explain my quandary to an Irishwoman who I struggled to understand. The man of the house came to the door and motioned that I set up my tent by the cow’s milking hut on their property. Afterward, they invited me in, and they seemed amused with my story and my inebriation, and I was able to sober up with the help of some apple and rhubarb pie.