Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ireland Interlude

I'm not quite sure where this stuff belongs, so I'm putting it here.

  • Much of Ireland looks like Northern California. At times, it seems like we could be in Carmel, or Gualala.

    That is, if the money were Euros, the signs were in Gaelic, and you drove on the left.

  • In 9 days, we heard 1 airplane. We saw 4 police cars, and a handful of ambulances.

    At home, we see all that in 20 minutes.

  • You can't do your own laundry in Ireland. People don't even understand what you're asking for. They will direct you to places where you can drop off your clothes and somebody else will wash them for you, but the concept of a self-service laundromat simply does not exist.

    I'm not sure why this is, but it is.

  • Except for birds and fish, there is no wildlife. We saw no signs of deer, raccoons, fox, rabbit, or any of the other various land animals that we live with routinely at home. However, cows, sheep, dogs and cats roam freely everywhere, to the degree that I think the occasional fences were more for humans than for livestock.

    So keep your eyes on the road.

  • Everything is ancient. The Irish live amidst millenia of history. At home, we never see anything older than about 200 years, and it's hard to even find buildings that old (perhaps the occasional Junipero Serra mission, say). We marvel at that history, but in the places we visited, it's just there. Which is not to say they don't appreciate it! They just don't treat it as unusual.

    After a while, we realized that every town has a church, or a castle, or a fort.

  • The thing about these historic buildings is: how should they be treated? Some are left as is, some are stabilized, but otherwise not much changed, and some are aggressively restored.

    So far as I could tell, within Ireland, some properties are privately owned and the restoration and access to these properties is handled by the owners (e.g., Blarney or Bunratty), while other properties are publicly owned and are handled by the Office of Public Works, or the the Heritage Council.

    Visions of the Past - How Far Should We Go in 'Restoring' Ancient Monuments? asks some very interesting questions about this process and how we should understand and explain it.

    This idea is taken to its limit when it comes to sites such as Newgrange in Ireland. The gleaming white wall that surrounds the entrance to Newgrange is a modern construction, despite the fact that debate continues as to whether the quartzite rocks found on the site were actually used to form a wall, or something else, such as a plaza surface.

    But perhaps concerns over our 'vandalism' of ancient structures is an illusion...after all, in another four millennia, we will be considered yet another ancient people who modified an even more ancient structure, just as King Tuthmosis IV's repairs to the Sphinx a thousand years after its construction (or at least, the orthodox date of construction...) have now become a part of the monument as we know it.

    Of course, part of the fun of looking at the old architecture is to make fun of it!

  • Lastly (in this interlude), the answer to a question that nagged at me throughout the trip:
    Why did so many of the old graves say: I H S?

    It turns out, this is easy to answer: IHS Monogram/Insiginia on 18th and 19th Century Gravestones

    According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia:

    In the Middle Ages the Name of Jesus was written: IHESUS; the monogram contains the first and last letter of the Holy Name. It is first found on a gold coin of the eight century: DN IHS CHS REX REGNANTIUM (The Lord Jesus Chirst, King of Kings).

    (Check out the picture near the end of that article, of the lintel stone from the Augustinian Abbey in Adare.)

Okay, enough of that. Let's get back to the pictures!

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