Creative Writing: Under The Spell - A travel tale by Danny O\'brien


"The great advantage of having an ancestry like that of a mongrel dog is I have
so many ancestral homes to go home to."

We caught the ferry from Le Havre, France to Ireland, land of my ancestors.
Every since I was a wee lad, my mind has been used as a canvas by every Irishman
who has been displaced from the Emerald Isle. A picture of quaintness
bordering upon myth. Cute I thought it would be, but never as much as the
tourist hype I had read. I donned my suit of armor constructed of cynicism,
forged by age. Protected thus from the hype, I the ancestral child would see
Ireland as it really is. Mind you, no tourist hype for me.

The ship pulled in to Rosslare Harbor near Wexford and lowered its gangplank. I
made it most of the way down before I was sucked clean out of my armor into,
head over heels, and under the spell of the Emerald Isle.

We had arranged for a rental car, to be picked upon arrival at the harbor. I
thought perhaps we would be shown how to operate it. Instead the attendant said
in his sweet Irish brogue, "It\'s the wee red one over there," and handed me the
keys.

Still dazed by the sudden entrance in to "The Spell" we sped off in our wee red
Ford Fiesta. Every so many hundred yards along the road signs reminded us to
"Drive to the left." On the open road it was no problem, however moments later
in the congestion of Wexford I was near panic, yelling at Travis to help remind
me what side of the street I was on. It didn\'t help that he often mixes left and
right up in his mind, some sort of hereditary functional disorder. I almost
broke out in sweat when I had to make my first right turn feeling as though I
was going head on into the oncoming traffic.

By the time we got through Wexford I was in desperate need to stop for a wee pee.
I saw a small side road and took that hoping to find a secluded spot to relieve
myself.

I discovered that when you leave the main roads in Ireland you are almost
immediately secluded. We stopped in front of an old abandoned barn made of stone
with an unusual door shaped like a horseshoe. The earth smelled wet and fresh
and was a bit boggy, more so when I departed. It was only a few hundred yards
before we learned our first rule of driving in Ireland. One must share the road
with all other life forms. In this case a herd of very big fat black and white
milk cows. First in front of us and soon all about us. The rear end of the heard
lead cow was in front of the car, walking down the center of the road in a very
leisurely manner, lots of large bovine eyes were peering through the side
windows. Patience is definitely a virtue when driving in Ireland. Never, never
be in a hurry to get anywhere. The roads are almost all narrow and two lanes but
the surfaces are quite good and it is a pleasure to drive without feeling
separated from your surroundings. Any less separation at this moment and we
would have been up to our noses in cowtits.

One of the mysteries of Ireland is how such a small country can be so big. We
arrived at Rosslare Harbor at two thirty in the afternoon and managed to drive
the total distance of thirty five long miles before seeking shelter for the
night in Slieveroe near Waterford. The whole of Ireland is ninety miles across
by one hundred miles long, yet the thought of driving across Ireland in one day
would be unthinkable. We would contemplate driving on to another location only
to decide that it would be too long a journey for one day, then check the map to
discover that our destination was the huge distance of fifty four miles.

A great part of the mystery was solved when we realized that the purchase of the
wonderful Michelin No.405 map of Ireland contributed to this illusion. The map
scale is 1 inch equals 6.30 miles. A map of California at this scale would be
over eleven feet long.

Our wee map of Ireland was only four and a half by three feet, perfect