Why is it that I can’t walk past a “To Let” sign without yearning to scrawl an “i” in the middle? I don’t know, Barnaby, why can’t you? I don’t know either, so we shall proceed with Dublin on the U2 tour.
What? Dublin again? That was ages ago. Yes, I know, but I haven’t finished the day out on the bus with Colin and Harry. Well OK, I’ll throw in an anecdote from this morning, then, to keep you up to date: Earl Grey is not spelt Earl Gray. I brought it to an oik’s attention in a cafe earlier when ordering a nice cuppa. He nodded rather impatiently when I pointed out that Lord Grey was, in fact, English, not American. And oughtn’t he to stop squeezing his spots? Oh, it’ll be even more fun when I am old.
So you thought the sun rose in the east, did you? Ha! Well, it does, actually…but only on the spring and autumn equinoxes. For the rest of the year, it pops up its head anywhere from northeast to southeast, shifting in a barely discernible arc as the seasons come and go.
Dry As A Bone
Yes, we’re back, if you hadn’t guessed, at the Neolithic Irish site of Newgrange – for Part 2. Now, can you believe that this burial mound has remained watertight – this is Ireland, remember – for 5,200 years? Bone dry, it is – not even traces of a mouse’s urine.
At 8.58am on 21st December, the rising sun enters the chamber for a total of seventeen minutes. For the rest of the year, except for a few days either side of the shortest day of the year, it is as black inside as it would be in a very dark, formless place without any light.
Oh, you want a better description? OK then, well the habitat of a mole is comparatively teeming with neon; Newgrange is probably too dark even for bats. Wave a hand in front of your face in here, and you won’t notice a thing. We tried it.
Our next stop is Monasterboice, an early Celtic Christian community. En route is that light at the end of the tunnel that we spoke about last week – namely a Scania truck approaching head on, and tooting his hooter. ‘Don’t worry Harry, he’s just being friendly,’ said Colin, appeasing the tourists before a potentially fatal collision.
As we passed Slane Castle, I fondly remembered being towed out of the sludge by a giant behemoth of a forklift on a Madonna tour. No, you’re right, that isn’t relevant, and distinctly smacks of name-dropping. Did I tell you that I’ve seen her backstage?
Anyway, the village we were visiting is famous for Muiredach’s Cross. We know it belonged to Muiredach – an abbot who kicked the bucket in AD 923 – because he stuck his name on it: ‘M woz ere’, or the 6th century equivalent. ‘The last vandal we had here,’ said Colin, waxing nostalgically, ‘was Oliver Cromwell.’ He glanced upwards, contemplating his lines. ‘Ooh, let’s move on – I’m a bit worried about those clouds.’ I lost the thread a bit after that.
But the Cross itself depicts chapters from the Bible, and one can almost hear a traditional harp resonating down through the centuries. Colin pointed out a faded Adam and Eve in a sculpted version of Chapter One. ‘And in Chapter Two,’ he said poignantly, ‘these little gnomes are having a right ding-dong pulling one another’s beards.’
As he pointed out a nearby headstone showing mass emigration within a family from the 1800s, he told us a little factoid: ’72 million people across the globe claim to be Irish. Please don’t encourage them to move back. We’ve enough problems as it is.’