Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Friday, April 27, 2012

Beyond All Maps

Joyce, on hearing that I hail from Ireland, said she had many, many moons ago stumbled upon a village in the south of my homeland.
Enid, it was called.
I assured her I hadn't heard of it; she was equally certain she'd been there.
It must, I replied, be one of those tiny backroad corners that even locals hadn't heard of; Joyce remembered it as a bustling, lively place in which she'd found plenty to see as a tourist.
I said that Enid was a lovely name for a place, but I wasn't familiar with it at all.
After much insistence on both our parts, Joyce agreed to root out her fond old mementos of the trip and show them the next time she saw me at work. Away she went, secure in the knowledge that she'd been to an Irish village I hadn't.
I was fairly curious too, about Enid, and what sort of a green, sheep-run hamlet it might be that I hadn't even heard of, with all my years growing up in Ireland.
Spouse, who is not from Ireland or indeed anywhere nearby, had another notion altogether when he saw me researching in vain the seemingly fictional town of Enid:
It might be Ennis, he concluded. She might have meant Ennis.
I wasn't too sure about that, and I decided it was a bit of a stretch. The old lady had seemed so determined.
Maybe Enid was real. Maybe she'd been there after all. Who was to say that just because I couldn't find a shred of evidence of it, and because it didn't register on any map I had ever seen, that it wasn't a brambly, bubbling little nook in a shady corner of Ireland?
The more detective work I did, the more real Enid became to me.
I even bestowed a village slogan on it:
Enid: Visit Us. We're Beyond Maps.
I put in a hearty publican and a postman, an aging church caretaker, a couple of curtain-twitching neighbours, a school that needed a few repairs, some farmyards and cowsheds and silent, crumbling graveyards and tiny shops with bicycles propped up outside and sheepdogs asleep in the noonday sun under the bicycles. The wind smelled of wet hay and blackberries.
Now, that couldn't be anywhere but Enid. I was sure too.
Spouse saw the glazed look in my eye, and he retreated.
Some weeks later, Joyce spotted me at work and waved furiously for me to come over.
She had the proof in hand.
"Oh," she said, her well-worn face full of apology, "it wasn't Enid after all. It was Ennis. Ennis. I feel quite silly now."
With only a remark about Spouse's incredible deductions, and about how I knew Ennis like the back of my hand, I brushed aside Joyce's needless laments; but I was the sorry one.
I think Enid, beyond all maps, would have been a very nice place to see, even once.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mandarin Magic

I was on the phone to Mater when I silently and deftly peeled two small mandarin oranges and subtly slid a juicy segment into my mouth.
Not, apparently, quite as clever and underhand as I'd imagined.
"Are you eating fruit?" Mater wanted to confirm. "It's good that you're eating fruit."
In return I begged to learn how she knew.
Oh, she just did, that's all.
That's all. As if it were an ordinary, everyday deduction with nothing creepy or invasive about it whatsoever.
"Oranges are best for you. Good eating."
"Ah come on," was my retort, my alarm increasing, "how on earth are you doing this?"
"Mandarin, is it?"
I can't express too much about what happened to the finer hairs on the nape of my neck. The word 'prickle' doesn't quite cover the matter in the chilly, off-kilter way I would hope for.
At least- I clung feebly to this- she was wrong about the count: I was eating two of them.
"And I'd go so far as to say you're after peeling not one but two mandarins."
The funny thing is, we don't even keep oranges in the house, as a rule; we're more likely to have apples and bananas than oranges, so it's not like I make a habit of eating the things.
Mater refuses to divulge her strange, unearthly secret, at least for the time being, so I'll just have to go on wondering, and asking at intervals.
"Magic," she sometimes replies when I ask and she's feeling inclined to expand a bit on the nature of her talents. "A spot of mother magic."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Schoolhouse

In recent days I sent an elderly relative a photograph, one of Spouse and I on a recent trip to Ireland.
In the picture, we're standing where the earth ends, otherwise known as the edge of Ireland, and we're trying to hold onto our hats and keep grounded in the face of a wind that's less of a wind and more of an ice-cold, full-force gust of power that wants to lure us backwards for a closer, more invigorating look at the grey, churning water.
There's a house in the picture, but it's not a house at all: it's a prop from a Hollywood movie.
Built in 1970 by the producers of Ryan's Daughter, the old schoolhouse stands as it ever did, save for one or two missing walls, and the roof and other essentials that blew away or crumbled with time and the relentless thrashing of the sea.
I've been visiting that fictional schoolhouse in Dunquin, County Kerry, off and on since I was a youngster, and the bones of the building are still holding up rather well.
My relative, who has never been to Ireland, telephoned upon receiving the photograph.
"Is that your mama's house?" was his first question.
Initially I was appalled at the notion of my mother living in such a tumbledown shell, although the view would certainly be terrific; and to be fair, the schoolhouse is as sturdy as a rock.
I explained as gently as I could that no, it wasn't her house at all, but a leftover artifact from a long-ago movie.
"Ah," he said, immediately grasping the essence of it all. "So it's a history house."
Yes, I told him, one could well call it a history house.
But to judge from the slumberous, slow pace at which time has tinkered with it thus far, I'd wager the old Dunquin schoolhouse will have a lot more history to be written.
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