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My first St. Patrick's Day in Ireland

17 March, 2002, Kilkenny —

On Saint Patrick's Day, I had plans to meet a friend at Syd's pub — which is, incidently, across the street from my house. It's what the locals call my "local." Only it's more local than most — just by coincidence.

Molly rang me and said she wasn't going to the parade. I decided to wash some dishes and cook a bit — then the parade started. Oh, yeah — the parade was just outside my window, one floor down, on Rose Inn Street.

It was raining. I watched the parade from my window. Marching band, cheerleaders, huge new farm equipment followed closely by a pipe band; a diorama of a medieval feast on the trailer of a semi truck; and a man on stilts to the level of my window.

At a point, I finally decided I had to go out and see the end of the parade from streetlevel. Having put on my coat, I went back to the window and saw that the gards had brought the traffic back through. So I finished washing the dishes, and cooked some food.

About an hour after the parade had ended, the sun began to clear the clouds a bit — and it stayed like that, about half-cleared — with the locally characteristic two layers of clouds moving in different directions, fairly low in the sky.

I decided to walk through town and across Green's Bridge.

[There are two good simple walks in Kilkenny. One is around the perimeter of the castle park, a 50-acre greenway inside the medieval castle's property. It's a wooded (deciduous and evergreen) pathway around a rolling grass lawn. The other good walk is up and across Green's Bridge, back the other side of the river and across John's Bridge, to my apartment.]

Out my front door, I went across the street and up the ancient, worn stair between Syd's and my internet cafe and via Mary's Lane, behind Mary's Church, to High Street. High Street was still buzzing with festive spirit and quite a few people. (I didn't like it.)

High Street turns into Parliament Street. These streets are the center of the old town, the roadway that ran between the burghages of the mediaeval Norman settlement. (Burghages were long narrow plots that belonged to the wealthier men; they usually included a shopfront with housing above and behind, and a garden plot extending to the city wall.)

Turned [to the] right below St. Canice's and the round tower, up through a nondescript corner of town, across Green's Bridge. On the other side of the River Nore, the route is placid.

The small park near the bridge has been closed since I arrived in September, for work on an archaeological dig. A bridge had collapsed there in the 1700's. The River Nore is being reworked quite extensively along this stretch, to allay the effects of the perennial flooding problems. The archaeology is precursor to some earthwork along there.

Back upstream [on the] other side of the river, down past the library. Near John's Bridge, some folks were leaning over the stone fence looking down at the river. I strolled closer and looked. A couple of lads had pulled in some trout — bown with black spots — different from the American, but unmistakeably trout. [They seemed] a bit stouter of an oval cross-section.

When I got back to my flat, I found on going through my pockets that Eddie had just sent me a text message. He was at Syd's. So I went over.

Gicu, Bogdan, and Kacia came and went successively. They all worked at a restaurant. Poor suckers having to work on a holiday. My job at Heaton's department store gave me Monday off, even. (St. Patrick's was Sunday.) Eddie and I stuck around. Gary showed up, Caroline his sister and Eddie's girl, she showed up. T_ [?] came in.

Gary and I gravitated to the darkened pool room to talk about something that had happened a couple of nights earlier. We were up there for a while, and Eddie came up. Then others of our friends.

"Hey, Eamon," Gary said to Speedy, who works there, "What are the chances of turning the lights on for us? Just the lights, like?" And Eamon did. Syd had decided to keep the pool room closed on the holiday, as he often does on weekends anyhow. Doesn't want the trouble when the place is busy.

We sat in the pool room, bringing stools up from below. Just sort of had the place to ourselves.

When Justin and Molly both showed up at about the same time, about 8 or so, we had settled into the place. It was very easy for Justin to request Syd open the table. Which he did.

Justin and Molly are excellent pool players, and they dominated the table fairly well — to no-one's surprise. I had a fair game or two, but my form is still pretty erratic.

Overall, St Paddy's day came out to be an evening of drinking beer with friends, and shooting some pool. Very Irish, and very enjoyable. Not a lot different than many a night off, but for the earlier start.

After Syd's closed (at 12:30, the latest night for a normal pub license,) and drinking-up time had elapsed, and we were nearly the last to leave, these Irish folks went off up John Street to O'Faolain's. O'Faolain's is one of the late-license places, and the newest. It was built around the ruins of a Welsh church, moved in and rebuilt at expense of £4 million ($4½ M.)

O'Faolain's is impressive — but it's loud. I don't like the place, nor any of the late clubs, except very rarely. And anyhow, I'd been having beer for eight hours. I've my limits. I'm not Irish. I'm not Romanian either. My Irish and my Romanian friends proceeded to celebrate into the night — but I went home feeling good enough.