Sunday, September 26, 2010


This will be a short post.

I biked to judo last night. Aside from giving my legs a nice warm-up on the way, it took me all of 15 minutes to get there. Taking the bus and then walking used to take 45 minutes, never mind the wait.

Then today I barely had to wait for the bus downtown to get home from Trinity. I was on the sidewalk about 5 minutes when the bus showed up. Then the bus ride itself, from the time I got on till the time I got off, was 50 minutes. Normally it's 25. All thanks to traffic. If I had been on the bike, it would have taken 25 minutes.

As soon as I get used to negotiating traffic around these parts, I'm going to start biking downtown.

50 minutes. Gah.

Trim, Tara, Town

At 10:30 on Friday night, completely on a whim, I called one of the day tour companies that operate out of Dublin to find out about available trips for the following day. I was exhausted, my back was killing me, and I had skipped Dublin's Culture Night, when everything is open for free for a few hours, because my back was hurting so much. But I called anyway, and ended up taking a lovely little tour on Saturday up north to County Meath (about an hour from the city center) to visit Trim Castle and the Hill of Tara.

Trim Castle was very interesting. It's the ruins of a twelfth-century Norman castle, the oldest surviving one in Ireland. The Normans invaded in 1169, bringing Ireland under English rule, at least in name. They are the ones who intermarried with the Gaels and became some of the big names in Ireland, the great Anglo-Irish earls. That's where we get names like Fitzgerald and Fitzsimmons - the Normans spoke French, of course, and "fitz" is the old way of pronouncing "fils" (son).

The castle, which was also used for filming Braveheart, was surprisingly small. I suppose we're conditioned to think of castles as being these huge expanses, but it was really not very large. We got to wander the grounds a bit and look at the ruins, and then we got a private guided tour through the castle itself and right up to the roof. It was very interesting to learn about all the functions that the various designs of the building had; for instance hanging the clothes over the latrine so that the ammonia from the waste would fumigate the lice from the clothes, or the fact that the north tower has crumbled away completely because it was the cooking area and fire will make rock brittle. Also the reason for clockwise spiral staircases, the placement of the bedrooms, and the design of the doors that were all for defensive purposes. It must have been a very dangerous time, indeed, if your entire daily existence was based around the idea that someone could come along any minute and kill you.

Then we drove up to the Hill of Tara. There were some people there, but since it was cold and windy it wasn't crowded at all. It was actually quite peaceful. It's where the pagans worshipped and the high kings of Ireland (at least in that area; Ireland was swarming with kings right up until Brian Boru) ruled from, because it is the highest point in the area and you can see for many miles in every direction. One of the features of this place was that a bonfire was lit there once a year, and no other bonfires were allowed to be lit to compete with the holy fire, or else the gods would strike the offender dead. Saint Patrick then decided to light the Paschal fire on the hill, which of course was seen for miles around, and to the astonishment of the druids, he survived the night. Convinced that his God was in fact stronger than theirs, they and the kings converted on the spot, and began to convert their people as well. Hence Tara is a Celtic place, a royal place, and a holy place. The distinguishing mark of Tara are the concentric circles that are built into the landscape; they don't look like much unless you see an aerial view. The kings would build their own mound once they were elected in order to make a mark of their reign, but they incorporated the mounds of the previous kings to show continuity as well.

Finally, before heading back into the city, we went to a pub out in the middle of nowhere that was built in the late 1500s and has served various functions. But the food was excellent and not expensive, and they let me pull my own pint of Guinness, and we even got a demo for making Irish coffee that resulted in the best-tasting Irish coffee I have ever had, hands down. It tasted like hot chocolate with a kick.

Then today I headed into town with one of my roommates to go to a church with a professional choir, one of two in the city. And it was so nice out that we went for a walk along the river and looked at the Famine memorials (they are all over the city) before running into two other girls we knew, and then heading home.

Today was nice and relaxing. Now if only my back will simmer down a bit, because I have to be back in the library tomorrow, and I can't read while reclining in the library.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


First bike trip to UCD: successful.
Biking with one hand so I can make turning signals with the other: difficult.
Trying to do this while balancing my backpack with books and laptop on my back and riding astride a seat that's just a tad too low and can't be raised: even more difficult.
Biking in drizzly rain with glasses on: also difficult.
Getting to the library in less than five minutes: totally worth it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

EEBO and EPB, and other news

I haven't updated in a couple of days, but I've been working pretty hard. I was really killing myself to get all that work done in the Early Printed Books section of Trinity's Library, but today I discovered that there are copies of what I need at the NLI (my new favorite place in the world), and also that Trinity is going to give me two extra weeks of day access to the EPB, bringing me right up to the day I leave for Oxford. Perfect!

So now I have to find somewhere to stay in Oxford. I was just looking up B&Bs and hostels. Hopefully I can find somewhere nice - B&Bs are more expensive but you get a private room and they're nicer, but the hostel seems to be a good deal, with the only exception that it's all mixed rooms. That weirds me out a bit; and the one with an available all-female room for the nights that I'll be there only got a 50% rating for cleanliness. Oh well. I can book tomorrow or the next day, it's not like people will be descending on Oxford for the middle of October (well, who aren't students).

So I did end up moving rooms this weekend; about a half hour I wrote the last post, actually. I like my new room. It's not any quieter than the old one because of all the hallway noise that comes through the door, but it's not like it's a regular dorm where you have people coming in and out at all hours, either, so it's fine. It's tucked away behind the stairs and looks out over the roofs instead of the courtyard, so it's nice and private, and I really like that. The roofs are actually more interesting to look at than the courtyard, because there are 4 different kinds plus a tree, and it's especially neat when it rains. My bathroom doesn't have a skylight or a counter, but I have lots of extra bookshelf space. Plus it's better if someone staying for the whole year gets the bigger room, since they'll need more space than me. I like my little cozy room.

On Sunday morning a couple of us went downtown for Mass, because it was the day of the beatification of John Henry Newman and we wanted to go to the church that he founded in Dublin while he was here for a few years. It's a gorgeous little church, tucked away between two buildings at St. Stephen's Green, and I had actually chanced upon it just a few days earlier. The Mass was packed, of course, and the liturgy was much more formal than the picnic at UCD last week. There was a visiting choir for the occasion, and they were stupendous! It was music that enhanced the Mass, rather than being a distraction. And the best thing was, for the most part, no one sang (again, because the music was not provided) so you could really enjoy the beauty of both the words and the sound instead of being annoyed by the person behind you singing too loud, or trying to figure out what the tune is or whatever. And while it is now a parish church, there seemed to be a lot of young people as well, though that may have just been for Newman's Mass. But I think I will go again next week and see how it is. The tram goes just to the corner, so it would be easier enough to get there on Sundays.

Then Sunday afternoon a few of us girls went out to Temple Bar and I finally made it out to a pub. Temple Bar is a total tourist trap: it was interesting to see once, and I have no intention of ever going back. But it was fun and nice to do something like that for a change.

I'll be spending tons of time at the library this week for sure, and for the next couple of weeks as well - basically I'm chugging right through until I get back from Oxford so I can prepare as much as possible, and then I can relax a bit and work at a normal pace. Good night for now!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Warning: the geek factor in the following post is off the charts. If you don't grok old books, you won't grok this post.

But first a bit of business. I think I'll be moving rooms in the next few days. I like my nice big room, but the one down the hall has much thicker walls (stone ones from the old construction) and the window doesn't overlook the courtyard directly, which means it will be quieter and more private. That way too, someone coming for the whole year can take the room with more storage space. I wish I wasn't such a light sleeper, but once people get up and moving around 6:20 or so in the morning it wakes me right up out of my doze, because the way my bedroom is set up now, the bed is in the corner against the walls to the hallway and the girl next-door's bathroom. So even though I like my pretty room and I've managed to find a place for everything to go, I think it will be a good change.

So: books! I don't think I'll be doing much touring in Ireland, though hopefully I'll have enough sense to see the city of Dublin at least, because I'm going to spend so much time in the library reading old books. And it's great! My reader's pass to Trinity gives me access to their early printed books room, so I can order an old book, someone fetches it for me within the hour, and I get to sit there and read it until the place closes, if I feel like it.

Yesterday I ordered a copy of one of the texts that I'm using for my thesis. It was printed in 1608 as part of a debate between a famous Jesuit missionary and the Protestant Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. The copy that Trinity has is the copy that the Jesuit had delivered to the Dean directly once it was printed, and the Dean wrote in his own comments to the Jesuit's not very charitable accusations about him in this treatise. So I just sat there and leafed through it, trying to discern the handwriting which was partially cut off when the book was rebound in the nineteenth century. Comments like "I said not so!" and other exclamations are scattered throughout. I was so excited to hold this book in my hands that my hands were literally shaking for the first twenty minutes.

Now I'l finally tell you all about what I did on Monday. After straightening things out with the Garda, I wandered over to Trinity to take the tour. It's not a long tour, but it's interesting, just giving a brief general history of some of the more prominent buildings. Their main library is named for the same guy that UCBerkeley is named for, actually. Trinity is amazing - it's right smack in the middle of downtown, like McGill but Dublin is a lot busier than Montreal, but Trinity is basically a fortress, surrounded by high walls and buildings, and you have to enter through little gates, so as soon as you step into the courtyard, you can't hear the traffic and street noise that' happening 50 feet away. It's its own little world. If I don't get into Oxford, Trinity is definitely the top choice for Irish Reformation studies in the world, hands down. I would love to go there. I picked up some admissions info during my wanderings, so I'll have to ponder that.

At the end of the tour we got admission to the Book of Kells, an illuminated (decorated) manuscript of the four Gospels from about the year 800. First there's an interesting exhibition all about how these old books were made, who wrote them, how they made the colors, the symbolism of the designs, etc. The designs are amazing when you see them blown up to wall-sized proportions; the details are incredible. But it's even more amazing when you go in to see the book itself: it's only the size of a textbook, and you can barely see the intricate detail that these monks spent years designing. Why did they do it? How did they do it, in fact? It was pretty incredible.

That's on the first floor of the Old Library, and as part of the exhibition you go upstairs to the first floor of the Old Library to the Long Room. The Long Room is just that: it takes up the entire length of the building and the vaulted ceilings bring it up to two stories high. And it is packed to the gills with old books. The books are arranged by size, not title or author or even subject, so the catalogues for them are these huge handwritten volumes that I had to consult when I wanted to order that book yesterday. The Long Room looks kind of like the library in Beauty and the Beast, but darker - we're talking floor to ceiling books, spindly ladders, busts of famous dead guys, the whole bit. I wanted to move in, I loved it so much. What I didn't know, actually, is that the reading room that I will be using is just in the top corner of this building, so I'll be spending quite a lot of time there, even if the ambience isn't exactly the same.

After that I ate some lunch, bought a couple of Guinness-related things, and then headed down to the National Library of Ireland to check that out. It's just around the corner from Trinity, and it was surprisingly easy to get a pass; I just had to register at the computer, and it was free. So I did that, and then I headed up to the reading room. One of the first volumes that caught my eye was a printed collection of State Papers for Ireland from 1570-1575. I nearly started hyperventilating, I was so excited about these books. There's lots of great reference works there, so whatever I can't find or can't take out from the universities because I'm only on a reader's pass, I can get from the NLI. Lots of my secondary sources reference stuff from the NLI all the time, so it will be great to go check them out for myself.

Seriously, even if I do nothing else here, the libraries are making this whole trip worth it. I worked really hard yesterday, so I think I'll just do a bit of reading at home today, plus going to buy a bike pump, and everything (including university libraries) is closed in Sunday anyways, so I won't be doing too much. But tomorrow is the celebration of the beatification of John Henry Newman, so while the Pope is doing that in England, lots of churches are having special Masses tomorrow to mark it. So I might head downtown to the old university chapel downtown that Newman established while he was here for the Mass tomorrow.

Notice: if you are in Montreal, Brother André will be canonized in October by the Pope at the Olympic Stadium. Tickets are $5 but there is a huge demand, so make so you get one!

And on one last cultural note, one of the Spanish girls popped in as I was writing this post to ask if she could put on some music. So now I'm being serenaded by frantic flamenco songs drifting in from the hallway.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Class: Fail

My first class was to be today. The small group of us (only four students) waited outside for about 15 minutes, before one of the professors called us into the office to explain that they had cancelled today's class and we'll only begin next week, but apparently no one had gotten the message. So they chatted with us for about 15 minutes to explain how things will go; it looks like most of the interesting stuff is going to happen this term, which is great news for me. Also, the book is in the library, so I don't have to buy it. The course is heavy on historical methodology (the course and book both being called "Writing Irish History"), which is excellent because I'm supposed to be doing a reading course on methodology and reading courses are quite hard to get started in if you don't really know what you're doing. So I expect taking this course will be a great help for the stuff I'm doing in Canada, on top of just being interesting. The professors also seem very nice; the one I had been emailing is much younger than I had thought. Of course I pictured the crazy-shock-of-white-hair absent-minded professor type (think Narnia or Back to the Future) but he's actually a lovely rotund little gentleman who looks to be in maybe his mid-to-late forties.

I'm a bit relieved that class was cancelled, actually, since I spent the whole morning sleeping (again), and now I can go to the library for a few hours after eating my lunch and get a bit of work done.

Also, I received a letter and a postcard yesterday. Thanks guys! I love getting mail! I bought some paper and postcards today too so hopefully I'll be sending stuff out in the next few days.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Long Day

Well, I guess I never got around to rewriting that brilliant post that y'all didn't get to see. Curse you, Safari.

I'm in UCD library after a very long day. I had judo last night, which was interesting. I was the only girl of 16 people in a tiny room with mats on linoleum floors. I'm surprised my insides didn't get turned inside out like they used to during the Bay State Games; but again, I didn't work out very hard. The guys there, for the most part, aren't very good, though there are a couple of exceptions, and everyone is very friendly. They're used to fighting with guys, first all of, which means trying to out-gorilla each other. But they can't really do that with me, since I already know that they're stronger and I have no desire to get hurt. The club is moving to a new location in a couple of weeks, so there will be a wood floor and three times the mat space, and hopefully more people will show up, which means more people for me to choose from. Working out with dudes makes me so nervous, especially when I can't be sure that the black and brown belts will actually have any idea what they're doing. It's a competition-focused club, not a technique-focused one like the one I went to in Montreal, so I just have to readjust, I guess. I really got spoiled at the Shidokan. The club here reminds me a lot of the one I started out in in Massachusetts, actually. I'll give it a few weeks.

On a related note, I hate the busses here. They suck. One of the girls in the house has a bike that she doesn't use, so hopefully I will start biking ASAP. Biking on roads terrifies me, but the cyclists here seem less stupid than the ones in Montreal, and the drivers much less homicidal, so I think it should be okay. I'm a little nervous about the whole "driving on the left side of the road" thing. It's hard enough for me to remember which side of the road to catch the bus on, and which way to look when I jaywalk. I hope I don't lose concentration for a second and turn right into oncoming traffic! But it will be better than waiting for the bus. There's no way to tell when the bus will come; the timetables only give the times that the bus leaves each terminus, so unless you know how far away that is and how much traffic it's likely to hit before it gets to you, you can't judge at all when the bus will come. I have yet to wait less than 15 minutes for a bus. I bought a pass, and the bus to the downtown stops just outside the house, but it runs very infrequently and I hate watching people zip by on their bikes while I stew for 20 minutes. 20 minutes wait plus 25 minutes ride thanks to traffic means a whole hour out of my day commuting each way. Not fun. Also the fact that I get off the bus and still have a 20 minute walk to judo at night doesn't exactly make for a fun evening. It's okay now, but in the rain, and once it starts getting cold, I am not going to be happy with this situation.

So today I woke up nice and early, 6:20am to be exact, because the girl in the room next door turned on the fan in her bathroom which is right next to the wall next to my head when I'm in bed. It's not like there's anything to be done about that, though. So I went back to bed for a couple of hours after breakfast. Then I hopped over to UCD to pay their exorbitant fee and pick up my reader's pass to the library, since Trinity will only let me in in the evenings and on Saturdays once term starts in 10 days. It's a pretty good library at UCD, actually, better than I expected, and open until 11pm. I think I'm going to spend quite a bit of time here. The religion section is as far away from anything as you can possibly get, though, which means it will be nice and quiet to study in, hopefully.

I cursed the internet, and brought it to the IT department so I could get back on the UCD network. After I had spent yesterday fiddling with the Glenard network, I managed to kick myself off the UCD network. So then the guys fixed it for me, but when I went downtown afterwards I found out that I couldn't get on any other network. *sigh* At least UCD is close.

So I went downtown to try to place a phone call (unsuccessfully) to a lady at Concordia, and to pick up my Trinity library card. So I can use their library during the day until the 26th, and after that only weekend and Saturdays. But it does give me access to the Early Printed Books collection, which is excellent, and I plan to use gluttonously. Yes, gluttonously. I will get more into my old-book gluttony at a later time. That was the main gist of the previous ghost-post, actually, and I'm too tired to rehash it now.

Book Glutton.

So now my library access is fairly complete, between UCD, TCD, and the NLI (explanations to come). I hopped over to the library after dinner to try to get some work done, but I'm tired and I've had a long and aggravating day, and I have my first class tomorrow afternoon, before which I hope to get some stuff done in the library. So I'm going to head home and try to get some sleep. Hah. Updates to come as regularly as I can provide them.

Curse you, internet gods.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I had a big long post about all the stuff I did yesterday all typed up and ready to go, when Safari crashed on me before I could get it up.

If I have time tonight I'll try to rewrite it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lazy Sunday

Well, the internet situation in the house has reached a desperate peak. *cue dramatic music* Right now the only way to connect is by cable in the front office, so I'm sitting on the floor and another girl is at the desk to use the internet for a few brief moments. When I have a lot to do it's easier to go to campus, but it's a 20 minute walk and it gets dark at 8pm here, so by the time dinner is over at 7 it's really too late to go.

We had tea this evening instead of dinner. It was cute - basically breakfast, as far as I'm concerned. Eggs, sausage and ham, tea, toast with butter and jam, and fruit. Now that I'm using my cell phone as an alarm, I also plan to make it to breakfast on time tomorrow for the first time since I arrived.

Tomorrow I'm going into the city again. I got so spoiled living on Cote-des-Neiges with all of the busses going by; the bus that stops outside the residence goes right through the center of town but comes very sporadically and not very often. A group of us wanted to go downtown after lunch today, so we waited for 45 minutes before I decided to just go home and get some work done (which ended up meaning taking a nice long nap). Of course, the bus came about 3 minutes after I left. I knew it would, too. I'm just taking one for the team and all that.

I went to Mass on campus today. It was rather odd. There was a lot more kneeling, from the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer right till the end, and also at the final blessing. The music was good, a student was playing the small organ, and the girl who sang looked about 19 but had a huge operatic voice. The problem was, they had her stand in front of the microphone, which is very sensitive. So even though she stood about 2 1/2 feet back, and was obviously trying to sing as quietly as she could, it was still much too loud. And everyone sang at the gloria and Alleluia, since they knew them, but there were no songbooks or anything for the regular hymns. It was the opposite of North America - usually the church will bend over backwards to get people to sing, handing out songsheets or books and announcing the hymn and having a songleader, but no one will open their mouths to sing. Here, people sang when they could, but they had no lyrics or anything to help them. Also, it was at least half made up of very old people. Why they would come all the way down to campus when there's a perfectly good church just around the block, I have no idea. It kind of killed the student atmosphere though. And the priest is one of those post-Vatican II showmen, who referred to God as "she" at one point (I couldn't help rolling my eyes), but he otherwise seems nice. I might try to student-only Saturday evening Mass next weekend.

I'll be going into town tomorrow to get a bunch of things done, and especially hopefully getting everything straightened out with the customs office. I'd like to take a walking tour of Trinity College, which ends at the Book of Kells, before all the students start showing up in the next couple of weeks. I also might meet up with one of my housemates for lunch. She's from Spain, and speaks English well enough but speaks French better than English, So I finally have someone to have my lazy trilingual conversations with! I've also booked a very cheap flight to Oxford for a week starting October 9, so I have to figure out where to stay and how to get there from the airport and all that.

I'm signing off for now since I don't know who will need to use the office next. More updates and adventures to follow.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Home For Now

I'm staying at the Glenard residence here, which is very nice. They're still doing renovations so things are a bit chaotic, but they've calmed down over the last week, certainly. That's why I don't have internet, for instance, and the landlines have stopped working for the moment.

But the people are very nice, and it's new and clean and open. It's built around a courtyard, with the different wings of the building forming the four sides of a square. My room overlooks the courtyard, with a nice big window. Initially I was concerned about a lack of privacy, since my entire room is in full view of anyone in the kitchen or dining room across the way when my shade is up. But as long as I'm careful about keeping the shade down at night and first thing in the morning, its fine. I like my big window, and my bathroom (private bathroom!) has a skylight, so I rarely have to turn on the lights.

I have a desk with a comfy chair, a comfortable bed with a nice warm duvet, and three sections of a large Ikea wardrobe. I even have carpet in my room. Once we get internet and I get over my jet lag, it will be nice to work either here or in the study room.

The house is huge. It has something like 30 bedrooms, though we will only have 16 students this year, I think. There are the big sitting room where we hang out each night, the small sitting room right next to it, a new sitting room in the refurbished wing, and a sunroom right next to it. Also in the sunroom are two very old goldfish. They are 6 years old, leftovers from a former resident: one is blind, so he sort of sits around most of the time, and the other one has an enormous tumor on his side that looks like an alien brain or something. I'll take pictures when I get the chance. There's a beautiful chapel, all decked out in polished wood and gold fixings, and the altar is green and purple marble. We have a large dining room that opens onto the courtyard, a large industrial sized kitchen (we have staff who make our meals) and a breakfast nook with a microwave and mini fridge that we can use in between meals.

I feel so awkward about using a kitchen that's not my own, because I don't know what things are okay to use or eat or what. Also, being on time for meals is a challenge. I've spent the last six years making my own schedule, so getting down to breakfast before they clean up at 9am is hard (especially with the jet lag, but hopefully it'll be fine soon), and knowing whether I'll be around for lunch at 1:15 or dinner at 6:30 also takes more planning than I usually have to do. I'm sure I'll get used to it soon though.

We eat very well, and at dinner especially I feel like I'm at some sort of finishing school. The table is fully set, we have a starter (so far either prepared fruit or soup), the main meal, and dessert with fruit and coffee. They eat absolutely everything with silverware. Have you ever seen someone eat an orange with a knife and fork? I tried yesterday at lunch and it was ridiculously difficult. But I guess if I ever have dinner with the Queen I'll know what to do. We had burgers and fries last night, and I absolutely would not try that with a knife and fork. Everyone else did, though, at least at the beginning. Also, they only have instant coffee. They serve it out of a sugar bowl. I guess it's easier, so we can have as much or as little as we want and at any time of the day, but I find it kind of funny. When I initially didn't know what it was, they asked what we drank in the States. I told them coffee from a coffee maker, that everyone had one in their house. They seemed really surprised. What I didn't say is that it's almost rude to offer someone instant coffee; that it's something to be done only when there's absolutely nothing else, and even then with apologies and a slight air of shame.

Ah, Europe.

I Made It!

Goodness gracious, I've finally discovered internet!

It turns out that though they restrict access to their libraries, UCD does not lock their internet. So as long as I don't mind the 20 minute trek to campus I can use it all I want. Hopefully we get internet in our residence soon.

This is not a long update, but I am back on the map at last, after a month of web silence. Moving was insane, PEI was lovely and wonderful and I miss it, and Ireland hasn't made much of an impression on my yet because I got in very early on Monday morning and I'm fighting the worst case of jet lag ever. Rather than adjusting, my body has gone back to stressed-out-in-Montreal 4-hours-per-night mode, which is no fun. I spend much of the day in a semi-zombielike state, unable to get work done. But classes don't start until next week so I'm okay until then. I'm glad I gave myself a week for settling in; I hadn't realized how much I would need it.

Proper updates to come soon, but right now it's dark outside so I'm going to get my bum off this damp picnic bench and go home. Catch you on the flipside.