...Gort, which is not too far from Galway, where I was reading in the library that had been a church, the chapel of Lord Gort, in fact. I flew to Dublin rather than Galway because the flights to and from Galway are either very early or very late - in fact so very early or late, you'd really have to spend the night at Stansted.
Dublin Heuston station looks a little desolate and empty, not quite sure of itself. Not much to do there except sit on a bench and eat unspectacular lunch. The rail journey across Ireland is equally unspectacular though sunlit and the train is clean, comfortable and cheap. FJ meets me at Galway station which is even less spectacular than Dublin Heuston and considerably more desolate since it is currently undergoing reconstruction work and so has only one working platform, with no waiting room, no ticket office and no enquiries, but that I only find out next morning.
Fred is there waiting for me at 5pm. He has his little terrier, Tristan, with him. The enthusiastic friendliness of little dogs is cheering, even though Tristan clearly wants to spend the car journey in Fred's lap. Not allowed.
Along the way we stop at Coole Park, Lady Gregory's house, or rather grounds, since the house was destroyed in the Civil War. The woods are magnificent. Fred takes me to the autograph tree where the great and good of Ireland, including Yeats and Shaw, have engraved their names. He takes a photo of me standing by it. Meanwhile Tristan is belting round the park in absolute delight.
It is dusk when we arrive in Gort. We sit in a lovely cafe whose interior is covered in posters that demonstrate that Gort is not short of events that need posters. It's friendly and warm in there. The rain has just begun to fall. Fred tells me the Brazilian population of Gort did at one time, rather recently, exceed the native population. If Newcastle is Peru, than Gort is Brazil.
At the reading - well attended considering the size of the town - there is music then a young poet, younger at least than I am, sing and reads. His work is passionate proof that he believes - along with, possibly, a lot of other Irishmen and women - that I have just arrived from Evilland, the source of all darkness. I feel I should rise and declare that I have risen from the grave in which the wicked Englanders have tried to inter me but merely mention, when it comes to my turn, that though Churchill did in fact have Dresden bombed, he also saved a great number of European Jews from Hitler. I don't add that I personally have reason to be grateful to him for that. Indeed I wouldn't be here otherwise. Nor am I sure that the three greatest villains in the history of the world are Spenser, Cromwell and Churchill and that all three outrank Hitler in that department, but I suppose it all depends on where you are standing and the view from there: one's enemy's enemy being one's friend and so forth. Hitler stood against England. Good fellow there.
I do half an hour which goes well. People buy the few books I have brought and I exchange books with Fred, for his novel Atalanta (that I start reading on the journey home, and very good it is too). Before that we go to a bar in the main square, Fred, two friends and I, and sit around drinking coffee (and Jameson's in my case), discussing politics, as one does - politics and history and cities we have known. The friends are good people who put on Yeats's plays at home. By the time we're through talking it's getting on to 11 and it's half an hour to Galway. Midnight and bed. The hotel room is a bit chill.
I enjoy my visits to Ireland. Much intelligence and kindness. I always wonder how long they have to keep the demon England burning in the imagination. Small island at the back of the big island, on the far side of which lies Europe with her wars and terrors and mobile borders. But you can't see that from the small island because the big island is in the way. The big island is all the evil you know. It has to be all of the evil everywhere. So the only thing to remember about Churchill is Dresden. Concentrate on that alone and you're all right. It is important to keep our demons alive and burning, ideally grimacing at the same time. They are there for our comfort.
It's a long way to go for one reading but I'm a poet. It is my business to read when invited and I am glad to be invited.
Something on the great Wayne soon...