Between covers or not, stories make the world go round

Ennis has always given me stories, even before I paid any attention to its bookstores. While I remember De Dannan playing a wonderful pub set many, many years ago, I’d forgotten that most of the pubs featuring trad music start it at absurdly early hours – like 7:30-8:00 p.m. Why? Because Ennis is just up the road from Shannon Airport and they’re catering to all the jetlagged North Americans just arriving in search of their Irish roots. Walk into almost any pub early in the evening and you’ll see freshly arrived people nodding to the music – and into their pints – because their body clocks are still five to eight hours away, long past closing time.

Instead of bread crumbs or Burma Shave signs, you can follow these signs down the street to a lovely shop full of wonderful items from local artisans. I had a wonderful conversation with the shop’s manager, a great storyteller.

More recently Ennis has given us the Lying Eyes murder trial. A local woman searched online for a hit man to dispose of her millionaire husband and his sons. The complete series of step-by-step, detailed emails became part of the court record. [Look it up!]

And did you know that Ennis is Ireland’s answer to Pamplona? I missed it by a few weeks this year, but an escaped cow ran loose through the city’s streets, charging people and sending one to the hospital. A similar incident happened a few years ago, as well.

And this time?

Well it started with a fire alarm as my wake-up call. Sometime around zero dark-thirty that loud on-again off-again buzzing in my dream became what for many people would be an adrenaline-inducing rolling out of bed. Guess it’s good that I rarely do anything requiring physical or mental exertion before my second cup of coffee. I got to meet and mumble with my fellow guests as we stumbled our way to the cark park until the manager apologized for the false alarm. Since by now I was too awake to go back to sleep I stepped into the shower – an impulse apparently shared by everyone else in the building, since the water quickly turned from hot to ice. And our cold showers sent us all to breakfast at the same time, creating a longer-than-expected queue and rapidly-emptied coffee urns.

It was my day to check out, anyway.

But it was too early for the bus to my next destination. Too windy, wet and rainy to wander the streets like any normal out-of-towner. More coffee and two newspapers; still time to spare. So I stopped into a local church, sat in the back pew and closed my eyes to meditate. It did wonders for me. Suitably mellow and decaffeinated, I stepped outside after a while to discover I was downwind of a young man sitting on the sheltered church steps in a mellow haze of smoke. I was standing there, soaking it in to my peacefully blissful mind when he turned to me. He noted how bad second-hand smoke is for us and offered me a first-hand hit. And who am I to turn down local hospitality? We sat there silently enjoying what there was to see and be until I decided that it was time to find a shop so I could pick up some munchies to fuel the rest of my day. I thanked him and continued my journey.

But on the day before all this happened I spent some quality time in Sceal Eile Books. [Translation: Another Story] Sure they have books. But also vinyl records, old New Yorkers and a theatre company. Oh, and so many National Geographics that I’m surprised the shelves – and the wall holding them – were still standing. [If you have some time, check out the Journal of Irreproducible Results. There’s a wonderful piece on how National Geo, which they call a doomsday trigger, will cause the big quake everyone in California is waiting for.]  

http://www.scealeilebooks.ie/

While it wasn’t on my list, I couldn’t pass up the Ennis Bookshop with its nice combination of books and tourist gifts. Falling back into years of retail mode I noticed two things: Their books are less expensive than the big chain retailer around the corner and if you’re into autographed new releases, you’ll find them here. I picked up a hilarious Alan Bennett book about all the problems created by people who like to read books. Find a copy to spend an evening with. It’ll most likely be better than anything you’ll find on television that night.

Ennis was the sandwich filling on this three-city trip, filling a comfortable day between Limerick and Ennistymon. More about them next week.

This piece is just one of a number I’ve written about my long-term love affair with books. If you’d like to see more simply click on the “Books” category below. You can also subscribe, so that you’ll see these blogs as they’re written, as opposed to social media’s algorithms. As the saying goes, if you like my writing, tell your friends. If you don’t, tell your enemies.

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