(Maeve Binchy was born
in Dublin, worked as a school teacher, Irish Times columnist,
and then as a novelist. Her books, which have been translated
into over forty languages, have been adapted for stage, film and
television. A feature film of her novel ‘Tara Road’
was released in 2005. She lives in Dalkey, Co Dublin, with her
husband, the writer Gordon Snell. Maeve has been attending the
Summer School since 1968. ‘A Week in Summer’ is
a short story commissioned by the Merriman Summer School as part
of the bi-centenary celebrations marking Brian
Merriman’s life and work in 2005, 200 years after his
death. Maeve Binchy’s short story, which she read aloud,
is about an American couple who came to Lisdoonvarna looking for
peace and hoping for a chance to rejuvenate their marriage. They
are plunged into the world of the Midnight
Court and, even more importantly, of the hundreds who attend
the Merriman Summer School regularily.They find plenty to admire
and entertain and eventually something to change their lives.)
Do you know what I think should
be banned outright. Those advertisements for Cruise Holidays for
mature people. You get this suave man in a dinner jacket, hair
lightly streaked with gray, looking into the eyes of a woman who
has draped a pashmina stole around her slim firm shoulders against
the night breezes as they stand on deck together. There is a hint
that they have been at it like knives all afternoon and that they
can’t wait for the Captain’s cocktail party and gala
dinner to be over so they could be at it all over again.
Are there people like this?
Is this what people aspire to and therefore
DO? Or is it just a fantasy dreamed up by an advertising agency
to sell holidays to the middle-aged? Something that will leave
the rest of us unsettled and unhappy?
In any event it’s not important, it’s
not relevant to us. We have never had a holiday. Not even when
the girls, Mel and Margy, were children.
Brian used to say in his farming days, “Find
me a cow that doesn’t need to be milked for three weeks
and THEN we’ll have a vacation.”
And when the bottom fell out of the dairy cattle
market, as it did ……for Brian anyway ….. he
was into growing corn in Illinois and flax in North Dakota. And
in those days you couldn’t take a vacation either because
there was always something to be planted or watered or reaped
And when the bottom had fallen out of flax
and corn…… for Brian anyway….. he studied mathematics
and became a Math teacher.
Other teachers had vacations. In fact people
were always saying they met teachers on vacation. But not Brian,
because there were papers to mark, or courses to do, or slow children
to help, and he liked going up to the attic and writing little
bits of poetry which he never showed to anyone…but, anyway
what with all this …..hey presto, the vacation was soon
Oh, I have worked for ever at the same thing.
Like my mother before me, I bake things.
I used to work as a patisserie chef in a big
hotel but then, when I met Brian, I had to think up something
a bit more mobile. Something that could move easily when he did.
So I make cakes and casseroles and pies and deliver them to people’s
I had to be ready to get up and go to the next
place so it was good to have a craft, or trade, or skill, whatever
you might call it, to take with us. People everywhere wanted to
eat, and lots of the younger women couldn’t cook. You’d
be surprised how many deep dish apple pies I made in their own
pottery dishes. They even pretended to their husbands that they
cooked it themselves. I had to be very careful about the time
that I delivered.
Now I know could have taken a vacation on my
own. I agree. There was nothing to stop ME from going to Europe
or on a cruise or to the Grand Canyon. But that wasn’t the
I just wanted to travel with Brian, and he
just didn’t want to go anywhere at all. It wasn’t
just to SAY that I had been somewhere, I’m way too old for
that. My customers who bought the deep dish apple pie or the lamb
stew wouldn’t think more of me if I said I had been on a
cruise to Alaska or a train through the capitals of Europe.
No, I wanted it for me, for Brian and me. Something
to remember and look back on. During the long evenings when we
were on our own
Mel and Margy were away a lot, there was always
something for them to do during the summer holidays when school
term was finished. There was this camp and that camp, children
loved camp. AND because we had moved so much and so often, and
Brian had so many careers, we thought it best for the girls to
go a residential school. Give them more stability and they would
be able to keep their friends.
And heavens they had SO many friends. A lot
of these friends had parents who were much younger than we were.
WE are conscious of being older parents. I
mean Brian was 40 when we married and I was 38, we didn’t
want to be too geriatric. All parents live on different planets
to their children they say, and Lord I’ve seen enough of
it in the houses where I deliver food.
But older parents - that’s a solar system
even further away.
And anyway why SHOULD the girls come and hang
out around our home what with Brian always so worried about everything,
big lines of worry etched into his forehead, and me always up
to elbows in pastry dough. Not much fun with us.
And I remembered, back to my own childhood,
I didn’t want to hang around my house when I was young either.
And of course I COULD go away with a lot of
my girl friends, all right we are all in our fifties, but we think
of ourselves as girls. We always will.
But I don’t WANT to spend our hard-earned
money on a vacation with them. I want to be with Brian. I love
Brian. I always have, since the first day I met him with his dreams
and poetry and hopes of changing the world.
It didn’t MATTER that he didn’t
earn much of a living, or that nobody rated him very highly. He
was the man I wanted, always has been.
I can just see him in a tuxedo, like the men
in the advertisements. I can see us spending long afternoons in
a bedroom, a cabin, a sleeping car compartment. Wherever.
I can see us exchanging a knowing glance that
says there will be more of that later on. I’m not sure WHY
I can see this so clearly, but somehow I can.
And Brian needs it even more these days.
You see he has just been suspended from his
It’s August now, and he hasn’t
any position for September when the school year starts.
A man of 57 without a job.
And all because he had to speak his mind.
And what’s more, speak it at the Parents
It was the occasion for congratulating the school
for doing so well, and concentrating on the positive side of things.
But my Brian had to choose the occasion to tell people that he
did not think the war in Iraq was a just war.
in a community that had lost two men already on active service
in the Gulf War.
They didn’t even wait until next day
to tell him that his services would no longer be needed.
The Head came round to the house and said he
was sorry, feeling was running too high.
“I’ll only teach Mathematics in
future,” poor Brian had promised.
“Too late,” the Head had said..
It hit Brian very hard. He didn’t want
me to tell the girls.
“I don’t mind you knowing that
I’m an all-time loser,” he pleaded, “but I don’t
want my daughters to know this. Not yet.”
But Mel and Margy would HAVE to know, come
September, when Brian wasn’t returning to school, I told
“Hey, honey,” he said, “They’re
not really all that interested in what I do or don’t do.
Just give me time Kathleen, just give me a
little time, I know I don’t deserve it but I can’t
breathe properly. This would give me breathing space.”
I don’t know why I said it but I did.
“Right,” I said. “I’ll
trade you, we have a vacation together, just one vacation and
then I’ll give you time.”
And he smiled a horrible smile as if there
was nothing behind it. As if he were an empty head.
All the life and colour had gone from his face.
“And maybe you’d have a check up
at the doctor too?” I suggested.
“Don’t move the goalposts Kathleen,
a week in summer. You to organize it. That’s the deal, that’s
He looked wretched. He didn’t want a
I loved him to bits. Maybe a kinder person
would say forget the holiday .
But somehow, I thought it would be the making
“A week in summer, that’s the deal,”
I said, and we linked little fingers the way kids do.
He never asked where we would go, he made no
His face was gray, his mind was miles away.
Brian was more of a shadow than a man.
So I did it all. I found his passport. I checked
our savings account to see how much we could spend. I went to
the Snappy Seniors Travel Agency to discuss dates and venues with
one of their Vacation Buddies.
His name was Chester, he was chief Vacation
Buddy in this branch, and he would have been a happy camper, no
matter where he had been sent on vacation.
There wasn’t really time, we agreed,
for a cruise, if all we had was a week in summer. And anyway,
I confessed, Brian wasn’t cruise material, he didn’t
own a dinner jacket and he might get bored.
Bored on board ship? Chester was unbelieving.
But he had other suggestions.
A cultural tour of four European cities using
a luxury coach as transport.
For all that he liked writing poetry, Brian
wasn’t all THAT interested in museums and art galleries.
I couldn’t see him standing in line in
Paris and Bruges.
Culture didn’t loom large in his life.
Would he like a beach holiday then if he was
anti-culture. A place where the ladies went topless.
I told my new Vacation Buddy, Chester, that
Brian was not ANTI culture, just that four cities of it in one
week and a lot of coach-speeding effortlessly along autostradas
and auto routes might not be his thing.
He hadn’t been well; he needed cheering
Disney World, and theme parks were suggested
and refused by me. Not that kind of cheering.
And one by one I rejected learning to snorkel,
Bridge for beginners, cooking in Spain, and the Gardens of Andalucia.
Chester was beginning to despair. Never had
he met such an Unsnappy Senior.
“What would you like Madam, suppose it
were up to you?”
“But it’s not up to me, he’s
had a shock you see, he’s not well. It’s HE who needs
“But suppose it WERE you, what would
you choose then?” Chester hated admitting defeat, it wasn’t
what Vacation Buddies DID at Snappy Seniors.
I paused to think.
Suppose Brian would like anything I chose,
what would I select.
“I’d like to go ancestor hunting,”
I said eventually. “You know, looking in old graveyards
and parish records.”
Chester was immensely cheered.
“Right, where are his people from?”
“No not HIS people, mine. Brian’s
father came from a village in Russia that’s no longer there.”
“Most places are still there in some
form,” Chester said, reprovingly.
“No truly, the whole population of the
village left and came to the United States. It’s
MY roots I’d look for. A long way back, but I’m sure
there might be something.”
“So where’s that then?” Chester
was so relieved that he might actually be going to sell a holiday,
after all the stuff I rejected.
“Ireland,” I said. “My people
were Collins from Ireland. I don’t know where.”
“Lets go hunt,” Chester said, with
the infectious enthusiasm that had seen him rise to become Chief
Vacation Buddy in this branch.
He tapped at the computer for a while and came
back to me beaming.
“Originally, Limerick,” he said
triumphantly. “But then they were driven out by the
Anglo-Normans and went to West Cork. So which area do you want
to start in?”
“When were they in their hey day ?”
“Limerick, I think. They were Lords of
the Barony of Conello then.”
“Let’s try Limerick,” I said
He was good, Chester was. He didn’t want
us to stay all the time in a city looking up people hundreds and
hundreds of years back.
If my husband had been ill, if he was a little
difficult, hard to please and in shock, he said this wasn’t
the restful kind of holiday he needed. Maybe we should think of
the neighbouring county, County Clare. There were lovely drives
around the Burren, and unusual plants to see, castles to look
at, and we could see porpoises and dolphins out in the Atlantic
Ocean on days when we weren’t looking up my roots.
And there would be nice, comfortable hotels
and good food. Build him up it would.
At Snappy Seniors they wanted us to be happy,
it meant a build-up of Repeat Business.
I felt guilty talking about Brian behind his
back. He was such a good man who only wanted the best for everyone,
and now he was looking like an empty shell.
And no matter how hard Chester and I tried,
nothing was going to put a smile on his face and life back in
The girls came home for two days before heading
off for camp.
“You look awfully old Dad,” Mel
”I AM awfully old Mel,” Brian said.
“Not so much old as confused,”
Margy corrected her.
“Oh, I AM confused too Margy,”
Our two daughters seemed pleased that they
had identified everything correctly.
didn’t talk much about the holiday because he didn’t
talk much about anything really.
He sat there staring ahead of him.
When the day came he packed obediently and
came with me to the airport as if it were yet another supermarket
No enthusiasm, no hope, nothing but a deal
done, a trade agreed, a promise kept .
I had told my customers that I would be away
for a week.
“A week in summer,” I said, as
if it were the most normal thing in the world.
“Ireland? That’s nice,” they
said, without conviction. They would really have preferred me
to stay where I was, making passion fruit pavlovas on their family
china for summer parties.
was very quiet on the plane.
pretended to read the airline magazine, but I noticed that he
never turned a page.
then we were in Shannon Airport, it was a bright sunny day, the
fields were small and green. The road signs were in two languages,
the rented car was small.
wasn’t listening when they asked us who wanted to drive,
so I said I would.
learned about the wrong side of the road and to beware leaving
gas stations, or at roundabouts. And we set off.
other drivers on the road were….well….. interesting,
I suppose you’d call it.
never indicated or anything, they just pulled straight out in
front of you. But once you got used to that…
gave Brian the maps and the brochures, but they sat on his lap.
in the middle of this lovely early-morning countryside I felt
no joy of someone on day one of a vacation.
got no feeling of having come home to my roots.
got no indication that this holiday would be the great breakthrough
long cramped sleepless night on the plane and these narrow windy
roads were beginning to take their toll.
me something about Lisdoonvarna,” I said with that false
that I just hate in others.
could hear the tinny insincerity in my voice.
must have listened to a thousand of these non-conversations between
husband and wife.
kind that ended up either as “Yes dear, Yes dear,”
or, even more distressing,
what do you know about anything?”
and I were never going to be like that.
had fought to get married.
family thought he was a slow starter with his head in the clouds.
family thought I was I bit too brittle and hard-nosed for them.
They didn’t care about the fact that I supported him and
put the girls through school. No, they would have liked a poet
or a weaver or some damn thing.
that had never mattered to Brian or to me, we rose above it.
had so much going for us for years.
as we drove through the beautiful County Clare countryside I thought
that all we had going for us might have just kept on going and
opened a brochure and read to me obediently, like a child at school,
about the spa wells and the curative water and the restorative
baths. And there was a matchmakers festival in September.
we’ll miss that,” I said as a joke. “We might
have found the loves of our lives.”
would blame you for leaving me, Kathy” he said, “Nobody
was busy trying to negotiate the gigantic lycra-covered arses
of cyclists which were taking up the whole road. It wasn’t
the moment to tell him that I had never loved anyone else and
the hotel they were very nice and welcoming. Cups of tea, congratulations
on our having managed the drive there, first day in a new land.
have a great week, the weather looks up and you were so lucky
to get the cancellations,” the receptionist said.
hadn’t mentioned any cancellations.
was puzzled. Perhaps somebody hadn’t liked something about
hadn’t heard of any of it. I hid my frown of worry. But
the girl chatted on happily.
nicest couple in the world they are, they normally come here every
year and stay for the whole week, but this year they’ve
gone to Australia, they were most apologetic but the chance came
up, you see, and what with being in the nineties and everything
they thought they should go now in case it might be more difficult
felt a pang of sharp envy for these people and an unreasoning
sense of jealousy.
their NINETIES for heavens sake, and had gone to the other side
of the earth. We were in our fifties and a week in Ireland was
nearly killing us.
could never fill their shoes.
a great rest now after your long trip,” we were being urged,
“And then you’ll be in fine form for the Failtiú.”
Failtiú? What exactly was that?
said it was the Irish for welcome. That sounded familiar, though
why people were going to welcome us was beyond belief. But it
wasn’t us it turned out, it was a Summer School of some
sort. Everyone went to the Failtiú, the receptionist said
reprovingly. Sure well, we didn’t want to be difficult but
what WAS it exactly .
thought it might be a couple of glasses of wine and maybe some
have a great time.
looked at Brian’s grey empty face and doubted it, but thanked
her very much.
went up and unpacked and lay beside each other in the big cool
unhappiest couple in the Western World and it was nobody’s
was the terrible thing.
sort of slept. I must have, because I dreamed of Margy and Mel
when they were toddlers and they were asking me what was going
to happen in life, and I was telling them it would all be great.
I woke and found Brian sitting in a chair. His eyes were open
but he wasn’t looking at anything.
was six o’clock in the evening and outside the window people
were heading down the road in the late afternoon sunshine.
were old and young, men and women, they walked in twos or threes
or on their own or in laughing groups. Heading towards the Spa
Wells on a summer’s evening to have a couple of glasses
of wine and finger food. “Come on,” I said. “We
don’t want to be late.”
he was astounded.
was better than a long night looking at each other with nothing
left to say. Soon
I was out of the shower and choosing which dress to wear. Some
of the men walking down the road wore collars and ties, some had
open shirts. Some of the ladies had cardigans some had smart suits,
flowery dresses and some were in jeans.
looked fairly free and easy.
don’t know whether we should go to this thing Kathy, we
haven’t been invited.”
come on, Brian,” I said. “Didn’t you hear the
lady at the desk. Everyone is invited.”
may have to pay,” he sounded anxious.
we pay,” I said.
was going to cost 120 euros each, we discovered, to sign on for
bit expensive for a reception, all right, but I looked at the
brochure. There were all kinds of things, lectures, poetry readings,
bus trips, dancing lessons, seminars, debates.
the main thing was it would be a distraction. We wouldn’t
be left on our own, facing each other with nothing left to say,
and admitting the emptiness of our lives.
right so it wasn’t tuxedos and leaning on the rail of the
a lot of these people had fairly gamey eyes, you got a sense that
there might be a fair amount of jumping about in this lot. If
not now, well in the past.
had all been coming here for years and years apparently.
decades now these very people had been coming here in their droves,
dancing in squares and roaming the countryside. They liked it
so much they booked in again every year.
was all about some poet apparently, dead for hundreds of years,
but people brought him back to life every summer.
was very friendly, they told us all sorts of things, like where
to go for a swim, where to get cheaper lobster, like which translation
of this poem to read. The poem wasn’t even in English for
heaven’s sake, but there seemed to be a rake of translations
and everyone recommended a different one.
were full of advice about everything.
said we should drive out and see the Burren, but not to pick the
flowers, or maybe to go to Doolin and get a boat to the Aran Islands,
or to go to places we had never heard of - Ballyvaughan, Ennistymon,
Lahinch, Corofin; they tripped off the tongue.
were people speaking in the Irish language but they told us we’d
know it in no time after a few Irish lessons in the mornings.
so we listened to the Opening of the School, and a lecture then,
and discovered that the theme was all about marriage.
could have had something less brutally relevant, I thought, but
kept a bright smile as if I hadn’t a worry in the world
over the institution of marriage and how it seemed to be panning
out in our lives.
then there was dancing.
we couldn’t do it at all because there were complicated
things much more intricate than our square dancing. Caledonian
Sets, Ballyvourney Sets, way, way beyond us.
apparently we could learn all that too, special dancing lessons
every day by the end of the week we would be whirling with the
there WERE a few waltzes so eventually Brian and I took to the
floor like everyone else. Everyone in the hall sang the words.
mother died last Springtime when Irish fields were green,
neighbours said her funeral was the finest every seen.”
listened in amazement.
topic for people to dance to,” he said.
at least he as smiling and I hadn’t seen that for a while.
so it went on for the week.
went to poetry readings and lectures, we learned the construction
of the Irish language at one seminar, and about the courts of
Munster Poetry at another. We tried to keep up with these horrifically
fit dancing instructors, and soon we had our own eight and were
swinging each other round in great style.
had conversations way into the night with poets, politicians,
professors and polka dancers.
they asked us what WE did, which was rarely, I told them I baked
for people in their own dishes and Brian said he wrote poetry
and had been doing some teaching on the side. Everyone seemed
to think this was a completely reasonable thing to do. Nobody
asked was there money on it, or what he had published recently,
or what was his real job or his ten year plan.
may have been imagining it, but I thought that, as the days went
on, there were less lines etched on his face and his eyes were
kept assuring us that they were pacing themselves.
urged us to pace ourselves too.
I think, had to do with not staying up until six o’clock
in the morning singing which was a danger.
not starting to drink after the dancing class and forgetting to
stop all day which was another danger .
we heard amazing amounts of gossip.
that happened some years back when certain people had not been
so wise as they are now, or had more energy than they had now.
there was a story that at one summer school a man had lost his
false teeth and asked rather sheepishly at reception had any been
handed in. He was discreetly given a set in an envelope, and when
they didn’t fit was told that all the other sets which had
been lost and found had been claimed.
upon a time another man had made so many perambulations to the
rooms of different ladies that he never actually knew which was
his own room, and when he went to pay his bill, there was nothing
to pay because the hotel had assumed he was a no show and had
was a marvellous woman who told us that it usually took her until
November to recover from her indiscretions every year in the third
week in August.
woman said regretfully that everyone was very old and staid and
settled now, it was a pity that we hadn’t met them in their
looked very much in their hey day to us. A great roaming band
of people old and young, serious drinkers and wearing total abstinence
pins. Fit as fiddles or bent over canes. Long retired or in their
went to every lecture in the programme, took notes and asked questions.
Others adjourned to bars, golf courses lunches in crafts shops,
or to have healing baths in the centre where ropes suspended from
the ceiling had helped to haul thousands out of the mineral salts
over the years.
talked on any number of subjects, the nature of evil, the rights
and wrongs of an interpretative centre, the joys and problems
of being part of a United Europe, the wisdom or lack of it in
having a celibate clergy. And because of the theme, we discussed
marriage at length, and whether it was possible to have an equal
partnership and what did equal mean, and could it last for ever
and should it last for ever. My head was in a whirl.
as for Brian Merriman himself! They all talked about him so familiarly
I would not have been surprised to hear that he was up at the
Roadside Inn singing songs and that we should hurry in case we
It was a mystery, at home we didn’t have gatherings like
maybe we did and Brian and I had never come across them.
people had come from all over the country and even further afield
each year for this celebration. Their conversation was full of
“Do you remembers?” and “Aren’t you looking
like a two year old.”
forgot all about looking for my roots. There wasn’t time
Collins family tree would have to wait for another visit.
man who ran the summer school was actually called Collins, Bob
Collins, a very nice man, approachable - that’s when he
was free. But he was always talking to someone very important
like a politician or an ex- prime Minister of Ireland, a jolly
man in a pink shirt or an ex-president who had a holiday home
down the road.
if some of the social climbers I make carrot cake for back home
only KNEW the high society we are mixing with here. They would
be pea green with envy.
Well, anyway, I did get to talk to him and told him that I was
a Collins too, and was wondering where should I start to research
he gave me all kinds of places to start, but, of course, there
wasn’t one moment left to do any of it.
Collins? You have the same name as Brian Merriman’s wife,”
he said to me. I don’t really believe any of this fate or
coincidence thing, though you’d be surprised how many of
my clients back home consult psychics. They’re always talking
about them .
evening Brian suggested that we go out for an hour and watch the
wish I could tell you how unusual this was in our lives.
ever I suggested a sunset he would say bleakly “So the sun
goes down and it comes up again, that’s what happens.”
he had heard of a place where you might see dolphins or porpoises
anyway, and this other poet he had met told him it was a great
place for the soul, so maybe we might go there?
was called Fanore he said and he pointed it out to me on the map.
same map that he hadn’t even the interest or energy to pick
up a few short days ago.
looked at him and saw that and there were no lines in Brian’s
face. He was relaxed and happy.
he had been wearing a tuxedo and leaning against the railing of
a cruise ship he couldn’t have looked better.
decided not to tell him about my name being the same as Brian
Merriman’s wife, in case he thought it was fancy, or that
I was trying to justify the holiday, or something like that.
though it’s my instinct to prattle on, I just patted his
hand and looked out at the Atlantic Ocean.
very restful, Kathy,” he said, “I feel I could tell
you anything, even something so mad you won’t believe it.”
me, “I said,” without an idea of what he was going
think we were led here in some way,” he said. “I think
I am the re-incarnation of Brian Merriman.”
thought he was getting better, the depression was lifting, the
clouds were parting and instead he has coming out as clinically
what?” I asked.
know, Kathy, the way they say things don’t really die, they
come back again. I have come back again. Its as simple as this.”
beamed at me like a complete mad man.
EXACTLY a reincarnation?” I asked with a deathbed smile,
hoping I didn’t sound too like Nurse Ratchett in “One
Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.”
don’t you see?” his eyes blazed happily in the sunset.
My name is Brian Merman, his wife was Kathleen Collins, we have
had exactly the same career, married at the same age as he did,
they had two daughters like we do, he was a flax farmer, and won
prizes for growing it, I did too, in Dakota, remember? And of
course he was a teacher like me and, most of all, here’s
the whole centre of it, most important he wrote poetry.”
this the time to tell him that when his grandfather had come to
the United States from the village in Russia, Merman was as near
as he could come to pronouncing the family name?
it was probably not the time. Anyway I wouldn’t have got
a word in.
was going on and on, they were born exactly two hundred years
apart, yet they had followed the same path. The first Brian Merriman
had been impatient about clergy and the establishment just as
my Brian had been. It had to mean something.
amazing. Something very significant.
had thought it terrible when he appeared to be suffering from
depression. Why hadn’t I left him the way he was?
he was manic and mad and hallucinating and thinking he was a long
dead poet who wrote in a different language, someone he had never
heard of before last Saturday. And
there was worse ahead.
Merriman had died two hundred years ago this very year. That’s
what this was all about.
my poor Brian now think this was his fate too?
he actually given up on his life on account of these coincidences?
he brought me to this beautiful place to say goodbye?
was what had happened as a result of all my scheming and planning
and plotting with Chester the Chief Vacation Buddy at the Snappy
I hadn’t helped him at all I had actually managed to rot
Brian,” I said, with a heavy heart, “You know there
are a lot of ways of looking at things.”
course there are,” he agreed eagerly. “And if we hadn’t
come here, I would never have known it. When HE died, the first
Brian Merriman, that is, there was only a few short lines in the
newspapers about him, and he might well have thought that he didn’t
amount to much, but think, think, Kathy, two centuries later there
are hundreds and hundreds of us celebrating him, reading his poetry,
debating his ideas, celebrating his life and times.”
had not looked so happy for months, he hadn’t looked so
young and hopeful for as long as I could remember.
said now that he was going to show people his poetry, he wasn’t
going to keep it hidden.
had been the sign he needed, something to prove to him that he
arm was around my shoulder his face nuzzled my cheek in a way
it hadn’t done for some considerable times. The gamey look
of a Merriman was in his eye.
the hell, I thought, I know what’s changed him, he met a
marvelous mad band of good-natured, lively people who lived life
to the full, always had and always would. If he thinks he’s
the reincarnation of some guy who walked these roads two hundred
years ago, then I’m going to let him think it.
would write a post card to Chester before we left.
would tell him that the record in Snappy Seniors was unbroken:
there would be repeat business.
would indeed come back here again next year.
of COURSE we will.
only know four figures of one Clare set, there is much still to
has read only one translation of Cuirt an Mhean Oiche.
have only skimmed the surface of Clare music and got the barest
essentials of dolmens, holy wells and lunar landscape of the Burren.
leaving all these people and not knowing how their lives turned
It’s more than flesh and blood could bear.
anyway, this coming back as a butterfly or something else is a
perfectly decent theory.
believe it, and they are gentle people.
just as there are strong women in the famous poem, I have met
many strong women here, surely one of them will get a summer school
going on MRS Merriman, on Kathleen Collins, quite possibly my
might be her reincarnation too.
if she makes me as happy as her husband as made Brian, the descendant
of those who left a Russian village many years back, then, we
won’t be doing badly at all.