As anyone who has played a lot of poker tournaments or reported on more than a few well knows, as fun and intriguing as they can be, they often produce the same kinds of narratives, episodes, anecdotes, and even characters. After a while they become challenging to write about -- to tell stories about, I should say -- in ways that are interesting both to readers and to your humble scribbler.
My last day helping cover the EPT Dublin festival started out with another very fun and different excursion away from the usual, familiar path. Actually in truth it was a trip down a similar path as my friend Gareth ended up taking me back down to Dalkey, the place we visited a week before.
This time we went for a different reason, although in fact I had no idea what it was. “I promise you’ll like it,” said Gareth, and having had the great experience of the previous trip to the Dublin coast with him, I was ready to trust him regarding our return.
We took the same train down, getting off on the same stop, then took a slightly different path walking along the sea before finally getting to a handsome cottage facing the coast. Gareth knocked and soon we were welcomed into the place by a friend of his, Brighid, introduced to me as Biddy, a Dubliner with some renown as a storyteller, journalist, and folk artist.
The cottage was filled with the distinctive smell of an Irish turf fire about which I received a quick explanation, added to a little with some online searching afterwards. Rather than firewood the fire was made from Irish peat which burns very slowly and essentially is allowed to smolder for days or weeks at a time (or longer). A little incense-y, perhaps, and very nice for adding a layer of cozy, inviting ambience to what was an especially enjoyable visit.
We had Irish tea with milk along with some of her homemade oat cakes while swapping stories of ourselves. Biddy told of a trip she’d once taken to South Carolina where she’d become acquianted with both the good and the bad of the South, filling the story with well remembered details and laugh-out-loud asides along the way. As Gareth would explain to me later, Biddy is rightly regarded as a gifted seanchaí (or seanachaí, or Englished as “shanachie”) -- pronounced “sen-uh-kee” (I think). However you spell it, we’re talking about someone who tells stories, and tells them well.
We’d eventually take our conversation to a place nearby, switching to coffee while also switching from topic to topic while finding lots of common ground in our shared interests in cultures and subcultures and the people and stories they produce.
Before leaving the cottage, however, I hit upon an idea to get Vera a gift of a print of one of Biddy’s remarkable paintings. The cottage was full of them, and there had been something instantly pleasurable and comforting to have walked in from the beautiful view of the Dublin sea upon which the cottage looked to find a room of pictures of that very sea. Maybe a bit like all these little blog posts I keep producing and putting up here, day after day -- things I’ve seen out these two windows and felt somehow compelled to show others -- although as I said at the start some are so hurriedly pulled together they’re necessarily only abbreviated synopses of the more detailed stories to which they refer. (As I’m afraid this post is, too.)
Gareth’s promise was a good one, and it was more than lovely to meet Biddy and get to know her and Dublin a little better. We’ve got each other’s email, too, and I’ll be reporting back to her soon to share Vera’s reaction to the gift. (It could be I have a new Irish pen pal.)
The High Roller ended early and the Main Event later on -- you can read the stories of both, told in full, on the PokerStars blog. For now I’ll cut this one short, though as I get ready for my trip back home, carrying the print and lots else from a most memorable time on the Emerald Isle.
Photos: Dalkey island (top); “Proposal at Coliemore harbour with jealous dog” by Brighid McLaughlin (bottom).