Wedding Past, Present, Future

My dear friend ’Becca (I’ve mentioned her before) brought her plus-one to our dinner party in Dublin. She’d emailed me about him. “I’m bringing Mike. He’s great—you’ll love him. Everybody does.”

She was right. He’s fun to talk to—and a good sport (he flew in that morning!) too.

And he’s an even better sport than I knew: While they were in Dublin, Mike and ’Becca went shopping at Powerscourt Centre, where they looked at antiques. Mike bought ’Becca an old, beautiful ring. A special one for a special reason.

It was a process.

It was a process.

This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing; they’d been talking about it. They’d been looking around for the right thing. But as ’Becca told me later, “It’s all because of you and Gerry! Ireland has the best selection of antique rings!”

But this was the one.

But this was the one.

Oh yeah. It’s gorgeous.

The ring is a pretty basketweave design.

The ring is a pretty basketweave design.

What a great travel story! I am delighted by the synchronicity: they were in Dublin to celebrate my wedding to Gerry, and now we’ll have an excuse to travel to Texas, later, to celebrate theirs.

’Becca wore the ring home on the plane (for safekeeping, of course!), but when they got to Texas, Mike took it back; he wanted to talk to to her father. First things first. So life went on, everybody got back to work after a fabulous vacation in Ireland. The holidays arrived. And the day after Christmas, Mike—having spoken with ’Becca’s dad—asked my friend to marry him.

The day after that, ’Becca emailed me with the news. I don’t mind admitting I shed a little tear. Or three.

Perfect timing. Congratulations, you two. I’m so happy for you!

Mike and ’Becca. Taken outside the Portmarnock Hotel on 3 October 2015.

Mike and ’Becca. Taken outside the Portmarnock Hotel on 3 October 2015.

 

An Early Christmas Present from Uncle Sam

It’s been an interesting season, this one, starting with Gerry’s arrival in the US on an emigrant’s visa toward the end of October.

Usually he arrives and we have a whole list of things that need to get done (by him) and we have to rush rush rush to do them. He even said a few days after his arrival, “I almost said to you, ‘I need to do X, Y, and Z before I go back.’” We had a good laugh about that.

But it’s been busy, what with Thanksgiving and Christmas, and emigration issues weren’t formost on our minds. Then they were: when the mail arrived on Christmas Eve, Gerry had an early Christmas present—his green card!

Wow! There it is!

Wow! There it is!

The culmination of a year’s worth of fret and worry, in one little first-class envelope.

It’s not over yet. This card is good for two years, and then he’ll have to file for a permanent one. But this’ll do for now. 🙂

• • •

If you want to read about our immigration story, here are eight posts: Immigration Woes (Part 1); Our Attorney Laughed at Us; Getting Back to Normal; Immigration Woes (Part 2); Like the La Brea Tar Pit; Slogging to Dublin; It’s a Great Day for a Celebration; and A Long Day at the Airport.

 

The Christmas Ornament (Part 3 of 3)

I’ve always been a collector. One knick-knack is just a pretty thing, but two or three of them—related in some way—is a collection.

And so it is with Christmas ornaments. I’m not the only one who has pulled together collections of them. Heavens, no! My friend Christy recently posted this comment on Facebook:

Since 1993 I’ve collected ornaments, either that people give me or that I buy to commemorate something in my life (or just that I like a lot, like a dinosaur gourd I bought last year). I started keeping a record of them, which I store with the ornaments, explaining where each one came from and/or what it means. I don’t put up a tree every year so without this record I would definitely have lost track of a lot of them. It brings me so much pleasure to unpack them all and put them on the tree while reading through this journal. It’s my very favorite tradition I ever started. This year I didn’t even need the “filler” ornaments I have, and every ornament on the tree is a sweet memory.

This is a tree I’d love.

When I was growing up in the ’60s, aluminum trees were very popular—all hung with one color of round bulb. They looked cool, they did. And then I’d go home to the hodge-podge of a tree at my house, with ornaments made by my parents, others purchased in a store, and things we kids made at school.

The hodge-podge tree.

The hodge-podge tree.

I still have a hodge-podge tree, and I treasure it for the very reason Christy treasures hers. When my son was an infant, we lived in south Louisiana, and I bought a small—it’s perhaps three inches—ceramic Mardi Gras mask. It’s just a souvenir—inside it reads “New Orleans 1983”—but I attached a ribbon and hung it on the tree that year. It makes me remember my little December baby.

Now it’s in the “places” collection, and gets hung with ornaments from Charleston, South Carolina, and Paris, France. None of them are actual Christmas ornaments; I just picked them up in souvenir shops, added a hook, and wrote the year on the back with a Sharpie. One of the French ornaments is just a handpainted chicken (blue); on the back I wrote “Paris 2006.” In the case of a trip to Tybee Island, I collected some sand dollars and glitter-glued the year and place on them. You might also look for lightweight fridge magnets that you can turn into ornaments. As a last resort, use a photo! These days they make lots of varieties of tiny—tree-sized—picture frames, complete with hooks, into which you can put a photograph of a special moment.

Or a special person. When my son was in preschool, they had some kind of craft project every Christmas that resulted in a photo ornament: Milk jug cap? Yep. Construction-paper frame? Yep. Popsicle-stick sled? Got one of those too. This continued through grammar school, and after that I used a school photo and made one for myself. When he became a school teacher, I added those. It’s a collection, y’all. 🙂

When Christy posted about the pleasure her ornament collection brings her, I could definitely relate. Christmas is a nostalgic, sentimental season, perfect for a once-a-year memory. Her friends added comments with lots of stories about their ornament collections too. One started collections for her daughters.

In fact, several years ago I also started a collection for my son, a musician. Musical instruments, bells, musical notation … Music is a beloved Christmas theme, so there’s lots of cheap, ugly stuff to be had. So it’s fun to search out the unique and beautiful instead. I’ve been working on it for years. Some years I might find a half dozen to add, some years none. (This is one of those years.)

The secrets to building an ornament collection are patience, vigilance, and creativity. Have fun with it!

The Christmas Ornament (Part 2 of 3)

As noted, I’ve always had a thing about Christmas ornaments. I’d had a good example from my parents, and then I got married (the first time) over Thanksgiving weekend, on the twenty-sixth of November. Christmas was a month away, and one of the sweetest gifts we received was a dozen ornaments with hand-crocheted covers. (This started me on many happy years of creating my own; I still have the craft box that evolved from those projects, and still occasionally make a new ornament.)

I still have the crocheted ornaments, too, though I no longer have that husband. 🙂

A couple years later, my grandmother—my father’s mother, my last surviving grandparent—died, and when my father and I went through her things, I saw that she also had her first Christmas ornaments. Which is to say … from the 1920s. I hand-carried them home, those fragile glass antiques. They are beautiful. (No photographs, dear reader, simply because they are packed, and this is a busy time of year.)

Since that time, I have followed my interests and tastes, and have ended up with a lot of ornaments. And every year I’d load the tree up with everything, or mostly everything. I had a lot of round glass balls, because I love color, but I also had a lot of “things.”

About five years ago, I decided it would be more fun to appreciate them as themed collections, so I bought new storage boxes, and after Christmas I separated them into categories that made themselves evident:

  • flowers
  • fruits
  • nuts and acorns
  • animals
  • elephants
  • birds
  • suns and moons
  • leaves
  • natural items like sand dollars

I called these the natural world ornaments. I had a zillion elephant ornaments because, well, I’d been collecting elephant figurines since middle school. They can fill a tree by themselves.

I also had a collection of the “unnatural” world (I know, it doesn’t really makes sense, but work with me here), which included:

  • Santas
  • snowmen
  • angels
  • shoes, clothing, and hats
  • fairies and brownies
  • other inanimate objects

Two other collections were large enough to warrant their own boxes:

  • hearts, and
  • “place” ornaments, which represented my travels to other locales

And then I met Gerry, who is Irish. As time went on, I started filtering out the place ornaments that had to do with Ireland—and buying more of them (in Ireland, whose retailers are perfectly happy to indulge Americans’ love of the Christmas ornament). I occasionally buy things in March, during the St. Patrick’s Day retail extravaganza, and make them into ornaments. I added all the green glass balls and green hearts too. And plaid ornaments found their way here.

Ireland has become an ornament classification all its own at my house. 🙂

This year is Gerry’s first Christmas in Tennessee, and we have put up “the Ireland tree.”

This embroidered fabric harp—Ireland’s national symbol—is one of several harps in the box, including one carved from bog oak.

This embroidered fabric harp—Ireland’s national symbol—is one of several harps in the box, including one carved from bog oak.

I purchased the glass ornament on the right during my first trip to Ireland in 2003. It is hand painted.

I purchased the glass ornament on the right during my first trip to Ireland in 2003. It is hand painted.

This is a representation of the Carndonagh Cross. We saw it first in 2003 on the Inishowen Peninsula, and again just this year.

This is a representation of the Carndonagh Cross. We saw it first in 2003 on the Inishowen Peninsula, and again just this year.

On the left, one of Belleek’s “Doors of Dublin” series of ornaments.

On the left, one of Belleek’s “Doors of Dublin” series of ornaments.

A teapot, also by Belleek.

A teapot, also by Belleek.

There are quite a few shamrocks, both fabric and glass.

There are quite a few shamrocks, both fabric and glass.

Below, a claddagh. Above, an embroidered fabric ornament copied from an image from the Book of Kells, representing St. Luke.

Below, a claddagh. Above, an embroidered fabric ornament copied from an image from the Book of Kells, representing St. Luke.

A glass Celtic cross.

A glass Celtic cross.

There are many more than this, of course. Santa dressed in green, with mugs of beer, for example. Tacky, I know. 🙂 The Irish tricolor. A glass St. Patrick. I could go on, but you get the picture. Is your tree up?

The Christmas Ornament (Part 1 of 3)

I’ve always had a thing for Christmas ornaments. (And decorations, but that’s another story entirely. Nothing that moves, sings, or must be blown up or otherwise requires a generator, thankyouverymuch.) Over the years I’ve collected all manner of ornaments (and things I’ve turned into ornaments), but I know my delight in special ornaments and the traditions related to them was … well, born with me.

That is, my parents had an ornament tradition before I came along. They were DIY people, and for their very first Christmas (1951)—my father was a college student at the time, and money was tight—my father made three ornaments with names on them.

JIM, DORIS, BEAU.

(Beau was the dog.)

To do this, Daddy dipped a quarter-inch paintbrush in glue, hand-lettered each name in block letters (he’d studied as a draftsman; his printing was beautiful) on a large gold glass ornament, then sprinkled silver glitter over it. When I was born, he made another: JAMIE.

It doesn’t look like much now, I know. But I do treasure it.

It doesn’t look like much now, I know. But I do treasure it.

Sister Jill and brother Jon each got an ornament in due time. My father enlisted with the United States Air Force not long after his and Mom’s first Christmas; he was sent to Officers’ Candidate School (OCS), learned to fly both fixed-wing and rotary-operated aircraft, and was subsequently moved all over the country (and into Canada).

Things get broken in moves like these. One by one, all the other name ornaments were broken—but not mine. When I left the house at eighteen, I took it with me.

I still have it. I no longer hang it on a tree, but I do display it. Carefully. 🙂

See?

See?

The List: Husbands, Wives, and Christmas

My parents always asked us kids for a list of things we wanted for Christmas … when we were still kids, and when we’d grown up. It’s a habit I continued with my son, especially now that he’s grown, because I don’t see him every day—I don’t know what he wants. Why spend money on something that will never be used?

My husband thinks that’s too mercenary, but then he’s the guy who only gives cash. “They can get what they want,” that’s his motto. It works, though I sometimes find it a little boring. I enjoy the hunt for the perfect gift.

But I think that’s a gal thing. What’s a doting husband to do?

Sometimes, gentlemen, you draw a complete blank, yes? Sometimes … You Just Need a List. If you ask your wife for a list, though, you spoil the surprise.

The list that follows was making the rounds among my Facebook friends. I don’t know whom to credit; the version I read actually included the words: “I just read this somewhere.” So I offer it here, cleaned up and with a few edits.

The Doting Husband’s Gift Idea List: Gifts To Surprise Your Wife

• Gift certificate for a mani/pedi. Supersize it and give her four of them.

• Gift certificate for a professional massage.

• An empty house for 24–72 hours. No less, but longer would be cool.

• A planned weekend with her friends: fancy hotel, all plans pre-made, kids arranged, concert/play/movie/event tickets bought.

• A cleaning company to come and do even just one deep clean of the house. Those dust bunnies are not going anywhere without hired help.

• An upgrade to her engagement/wedding ring: a new wrap, added stones, whatever suits her.

• Concert tickets with backstage passes. Sitter booked. Hotel overnight a bonus.

• Get her car detailed.

• Facials/massages/hair appointments pre-booked and pre-paid for as many months as you can afford. Arrange the babysitter too.

• Gift cards for a girls’ night out. (Besties notified and booked!)

• A weekend, with you, in the big city. Plans made. Sitters booked.

• A local hotel room booked for her for a whole night (or two!)—alone. Preferably one with a spa.

• Don’t forget tradition. I have a friend whose husband, every year without fail, gets her the latest hardback edition of her favorite prolific author.

• Jewelry. Duh.

• Hack her Pinterest. Ideas galore.

• Ask her girlfriends.

• Don’t forget the deluxe wrapping.

There’s your list. A surprise is still the best thing, so don’t ask her for a list. Just do it.

IMG_1893

Rover, Unincorporated

Gerry and I have been taking long country drives so he can practice up for his driver’s test. (He lived his whole life in a city with great public transportation—he’s never needed to drive before now.)

One morning we set out to find the location of a church in Eagleville, Tennessee, where we’ll be attending a wedding next month. And that is how we came to find Rover … driving down Highway 231 to Fosterville, turning right on the Midland-Fosterville Road, which cuts west over to Highway 41A (becoming Kingdom Road in the process). Where Kingdom Road meets 41A—that’s Rover. Turn right and Eagleville’s three or four miles up the road; turn left and Unionville (such as it is) is a couple miles down it in the other direction.

IMG_0186

But there were lots of interesting things to see along the way, and I spent some time looking for histories of these communities. Any history of Middle Tennessee is closely tied to the history of Nashville, which, with its location on the Cumberland River, was an important trade post stockade built in 1779–80 by James Robertson and John Donelson. The town that was soon to be named Murfreesboro had been established as the Rutherford County seat in 1811, some forty years later. Shelbyville was laid out around the same time and incorporated—and got a United States post office—in 1819. These three points on the map form the backdrop for what little there is to be gleaned about Fosterville, Unionville, and Eagleville. Only the latter is still a real town, but the other names live on as … communities.

Fosterville, for example. Named after John Foster, listed in the 1820 census for this district and who established a home and trading post on what is now 231, halfway between Murfreesboro and Shelbyville. Highway 231 was actually the first turnpike (for stagecoaches) in Rutherford County—the Nashville / Murfreesboro / Shelbyville Pike; the road was completed and gates erected by 1842. But they were already working on the railroad—when it was completed in 1851 Fosterville was a stop on the Nashville-Chattanooga-St. Louis Railway and the community shifted east about 3,000 feet to the rail line.

In March 1890 a tornado blew through the heart of the village—stores, post office, train depot, church, mill—and it never fully recovered. A tiny post office is still across the street from the train tracks, but I’m not sure if it still operates. There’s a volunteer fire department, a few houses … a church and a few houses along 231. And then two miles on the other side of 231, along the Midland-Fosterville Road, this:

The Lebanon Campground Church of Fosterville, TN.

The Lebanon Campground Church of Fosterville, TN.

I can’t tell you much about the church. There are dozens of “campground churches” of various denominations* across the South, but this one boasts no affiliation. It has no web presence. It may not even have a congregation—it was Sunday morning when we took these photos. But it is an election polling place.

* I believe they sprang up from “camp meetings,” which were a phenomenon of American frontier Christianity, which had neither enough preachers nor enough church buildings. So campgrounds sprang up, to which people would travel on occasion to camp, listen to itinerant preachers, sing hymns, and otherwise fellowship. This was a component of the Second Great Awakening (1790–1860), an evangelical movement promoted primarily by the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians.

And yet … the church has been decorated for Christmas.

And yet … the church has been decorated for Christmas.

The side yard of the Lebanon Campground Church—looking back along Midland-Fosterville Road.

The side yard of the Lebanon Campground Church—looking back along Midland-Fosterville Road.

Across the road from the Lebanon Campground Church is an old cemetery:

Wood & Tucker Cemetery. This sounds more like a pair of families; I doubt that it was ever associated with the church.

Wood & Tucker Cemetery. This sounds more like a pair of families; I doubt that it was ever associated with the church.

The only access to the cemetery was to walk up through the field—and the ground was very soggy, as it had been raining for days—or this private drive. We were not brave enough to drive up; you just never know what kind of greeting you’ll get.

The only access to the cemetery was to walk up through the field—and the ground was very soggy, as it had been raining for days—or this private drive. We were not brave enough to drive up; you just never know what kind of greeting you’ll get.

Right where the road changes from Midland-Fosterville to Kingdom, there’s a beautiful, clean farm. I was fascinated by it because all of the buildings were grey.

I call it the silver farm.

I think of it as the silver farm.

There’s another unused church along this road …

The Kingdom Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Unionville, Tennessee.

The Kingdom Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Unionville, Tennessee.

The address of this church is Unionville, although it’s about three miles away (as the crow flies) from the current village of Unionville. I can find no online history for the church or the town, though one guesses it has something to do with the Civil War. Wouldn’t you think? The church to which we were headed was originally called Union Ridge Baptist Church (according to the history on its website). As the crow flies, again, Unionville is about twelve miles from Wartrace, where Union soldiers kept a large prisoner-of-war camp of Southern boys; perhaps the main Northern encampment was a little further away. In what came to be known as Unionville. Along this ridge. That’s the only connection I can draw.

But this church. There’s a sanctuary and beside it a larger building, probably for Sunday school classes and a kitchen and so on. The sign next to the sanctuary door reads, “Kingdom Church, established 1852. Cumberland Presbyterian Historical Heritage Site.” Next to the two buildings, a pavilion.

A pavilion with picnic tables. It’s called the Pastor Milton & Mrs. Bobbie Statum Pavilion, the sign says, and it was dedicated at Easter 2000.

A pavilion with picnic tables. It’s the Pastor Milton & Mrs. Bobbie Statum Pavilion, the sign says, and it was dedicated at Easter 2000.

It’s kept up, but was deserted in the late Sunday morning when we stopped to take photographs. So in fifteen years, this congregation died out. (Perhaps literally.)

Belied by the sign outside.

Belied by the sign outside.

Look closer, though.

Look closer, though.

So we drove another mile, headed toward the future wedding church (with a Unionville address), which is just off Highway 41A. And that’s when we rode smack-dab into Rover. This is pretty much all that’s left:

Carlton’s General Store—“We Sell Most Anything”—of Rover, Tennessee.

Carlton’s General Store—“We Sell Most Anything”—of Rover, Tennessee.

Behind the shuttered store, an old house, still occupied, and a barn and outbuildings.

It is well-kept, and has a simple beauty, I think.

It is well-kept, and has a simple beauty, I think.

There are a few houses close by—neighbors. No doubt they know each other well. There’s been a published history of Rover, interestingly, but that was more than ten years ago and no trace of it exists online. Apparently there were two schools in Rover at one time; I’ve gleaned that much.

One of them was right across the street:

A self-proclaimed historic site.

A self-proclaimed historic site.

It would have been a small-ish school, but is now a very neatly kept home.

It would have been a small-ish school, but is now a very neatly kept home.

But we were headed to the future wedding church (whose address is Unionville, interestingly, but simply because there is no post office in Rover anymore). We could see it from where we stood at the old general store.

Rover Baptist Church in the distance.

Rover Baptist Church in the distance.

As previously noted, had we turned right, we’d have ended up in Eagleville. It’s still a thriving community. Originally called Manchester when it was founded in 1832, the name was changed when they applied for a post office and discovered there was another Manchester twenty or so miles south. When the post office opened in 1836, the community became known as Eagleville. Local lore has it that the name was inspired by an unusually large eagle killed in the vicinity. Niiiice.

But … we were on a quest, and we turned left, away from Eagleville, heading south on 41A. Rover Baptist Church is on—conveniently—Baptist Church Road, about a thousand feet from the abandoned Rover General Store. I’d looked all this up on Google Maps, and noticed something just beyond the church, something … green.

It’s a cemetery, y’all. And you know how I feel about those. We could see it as soon as we turned onto Baptist Church Road.

See there on the right, up on the hill? A cemetery.

See there on the right, up on the hill? A cemetery.

We did drive into the parking lot and had a look at the church. But … meh. We didn’t tarry. I wanted to get to that cemetery.

It’s the Simpson Cemetery. It’s beautiful.

It’s the Simpson Cemetery. It’s beautiful.

There’s a chair near the entrance, under a tree, near the posted rules and regulations, for contemplation.

Gerry, contemplative, sort of.

Gerry, contemplative, sort of.

So I walked up the hill with my camera. There are lots of the same names here, family groups.

It was a beautiful day.

It was a beautiful day.

Another Crick.

Another Crick.

How different this is from an Irish cemetery, where the graves are cheek by jowl.

How different this is from an Irish cemetery, where the graves are cheek by jowl.

The sign says the cemetery was established in 1868, but there are a few older graves here.

These pillars drew my eye because they are an older style.

These pillars drew my eye because they are an older style.

Mostly I was just interested in the art and the words …

This woman, a Simpson by marriage, didn’t even get her name on her grave stone—just her initials, although her husband in mentioned by name. But she must have been pious.

This woman, a Simpson by marriage, didn’t even get her name on her grave stone—just her initials, although her husband in mentioned by name. But she must have been pious.

Here’s here husband. He was a Mason, apparently. His wife, M. W., lived 20 years without him.

Here’s her husband. He was a Mason, apparently. His wife, M. W., lived 20 years without him.

This woman, also a Simpson by marriage, was born in 1786. That may have been the oldest birth year I found.

This woman, also a Simpson by marriage, was born in 1786. That may have been the oldest birth year I found.

Isn’t this wording interesting? “Thomas H., consort of Lettetia Spence” … And what kind of tree is that?

Isn’t this wording interesting? “Thomas H., consort of Lettetia Spence” … And what kind of tree is that?

This one says “Come Ye Blessed” and those must be the pearly gates … but it looks more like a picket fence to me.

This one says “Come Ye Blessed” and those must be the pearly gates … but it looks more like a picket fence to me.

There was some humor here.

Big John. I must go back to find out if he was a Simpson.

Big John. I must go back to find out if he was a Simpson.

Gone fishing.

Gone fishing.

It’s the children’s graves that break my heart, though.

Willie Hammond, who lived for 6 years, 7 months, and 2 days. As a mother myself, I can understand this need to count the loss.

Willie Hammond, who lived for 6 years, 7 months, and 2 days. As a mother myself, I can understand this need to precisely count the loss.

I can’t even imagine this. I wonder how John and Mattie picked themselves up. Did they try again? Was it something genetic that fated their babies to this? The tests for such things didn’t exist back then, so they might never have known.

I can’t even imagine this. I wonder how John and Mattie picked themselves up. Did they try again? Was it something genetic that fated their babies to this? The tests for such things didn’t exist back then, so they might never have known.

“Our boys,” they said. They were 15 and 17 when they died 6 weeks apart, perhaps of some illness. The photograph is just heart-stopping.

“Our boys,” they said. They were 15 and 17 when they died 6 weeks apart, perhaps of some illness. The photograph is just heart-stopping. (Don’t forget you can zoom in on these photos.)

“Are you ready?” Gerry asked me. Yes. There are so many stories—not just in this cemetery but on the road between it and our house. We also saw a goat farm, several walking horse stables and farms, and one farm that advertised spotted ponies for sale. We were quiet on the drive home, listening to the radio—to Ottorino Respighi’s The Birds.

What I’m Reading Now

“To have any hope of surviving modern Ireland, with its myriad dangers, pitfalls and trapdoors, not to mention sporadic outbreaks of the winter vomiting bug, it’ll help to equip yourself with a very basic toolkit. …

Wellies

Previously the preserve of tillage farmers and eccentric poets from Monaghan, wellies are now bang on trend for the entire population and can be enjoyed by young hipsters and old farmers alike. Indeed, a whole new generation of ‘farmsters’ has emerged in recent years. … Thankfully, no multicoloured, polka-dot welly is too silly, no ironic, stenciled pattern is too naff and no price tag is too exhorbitant.

A Coat

As we have already learnt, Irish weather can vary from the mildly wet to the extremely wet and there are also sudden episodes of apocalyptic wetness, which are almost impossible to predict.

Do not be downhearted.

A wide range of outerwear exists to suit a variety of personalities: Penneys coats, duffel coats, overcoats, undercoats, ironic tweed West Brit landlord coats, coats with their own immersions, Údarás na Gaeltachta-subsidized Connemara coats with matching beards, Lycra coats for middle-aged fad joggers (with supporting beer-belly scaffolds) and vinyl hipster smoking jackets that play a wide back catalogue of rare Northern Soul on contact with a record needle.”

—From Surviving Ireland: The weight of history. The self doubt. The constant analysis. The wind. Published 2015 by Colm Tobin. Transcribed by me from pages 30–32.

A Jane Austen / Georgian Christmas

I stumbled upon this article in the New York Times back in August, which was probably about as late as you could wait and still get a spot on this travel experience (“heritage tourism,” they say in the trade) … but it’s something to put in your tickler file for next year, yes?

I think it sounds like a lot of fun, if you like a tour. (We’re not generally the sort who goes in for tours, but this seems pretty upscale, with plenty of time on your own worked into the schedule.)

I snagged this photo of Bath Abbey from the NYTimes article © 2014.

I snagged this photo of Bath Abbey from the NYTimes article © 2014.

Day 1: Arrive at London’s Heathrow Airport. Meet your expert guide, Rosalind Hutchinson, and depart for a visit to the Jane Austen House and Museum in Chawton, including a talk by the curator and the opportunity to view a first edition.
Have lunch as a group at a historic local pub before continuing to the hotel in Winchester. This evening, before dinner, enjoy “A Jane Austen Evening” by the Madding Crowd. Carols, songs, hymns and anthems are included in a mummers play celebrating Christmas as in the time of Jane Austen.

Day 2: Tour the historic city of Winchester. Visit Jane Austen-related locations, including 8 College Street, where she spent the final weeks of her life, and Winchester Cathedral, where she was buried following her death in 1817 at the age of 41. The afternoon will be at leisure to attend services at the Cathedral, shop or enjoy the ambience of Winchester at Christmas. Have a Christmas Eve dinner with mince pies and mulled wine at the hotel tonight. Guests also have the option to attend midnight Eucharist at Winchester Cathedral.

Day 3: For Christmas, you are free to relax, explore or attend services at Winchester Cathedral. There will be a Christmas Day luncheon, complete with Christmas crackers. In the evening, you may decide to dine at the hotel’s evening buffet.

Day 4: Depart for Steventon Village, the village in Hampshire where Jane Austen was born in 1775. Visit the rectory where she spent most of her first 25 years.
Travel along Popham Lane, a route she often walked, to the Wheatsheaf Inn, where the Austens posted letters and collected their mail. These and many other locations in the area provided inspiration for Jane’s incisive novels about English town and country society. “Northanger Abbey,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility” were all written at Steventon.
Visit The Vyne, a National Trust property once owned by the Chute family, who hosted many parties attended by Jane Austen and her family. Enjoy a light lunch followed by a curator-led tour. Later this afternoon, meet with a member of the Jane Austen Society.

Day 5: Visit the quaint village of Lacock, which is sought after by filmmakers for its picturesque streets and historic cottages. Have lunch in a historic pub and continue to Bath. Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801 to 1805, after her father retired from his ministry at Steventon.
Relax and enjoy the rest of the day, perhaps taking a sumptuous English tea at the hotel.

Day 6: Head out for a tour of Bath, known for centuries for its healing waters. Highlights include the Palladian-style Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon and the houses where Jane and her family lived at Sydney Place and Gay Street.
Visit the Assembly Rooms, a fashionable meeting place for 18th-century society, featured in Austen’s novels. Visit the Jane Austen Centre and the impressive costume collection at the Bath Fashion Museum. Later, continue to the Roman baths and the soaring Bath Abbey, which has undergone many transformations during its more than 1,000 years of history.
Today’s grand structure was one of the last great medieval cathedrals built in England. Tonight, toast your trip with a farewell dinner at the hotel.

Day 7: After breakfast, transfer to London’s Heathrow Airport for your flights back to the U.S.

If you’re a Jane Austen fan, do bookmark the website of the Jane Austen Centre, and the Jane Austen Society (England and North America). Here’s an interesting blog that’s All-Jane-All-the-Time, from the Vermont wing of the Jane Austen Society. Here’s another one, Austenonly.

Now start saving your nickels and dimes for that tour next year!