Friday, March 11, 2011

AM I THERE YET?

by Sheila Connolly

By now I should be v...e...r...y m...e...l...l...o...w.  After all, I've just come back from a wonderful vacation, touring the ruined homes of my Irish forefathers (and mothers), wallowing in views of field and sea, talking to various sheep (who delight in strolling across the lane in front of your rental car) and cattle.  Jet lag?  Piffle--we're too hung up on time anyway.


That was the way I opened the draft blog post I neatly scripted before I left.  Uh, small problem:  the mellow part didn't quite happen because I managed to trip over a step that I didn't see and broke my ankle in two places (all sympathy gratefully accepted, as well as instructions on how to use those bleeping crutches).  So I spent three days learning the intimate details of Irish health care.  To be fair, the hospital staff was delightful and supportive, the place was scrupulously clean.  The problem was:  too few hospitals (the one I was in serves a substantial portion of the southwest part of the country), and too few beds in those.  The largest bottleneck was waiting for a bed--any bed, anywhere--to open up so we could move forward with treatment.

But this was a working vacation, not a sightseeing jaunt, and nothing was wasted.  As I may have mentioned, I'll be writing a new Irish-based series, whose first book will appear in 2012. My reason for making this trip was to listen to people--both how they talk, and what they say.  I hadn't been here for over ten years--time for the Celtic Tiger to be born and die.  Over here (yes, I'm still here, for the next 36 hours or so), it's as though they took all the financial issues that have beset the US and compressed them into a much shorter time period, except the Irish banks wer in much worse shape.

So sitting in waiting rooms (note:  at least on a weekday, the emergency room was notably free of gore, violence and barfing), or parked on a gurney in the hallway, or in the six-person ward I finally ended up in, I could listen, and I could talk to people.  I met a nice couple who live in a Gaelteacht, where Irish is the predominant language; I listened to a lovely grandmother talk about her football favorites.  Once I broke out (basically I said, put a cast on it and I'll deal with it all later), I talked to people in pubs and restaurants--a cast (or "plaster" as they call it here) is a great conversation-starter.  It fascinated one small girl, who looked exactly like you'd want a small Irish girl to look, including the lovely red hair.  I was gifted with a free night at the wonderful cottage we rented, which sits high atop a hill with wonderful views on all sides--and the land on which it sits once belonged to a Connolly--and  iit was barely a mile from where my grandfather was born. 

No way was I going to let a little  thing like a broken ankle send me home.

Would my readers know if I never spent any time here? I hope so.  As a writer you're supposed to notice details--the ones that capture the spirit of a thing or a place, and let you communicate it with the fewest possible words and still snag the imagination of your reader. If I slapped together some stereotypes and called it "Irish," I'd be insulting the people here and shortchanging my readers.  This isn't Disneyworld East with shamrocks (although the Disney family did originate in Ireland), this is a place populated by real people, who happen to be very welcoming.  Plus you keep stumbling over Neolithic stone circles and ruined medieval castles. 
Don't worry--once I make it back I'll give you all the pretty pictures and such.  And I've already got in mind a short story set in the emergency room...

22 comments:

Dru said...

I love that you made the best of things and achieved what you wanted from your visit to Ireland.

Welcome back!

How long will you be in your cast?

Jerry House said...

Heal well.

Sandra Parshall said...

You're quite an intrepid researcher, Sheila! Take care of yourself and heal soon.

Deb said...

You have such positive spirit! And I can't wait to read this series. I was in Ireland in the fall. Beautiful! And I knew you'd find a story in your misadventure.

MaxWriter said...

Oh, so sorry to hear about your ankle, Sheila! And of COURSE you'd be doing research in the hospital. That's perfect. Heal up well and we'll see you soon.

Edith
http://edithmaxwell.blogspot.com/

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Wow, Sheila, talk about taking lemons and making lemonade--good for you.

Rhonda Lane said...

Aw, gee - I'm so sorry you were injured. But, wow, did you ever hit research pay-dirt. Time as a patient in an Irish hospital? Research subjects coming to you, instead of you going to them?

Only a bunch of writers would be excited for you. :) :)

Still - please take care. Don't get excited and hurt yourself again. Irish whisky and pain killers? I'm not even gonna go there. :)

And continue to have loads of fun.

Ruth McCarty said...

So sorry to hear about your ankle, Sheila. I'm sure it must have been very painful. I hope it heals fast and well. Glad you were able to do your reasearsh in spite of it.

cttiger said...

A couple of pints -- or a little Jamison's -- should take care of any pain. Feel better soon and watch out for those crutches!
Tiger

Patg said...

You may consider yourself a devote traveler when body damage does not slow you down. My client list included several of those, and they always had the best stories.
"What did they invent wheelchairs for?" was my favorite line.
Oh, and thanks for an idea for my blog.
Patg

Pauline Alldred said...

I hope the ankle isn't too painful, Sheila. Hospitals are great places to learn the truth. And I'm so jealous of your research trip. My dad's family came from Ireland and it's been years since I visited the country.

Diane said...

I enjoy all of your books, but being part Irish myself (McGraw from County Cork), I'm particularly looking forward to this new series.

Take care on the flight home with the crutches. Many years ago my family had a scheduled trip to England. My then 11 year old daughter had broken her toe, and insisted on taking her crutches onto the plane. She finally decided they were way to much trouble on the plane. And - after all - it was only a toe in her case. Hey, could you stay in Ireland until you don't need the crutches? It's a useable excuse, at any rate.

Lynn said...

Hey, that means you get help getting onto and off the plane right?? That is a little silver lining!

All the best!

Lynn

Julie Godfrey Miller said...

Glad your accident didn't keep you from your research. Prayers and good thoughts for your healing.
I'm sure your readers would notice if you hadn't gone to Ireland again.
I was first in Ireland way back in the early '70s, when some horse carts were still in use in Dublin and it was obvious at the B&Bs I stayed at, that the owners couldn't afford to let guests use unlimited lights and hot water.
When I went back there in the 1990s, I didn't recognize the place. Haven't been there again since the crash. Not sure I want to see the effects.

Loni Emmert said...

If you had to break your ankle what a beautiful place to do it! Sorry you're injured; speedy recovery and safe trip home!

Lea Wait said...

Looking forward to hearing great stories about what pains you'll go to for research purposes! Hope you heal well and fast, and that any drugs you were able to get enhanced your senses of perception and creativity ...!

lil Gluckstern said...

What a painful way to gain more insights into the country. I hope you feel better soon, and I look forward to the literary fruits (couldn't resist) of your trip. Which sounds beautiful.

morganalyx said...

Yikes, Sheila! Sorry to hear about the cast, but it sounds like you're handling it all with a wonderful aplomb.

Alyx

Roberta Isleib said...

Oh poor Sheila, but you sound so cheerful! we'll see you soon and safe travels home...

Msmstry said...

Ah, you're already making the most of your misfortunes. Now, if you manage to drop a crutch a couple of times after you get to the airport, you may avoid a few lines.

Kellie M. RIx said...

Sending you healing thoughts, Sheila. We are all looking forward to seeing the pictures and reading your new series. Have a safe trip home. I bet it is hard to leave such a beautiful place. I've never been to Ireland, but I have seen so many beautiful pictures. Take care!

Sheila Connolly said...

Thank you all for your good wishes. I got waylaid by my orthopedist over the weekend, and now have all sorts of metal in the ankle, which will no doubt set off metal detectors at airports forever after. I'll just show them my scars...

I love County Cork, and that's not going to change. It's such a beautiful area, and in some ways still untouched by the modern world. Except now everyone has a cell phone, and there are windmills on the hills. Makes sense, right? The wind is free.