The Weight of History and the History of Weight

Today began with an early delivery of beer kegs, rolling down the sidewalk to the door of the pub below my window. If you thought that might have been a bother, don’t fret. I was ready to get up anyway and it was a “fine, soft day” in Clonakilty, County Cork. Fine means it could be worse, soft means it was raining. Not lashing down, not really even wet enough for an umbrella but I dug my rain jacket out of my bag and went off walking the streets. Wandering streets and alleys is pretty much my favorite activity when I travel. It’s informative, it generates material for writing and it’s free, which fits my budget. I like to be low-key as I walk around, so I tend to wear clothes that don’t shout “Hey! Take a look at me! I’m an American wearing a Boston Red Sox shirt!” I am not picking on Americans. The same can be said for Italians (track suits) or French (if I see another one wearing a blue and white striped boater-top, I am writing to Le Monde to complain). Right now, so many people are wearing soccer jerseys to prove their love of World Cup that it’s harder to tell who is whom. My own style is nondescript, which translates as other people ignore me.
Guinness delivery to the pub below

My eventual destination was O’Donovan’s hotel, where I planned to weigh in. Over the past year I managed to shed some excess pounds which I got from moving to Portland and eating at every restaurant in the city. Pounds that were hanging around my butt doing things behind my back and causing my doctor to make a frowny face. I am a strong, confident woman, except when I’m not, and I needed help turning those extra pounds into energy. I lost them by joining a well known weight loss group/lean-making machine that I won’t name but it rhymes with fate gotchers. I also worked my butt off, literally, by walking every day, hiking 10 to 20 miles a week with a group of women, and doing yoga. I don’t know if the yoga helped me lose weight, but it makes me stand up straighter and
feel looser which is good for anybody.

I weigh in once a month in order to be accountable to myself and because self-shaming doesn’t work. I need a group who could potentially shame me. They never do. They are always supportive and generous in an “I get where you’re coming from, sister” sort of way. But the shaming potential is there and that accountability works. So on the very last day of June, when I had to weigh in or lose my status as a lifer in the program (which means going back to paying for the privilege of losing weight, which takes money from my travel kitty) I went up to O’Donovan’s hotel, met the lovely Christine who is the local program guru, and got weighed. After a month of travel, much of it spent putting delicious food and caloric beverages into my mouth, I held my breath and stepped on the scale. It was anticlimactic. I did fine. None of our hard-earned scratch will go to fate gochers this month.

I thanked Christine and the women of the Clonakilty weight loss coven and went on my way. Around the corner and directly in to The Sticky Bun where I had yet another great cup of cappuccino (coffee culture is alive and well…everywhere in the universe, even Ireland) and a freshly baked fruit scone with home made raspberry preserves. I love traveling.

By the time I left the Bun, the sun was shining again, the breeze was fresh and all was right with the world. Time to dive into some of Ireland’s complicated history.

Southwest Ireland, and particularly west county Cork spawned plenty of rebels during the centuries of British rule, and Clonakilty claims Michael Collins as a native son. Collins was instrumental in the early days of Irish republicanism and played key roles in the treaty that eventually ended Britain’s hold over Ireland and in the civil war which followed. I drove over to the Michael Collins Center in nearby Castleview. Tim Crowley, a Collins’ cousin, and his daughter bring the early 20th century alive in a lively talk and well organized exhibits on their farm. If you are ever near Cork, ignore any urge you have to lock lips with the overly touristed Blarney Stone and head to Clonakilty for some history instead. And if you can’t do that, go out and rent “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”, a film about the Irish War of Independence and their Civil War. That way you can head to the nearest Irish pub in whatever town you live and talk Irish history with the bartender and sound like a super smarty-pants.

Tomorrow I head for Cork city, where I will dip into another part of Irish history: whiskey. Wish me luck!

Barbara Gabriel

Writer. Day Stealer. Chronic Traveler. Raised along Highway 61 in Minnesota, I ran away to sea & messed about in boats. I curse like a sailor and love travel, food, most people, and a well-fitting pair of boots. I try to combine those any chance I can.


  1. It’s always fun to feel like you’re part of the workaday world when you’re traveling; for a short while you’re just part of the local scene. Sounds like you got that staying above the pub. Fascinating to hear the real history of legendary figures like Collins from his family, no less.

    • I love that about travel, when you can just hang out with “regular” people and just for a moment or two, they let you into their lives. That’s brilliant.

  2. Great blog, Barbara. I think Ireland must be the best place to visit. I’ll keep checking in and I’ll put your blog on my blog roll.

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