He entered Davy Byrne’s. Moral pub.

W. B. Yeats Epitaph

How will I ever finish this one?

It is all too big.

I landed in Dublin before 4 a.m. on Wednesday. Tailwinds had the plane in an hour early. I flowed through the airport. Customs… I barely stopped.

A cheery cabbie took me to town. We chatted. I had trouble parsing some words. He did as well.



He had a sticker on his windshield, “Cash is King.” I obliged.

The hotel night porter took me in—a bit grumpy. I was too.

I fell into a sea of white sheets and was in another world for a few hours.

My phone’s memory says I was on my feet for less than an hour in Ireland.

Now it is Thursday night. I’ve been in Ireland one calendar day.

My phone’s memory recalls over fifty-thousand steps.

I walked into Davy Byrnes and settled at the bar.


I had wandered up from my hotel on the north shore of the Liffey. I passed Kennedy’s Pub. The Ivy. Some fancy Italian places. I wasn’t too hungry or thirsty.

But resting after a long day walking, I thought, ‘It is too early to crash. Force yourself.’

I didn’t know what I was looking for—besides a Guinness. The “Black Stuff.” Health food in a pint glass.

Then I passed Davy Byrnes, and the name clicked. I backed some paces and peered in. A couple of spots at the bar.

(I didn’t want a place too crowded nor an empty one.)

He entered Davy Byrne’s. Moral pub. He doesn’t chat. Stands a drink now and then. But in leapyear once in four. Cashed a cheque for me once.
What will I take now? He drew his watch. Let me see now. Shandygaff?
—Hello, Bloom, Nosey Flynn said from his nook.
—Hello, Flynn.
—How’s things?
—Tiptop… Let me see. I’ll take a glass of burgundy and… let me see.

—Have you a cheese sandwich?
—Yes, sir.
Like a few olives too if they had them. Italian I prefer. Good glass of burgundy take away that. Lubricate. A nice salad, cool as a cucumber, Tom Kernan can dress. Puts gusto into it. Pure olive oil. Milly served me that cutlet with a sprig of parsley. Take one Spanish onion. God made food, the devil the cooks. Devilled crab.
—Wife well?
—Quite well, thanks… A cheese sandwich, then. Gorgonzola, have you?
—Yes, sir.

Davy Byrne came forward from the hindbar in tuckstitched shirtsleeves, cleaning his lips with two wipes of his napkin. Herring’s blush. Whose smile upon each feature plays with such and such replete. Too much fat on the parsnips.
—And here’s himself and pepper on him, Nosey Flynn said. Can you give us a good one for the Gold cup?
—I’m off that, Mr Flynn, Davy Byrne answered. I never put anything on a horse.
—You’re right there, Nosey Flynn said.
Mr Bloom ate his strips of sandwich, fresh clean bread, with relish of disgust, pungent mustard, the feety savour of green cheese. Sips of his wine soothed his palate. Not logwood that. Tastes fuller this weather with the chill off.
Nice quiet bar. Nice piece of wood in that counter. Nicely planed. Like the way it curves there.

James Joyce Ulysses

I had my Guinness. A half-dozen salty sweet oysters. Chips. A martini for dessert.

Davy Byrnes Meal

A dusty crusty bookseller.

There is satisfaction in taking action on difficult projects.

You pass by them and note their existence. Then you continue on past, thinking “some other day.”

Well, this weekend I faced the daunting foe (literally) and set to it.

5:30 a.m. Monday.

Now my indoor/outdoor thermometer is lying to me. It claims it is 39 degrees outside. I let the three dogs out—one at a time—and looked at the Jeep parked 20 feet from the porch and facing me.

It is covered with Saturday’s snow and ice. There is nothing soft about that glazing.

Maybe it is time to replace it. The electric thermometer, that is.

I opened the dampers on the woodstove and brought some wood in using the black canvas tote.

Now the flames are dancing merrily against the glass.

Something told me February was going to end with mild and unseasonably warm days and nights above freezing.

Oh! It was that other piece of lying, frustrating technology—the iPhone.

The b######.

February has been bitter but for a few days.

On Friday, I met an old friend for dinner. We talked and laughed and ate great food. We closed the restaurant up. The bartender and dishwasher standing patiently nearby. All the tables bussed and clean.

Sigh… old times now.

I dragged myself home and struggled to get the woodstove going. I wondered why there was no bed of coals to make my task easier, but I was exhausted and failed time after time. It finally took, and I fell into bed and buried myself in the comforters. The three dogs pressed up against me and would have made quite a sight had anyone been around to watch.

I awoke in the wee hours and looked outside and the world was white.


Dawn’s light came, and the forest was gloriously beautiful.

Snowy Dawn


I was in no mood to get the ATV out, attach the plow and push snow down the ski slope that is my paved driveway.

But I did.

I had to.

I had an early afternoon trip planned to go see my grandchild.

And I had that mountain of put-off work to do down in the valley below.

I’m going away.


I thought this brief easy trip was at the end of the month. When the hotel emailed me a reminder that my stay was in a few days, the pressure was on.

Pressure is a good thing. It is amazing what you can get accomplished with the proverbial gun to your head.

So, I dragged my food-hangovered self out to the barn and wrestled the big steel plow into place. I lifted the draw bar onto its two slots, attached the winch clip. I pressed the “In” button on the winch control, and the plow rose off the gravel and “clunked” into place. The chains on the tires rattled as I backed out. I pushed the “Out” button, and the plow dropped to the pavement. I was bundled up against the cold. A 6-foot scarf was wrapped around my face a few times. If I drive the ATV fast, the icy air “burns” my bare face.

It was a “good” snow. The plow scraped down to the pavement on the first pass. I headed down the steep drive pretty fast—confident the machine wouldn’t slip. At the bottom of the driveway, I looked down the gravel lane before me—one mile to the county road. It was dirt and gravel and slush. There was that much difference in the snow cover from my house up above.

Getting out would be no problem.

Down and up. Down and up. It only took 5 or 6 passes to get the pavement clear. The sun rose above the trees and began melting any hint that the pavement might ice over before I got down.

Inside for a shower. Load the woodstove. Load the dogs. And down through the fairytale forest frosted with powdered sugar snow.

I am sick and tired of beautiful frosted forest mornings.

Dulles, Tuesday

A “getaway day” but without the panic and rush of previous ones.

I don’t care as much.

The machine I helped build can often just run itself.

There is a great team here.

Monday was a nightmare. Mostly of my own making.

I really hated everything.

Well, I might as well be honest.

The little dogs got picked up.

One problem solved.

I had done so much over the weekend that I just couldn’t face more book work.

I went home and released the big dog. Goofy Giles. (He had pranced and danced with joy in the forest snow on Saturday morning.) We watched 1.5 Morse episodes together.

Well, he mostly sat—on the floor chewing on things.

I sat in the recliner—reclining—and just let “Oxford” pour over me.





And the 1% of my life that isn’t to be envied by most of the world.

Pretty selfish.

Well, it is human nature to focus on the problems. My psyche expects perfection.

I awoke on Tuesday after too many hours abed.

The sunrise was glorious… just the usual.

The packing ritual I’d put off was pretty much on autopilot.

I don’t write out the checklist any more.

(Spoiler alert: I may complain when I unpack in Dublin that I forgot something—maybe the “widget.”)

I turned the well and water heater off. Opened some spigots.

I wrapped the good leftovers in foil and put them in the freezer.

Part of me regrets leaving home. The routine. The comfort of the expected. The yummy leftovers and snacks. My life routine of firewood and “my mountain life.”

But, DAMN—I will be traipsing through Dublin tomorrow!

What a world.

The books I did on the weekend were mostly very good and collectible. They were books we’d had online and hadn’t sold in… too long a time.

So, they were pulled offline in the rare book room and put on carts to be re-evaluated.

I was caught up on easy carts, and so I forced myself to face these troublesome tomes.

For each book must be inspected closely. I cannot simply read the spine and make a decision.

(If there is a spine. For not all the bindings have withstood the test of time.)

Each must be inspected inside and out. My mind cannot rest, coast past a single one.

Decisions must be made. Often I must kick them upstairs, punt them to Annika or Madeline. They have far more tools now than even a few years. More than that, and we often flew blind.

It is an inspiring weekend. Joyous discoveries and disheartening missing pieces.

A book inscribed to William Jennings Bryan with his bookplate.

A several year run of Stephen King’s fan letter—Castle Rock—complete from the first issue.

Castle Rock

The Star Spangled Banner, for God’s sake.

The Star Spangled Banner

Sunday night, I stopped late. I put all my work in order and labeled it carefully.

(“God, I don’t want to go down these roads again.”)

Most went to Annika. A dozen, or more likely a score, of tubs stacked three high. Four, and they are likely to topple and spill along with my tears.

A crusty dusty bookseller once again. Hands brown and black from dirt and disintegrating leather.

Then I headed to Ridgley’s home. He’s been threatening to have me over for years.

We go back decades.

In the beginning, we were competitors. Dueling at auctions. In the country or at the fairgrounds. On a lawn or in a barn. Clustering around the auctioneer, jockeying for position at the center where you could actually see what you were bidding on. Jostling past idlers, paper cup of coffee in one hand, no money to spend in the other, there for the show and something to do. Smoked ham sandwiches on soft hamburger rolls. If I won a lot, I’d have to remove it, lest it be pillaged by someone’s “mistaken identity.” Dragged off to the side and piled. My coat thrown over it to cover, but more to identify my new properties.

“I go in with both guns blazing,” Ridgley would often tell me decades ago. “That sets the tone so they know not to mess with me.”

He had a cowboy look back then. Handsome with broad bushy mustache.

Now he is mostly retired. He comes in Saturdays and sorts through LPs. Sometimes Sundays if there are enough to justify it. He knows the labels and the codes that make one record worth much more than an otherwise identical example. He does this for fun, not for the money. And he comes because he wants to see the vinyl first. He’s an audiophile. Arcane knowledge and access to data on his phone.

We used to battle publicly. Now we cooperate for mutual benefit and the common good of the material poured upon Wonder Book.

My phone guided me on country roads.

“You have arrived.”

I didn’t see a thing and continued on.

“No. These mailbox numbers are far too high.”

I turned and tracked back.

“Ah. There’s his mailbox all alone along a farm field.”

Pulling over, I look round and… nothing.

“Wait. Is that a driveway up into those woods?”

I take a chance and head up. There’s a house up ahead. I stop and call to be sure I’m outside the right place.

The front door opens and light pours out into the winter air. I feel safe getting out and approaching. Terry, his significant other of 36 years, leads me in. Two other couples are there. (I’m uncoupled.)

Howard and Sue—former booksellers and now winemakers. Another Chuck and his wife.

All old-time Fredericktonians. I’ve been there since 1980 and am not a native.

I pull up a chair, and we all reminisce. Books and people and places, many long gone.

But we’ve survived.

And I’m still flogging old books.

They are gourmets and have set out a spread of cheese and pates that have me glancing sideways, hoping for the “go” signal.

Ridgley’s dapper. His mustache and goatee gray now. He pours champagne into crystal flutes.

“Ah. It washes the book dust down, the bubbles abrade my palate and throat.”

They’re all dressed nicely. I’m scruffy in my work hoodie and jeans. I had clothes to change into but was running behind due to all the piles of paperwork I’d spent the weekend building.

Conversation flows and so does more wine. A sauterne signals that we may also address the three blue cheeses, pates, olives, walnuts, prosciutto, more cheeses…

I could make a pile here as well, but that would be boorish. My eyes and salivary glands compete, trying to defeat my decorum.

I may look scruffy, but I’ve enough pride not to act the rube.

Then glasses in hand, we take the tour down to the “cave”—the basement converted to wine and recreation uses. Curated antiques and artifacts from a lifetime in the trade pull my attention north, south, east, west, above, below. Dizzying. I must pace myself.


Then back up the stairs. The audiophile room. Guitars and speakers. A wall of LPs.

Ridgley tries to explain the system. It is a language I forgot long ago.

(“Why did I stop playing music? Lost my muse, I suppose.”)

Then dinner, and we gather in the dining room. An oil portrait of a younger Ridgley dominates a wall.

After 9, my internal clock winds down, and the silent alarm goes off. And a good guest departs earlier rather than later.

Back to the warehouse for the dogs. Then up the mountain. The woodstove is barely warm.

“You didn’t clamp the doors tight! Idiot.”

A handle must be inserted into the door—for leverage. The iron lock “clunks” into place.

Monday was errands. I picked up my framed Durers and others. They turned out great.

Framed Durers


Nope. It’s a holiday.

A foul mood possesses me. Nothing is going right.

Tuesday, I rush through the morning. Errands not done Monday are targeted. I need to leave by two to catch my early flight.

I’d felt guilty running out of suet at home. The wild birds are used to my sunflower seed and suet. The seed will be gone in a day or two after I’ve flown away. They’ll peck away at fat cakes much longer. I make a special trip and then head home midday. I fill four feeders. That will carry them through.

You are responsible for what you have tamed.

The Little Prince

It was a short flight to Ireland. Made shorter by strong tailwinds pushing the plane faster. By the time we were up in the air and settled, there was barely time for a nap before descent was announced.

I napped from 4 to 8 a.m. in the hotel room. Bathed. Looked at maps and made a plan to find the Hop On Hop Off bus—DoDublin. I had never done this before here. I suppose I thought I knew better. But they get you oriented. And steps are precious the first day until you get your legs under you. This company with bright green buses has funny drivers who interrupt the recorded descriptions and music soundtrack with funny quips and barbs poking fun at places and the government and themselves.

They also offer valuable anecdotes to a traveler like me who relishes the less-known places and events that may be just what I’m interested.

“That red-brick building at the end of the bridge across the Liffey is where Joyce’s two aunties lived. The setting in his story ‘The Dead’ is modeled after that.”

15 Usher's Island, Dublin
15 Usher’s Island, Dublin.

I took the bus to its farthest stop—The Museum of Modern Art. I figured I would walk my way back through the city. The museum is housed in a grand building that was once a retirement hospital for veterans. The grounds were lush with blooming daffodils and Christmas roses. Many trees had blossoms. Spring starts early here.

I wandered the galleries, often wondering “Why?” Many installations were just rags and rope and just “trying too hard.” Vast emerald-green lawns stretched on the far side. Cold winds whipped through the courtyard. My long black and gray scarf unwrapped itself, no matter which way I walked.

Then I walked back toward the city.

I hadn’t visited the Guinness Brewery for 25 years.

The self-guided tour through the old brick factory building still filled with steampunk machinery and huge pipes tells the story of the “Black Stuff”—its history and how it’s made.

You go up and up and up through the building.

There are archives of ads and bottles and commercials until you are done and are rewarded at the Gravity Bar. Two modern glass “saucers” placed atop the ancient building. Your ticket is torn in half and a pint is poured for you. The ritual—just under two minutes from first pull to serving—is observed everywhere you go. To have a “proper pint” this is the only possible serving method.

When it is finally set before you, you must let it settle. 300 million bubbles in the light-brown foam belie the action going on beneath. The bubbles in the brew cascade downward along the pint’s glass as the magic brew defies gravity. When it has rested enough, you can finally sip the stuff. A 365-degree panorama of Dublin is all around you.

Guinness Tour Panorama

It is the “most popular tourist attraction in the world—2023” according to the bus driver. Though in February, there were no crowds and no lines when I passed through.

My last visit just before the Millennium was with my young family and Allen and Pat Ahearn. It seems so long ago, and yet I can recall parts as if it were yesterday.

Those were great days.

From there, I walked and walked, stopping in a couple of churches and taking in the cold windy city. I aimed for the steeple of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but arriving there was drawn to Marsh’s Library nearly adjacent to it. How had I missed this? I’ve visited the cathedral several times.

The bus driver had pointed it out when we passed by a few hours earlier.

Up stone steps and through a wooded garden and into a medieval library. You’re permitted to wander through it and take photographs, but you cannot handle the books. It reminded me very much of the college libraries we visited on the tour of Oxford in the fall of 2022. There was an exhibition of early Americana. Books of discovery when the New World was “new”—to Europeans.

I despaired at all the wondrous leather bindings. I’ll never know such things, no matter how many more millions of books pass through my hands.

(How many more…)

I was ready to board the bus again and ride for a while. It is off season. Will I wait at the stop a minute or half an hour? Somewhere in between.

The route begins and ends at the Old Post Office. We passed by sites of rebellion and revolution. Civil war and centuries’ long struggle for independence. I understand it better now.

… for the pikes must be together at the risin’ of the moon.

Waves of sadness washed over me as I passed through this glorious city of words that once bled to be free.

I hopped off on the penultimate stop and walked along the north shore of the Liffey. Most of the buildings are abandoned here. I walked and walked downstream down to the quay where I am staying.

I’d been in Ireland all of 13 or 14 hours and needed to rest my legs a bit.

At about 5 in the afternoon, thousands cross the cross the river to catch buses home from the city. My route was often against the flow, and I must dodge or be dodged. Lines form on the sidewalk waiting for their buses.

In a couple of hours, I was up and back across to the Temple Bar. Music was already pouring out of some pubs. I stopped into Gogarty’s. A young man played guitar. A young woman bowed her fiddle. I could not hear the bartender and wondered if age had affected my ears. But then he could not hear me either, and his fresh pale face and blond hair are decades younger than mine.

A Guinness and a half-dozen oysters later, I was back out on the cobbled alleys of the neighborhood left intentionally wild and undeveloped. I wandered aimlessly, hoping my feet would find a likely place for dinner.

“Any spare change, sir?”

I took my chances and crossed to the north shore and went up the old wooden steps of The Winding Stair.

It was once a bookstore and, indeed, the ground floor is still a bookshop.

The name has a Yeats tie-in. The winding steps you must take to get up stairs.

“Table for one?”

I felt like some nameless faceless aging man in a Joyce story. My odyssey had taken me at the end of my day to a small table surrounded by groups and couples.

But my supper of a Scotch egg, four kinds of smoked fish and a bottle of Cab Franc was an iconic meal.

The Winding Stair Meal

And I had the company of friends across the Atlantic via my phone.

“You’d love it here…”

If only…

Bread pudding I’d earned with all my travel and steps.

Then downstairs and downstream to the quay where I stay. (Is quay “key” or “cay” here? From what I can tell, it is somewhere in between. I’ll be corrected, I’m sure—perhaps more than once.)

Thursday, I awoke with a food hangover which coffee soon settled.

The pedestrian bridge just outside the hotel took me across the Liffey, and it was a short walk to Trinity College. I thought I should get there early to avoid long lines and crowds.

There are no lines here in February.

I had The Book of Kells to myself (but for a spectral guard in the semi-dark to make sure I took no photographs.) Doesn’t matter. I have my own Book of Kells that I’ll show you next week.

The Long Library was a bit of a different story. Everyone must have a selfie taken there—save me.

At the far end, an enormous globe was suspended from the ceiling.

Trinity College Long Library Globe

At first, I thought Gaia was obscene here. As unnecessary as gilding the lily. It was only later it came to me that perhaps it was to distract from half the books being gone.

Trinity College Long Library Empty Shelves

There’s a massive restoration project going on.

Out in the courtyard was another shock. The “story” continues in a blood red iron box.

The Book of Kells Story Box

The Book of Kells Story.


It looks like an ugly scab on everything surrounding it.

But inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the technology-heavy displays.

Most of my life now has been a combination of old books and modern technology.

Where next?

The National Library. The Yeats exhibition is still on, and I immersed myself among the hundreds of books and manuscripts on display.

I listened once again to W. B. Yeats reading “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”

I watched the video of the Irish Navy ship being sent to pick up the poet’s remains in France and brought back home. It struck me as just so “Irish” that the military would be put to use to recover a writer’s bones.

A vast procession takes his casket to the churchyard.

W. B. Yeats Epitaph

His epitaph:

Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by!

What he meant by “Horseman, pass by!” I cannot find anywhere.

The Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse is Death, and he rides a pale horse.

(Bookseller Larry McMurtry wrote a novel—Horseman, Pass By. My trip to Patmos, where St. John wrote the Book of Revelation, still sends tingles up my spine.)

Then on to museums and parks and streets and shops. I stopped into the jewel-like Ulysses bookshop, but was not tempted by the treasures there. I have too many yet to be seen books awaiting me at home.

I found a stop and hopped on the green bus. It gave my legs a break, and I saw more sights to return to.

I hopped off west of the old city and crossed the river and had a pint at The Brazen Head—the oldest pub in Dublin. From there, I let my feet lead me east. Finally back at the hotel where I recharged atop clouds of white linen.

Should I stay in and go to bed early?

Write this story as I’m contractually required?

(Perhaps it is a contract with a muse. Perhaps the devil.)

No. I arose and cross the river once again. I walked and walked until Davy Byrnes called to me.

And there I had a pint, a half-dozen salty sweet oysters and a gin martini for dessert before walking back through Temple Bar and across to my room.

It is Friday late morning, and I’ve laid abed writing this.

Now it is time to send it off.

Another week behind me, and a few more days here ahead.

(The poem below was the first thing I wrote on the morning of my arrival just two days ago.)

10 Comments on Article

  1. Jeff Kirk commented on

    Every Friday when I read your blog, I am always amazed at how much you manage to cram into the previous 7 days since your last installment! Aside from Wonder Book, you you handle the dogs, your house, the surrounding forest, yet still make time for family, friends and world travel! I am certain it is not just me who is in awe of all you accomplish! And let us not forget you provide a weekly window for us to share in all you do. Thank you!

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Maybe desperation plays into it some as well!
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  2. joe P commented on

    Another fun travel story Chuck! Have caught up and read the ones I had not had a chance to get to yet…a pint and a dozen oysters always a good way to end a day..

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Great to hear from you Joe!
      Yep. A great place.


  3. Andy Moursund commented on

    Chuck, here’s the version of The Rising of the Moon that I first heard when I was about 6 or 7 years old, by Richard Dyer-Bennet. Completely different than the version above.


    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Ireland seems to have a soundtrack playing constantly throughout.
      Thanks for writing Andy. Great version!


  4. sixlittlerabbits commented on

    Enjoying your travelogue.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      I am so gratified.
      Thank you so much for communicating that!

  5. Richard commented on

    Thanks for the snippets of your Dublin Trip. Will be there in late April and have added the Winding Stair as a possibility.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Great food and authentic ambience.
      Wonderful view of the Liffey and Hapenny bridge too.
      Thanks for writing!

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