A World Away, But Close to Home

We were so glad to welcome family friend Carina Gold to Belfast last week. OK, she didn’t stay with us or anything. She’s a freshman (woman?) at Agnes Scott College, just two blocks from our home in Decatur.

Marilynn and Carina’s mom, Katy, went to school together in Lawrence, KS, from elementary school through high school, and Katy attended our wedding. I’d only met Carina once before she came to visit the campus last spring, but we’ve gotten to know her much better in the short time she’s been in Atlanta.

An interest in the North

Freshpeople at Agnes Scott, a female undergraduate liberal arts college, go on trips during their first year, and Carina’s trip is mainly to Belfast and Derry with another two dozen young women led by professor Christine Cozzens. Christine has an interest in Northern Ireland, so of course Marilynn knows her. In fact, Christine hosted a speaker last fall that Marilynn brought to town as part of Ireland’s world-wide commemoration of the centenary of the Easter Rising last year.

We met Carina at her hotel, a short walk from our flat, and went next door to The Botanic Inn, a 150-year-old pub better known as The Bot. We’ve been coming to The Bot since Marilynn first hauled me to the island 17 years ago now because it’s where Stewart Parker drank. Except she recently remembered (from rereading her own book on Parker), that his preferred watering hole (across the street) was The Eglantine Inn, better known as The Egg. But tradition is tradition, and even Declan has spent many a day at The Bot, so The Bot remains our favorite local.

Friends of friends

We ran into Christine at The Bot, and she invited us to a talk by Northern Irish writer Anne Devlin that evening and the nationalist/unionist/British Army roundtable the next morning. We had to decline the reading because Marilynn had book proofs to look over, but I agreed to attend the roundtable.

As we were chatting with Carina at the hotel, Marilynn noticed Anne waiting in the lobby, so she went over and struck up a conversation. Marilynn says she met Anne at the Stewart Parker conference in 2008. She’s also met Anne’s son Connal Parr, who’s a researcher at Northumbria University and who wrote about Stewart (thus referencing Marilynn) in his forthcoming book. It’s a small world here, where academia and culture mix liberally.

I’ll never forget the first time I came to Ireland with Marilynn. She ran into someone outside Christ Church Dublin that she had attended Oxford with. Later, in Belfast, someone was yelling her name in the street, an acquaintance from the Institute for Irish Studies who saw us walking past.

In Ireland, it’s not six degrees of separation. It’s more like three.

About the photo: Declan and Carina at The Bot. A later photo series will feature Declan in the vicinity of tasty brews in some of our favorite watering holes.

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