Day 90: Alien Amor

Lisdoonvarna, in County Clare, is a spa town of fewer than 1,000 people most of the year. In September, 40,000 singles from all over the world go there for the annual Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival. Some obviously go there seeking a mate for life, others perhaps a mate for just an evening or two, and still others, married or single, just for a good time. The festival features traditional Irish music and dance, horseracing, and speed dating. There is also a contest to choose Mr. Lisdoonvarna, the most eligible bachelor, and the Queen of the Burren, the most eligible bachelorette.

Laetitia and her group were standing in a crowd in Lisdoonvarna listening to a ceili band when a disheveled middle-aged American woman came running through the crowd yelling something about an alien. The news spread, and a crowd rapidly surrounded her, but Laetitia was able to get close to hear what she was saying. Her story was that she had left the main area of the festival in search of a loo and had found herself in a secluded place where she encountered an alien. He touched her in such a way that that she was unable to resist his advances. The woman, who said she was Lorna from Spring Valley, Wisconsin, described the experience as cosmic, though horrifying, and said she needed a drink. Several men rushed forward for the honor, and she left with one of them.

Her account was presented in a very convincing manner. She didn’t seem like the kind of down-to-earth person who would just make something up and many in the crowd believed her story. There were comments like, “Wow, this festival is more popular than I thought; imagine drawing folks from other planets.” However, others were skeptical. Laetitia also heard questions such as, “Does she mean an alien from outer space or just some other country?” Next to Laetitia was a man with a broad grin on his face. When Laetitia asked him why, he said, “I’m here with a bunch of friends from Elmwood, Wisconsin. Spring Valley isn’t far away. Each July, Elmwood has a UFO festival. She does this act there every summer. It usually gets her a free drink or two and sometimes a man for the evening.” Laetitia thanked him; he and Lorna had given her the limerick of the day.

Though most knew it likely a yarn, a
Wild rumor engulfed Lisdoonvarna
Of the alien abduction
And cosmic seduction
Of a matronly lady named Lorna.

Day 64: Swill Thrill

Watergrasshill is a small picturesque community of about 1,000 souls with an old stone church and several pubs. Its Gaelic name (Cnocan na Biolraighe) means little town of the water-crosses

When Laetitia and her group arrived there, a wake was in progress for Kathleen, a woman known for her hospitality, especially to bachelors. She fancied herself a fine cook, and several times each week had one or another bachelor from the town or countryside over for dinner. She had started this in the 1930s, long before the days when one could simply put some prepared food product in the microwave, and when cooking was mostly done by women. In those days, bachelors were generally believed to be congenitally unable to prepare decent food for themselves. Those who could afford it ate in pubs or restaurants, and those who could not had meager fare indeed.

Many of the bachelors were regulars and universally praised the food she prepared. However there was a bit of a discrepancy between the rave reviews her cooking received from her regulars and what the rest of the townsfolk observed. At parish church potluck dinners, she usually contributed soup and soda bread. The soda bread was so hard that some suspected that she had used a recipe for hardtack from the Napoleonic naval wars, and the soup was an unseasoned gruel of mashed root vegetables more fit for livestock than people.

There was occasional gossip about her in the town among groups of grinning men and groups of women with raised eyebrows, but there was a general consensus that her hospitality provided a public service. Laetitia talked to an elderly man who came out of the wake. He had been a frequent dinner guest for many years, and what he whispered became the subject of the day’s limerick.

A fine lady from Watergrasshill
Made root soup that resembled pig-swill
But the men who did dine
Pronounced it quite fine
For she made love with unsurpassed skill.