Day 431: Khyber Pass

About ten miles north of the Scottish mainland is an archipelago known as Orkney, or the Orkney Islands. Norwegian Jarls ruled the islands for several centuries during the Middle Ages. In the fifteenth century Orkney came under the rule of the Scottish kings. Laetitia and her group spent part of the day viewing sea birds and wildlife on Orkney’s largest island, known as the Mainland.

In the afternoon, Laetitia and her group walked around Stromness, the second largest town on the islands. They visited the Stromness Museum and the Pier Art Gallery and then did a walkabout on the outskirts of town before going to their final destination, Khyber Pass, number 92 in Rude UK. This local narrow passageway between buildings, linking Dundas Street and Franklin Road, is named for an important trade (and invasion) route linking Pakistan and Afghanistan that was the scene of major battles during Britain’s three Afghan wars. It’s included in Rude UK because it is a synonym for buttocks in Cockney rhyming slang.

The group passed a cottage next to a pasture with several donkeys grazing. A woman standing next to the fence introduced herself as Lydia Pinkham. Miss Pinkham was a plump former schoolteacher from London who fulfilled her retirement dream by obtaining a cottage here with a bit of land where she could raise donkeys. The one thing she missed from her former life as a teacher was the captive audience that each class provided. Thus she never missed an opportunity to speak at length when unsuspecting strangers came within her range. She loved to talk about her pets and was in the midst of a drawn-out discourse when a very large donkey came up to the fence expecting a food handout.

Lydia had obtained it from the local donkey shelter. During a brief sojourn in the wild, it had developed the ploy of begging for food to a high art. The donkey scanned the group with large doleful eyes, but nobody had any food to give it. As Lydia rambled on, Laetitia saw a small group of young men approaching them, and noticed that one was carrying a copy of Rude UK. She pointed to the approaching men, made excuses, and she and her group escaped down the road toward their destination. The men asked directions to Khyber Pass, which they received along with a protracted exposition on Lydia’s favorite subject, with special emphasis on the fine specimen on display next to the fence. Laetitia and her group were just about out of earshot, when the donkey, tired of having his begging ignored, began to bray loudly. Upset at having her speaking opportunity interrupted, Lydia scolded the animal, casting aspersions on its parentage and upbringing. At a local pub before meeting her group for dinner, Laetitia wrote the limerick of the day.

To the young men who sought Khyber Pass
Miss Pinkham displayed her large ass
Which was nude I’m afraid
And when loudly it brayed
She berated its absence of class.

Day 75: Donkey Show

Terryglass is a village near Lough Derg, one of the three lakes on the River Shannon and the third largest lake in Ireland. It was the site of a monastery founded by Columba of Terryglass. This St. Columba is not to be confused with the Irish monk who founded the monastery on Iona. There are at least fifteen Irish Saints with that name.

The village of Terryglass has two historic wells, the Eye Well and the Headache Well. The water from these wells is believed to have medicinal properties. Laetitia and her group stopped at Terryglass to see the two ancient wells and the ruin of the monastery that was burned by the Vikings in 1164. All that remains of the monastery is one wall that has now been incorporated into a pub. Laetitia and her group decided to see the wall from the inside while having a pint of Murphy’s Stout.

That afternoon they went to the Nenagh Agricultural Fair. Nenagh is a market town that serves the agricultural areas surrounding it. The fair featured Irish dancing, vintage cars and tractors, a best dressed lady contest, a boxing exhibition, modern farm machinery, and wild boars on display. Its most popular feature was the Annual Donkey Derby. This was ostensibly a race, but was mostly a contest to see who could stay seated on the donkey until the end of the racecourse. Once a mainstay of Irish farming, the donkey has now mainly been displaced by the tractor, but the animals remain popular and there were several on exhibit or for sale.

Laetitia talked to a young woman from Terryglass, who was upset because she thought the noisy behavior of her donkey might reduce its chance of being sold for a good price. The conversation inspired the limerick of the day.

A fine lass from the town Terryglass
Went to Nenagh to market her ass
Which she proudly displayed
Until loudly it brayed
Unbefitting an ass of high class.