Day 290: Ne Plus Ultra

When Laetitia arrived at the Emerald Victorian, she immediately went to the computer after putting the coffee on to brew.  After yesterday’s story, she wanted to find out if there was such a thing as a clown fetish.  She found that there is a word for it, “coulrophilia,” although it’s not an official medical term.  Then she ran across the a term in the Internet’s Urban Dictionary called “Quantum Fetish Mechanics.” It is described as “a rule which states that any conceivable fetish which can be invented or conceived already exists on the Internet, and may have been brought into existence simply by a person thinking of it.”  Laetitia decided to leave it at that and went to pour a cup of coffee and plan the day’s tour.

Laetitia took her group to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum near Cultra, in County Down.  The museum is a cornucopia of historic structures, machines, crafts and other memorabilia.  It features a nineteenth century pub, a silent movie house, a draper’s shop, a collection of old railroad rolling stock and other types of vehicles.

Cultra is a seaside community on the shores of Belfast Lough.  Tree-lined streets and lovely sea views make it one of the more desirable areas of greater Belfast.  That afternoon, as was her custom, Laetitia went to a pub with a harbor view for a pre-dinner drink and to write a limerick before meeting her group for dinner.  She sat at the bar and after a while was joined by a former professor of Latin who had retired to a house overlooking the sea and had stopped in for an afternoon pint.

Laetitia hadn’t studied Latin, but her grandmother had taken it in high school.  When they were visiting Alhambra in Spain, her grandmother commented about the motto on the Spanish Coat of Arms done in tile on one of Alhambra’s walls.  It read “Plus Ultra” meaning that the King was ruler not only of Spain but of “more beyond,” that is, the recently acquired Spanish territories in the “new world.”  The professor commented that in earlier times when the known world from the European prospective did not extend far into the Atlantic Ocean, unexplored territories on ancient maps had the inscription, Ne Plus Ultra, suggesting that there was “no more beyond” that point and that sailors might encounter dragons or fall off the edge of the earth, then widely believed to be flat.  He said that there is a more modern interpretation of the phrase that means, essentially, “unsurpassed in quality.”  He then told her that one of his students was reported to have Ne Plus Ultra inscribed on the front of the thong that she wore when she went to the beach.  He wasn’t sure whether it was an advertisement of the exceptional quality of what was underneath or whether it was a “No Trespassing” warning.  He said it was likely the former because she got pregnant and she and her boyfriend, Conan, got married in a hurry.  Laetitia thanked him for his story, wrote down the limerick of the day, and went to join her group for dinner.

Ancient maps oft’ steered mariners wrong
When deterred by the phrase on the thong
Of a lady from Cultra
That read, “ne plus ultra,”
But it didn’t stop Conan for long.

Day 289: Clown Letdown

Seated in a comfortable overstuffed chair in the Emerald Victorian with a steaming cup of freshly ground Guatemalan dark roast beside her, Laetitia poured over a guidebook of as she planned the day’s tour.  When she planned trips in Ireland, both in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, she often played Irish music to create the right mood, and this day was no exception.  Today, she was playing a CD by the Irish Tenors, recorded in Dublin in 1998.  When she got to the fourth track, Mountains of Mourne, she decided that County Down would be her destination.  The range called the Mountains of Mourne features a number of granite cliffs frequented by rock climbers.  Its 2,516-foot summit also attracts hill walkers, bicyclists, and other tourists although not all make it to the top.

Many people who haven’t been to Ireland probably know of the Mountains of Mourne because they have heard the song by that name.  Percy French, who wrote it in 1896, was an Irish songwriter and entertainer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  It is a humorous song about a rustic fellow from those mountains in County Down, who is writing to his sweetheart back home about things he has seen in London.  He’s a bit naïve.  He asks ditch-diggers what they are doing and when they tell him they are digging for gold, he tries it himself.  He thinks the fine ladies in their strapless evening gowns look like they are ready for a bath rather than a ball and he warns his girl, Mary, about adopting such fashions.

After a day of hill walking in the Mountains of Mourne with her group, Laetitia brought them back to County Armagh to Portadown for the evening.  The town is on the River Bann just across from County Down.  The Newry Canal connects Lough Neagh with the River Bann at Portadown.  When Laetitia went to a local pub before meeting her group for dinner, the bartender told a story was about a young local girl who had run away to join the circus.  She had amorous relationships with several clowns but these did not last long because she couldn’t stand the smell of grease paint.  She soon returned home and married a local man that occasionally clowned around but never put on clown makeup.  Laetitia turned the story into the limerick of the day.

A young lass from the town, Portadown
Was obsessed with seducing a clown
But the smell of grease paint
Made her feel oh so faint
Making each such affair a letdown.

Day 288: Armagh Awe

Armagh is the county town of County Armagh in Northern Ireland.  It was originally called Ard Macha after the Celtic goddess Macha.  It is a small city of about 15,000 inhabitants.  When Christianity came to Ireland in the fifth century A.D., St. Patrick established his principal church there.  Later, there was a monastery from which came The Book of Armagh.  Along with the Book of Kells and other precious manuscripts, it is housed at Trinity College in Dublin.  Written in Old Irish, It is one of the oldest books extant.

There are two cathedrals in Armagh.  Brian Boru, who conquered all of Ireland in the tenth century A. D. and became its high king is said to be buried at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral that was built in the fifth century.  It belongs to the Church of Ireland (Episcopal).  The second cathedral in Armagh, also St. Patrick’s, is a post-Reformation structure with twin spires that is Roman Catholic and the tallest structure in the county.

Laetitia took her group to both cathedrals and to the Georgian Armagh Observatory which was established in 1790. They also visited the Palace Stables Heritage Center, housed in reconstructed buildings that were once part of the Archbishop’s estate.  As they were touring the Heritage center, an overheard conversation between two teenage girls gave Laetitia the limerick of the day.

A thin wisp of a girl from Armagh
Who’d grown tired of stuffing her bra
Breathed a sigh of relief,
Though with some disbelief,
When Brent viewed her flat bosom with awe.

Day 287: Omagh, Sans Bra

Laetitia took her group to the near Omagh in County Tyrone.  Omagh has some 22,000 residents making it a small city, but it’s officially called the County Town of Tyrone.  The town is said to have grown up in the area following the founding of an abbey there in 792 AD.  Near Omagh is the Ulster American Folk Park, which tells the story of Irish immigration to the United States and Canada during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Down the street from the bed and breakfast where Laetitia and her group stayed was a pub where she went before dinner.  Gossip from the man on the barstool next to her provided material for the day’s limerick.

A fine lass from the town of Omagh
Went to pubs without wearing a bra
Which male patrons found pleasing
But she was just teasing
As she deftly ducked efforts to paw.