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Yesterday we visited a wood about a 10-minute drive away. It’s set, like most woods in Ireland, on a former colonial demesne, which was apportioned into forestry and small farmsteads after Independence. The ‘big house’, or landowner’s mansion, was looted, vandalised, and destroyed during the Civil War, roughly a hundred years ago. Eventually, stone from the ruins was used to build houses for farming families. Throughout the wood are toothsome traces of the old walls, great stacks of timber, arcane sculpture, and fallen trees, their vast exposed root systems claggy with soil and moss and other plants. I discover that nettles are a hazard of al fresco peeing, and my ass, stung, throbs for ages. The husband points out a man who customarily comes into the pub barefoot, a crusty, offgrid-living gaeilgeoir for whom language is a vexed battleground for Irish national identity. After the long night of terror and violence: tranquil reflections, singing streams, and portals into other worlds.


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