Irish Travel Journal, Day 3

Day 3: Strokestown & Westport

After getting in so late from dinner at the Abbey Tavern, I was up the next morning at 6:15 and had my bag ready outside the door of my room for the hotel porters to take down to the bus before I went downstairs for breakfast. We had a long drive ahead of us–all the way across Ireland.

We were out of the hotel by 8:30 and soon heading west on a highway that grew more narrow the farther we left Dublin behind us. It was soon down to two lanes. Once again, the morning sky was overcast and there were occasional spatters of rain on the bus windows during the first part of our journey. But it was beginning to clear by 11:00, when we arrived at Strokestown Park.
Continue reading “Irish Travel Journal, Day 3”

Irish Travel Journal, Day 2

Around Dublin

When the tour group gets onto the bus the next morning, our first stop of the day is at Trinity College to see The Book of Kells. Fortunately, we arrived just before an even larger busload of tourists got there, so we didn’t have to wait in line behind them.

Students in the yard at Trinity
Students at Trinity

Once inside the library, before you reach the book itself, there is an exhibition about how the book was made and about the art and craft of medieval book-making in general.

The Book of the Kells is under glass in a separate room, open to pages that show some very delicate blue ink tracery between the lines of script.

On the floor above this display is the long gallery of the Old Library, which houses a large and impressive collection of old books and more rare and interesting items under glass.

After the leaving the library, Doug walked us around the principle buildings of Trinity College before we returned to the bus. Continue reading “Irish Travel Journal, Day 2”

Irish Travel Journal: Day 1

The first and last time I visited Ireland was in the summer of 1987. I was a student at the University of Lancaster and my sister Chris was studying in Madrid; we made plans to meet in Dublin. My journey was a relatively short one–just across the northern end of Wales by train, then a ferry from Holyhead to Dublin’s port, Dun Laoghaire (that’s pronounced “Dun Leary”). I was there the next day. Chrissy, on the other hand, had a longer train ride and much longer boat ride. I waited around the Dublin Youth Hostel for her for 4 days and I had to go back to the UK soon after she got there, so I had little chance to look around Ireland then. I always meant to go back one day.

This May, I finally did.
Continue reading “Irish Travel Journal: Day 1”

DVD Review: Dark Shadows–The Phoenix

When we last visited the charming coastal town of Collinsport, Maine, Laura Collins, Roger’s long-absent wife, had returned to ask for a divorce and to reclaim her son David. But as her story progressThe Phoenix paintinges, it becomes increasingly obvious that something is not-quite right about Laura. She has a peculiar effect on certain people, especially her son, and some very odd and interesting things are happening.

Sam Evan’s painting of a woman amid flames is almost finished. The woman portrayed is clearly Laura Collins. Lines fan out behind her like rays of light or stylized wings. A David-shaped blank spot remains in one lower corner. Everyone who sees the painting is appalled by it and calls it horrible. Actually, I think it’s kind of cool–Sam’s best work from what I’ve seen.

In spite of her opinion of the painting, Vicky feels compelled to buy it and take it back to Collinwood to show the family. When David sees it, he loves it and wants to hang it in his bedroom.

That night, the painting glows and the head of Laura Collins emerges from it until it looms large over the foot of the sleeping boy’s bed. The huge, blonde head does not chant “Tom Stewart killed me! Tom Stewart killed me!” although the floating head of the murdered singer in Tormented is the first thing that springs to my mind.

David awakes as if from a nightmare.

The Floating Head of Laura Collins

Then things begin to get even weirder.
Continue reading “DVD Review: Dark Shadows–The Phoenix”

DVD Review: Set 4 of Dark Shadows: The Beginning

Since the 3rd set of DVDs for the early episodes of Dark Shadows isn’t available from Netflix, I debated whether or not to wait for them or to go on to the 4th set.

Josette's ghostIt was the appearance of Josette Collins’s ghost at the very of the 2nd set that prompted me to skip ahead and hope I wouldn’t miss very much.

No, as it turned out, I didn’t miss much at all. The murder mystery is drawing toward a conclusion

To my delight, the first episode in the 4th set begins just after Roger Collins has been arrested for the murder of Bill Malloy. I gather that there was some business about a distinctive pen being found by Vicky in a suspicious place (I did see the beginning of this; Burke gave the pen to Carolyn, and Roger took it from her). Roger apparently dropped the pen, and then made an incriminating ass of himself. And now he’s being questioned by the police.
Continue reading “DVD Review: Set 4 of Dark Shadows: The Beginning”

DVD Review: Winding up the first 2 sets of Dark Shadows: The Beginning

I started out to watch the first two DVD sets of Dark Shadows: The Beginning, 70 episodes in all, and have reached the end of the second set. At this point, the investigation into Bill Malloy’s murder still going on.

My overall impressions:

Before I started watching Dark Shadows, the one thing I’d heard about the very early shows is that they were laughably bad, with frequent boom shadows and flubbed lines. Yes, these things do happen. Curious shadows appear on walls behind the actors, or an object that might be a microphone or part of a camera rigging is glimpsed at the edge of the screen. My favorite was the shadow of one of the TV crew crossing the foot of Vicky’s bed in a very early episode. Lines are sometimes misspoken, but they aren’t huge gaffs. I note from the chalkboard held up at the opening of each show that almost all of the shows as filmed are first-take efforts; the poor actors don’t get a second chance if they slip up. So I’m inclined to be forgiving.
Continue reading “DVD Review: Winding up the first 2 sets of Dark Shadows: The Beginning”

DVD Review: More of Dark Shadows: The Beginning

As I mentioned in my first review of Dark Shadows, the earliest episodes following Victoria Winters’ arrival at the little Maine town of Collinsport are rather tedious to get through. Most of them are taken up with the Burke Devlin revenge plot, which I can’t work up any interest in. Even in that story line, it seems like something only happens every third or fourth episode; the others consist of different pairs of people talking over the same points again and again.

To be fair, the show’s writer sometimes shows a clever turn in jumping from one conversation to another, both discussing the same topic and each picking up where the other left off even though the two are occurring in different parts of Collinwood or even miles apart in the town. But if this was usual for soap operas of the era, I’m surprised people could watch them from day to day. On DVD, an episode runs about 20 minutes with the commercials removed and I would watch 4 or 5 in an afternoon. That helped it move a little more briskly.

At this early point, I could see why they eventually brought a vampire into the story to liven things up. Some of the characters were definitely begging for a good bite to the jugular vein. I was about to give it up. Then, at about episode No. 40, things began to improve.
Continue reading “DVD Review: More of Dark Shadows: The Beginning”

DVD Review: Dark Shadows: The Beginning (first episodes)

Dark Shadows: Collinwood at nigtAs a little girl in the early ’70s, I would come home from school every day and turn on the TV to watch reruns of what we called “Barnabas Collins,” the show about the vampire.

I don’t recall very much about the show itself, however, except that one featured character named Maggie was played by an actress named Kathryn Leigh Scott–a name I am unlikely ever to forget or misspell. Nor can I say that I gave the show much thought in the last 40 years, until the first 200 episodes of Dark Shadows from 1966 and ’67, before the appearance of Barnabas Collins, became available on DVD in the wake of that very silly film remake.

The original concept for the show sounded like the sort of Old Dark House movies I’ve taken an interest in lately, atmospherically spooky and not so overtly supernatural as it later became. I thought I’d rent the first two sets of disks from Netflix and give it a look.

The first episode begins promisingly with a night-time view of a neo-Gothic house on a hill and a woman speaking in voice-over, at once evoking both The Haunting and Rebecca.

When the young woman speaking is introduced, her story also seems vaguely Jane-Eyrish.

Victoria WintersHer name is Victoria Winters (as she will announce at the beginning of nearly every subsequent episode). She was abandoned as an infant and has grown up in a New York orphanage. The only clues she has to her background are a note that was left with her as a baby, bearing her first name, and anonymous envelopes containing money for her care which have been sent regularly from Bangor, Maine, over the past eighteen years.

Vicky has just received a job offer from a woman named Elizabeth Collins Stoddard of Collinsport to be a governess to her nine-year-old nephew.

Vicky has never heard of the Collinses or Collinsport and has no idea how Mrs. Collins Stoddard has come to know about her, but Collinsport is only 50 miles from Bangor. Vicky has accepted the job in hopes of solving the mystery of her own past. We meet her on a train headed for the little coastal town.

Continue reading “DVD Review: Dark Shadows: The Beginning (first episodes)”

Key to Pronunciation

In preparation for the third book in this series, Sonnedragon, I’ve been putting together reference material and background information: a new and more expansive map, family trees, dramatis personae. While looking through some very old files to recover what I’d already done in this area, I found the following guide to pronouncing proper names.


The language spoken by the characters in this novel is an Anglo-French amalgamation similar to Chaucerian English; though the language itself is rarely represented, the spelling and pronunciation of proper names reflect its use. There are a few, simple, general guidelines to correct pronunciation:

  • Y is usually pronounced like long e: Ah-dee-nah, Oh-leer.
  • An initial I is a long i: Eye-gren, Eye-oh-bethe. Exceptions are the Spanish words, in which an initial I is pronounced with a modern y sound: Yar-din-ez.
  • The use of U as a consonant is frequently, but not consistently, employed. Names such as Houarde, Eduarde, and Uinmerchant should be pronounced as if the U were a W: Win-merchant.
  • When a word ends with a consonant followed by an E, the consonant should be stressed with a slight aspirate afterwards, a sort of uh sound: Da-feeTH-uh, Ed-warD-uh.
  • The accent usually falls on the second or middle syllable: Mar-GEER-reet, Kat-HER-Reen, Go-DEF-roi, An-DEM-ee-on.