I’ve read her books, well, four of the thirty or so she’s written.
Written postcards and lobbed them overseas with nothing more than “Dervla, Lismore Ireland” for an address.
She tells me that she’s gotten letters addressed “Dervla Murphy, Ireland”, so I shouldn’t be surprised they got to her.
When Jac Marquis, the singlespeed champion of Scotland, agreed to drive down the twisty 50 miles or so from the race in Kilfinane and the home of my highly esteemed writing goddess, I was over the moon.
Jac got herself a stack of Dervla’s books to learn more of my hero, while I just relished the chance to do Two Things At Once when over on the Emerald Isle.
We arrived a half hour early, and in the pretty heart of the town, her gate stood between the pharmacy and some other shop. Keys in the lock, and an empty wheelbarrow (they’ve been called Irish something…walking stick? To help a drunken man make it home, must look that up).
We let ourselves in, Jac toting some very fine organic Scottish whisky and me my coutnerfeit Book of Kells canvas, and a silent team of bouncing dogs
(later I learned that one was called Worzel Gummidge) welcomed us in.
Dervla greeted us most warmly, beckoned us in, and regretted that the beer was slow in arriving.
We sat in a room surrounded with books on all walls, and a table decorated with an Irish motto along its perimeter…and my hero, slightly stooped and claiming to be deaf as a post, yet missing nothing, she inquired about the Two Jacquies. We told her our mission(s) and a bit about ourselves, and it wasn’t very long before she was inquiring about my take on the situation in America….I gave her the short version…and the talk turned to social justice (anyone reading her books discerns the importance of this lifelong narrative thread).
“Do you still ride?” Jac asked.
“No, not now….arthritis…but I still swim daily” Dervla replied. “In the Blackwater river”.
Oh, my….without even a wetsuit, according to Nick, who also swims daily, but uses a wetsuit.
We had a not-long-enough visit, and a couple of fellows came, Colm and Nico, a bit of beer was poured, and as we left she put lovely cheese sandwiches in our hands to hold us until we got back to the bicycle revels in Kilfinane……I took pix, but must wait til I’m home to put them up here….The web has great stuff on this brilliant, mulish, and utterly compassionate human that I have hoped to meet…oh, she says she got two of my postcards (I’ve sent three over 30 year’s time)…..”But …you never wrote back!” I said childishly.
Colm muttered that she only gets a few hundred fan letters a week….I was slightly mollified….
This week I’m in Edinburgh I hope to munch my way through a couple more of her books–Down From The Limpopo…and maybe one more. I just finished Wheels Within Wheels, her 1979 autolessbikography….brilliant reading. I’m so humbled (this is of course good for me) to grasp as well as I can, the depth and breadth of her amazing mind, her formation, her milieu, her parents. It makes modern life feel superficial, if not downright stupid.
IF you are a reader, try Full Tilt, please, first. Then hit the rest. You won’t be sorry.