In Julianstown for the 4th. The Americans temporarily outnumber the Irish in this house—myself, expat Matthew and Matthew’s brother Tim are here along with Geraldine, Matthew’s wife and, although she isn’t really present, having gone off to Belfast for the night, their younger daughter Helen. We were up late last night (I had embarrassingly held up dinner until almost 9) drinking Irish coffee and discussing the ruination of San Francisco—Matt and Tim grew up in southern California and Tim still lives there in an itinerant way—and, with a certain perversity, the inevitability of AirBnB.

IMG_0447Matthew and Geraldine live in a cottage beside a river in this speck of a village between the town of Drogheda and Dublin. I met them through mutual friends on one of my first summers here. At that point they were excavating a ruined abbey outside of the medieval town of Trim. The excavation was a family affair: both daughters worked alongside their parents every day, organizing the tea breaks and lunches for the young students who were on the dig. I was a miserable failure at helping, finding the work of dusting a cavern with a toothbrush tedious beyond belief, but the bonhomie was terrific; Geraldine, who doesn’t so much move as explode from point to point, could energize an opium den.


It’s still early here and I don’t know what the day holds; as far as I know we have no plans beyond Matt’s Eggs Benedict for brunch and an attempt to find a way to stream Wimbledon, which will have to be illegal. There was a terrific rain last night after the driest June here in decades—sleeping weather. Even Sophie the dog has gone back to bed.

I am happy to be here with no agenda. Celebrating the 4th in another country, which I have done several times, is odd. Those other places all know about our Fourth of July, which alone makes me queasy. (How many national holidays outside of the US–possibly besides Bastille Day–are Americans aware of?)

One summer my two girls and I were living outside Oxford. On the Fourth we went to a local band concert on the grounds of an estate. As the evening grew darker the music became more rampantly patriotic. At the end, the entire audience rose from their blankets on the grass to belt out Rule, Britannia. We stood too, of course, and I whispered to the girls that if anyone spoke to us they should put on their best English accents and answer back. I, having no ability with the accent, would keep my mouth closed. This was no time to be an American.