31 March 2010
March - in like a lamb...out like a lion - this year
This has been a busy month for OH and I. On the 15th we celebrated our Pearl Wedding Anniversary, the 20th my OOth birthday and Dad and Mum's 40th and 2nd Anniversaries respectively on the 21st and 22nd. Time, as the saying goes is the great healer and time, or thirty years in this instance, is wonderful.
Thirty years ago, when I walked up the aisle to exchange vows with OH in our local parish church, the fifteenth of March was a bitterly cold day. A vicious day with sleet and ice in the rain. On the following day we headed off to Tralee for our Honeymoon to a warmer climate down south in Kerry while family and friends trod their way through snow in Dublin to their varying destinations. Upon our return to Co. Wicklow the new bride started married life with a huge fry-up which was nearly more of a necessity than a 'big breakfast'. The house was cold, his relations who had been staying there over the week end of the wedding had departed on the Monday morning and had 'thoughtfully' put the central heating off.
We returned late on Saturday night to frozen pipes, a snowed up driveway, and a house that bore close resemblence to a freezer. I still shudder to think what the story would have been had we been away for two weeks. Mum, snowed up here on this hill, wasn't able to get out to check on the house before our return; it sat there freezing miserably and, no doubt wondering what the new broom in the form of the new bride would do to it. Thirty years on and no longer living there, if I could take it - lock, stock and every brick, bit and bob of it - and put it on to this house as an attachment, I would have perfection. Just as we had it entirely the way we wanted it, life stepped in and changed our direction.
We celebrated our Pearl with the girls, I cooked a meal for the four of us - the days of dining out in fancy restaurants are not a priority now. Between the gluten intolerance and the diabetes, I am happier to do the needful myself - the dishwasher does the really hard work. It was a lovely evening and I sat back after dessert looking at the three people, oh yes! I had better add Mme Pounce too, that shape my world. I have much to be grateful for.
We departed, as they say in travel terms, bright and early on the sixteenth for the Kingdom of Kerry and my beloved town of Tralee. The recession has bitten hard across the country; as we travelled down to Tralee I could see the for sale signs and the whited out windows of failed business in the small towns and business where, last June they were still thriving. In any given town in Ireland this year there is at least one business going to the wall each week. The Banks have much to answer for, but they don't - they just look for more taxpayers money to keep them in the style they imagine they are entitled to. There are go-slow's in Government departments, the public service and the field of education. The saying "somebody should do something about it"... "Somebody" is like Romantic Ireland, it's with O'Leary in his grave...and not the modern famous airline O'Leary at that.
The break was just what we needed. On St Patricks' day we were up bright and early and after a huge breakfast we headed out to visit my Grandparents grave, followed by early Mass in my beloved Grandfather's favourite church The Dominican's. OH was amazed by the turn out. Churches seldom get that full in Dublin nowadays. There were green jumpers, jackets, ties, scarves, and breast pocket loads of shamrock aplenty.
Seasoned travellers in the Kingdom, we made up our own packed lunch and headed down Princes Street and out towards Blennerville. The day was with us as they say in that neck of the woods, and the temperatures were 17-20 degrees. The sun shone on the Sliabh Mish mountains and we had the Conor Pass, in all its narrow glory, to ourselves. Out past Dingle, awash with few tourists and more locals awaiting their St Paddy's day parade, and on towards my beloved Slea Head.
There is much to view, and a different season gives a different perspective. Everything etched in stark lines, hedges brown and burnt with the hard winter's snow and frost, cut hard back in complete contrast to Summers softer floral dress of Fuschia and Monbretia. There is a gaunt architectural beauty to the bare trees, lifting their arms to Heaven as if pleading with God for compassion; given that Easter is just around the corner - there is added significance to the beauty.
Fox coat coloured leaves of Monbretia line the roads, a proud pheasant browses for delicacies beneath the gorse. Blackback gulls soar above the ocean wave, cormorants sit ladylike on the rocks, wings outstretched. In a small field above the rocky cliffs a few native black Kerry cows, dainty and as pretty as a Jersey herd, cling to the hillside grazing on the salt blasted grass; their meat tastier because of the wild herbs growing there. We round a bend and there, to the mewing of the seagulls lie Ná Blascóid, half hidden in the mist that rolls in across the broad Atlantic. I am in Heaven. The magic of the Blasket Islands never ceases to enrapture me.
It is St Patrick's Day and I am in the best place to feel my native Irishness. Road signs of Gó máll [slow down] pronounced guh mowl, or Tóg bóg é - take it slowly [tog, as in toga, tog bug ay]. Ireland, Mother Ireland loose not your native tongue. OH romantically informs me that I look like an overgrown snowdrop - white shirt, green jumper and brown trousers. Thank you darling, you'll always keep me grounded anyhow!
We pull into the parking area at Dún Chaoin, watching the waves roll into the shore and cliff, a surfer's dream, turquoise and white and inky blue out into the depths. We sit awhile in companionable silence. Small holiday cottages align the road, houses that once were family homes to people who once lived on the islands, Peig Sayers among them. My mind is focussed sharply on their lives, fraught with hardship, surviving wild winters of gale and cold. They were fine hardy people God bless their like. We pic-nic'd overlooking Smerwick and its dragon backed cliffs. I always think of the film Reign of Fire when I see them.
On Thursday the morning's rain gave way at mid-day and we headed out for Mount Brandon and then up to Ballyheigue. A sadness came over me, or maybe the Irish word uaignais [loneliness] came over me. For most of my life there was a wish to live in this wonderful county hidden deep in my heart. Time and it's attendants have changed that for me. I have come home in more ways than one to my hill where I grew up, the Kingdom will always be Paradise, but for visiting rather than putting down my own roots there.
I am a 'jug' collector, Shannonbridge Pottery to be exact. Lovely floral jugs of all sizes and a trip up Rock Street to Loramar and it's lovely chatelaine is a must. She gives wonderful discounts, and I am in need of restraint before I purchase all her stock. She remembers me everytime I go in to her, even if there is a gap of a couple of years since my last visit. She is the heart of the rowl as Dubliners say, her warm welcome is the quintessential "Ireland of the Thousand Welcomes". In Kellihers at the bottom of The Rock [Rock St.,] I come across a willow pattern pepper and salt set, a man and woman in oriental dress. At a mere €9 it will grace my table on special occasions. It always fascinates me that in Kerry the name Kelliher is spelt with an 'i' and in Cork with an 'e' as in Kelleher. Prefer the 'i' myself.
Friday and homeward bound but not before we lunch in Cork with Dad's only surviving sister. She is now 80 and I adore her. We have always been close, and it pains my heart to see how frail she has become in the past year. When she is gone that is it, I have no one to say "do you remember when" to about my family childhood days. God spare her the years, may she see her century. I am overjoyed to learn that she will be in Dublin the following week for her Grand-daughter's concert, I immediately grab my chance for more time with her. Last Wednesday I picked her up from my cousin's house and we had afternoon tea before a cozy fire and she travelled down memory lane with me. Those were golden hours and I treasure them.