Yes, you've guessed it, another week and no Galway. Still, I'm not grousing over this. We spent a lovely couple of hours down on the Bog, deep in rural Ireland yesterday, and it was pure Heaven, as they say in Kerry.
Following a phone call from sister-in-law, who inherited Himself's family home in rural Ireland, but lives and works in Dublin, he had to investigate a neighbour's report of a missing roof tile and the possibility of a leak into one of the bedrooms. Despite the fact that my 'to do' list was longer than my arm, I threw all aside and headed off with him. I am so glad I did; you know the song "It's such a perfect day...I'm glad I spent it with you..."? well yesterday was just such a day.
On the road early, picnic lunch packed and two flasks of tea - just in case we might need an extra cuppa or so [teaholics 'r' us] we thanked God for a beautiful sunny day after a night of high wind and driving rain.
Himself comes from the middle of nowhere, [his description], rush hour is last feed by wild birds in what was his Mother's garden of a summers evening. Friends and relations of sister in law's who visit always comment on the silence down there, but in fact it is a very noisy place. With cattle lowing in the bottom fields, sheep on the hillside making their contribution to the cacophony and sparrows, swallows and Mr Big the friendly garden robin - the place is drowned with sound.
It is not a place I would like to live in. The solitude is not the problem, but I am a product of my genes, and with a strong Kerry, Limerick, Sligo West coast and East coast background, I like the sound of the sea and the view from the mountains. I like mid week breaks spent there when it is just the two of us, our girls visit occasionally, but are sea and Mountain lovers by preference.
After we had checked out the house, all being well indoors and organised with the local roofer to come and replace the missing tile, Himself was disinclined to hang around. It is only three years since his Mother passed away, and I know he felt her absence yesterday. It was one of those type of days she would have loved, wandering down the lane, picking blackberries and grousing about the damage the rabbits have done.
"Let's go to the bog", he suggested and, nothing loathe, I agreed. We haven't visited his bog land area in about twenty years, and under a new Government scheme, turf is no longer being cut on it. The scheme was introduced to protect a landscape that is slowly disappearing and to try to replenish the natural wildlife.
Shortly after noon, we drove along the country road that brings us to the lane into the bog. It was hard finding it at first; in twenty years it has become overgrown, trees have shot up and the vast open expanse we knew looks more like heathland with rowan, ash and sycamore dotted around.
There is a long bóreen* into his section of bog, overgrown on either side of the path; you have to be careful to stay in the middle of the path. On each side of it are deep channels for drainage. It is very tempting to reach out and try to pick blackberries from their briars in some places. Being an avid wildflower seed collector, the temptation of the rowan trees and the vetches that grow along the path, I had to caution myself to be careful. Himself was like a fussy mother wandering down the lane before me, watch this, mind your step, don't step in that fox dropping...[as if I wasn't well acquainted with foxes from here]but, eventually we reached a part where it was safe to thrown down the tarpaulin and a plaid blanket over it and take out our picnic lunch.
There is something very special about the taste of bacon, egg and tomato sandwiches washed down by lashings of hot tea and followed by mouth wateringly good fruit cake. It has that sumptuous feeling of a Famous Five outing and I fully expected Timmy the dog to come bouncing down the lane at any minute. There was absolutely no sound at all, at first, except the wind across the bog. Various butterflies softly wafted across the lane. Bees busily hurried from flower to flower.
We sat contentedly eating our meal, happy in the silence that was between us and all around us. After a while, a little way up the lane there was a rustle in the hedgerow; we held our breath sitting as still as possible for two 60 somethings with arthritis, and a slinky black form ran across the bóreen about two hundred yards away from us. A mink. I couldn't believe my eyes. There was once a mink farm in the vicinity, over two decades ago, but with the decline in the fur industry, many were released into the countryside to wreak havoc on the local wildlife.
Over the years with trapping, shooting and poisoning their numbers have declined, but...they are still there. Far more vicious than the native weasel, (we don't have stoats), they make pine martin's look like the friendly house cat. Himself was uneasy but, as I pointed out, if Minnie the Mink was that curious she, or indeed he, would have come out of the hedgerow closer to us. Besides which I had a stout walking stick with me. He soon settled back into the drowsy relaxed half sleep the mink had awakened him from.
I entertained myself gathering vetch seeds, and trying to capture a picture of blackberries on my camera phone, not very successfully I'm afraid. Across the ditch the bog was covered in a carpet of thick purple heather; as I roused Himself and began to pack away our things, I heard the very sound I had been hoping for, far across the bog came the call of a grouse.
We left reluctantly, ambling up the bóreen - enjoying the smell of ripening blackberries that always reminds me of liquorice all- sorts sweets. That smell that, as a child I dreaded, the smell of back to school and long winter nights of homework, hours spent in a lonely goal on a freezing, windswept hockey pitch. Standing waiting for the game to come down the field so that you would have something to do. There are times when a good home team is not a blessing to a frozen goalie.
To-day, that smell resonates with the joyous thought of warm winter fires, casseroles cooking in the range. Slow cooked food with it's glorious smell floating through the house. As Eldest daughter always says "the smell to come home to"; I love it.
We called back to the house to pick up some items that sister in law wanted brought back to Dublin; taking the long way, we drove down to the local lake just as the cattle were slowly meandering back up the hill after taking a drink.
Yesterday was a meandering type of day. Like the slow cooked winter food in a range, it had its smells, sounds and like a good meal eaten slowly with great enjoyment, it will last in our memory as ...just such a perfect day.
*bóreen from the Irish word Bóthair = road, bóreen = lane.