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Typical Piscean, dreamer, story teller in the tradition of my country, I love to write. I'm not sure that I'm any good at it, but getting the words down has its reward.

23 August 2014

Down on the Bog

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.

14 August 2014

On going to Galway - today.

Just I thought I would treat myself to putting up a picture of Lettermore in Galway for this blog, I might as well, it's as close as we got to Galway today.  Himself announced on Tuesday that, come hail, rain or..."yes, snow", I interrupted his flow with something less than my usual tolerance.  Last night I got everything ready, and this morning, after a sleepless night in case I missed the alarm, I awaited his awakening before I put a toe out on the carpet.  Aha! I'm getting too fly for that mistake at 6 a.m.  

Opening a sleepy eye, Beloved greeted me with "What's the weather like?" 
"Well," I replied, "at 5 a.m., there was a heavy downpour with hail stones but it's offering sunshine at the moment".  

There was a silence.  Followed by more silence.  "What do you think", he asked, snugly wrapped up with 86% of the duvet tightly wrapped around him, "will we go or will we leave it until next week?". 

I'm up to that dodge as well.  "It's entirely up to you, Sweetheart, whatever you decide is fine by me" [this with a smirk into the pillow].

Even the early rising birds are amused by him, at this stage, or maybe that's bemused.I'm sure I heard one tweet "he'll stay in his cocoon".  I had a long chat with myself on Sunday about leaving the "Day Away" decision up to him.  If I say yes, and we go and it rains - "well, you wanted to come here, I didn't" is probably number one refrain on a list of thousands.  If I say "no" then "Ah but you never want to go anywhere" would be number one on the other list; playing safe was a cosy option and I grabbed it for all I was worth.  Mum used to do this to Dad, she called it "Rug Pulling", with capitals, and it always worked.  It worked this time too.  Rolling over into more of the duvet he announced "Arra, sure we'll leave it until next week, and we'll go to ......[wait for it]....CORK!."

So, we got up at 9 o'clock and headed off to do the weeks grocery shopping.  Over breakfast, the Wise One decreed that we shall go to Waterford one day [notice that casual 'one day'] next week as that train leaves at a respectable 10.25 a.m., (that's, as I pointed out to him if it doesn't sit down at Sallins, Hazelhatch or in the departure station) and we shall [shall we?] arrive in Waterford at 12.20 and the train home is at 14.50 pip emma.  Well Emma might just well get the pip, whoever Emma is, because if that train manages to run to schedule, then there will be miracles in the air.

At this stage I'm not quite sure if this is beginning to be an episode out of an Irish comedy or am I blurry irritated with it.  It's messing up my schedule for one thing, trying to organise history group meetings, meeting up with an old friend home from America, a days shopping with youngest daughter and a days photography with eldest, a bit of blogging and a bit of research on another project of mine... well, it's beginning to get in the way. A discussion while travelling out to our local Aldi this morning ran something like this

Me:       You know the original plan was to have a weekly trip somewhere we wanted to see
              travelling by car, and once a month a trip to Galway [heard of that place before?] or 
              Waterford by train.

Him:      Well, things have gotten in the way, the rain, that inner ear infection you got, that 
               funeral we had to go to, and then there was...

Me:        Well, I suggest that you and I take the "car" trips together, we try for Waterford next week and that we can take off in a couple of weeks time for more local trips to either Balbriggan or Maynooth on the D.A.R.T, then in October you can head down to Thurles for lunch with your old pal Jimmy, and I can head off, or do a few of my own things while you're away for the day...

The response was a soulful look accompanied by a little boy hurt voice telling me that he likes being in my company.  6'2" doesn't carry off little boy hurt too well with me.  I have Kerry blood in my veins and am not for turning.  I am a determined woman.

Me:      O.K., we'll see what we can organise [pause here for quick reassessment] Nooo! wait a minute.  I pointed out my old argument of 35 years together, 34 of them while he was working I was organising household, children etc., etc., and had made a life of my own.  So we are now agreed on the above agenda of car trips, local trips on D.A.R.T [Dublin Area Rapid Transit]
and lunch [solo run] in October to Thurles, Co. Tipperary - oh! and one day next week we're going to either Waterford or Cork.


In the meantime, he'll be where he wants to be.  In the garden wrestling gorse, cutting hedges, murdering the buddleja, and planning his chicken coop.

I did mention the chicken coop didn't I.   Last year it was called the chicken run, but the girls had too much fun with that title and it acquired a new title this year.  O.k., so the story on the chicken accommodation is roughly this [using the patented time schedule for demonstration purposes, patented by Himself]

March 2008, I inherit and we move in full time in July 2008 after some minor roof repairs and decorating are done.  August 2008 he announces he is dismantling Mum's hen run and turning it into a vegetable patch.

Christmas 2009, while watching me draw up plans for a new extension to the house, he draws up Plan #1/sometime in-20?? for a hen house.

August 2010 extension commenced, vegetable plot prepared.  
December 2010 extension completed.

Still with me?

January 2011 Planning Application for Hen Accommodation Plan #2/anytime in near future/20?? is put before me.  I tell him that, apart from that I don't want it as near to the house as Mum had her hen run, and the whiff on hot summer days was something else, and that another part of the garden will be too cold in winter and far too hot in summer for the poor hens, he's free to put said hen accommodation wherever he chooses.

August 2011  Various brochures on various types of hen accommodation are acquired at Tinahely Annual Agricultural Show, Co. Wicklow.  They make an interesting contribution to the coffee table.

November 2011 - June 2012, rambling discourse on types of hen ensue.  He wants ten, I tell him that is too many.  Nearly everyone on the lane keeps hens, so the days [when Mum was alive] of selling off your surplus to the local shop have passed him by.  Besides, I remind him of his cholesterol level.  I suggest two Marrans, and he wants Bantams, I suggest Silkies and he decides to investigate Leghorns.  At the moment Ostriches are definitely off the list but the possibility of bustards is not.  Mum would be so proud of him, she kept quail, guinea fowl, marrans, silkies, woodcock, pheasants...I'd settle for one hen, just for a home reared egg!

September 2012 Dining room table [a large, long one] covered for two months with plans for Hen house/run/accommodation/you name it.  Dinner party for friends in early November necessitates re-acquiring dining table, plans sulkily put away.

December 2012  "Did anyone see my hen house plans?"

A silent 2013.

June 2014 "Why did I get convert your Mum's hen run into a vegetable patch?"  
                    "...'er, we wanted fresh veg and last years haul was fabulous?????"

August 2014.  "Where's that magazine you were reading the other day with those fancy hen trailers in it".

Himself was last seen, when not plotting train trips to Galway, digging out foundations for a hen run.  He built a two story house 5'2[H] x 3'6"[W] x 4'7"[D] twelve years ago for the cat, it will, it appears, be the template for the hen shack!

The cat currently sleeps in an abandoned cardboard box [full of old t-shirts belonging to youngest daughter who was throwing them out] on the veranda.  On winter nights she occupies the bottom left hand corner of eldest daughter's bed...it's nearer the radiator.

On that note...

12 August 2014

On being back in village life

Six weeks ago I was sitting down having a quick cuppa, pondering on life in general, when there was a tap on the kitchen window.  We don't get passers-by here as we are up a long lane, rather off the beaten track.  It was a neighbour, from down the lane, with whom I had grown up in this village.  To be more accurate, her sister and I are of an age and played cheyneys, hopscotch, and all the other childhood games together in a sunshine blessed childhood. Maura is seven years older than I am, and back in the day that was tantamount to light years.

"We're getting a history group together" she said, breathless from the climb up to our house.  "It's part of that group who keep the village tidy, something to do with heritage" she continued.  "I thought of you instantly, so are you game?  Will you come down to the pub on Saturday morning after the clean-up and we can find out whats what?".  I agreed, but pointed out to her that owing to a major disc problem in my back, I have never been able to take part in the clean-ups, and that this might cause some resentment.  "Ah! let it", said she.  "Aren't we too old to be pluckin' weeds out of the footpath, and don't we contribute financially, and anyway I've the same problem myself and don't physically participate".  Enough said, I was in.

On that balmy Saturday morning, it was arranged that a meeting would be held during the week to organise what it was all about.  Maura, Therese, Louise and I met up at the end of the lane and headed for our local.  There we met the chairperson, new to the village, twenty years ago, who told us that "being as how" we were probably the longest residing in the village, we "may know about the history of it".  There were jobs for everyone, she said.  It was like some sort of corporate business meeting.  Laura, another one of the villages "old residents" decided not to come in on the history group; she and her husband elected to join the graphics group; we agreed to keep her posted on our research and any historical information she had, she would pass it on to us.

Between us, we constitute the sum total of 254 years of shared history between us.  Our families all arrived from County Wicklow in the 1800's.  Mine after the Great Famine of 1847.  We're here from sometime around 1856-'59; Maura's family came in 1870, Therese is a relation of Maura's and descended from the same root stock and Louise can trace her family back to 1880. Some of us have seven generations to show and others five.

Resentment?  A little, from "blow ins" of only 80 years.  Bewilderment from those who landed here 20-40 years ago, the old families are all inter-related, except mine.  My family tended to marry out.  Throw a stone in this village and you'll hit someone who is related to somebody, and newbies find this bewildering.  It's a village of three parts, really.  Upper and Lower, clinging to the hill side.  The Upper part being the oldest.  The third part is the "Who's Who of Generations living here".

Mum's childhood friend [family arrived here in 1865] has joined us.  I love this; I get to share memories with a wonderful lady 86 years old and as mentally acute as a razor.  Her knowledge of village history is almost computer-like, and as I learned all the history from my Mother over the years, if Mary gets stuck, I have the back-up information.  Following on from that first meeting we met in my house, and over tea and sweet cake we never saw five hours fly by.

In the past six weeks, we have met every week.  The major group is keen to hold an exhibition of village history in the autumn and we are working towards that goal.  We do approximately four per cent work on it, and the rest is glorious.  Hours of chat, memories of people long gone but very lovingly and in some cases unlovingly remembered; tonnes of laughter and above all a new found sort of kinship.  We have decided to continue on meeting every month just for the company and the craic.*

We are the last of our breed.  The twenty plus age difference between Mary and the rest of us is non-existent.  We were raised with the same principles as she was.  Life was hard in the village for her family and our families; but there was a pride, a joy and a fervour in making something of oneself that encompassed the generations right up to ours.  Social media has changed a lot of things nowadays; some of it for good, and some with disastrous outcomes.  

My night was made last Tuesday when Louise and Therese walked me home from a meeting in Maura's house.  We do that for each other - really it is just an excuse to continue the gossip.  We stood for another hour chatting over my garden gate at midnight.  As they took their leave Louise turned to me and, calling me not by my present surname but by that of my Grandfather, said "see you next Tuesday, I'll bring the buns!".

* craic = [Ir.] fun, used to describe a joyous occasion.