The much longed for week-away to Kerry finally got underway on Sunday 22nd September,
and it was touch and go that we might get our break at all. Three weeks previously I had a phone call from a cousin telling me that his father was in hospital in Cork, following a fall, and that the odds were not good. He had only just celebrated his 90th birthday two weeks prior to that and it came as something of a shock that this vital, energetic man was laid low. His condition deteriorated and he went home to God on 21st September.
Being in Tralee at that time meant that we were able to journey up to Cork on the day of the funeral and return to our home-from-home on the same day. Tom was a quiet, dignified man whose love of family and pottering about his garden for nigh on thirty years after his retirement was his whole reason for living. He was married to my Father's youngest sister, and my heart aches for her. They were married for over 55 years and only had eyes for each other.
If there is one place on this earth that I am not fond of, it is the city of Cork. Every time we visit it we inevitably get lost. Sunday night, however, I spent time with a google map sussing out the best route to take and, leaving early on Monday morning for the funeral, we actually found our way to the lovely little chapel where Mass was being celebrated for him with ease. As we say here in Ireland, "he had a good life" and he slipped away surrounded by those who love him, peacefully.
Our journey home to Tralee, though tinged with sadness, was one of beauty. Travelling west we stopped off in Ballyvourney, the last village in County Cork, at the last pub in the town and Himself had a pint of Murphy, Cork's answer to Guinness, I had a glass of Merlot and we toasted a long life and a happy man. The view as we drove back through the mountains was spectacular that evening, a blue mist in the valleys and the setting sun highlighting the mountain tops with a warm golden glow. Back at the Courtyard, it was good to sit in the kitchen and talk about the day and the life that Tom led and his lifelong love of steam trains. There is a joy in cooking in a kitchen that is strange yet familiar.
Tuesday,the weather giving showers, we drove out to Fenit and whiled away a pleasant hour or two watching a cargo ship being loaded, listening to the gulls cry and the spinnakers singing their tune on the yachts, cheek by jowl with trawlers, in this small marina.
Above the harbour looking down on the cove, a group of houses always attract my attention. One in particular is especially attractive, sheltered by pines, overlooking the statue of St Brendan the Navigator and the Sliabh Mish mountains. Its blue cladding and white windows are reminiscent of a Cabot Cove house and one might expect Jessica Fletcher to come cycling down the pier on her bicycle. Indeed the coastline boasts so many coves, one could imagine Pierce Brosnan [with his Tralee roots] as OO7 coming ashore in dead of night to deal with smugglers in this sleepy harbour. As children, my daughters were always disappointed that Willy the whale in Free Willy didn't appear. I am sure the Orcas swim up the coast, just a little further out.
Wednesday saw us driving out over the Connor Pass to Dingle and onwards to Feoghannagh and the Murrioch, small villages out at the tip of the peninsula, windswept by the Atlantic gales and beautiful against the backdrop of those glorious mountains.
St. Brendan's Cove
At Slea Head the seagulls fight over bread we toss them, one so busy fighting for his territory that he fails to secure a treat for himself.
The beautiful Skelligs lie on a silver sea, and I never cease to be amazed by Sceilig Mhichil, and the monastery built on this bleak and barren rock protruding up from the Atlantic.
Out at Feoghannagh we watched a murmuration of Starlings like a tornado against the vast Atlantic sky.
Edel joined us on Thursday night, and why wouldn't she? She is a Kerrywoman at heart, and with the wonderful welcome Myra and Derry Daly give us at the Courtyard - a welcoming bottle of wine, homemade brown bread and Butler's chocolates, this truly is a home from home, add to it summer-like weather and you can keep the Bahamas.
On Friday I relive old memories of my childhood holidays in Tralee with a cousin. Racing down Rock Street to watch the trains cross over on their way to Fenit, our cousin John arriving with pony and trap to take us to Mass in the Dominican church, and later when he had upgraded to a Ford Consul, the very epitome of elegance back in the day. John passed away on the Friday before Tom. I had a soft spot for John, he was the image of my Father, in looks and wit - they were first cousins and the resemblance was uncanny. Ar dheis Dé a h-anamh dilís.
A Dublin spider made his home in the shelter of my wing mirror, and with considerable industry, made a beautiful web between the door and the window. On the road to Castlegregory on Friday afternoon, we had to go tight to the fuchsia hedge to avoid a passing milk container lorry, his web was damaged. On Saturday he set about repairing his dew diamonded web, his annoyance was palpable. I am glad to report he travelled back to Dublin without further mishap and now has a stock of fresh Kerry fly for the winter.
We reluctantly pulled away from the Courtyard on Sunday morning; I love being back home and with a change in the weather, the range is in full swing keeping us snug and warm. Tuesday gave us gales and a leak in our bedroom ceiling. Himself's language was blue when he took a look up into the old attic and saw sky beside the chimney. He got on to the roofer immediately who turned up on the day, and hasn't been seen since, but that, as they say, is another story.