Escape to the Country
We lived in County Wicklow for 28 of our 35 years and I have always loved its gentle rolling hills, reminiscent of Shropshire. The fact that I can trace back a couple of generations to South Wicklow probably tips the balance a wee bit as well.
Himself’s car was in need of some beauty treatment. A leaking oil valve, (or whatever they call it), tyre realignment (sounds painful) and a general wash, wax and all that rigmarole was called for. I drove down behind him to the dealer’s maintenance garage in Wicklow town. We then headed off down-country along back lanes. Avoiding knocking down low flying swallows, blackbirds incandescent with rage that their branch had been taken over by a self serving rook. We meandered around bends in the road enchanted by the richness of the may blossom, the bright yellow of the gorse and the sound of birdsong along the route.
We were debating where we would have our lunch. We’re not Foodies as such, we just like plain, old fashioned home style cooking. We haven’t traversed these back roads for about two years and it was reassuring to find them as lovely as ever. Would we drop into the Bee Hive just outside Wicklow town on the road to Arklow? Perhaps we might call into Lil Doyles’ restaurant and I could indulge myself with one of their light, fluffy mushroom omelettes? I’m watching “Pie in the Sky” at the moment, and Henry Crabbe’s obsession with the omelette parfait was probably influential in that choice. We could keep going and head for Gorey in Co. Wexford and the Ashdown Hotel where gluten free good Irish cooking is a way of life.
Let me wax lyrical about the Ashdown for the moment. It is, in fact, a new build…well relatively so. It was built at the end of the ‘90’s with a heavy nod to Arts & Crafts style intermingled with witty pictures on the walls. My favourite is one of a fisherman with rod and line, at sea just off a coastline, in a large copper saucepan. The staff are pleasant and self-effacing in that they help you out without making a Drama and Occasion of it. It amuses me to think that in one hundred years’ time, if it is still standing, people will say with a wise look on their face “Oh yes, it’s an historic building, built in the 90’s y’know, last century”. To me, built in the 90’s conjures up the 1890’s and my Grandmothers (both) who were born in 1897 and 1900 respectively.
However, I digress. As we rounded a bend in the road just before The Bee Hive we almost knocked down a nice young man. A nice young man in high viz jacket, standing at the junction of, well, the makings of a new motorway to Rosslare. The Bee Hive, now lurking in a hollow near the access road, is closed for business at present. We pressed on.
Lil Doyles’ Pub & Restaurant looks like it may never open again as it sits cheek by jowl with an enormous bridge, the motorway glowering over the restaurant. I’m not often rendered speechless, according to Himself, but not even a squeak was possible.
In fear and trepidation we headed on for Gorey. Suspicions were high that a new shopping mall might now exist in the Ivy Leaf bar and restaurant. The forecourt, scene of many a happy wedding picture and selfie, would this be a drive in MacDonald’s? We were so obsessed with the fate of the Ashdown that we forwent the pleasure of our usual trip out to Courttown to see what was going on.
As they say in all the best dramatic novels…”A large Phew was emitted”, Oh! All right, so they don’t go quite that far, but we did emit a loud “Thank God”. There she stood, in full May sunshine and glory, as a Bride and Groom descended from a 1920’s cream Rolls Royce, welcome shining out of every window. Suffice it to say that cauliflower in a light creamy sauce, herby roast beef [from Redmond’s farm] and gravy, rich like a melted Galaxy bar, steamed mixed vegetable al dente, and the fluffiest mashed potato and we were purring like tabbies. I think I heard C. I. Henry Crabbe purring as well.
We won’t go into the cost of the beauty treatment for Himself’s beloved motor vehicle, but let us just say that when he arrived home after me he didn’t give it its customary little pat and say “Atta girl”. No, something like “piece of wrap, or snap” or something that rhymes with that was uttered in a very low tone. Not to worry, he’ll recover. She’ll have her rear seats out by tomorrow and the lawn mower, strimmer and all that stuff will be brought out to sister in laws garden to do the needful there. Dolores will ride again, smelling of phew de petrol.
In loving memory of our beloved Cáit O’Connor who left us this week.
May her spirit fly in the sunlight above the Blasket Islands of KerryAnd may her soul sit at the right hand of God. Ar dheis De a anamh dilis. Sleep the long peaceful sleep mo chara.