What the heck is she on about, says you, dear Reader. Well, the sight of a mixture of Peace, Gertrude Jekyll, Iceberg, and Queen Elizabeth roses alerted me to the fact that OH was about to suggest a few days in his home townland. Sister in law being otherwise involved this month, [she owns the family home] and with the wet and humid weather it didn't take Einstein to work out that we were, he hoped, going down there for a few days to cut the grass, reclaim the lane from the encroaching bushes, and I could cook for him, tidy up, and watch him watch endless football matches. I hold my hand up. I have total disinterest in football, be it soccer, gaelic, rugby unless Ireland is playing, then national loyalty kicks in. So, making the supreme sacrifice [says she with huge grin on face and laughing so hard the keyboard is confused] I said yes before he asked me. Ahhh! watch his face light up.
By nature, I am one of those individuals who is not intimately acquainted with boredom. Once I have a book close at hand, life is good. My survival kit for these sort of visits down to this neck of the woods is a canvas bag containing
- Notebook and four pens [in case the ink runs out] for observation notes
- mobile phone for picture taking
- No less than three books for reading [for a four day stay]and this time the choice was a detective novel, a book on the lives of the Commanche Indians bought at the aforementioned May Farmer's market and Conor Fitzgerald's "The Dogs of Rome"
- plain paper pad for doodles and other scribbles
- at least two Mozart discs for player - on this occasion Clarinet and Piano concerto's and a jazz cd
- Battery charger for phone
- spare batteries for playing Mozart
- spare pair of reading glasses
- tin of mixed herbs and jar of garlic granules to spice up the food
By the time we reach Mullingar, Himself is fidgeting uneasily behind the wheel of the car. "Always the same" he mutters, "when the place gets overgrown the flippin rain comes to make sure I can't cut the stuff back" and other such encomiums on the weather, the county, gardening in general and the fact that he has been garden-grumpy for most of May and the bulk of this month so far.
We arrive, eventually, despite a washed out road which made skating on thin ice look tame, to a damp house and sub zero temperatures which made Iceland look like the Bahamas. It is June for God's sake!!
Two hours later, Aga burning merrily, electric blankets warming up the bed, car looking miserable outside the kitchen window, next door's cat lounging droopily in the door of the shed - mice being reluctant to run around in such weather and birds considering it an insult to their feathers to get wet, we have our lunch.
Beloved cheers up when he realises Somewhere is playing Someplace at three o'clock and his afternoon is sorted. He switches on the TV and sits back prepared to shout for Somewhere when it occurs to him that the blue screen is very attractive in colour but there are no little figures running around a pitch. He splutters, mutters, stutters and emits non printable words at goal speed. "Perhaps", I said helpfully, "if you switched on the switch upstairs and plugged in the lead, you might get a signal". With a loving look in his eye at me, he races up the narrow stairs and two minutes later Someplace scores the first goal. Insult to injury don't you know!
I retire with Mozart and Maigret to the front parlour, put a match to the fire [having first checked that the chimney is not blocked]. There have been instances when sooty deceased members of the blackbird, sparrow and finch families have graced the parlour and welcomed my poor sister in law with sooty wing prints on the pale grey walls.
Two hours later, several oceans of grey rain falling out of the gutter like a sheet of grey water, and the grey walls, green carpet, and green suite of furniture have displaced the ability of Mozart and Maigret to comfort me, I saunter into the kitchen where Beloved is sulking. No, not skulking, or maybe a tiny bit, because Someplace has wiped the pitch with Somewhere and of course it was an unfair match, the referee was blind, the players away with the fairies and the ball didn't magnetically race into the proper goal. By this stage we decide that if the rain continues, sister in law will not need to have a swimming pool put in the front garden...the rain will do it for her.
We dine at eight, open a bottle of vino and sit back and watch a DVD of a well known spy film. I'm happy as Pierce sorts out the baddies and Himself drifts off to a dream where Somewhere won by 497 goals to 0.
Wednesday dawns, and more rain. The bottom of the garden is flooded and Mr Grumpy is threatening, with a shaken fist, the clouds which float past [menacingly] in return.
By early afternoon, the thunder and lightning has arrived, The Other Place is playing Where d'ja Call It and as the lightning is close at hand he won't risk putting on the TV. I have, cunningly, brought a LUDO board with me, and have not forgotten the dice this time, and we pass the afternoon outplaying each other. The humour he is in, well lets just say he tries to wipe me off the board. Final score Me 3 games, Him 0.
I'm a LUDO expert in my own mind, my Mum first introduced me to the game as a child. I was in bed with one of the many ailments that found their way to me, it and books were the foundation of a sane mind. Well, I like to think so anyway. Things are not improved by Where d'ja call it beating The Other Place.
By seven the rain has stopped and an orchestra of birds begin to sing at the top of their voices, to the accompaniment of the sound of dripping leaves. The waters are slowly seeping away and we meander around the garden.
Thursday brings a whole new world. We tidy the rain sodden debris as best as we can. Sister in law rings to see has the lawn been cut yet, OH tightly replies "no, how the ..ll could I and it raining for two solid days and nights?" and she breaks his heart by telling him it has been lovely "up here".
I suggest we head to Longford Town and picnic on the way. A friend and former neighbour from the Wicklow days has set up a cake shop in the town and I am keen to see her new premises. We picnic near the river shown above. It's the Inny River and anyone familiar with the Percy French song "Ballyjamesduff" will be familiar with the line
Just turn to the left at the bridge of Finea
except, that if you turn to the left you wind up in the hedge or down watching the swans if coming from the other side of the bridge!
My friend is delighted to see us, and we catch up over tea and a bun in her shop in between darts behind the counter to serve the customers. Her wedding cakes and special occasion cakes are mouthwatering looking, long may she prosper.
In the evening the grass is cut, and the worst of the encroaching hedges trimmed and disciplined. We decide that if it is raining or looks like it, we will return home the next morning. Under a lowering sky on Friday we arrive home to sunshine, birdsong and lunch in the garden before, singing contentedly, OH heads off to address a branch on the apple tree which has collapsed and to inspect the tadpole situation in the rockpools.