As Autumn folds into Winter and Christmas is just around the corner, we are basking in sunshine here in the garden today. That is not taking into account the bitterly cold east wind, whistling like the Bean Siodh [ban-shee] around corners, or the presence of wasps harvesting windfall apples. We have been busy putting winter colour into the garden this autumn.
Himself has put the garden to bed, sinking into the sofa before a roaring fire each evening with a sigh as he “complains” how busy he is. The roaring fire is now safely ensconced behind a glass door. We opted for an infill style stove in the family room and a more traditional wood burning stove in my study. He is in his element, coming up to three years since he retired, life in the garden is his idea of heaven, today is his first day of indoor decoration.
We had a lovely week in Kerry in September despite Atlantic gales, heavy rain and sleet, snow and heat – and all that in two hours - one of the days. We know how to read the cloud formations and where they’re heading so it is a simple matter of going opposite to the sunshine. To my delight, I found, way off the beaten track, a warehouse filled with material that would lift any dressmaker or upholsterer’s heart, at prices that were way below shop prices.
For €15 I bought beautiful net curtains for study and bedroom. A pair of navy tartan curtains at €5 have now been transformed into curtains for the shelving in the utility room and, taking the tab off the top of the other curtain in the pair, I now have a very nice table cloth for Christmas day. I splurged out in another shop on two sixteen piece plain white dinner services. At home, locally, I would have paid over €80 – in the little side street shop in Listowel the two sets cost me €38 and they are just what I was looking for. My “Bargain” brain being thus satisfied, all that was left was to enjoy the colours of the hedgerows.
On day two of our holiday we travelled out to Brandon Head. The brambles were top-heavy with blackberries, rose hips from the dog roses that gracefully fragranced summer evenings and the deep red holly berries shone like beacons of welcome. The mountains were at that stage when the deep purple of the heather is slowly turning to a rich molten brown and the mulberry bushes were the icing on the cake. I was put in mind of the lines
“Where the bee lurks, there lurk I…”
We used to sing this in choir in school. Our class were the bane of Mother Stella’s life. Coming in on two-part harmony wasn’t our forte…had she tried Gerry and the Pacemakers she might have had better luck. Still, something stuck in our sludge like brains…her description of our intellect.
We celebrated 38 years since we first met on Hallowe’en Sunday. This year, instead of going out for a fancy meal, we decided that we would take off early on Sunday and head out to the university town of Maynooth in Co. Kildare, travelling through the lovely little villages of Clane, Sallins, Saggart and Prosperous on the way. The hedgerows were ablaze with full Autumn colours reminiscent of a Robert Kincaid picture. Across the fields the lines of trees, in various hues, was intoxicating. We picnicked near Clane, along the canal side, admiring the barges tied up along the quay. Such a lovely elegant manner of travel. We have promised ourselves a trip along the Royal Canal next Spring.
Inspired by our day out we decided on Bank Holiday Monday to head off again. This time we took the road to Roundwood in Co Wicklow cutting off just before the village to take the road to the Sally Gap. My sister in law always amuses me by calling it Sally’s Gap, thinking it refers to a girl called Sally. Instead is named for the willows [also known as sally-rods] that were prolific once upon a time in those parts. No matter how many times I tell her the true origin of the name, and I am the local on this, she [non-local] always insists she is right.
From a view point along the Gap route, we looked down on Lough Dan where the t.v., series “Vikings” is filmed. The lake was like a still black mirror reflecting the scree down the mountainside. Further into the valley the trees were like a beacon of wine, silver, gold, bronze and winter green. It was as if a carpet of jewels had been laid at our feet and we could only feast our eyes with this intoxicating sight, frustrated that we had forgotten to bring along a camera and, needless to remark, my phone decided to indulge in a touch of rigor mortis otherwise known as flat battery!
Onwards to the crossroads and decision making time. Turning left would bring us back to Enniskerry and Roundwood, straight ahead would bring us to Blessington and its lovely lakes and a right turn would take us to Kirrikee and the opportunity to travel down the mountainside to visit Gleann na Smol [glen of the thrush] and a chance to pick up some fresh free range eggs. No contest, we turned right and the view ahead was awesome. Miles and miles of moorland. Grasses of cream and green and wine, turf banks covered by ling and overhead a lone hawk hovered. As we turned down the steep road, barely a lane, for Gleann na Smol, two grouse broke cover and swiftly flew low across the road to hide in a fold in the turf.
Luck was not on our side. Mrs Duck was not in laying form. She is on strike until January. Given that the road down to the glen is almost vertical, we won’t be risking the icy journey through the mountains to find this hidden gem. Spring will come and with it Aylesbury duck eggs. We finished our journey at Johnny Foxes famous pub in Glencullen with an Irish coffee and then home by Kiltiernan to a warm fire and hot meal.
As I write I am under observation. A large and very chubby Robin is sitting on the vegetable garden fence. He is not too pleased with life. The mild autumn has meant that the Mother Robins have seduced the males and there is an abundance of Robins this year. Territorial wars have broken out.
The chubby chap from the veggie garden has been named “The Bomber” after the famous Kerry football star of the ‘70’s The Bomber Liston whose feats on the playing field made the Kerry team the legend it is. Over near the clothesline, Paudie Robin holds sway, named for another great Kerry stalwart Paudie O’Shea.
The Bomber Robin
One of our first stops when we arrive in Kerry is at the late Paudie O’Shea’s pub on the road to Slea Head. Everyone who is anyone globally is in a photo up on the walls of the Pub.
And so the kitchen has had a facelift, new emulsion on the walls, the ugly entrance to the attic now possessed of a glamourous door, brass handle and twenties style architrave. A pull on the handle and a stair unfolds to allow me investigate the one area of the house I have never visited in over 60 years…the attic. Oh God! Another area to sort out.
Christmas is on the horizon and I am remarkably ahead on the present-shopping line. I’m slightly suspicious that someone has been left out, but my list has been long drawn up, written in, for once, legible script, and pinned on the back of a book on my desk where the super-sleuths in this house would never think of searching. Sometimes I think they are 03 not 30+.
Dingle Bay Kerry
The view from Mt Brandon...next parish