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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 October 2014

A ramble, a few photos for Cáit, and whatever else comes to mind...

For Cáit O'Connor

Know that your Kerry ancestry will always soar over the Dingle Peninsula and that you are in our prayers and thoughts every day.

The Connor Pass, Dingle, Co. Kerry

Back towards Feoghanagh and the Múrioc

From the early days of the 'Coo, there has been a link and friendship between Cáit and I because of our Kerry ancestry.  The landscape in the picture is what creates the inspiration in our hearts, our minds and, indeed, every waking step we take.  It would be hard not to love such countryside.  When I read Cáit's lovely blogs I hear her Kerry soul.

Ireland is a small island of  some 3.5 million people, approximately, nestling some 66 miles east of Wales, 22 off Scotland at its northerly top and its west coast makes it the last parish before Newfoundland.  Legend has it that St. Brendan the navigator, whose statue rises above the harbour at Fenit in Tralee Bay, discovered Newfoundland centuries before Columbus touched the shores of America.  Legend also has it that he reached there in a namhóg, the Kerry/Irish language name for a currach or oilskin craft.  Tim Severin made a journey in a similar craft some years ago to see if it were possible that Brendan had achieved what he set out to do.

To my mind it is not beyond the bounds of possibility.  If the Polynesians could spread out across the vast Pacific, and the Vikings reach down into Europe, I am sure that most seafaring nations went out into the wide blue yonder, and if some never came back, well, for there to be a legend, someone must have come home.  Unfortunately, back in the day they were probably treated as the village eejit, told to stop boasting and no doubt, the village wit informed them that they had only sailed twenty miles down the coast.  If they were Irish, I wouldn't chance a bet on it...the village wit is still alive and well in Ireland today.

I was showing the latest tranche of photographs to someone recently, and the comment was passed, "but every time you go to Kerry you go to Slea Head and you take the same pictures of the same islands and the same old same old..."  Well, yes, maybe I do.  But the lovely thing, as Himself says, is that no two view are ever the same.  The light is constantly changing, and the colours are so rich that I have been accused of  making major touch up jobs.  No, Kerry is Kerry and she is beautify personified.  Not that I am biased, says she tongue in cheek!

The bovine gentleman grazing on the salted grass overlooking Smerwick Harbour, Slea Head, wins a place here for one simple reason.  It has been years, and years, since I have seen a live bull outdoors grazing with his lady friends.  For many years the guy from the Department and his little bottle of tricks has done the job.  I notice that there is a return to basics beginning to appear.  Some of it is, no doubt, a matter of finance for the farmer, and in other instances the growing desire for organic food is driving the return to what nature and God intended.  Bring it on, I say.  Man may be clever in his own mind to invent things in a test tube and to clone...but you can't beat the natural agenda.  As my Grand aunt Julia used to say "God made things simple when he made men", contrary to what you might think, Julia was married and not the village spinster.  She just felt that women had a better way of doing things, with the help of God of course.

Seeing the bull reminded me of the time when, as Secretary of the residents association where we used to live, I had cause to go with a neighbour and a man from the local council into a field.  A field with goats in it.  Also in the company was a man from the Very Big Important Building Firm who hoped to build 600 houses, Tudor design, in the green fields behind us.  We, the residents, were not too enamoured of this.  A meeting of mutually interested parties was convened, and I suggested we meet in the field.  Like all good Irish women, there is a malicious streak in me.  I knew there were goats in the field, after all wasn't I looking at them grazing there every day from my kitchen window across the hedge?

Thursday came and promptly at three p.m., I watched the men arrive at the gate into the field from the bedroom window.  Calling for Mary, and suitably clad in wellies, rackety denim jeans, and a large stick to push back the briars, we headed off to meet them.  Let us call the Builder's man Bob, the guy from the Planning Department Dessie and the goats can name themselves.  Bob gave us a smarmy welcome, wet, limp handshake and proceeded to tell us about the "delights of having quality Tudor style housing which was guaranteed to raise the standard of our own houses and the value as well"...all in one breath.  I nudged Mary gently in the arm to silence the sarcasm I knew was forthcoming.  It could wait.  Dessie, anorak hanging askew, cigarette balanced delicately on lower lip, and notebook stuffed in pocket greeted us with a laconic "Hiiiiii  y'all".

Leading the way through the gate and heading for the gap in the hedge behind our houses, I tipped Mary off about the goats being just behind the hedge and told her not to worry about them. Mary was a Townie but trusted me and with serene dignity we sailed through the gap and on to where the des res Tudor homes were to be built.  Bob and Dessie followed, delicately picking their way in their best shoes through the mud.  A tear in his snazzy blue Merino wool suit from a briar caused Bob to give his considered opinion on fields in general.  All was well until the two lads looked behind them at the Billy goat grazing meditatively on new grown shoots of a gorse [furze] bush.  

Now, I am not sure if the oncoming Hallow'een season had any effect, the vertical pupil of a goat's eye, or just the billy himself, but suddenly the two poor lads seemed seized with concern for our welfare.  Yes, goats eyes can look vaguely sinister, and the chaps were very keen to return to the far side of the gate to discuss the housing matter.  Wide eyed and innocent Mary asked them how could you discuss the matter properly when you weren't looking at the problem directly.  Dessie ran a nicotine stained index finger around his none too white collar, coughed and squeaked that we should keep this meeting brief, important Council matters awaited his attention and...no joy from us.  

We pointed out that the field would only hold 150 houses at most, if the proposed homes were to be that upmarket, 600 would make them like a council estate.  Tudor, we hummed, well, there wasn't much in the line of traditional Tudor buildings in Ireland, wattle and daub maybe, but Tudor...apart from a few grand mansions, so what about something more historically correct?  Oh! of course we then pointed out that the field was an area of immense natural beauty with the mountain in the background.

Ten minutes into the meeting and Bob was ready to agree to anything.  If we had told him that rare bats flew around the place and that almost extinct butterflies were only to be found just here, he would have agreed.  As it was, drainage was the key weapon in our possession.  We pointed out that the field flooded badly every year in heavy rains and that, only for the bank and hedgerow, our 32 house estate would be swamped.  We remarked to each other, Mary and I, on the intelligence of the well known builder, fourteen years previously, in choosing the side of the hedge he did to build on.

Yes was the word flowing from the little man from the Builder.  He would, he assured us, make sure to bring our "most well considered relevant points to his bosses attention immediately".  Bob and Dessie performed well in the sprint across the field to the gate.  Mary and I strolled in leisurely fashion after them.  As they drove away in Bob's shiny new sporty looking car, we waved at them in friendly fashion.  "Now" said Mary "tell me why you weren't terrified like me of those blurry goats".  "Because they were our greatest asset" I replied "once you have a nanny goat at hand a billy is calm, and that lad has three!".

The field?  Oh! since that meeting in 1995 it still remains a home to billy and his ladies, blue butterflies, pipistrelle bats and a merry band of domestic cats gone feral.

10 October 2014

Of the Kingdom of Kerry - and a funeral

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.

Myra Daly
Courtyard Cottages
Blennerville, Co Kerry

tel 353667124494

email welcome@countykerryholidays.com