Tuesday 27 September, contd.
‘Stop! This is me!’our new friend announces some four very smelly miles down the road as we reach the village of Goleen. Tom opens the door to see him out and they shake hands.
‘What?’ Tom asks, climbing back in to find me and Ma sending him accusing stares.
‘I could have been knifed!’ Ma says, with ghoulish relish, even though she’s laughing.
‘Oh, he was mostly harmless,’ says Tom.
‘But smelly,’ I add. ‘I was nearly sick.’
‘Well, I couldn’t smell anything,’ says Tom, winding down the window to allow the lingering miasma to escape.
'I just hope he didn’t have fleas,’ says Ma, as if we’ve picked up a stray cat.
At Barley Cove, Tom and I take a walk along the swaying pontoon bridge that conserves the dunes. Ma’s poor brittle back and injured arm mean that she’s too fragile these days to risk joining us, but she’s happy to sit in the car and wait, albeit still clucking about the low standard of boyfriend material we’ve procured for her.
Wednesday 28 September
As Britain basks in the steamy heat, we are still blanketed in mist. We drive through Ballydehob, Baltimore and Skibbereen all similarly cloaked in wispy fleece. At Skibbereen, we give up trying to see the sights and go shopping in Lidl. Judging by the amount of people filling their trollies there; it’s the thing to do. It’s a bit ironic then that this area was one of the worst affected by the Irish Famine.
Back at the holiday cottage, we meet the owners freshly returned from a weekend in Lourdes. They tell us that amongst other matters, they’ve been praying for success for the Irish team in the rugby world cup. I’m no expert, but I’d assumed prayers were meant for cures for cancer and an end to world poverty, not any ole stuff. And since, as I write this, the Irish lads are now on their way home, perhaps I’m not alone in considering the request a tad frivolous.
I put the kettle on and go off to find Ma, who’s sitting in the conservatory, lifting her face to a sliver of sunshine which has slipped through the clouds. I ask her if she would like tea and cake and her expression lights up. Ma has extraordinarily beautiful eyes – very clear with deep blue irises – and a gap between her two front teeth. Right now, her smile radiates a childlike joy and she looks about six. I drop a kiss on her hair and go off choked because she’s so pleased by something that’s so easy to do.
In the evening we watch RTÉ Prime Time featuring interviews with the seven candidates for the Irish presidency. The candidates include Dana Rosemary Scallon, sometime Eurovision Song Contest winner and Martin McGuinness, sometime IRA member, though not since 1974, he says. All are quizzed on what their unique suitability is for the post is and about their greatest personal weakness. They’ve all read the bit about turning a negative into a positive in the ‘Get the Job You Want!’ handbook, but it’s an interesting exercise for all that.
Thursday 29 September
We take up our hosts’ suggestion and drive up through the mountains to picturesque Gougane Barra (‘the rock cleft of Finbarr) where a large lake in a glacial valley reflects the autumn trees and an amazing Cavalry is pale and startling against dark evergreens. Continuing up through the mountains, the mist descends yet again so we cut our losses and walk round the pretty, touristy town of Kenmare. Ma optimistically buys two lotto tickets.