Return to Ireland: Beyond the Mist

Friday 30 September

It’s our last full day at the cottage so, naturally, the mist lifts.  We seize the chance to take a look at the rugged scenery of the Ring of Beara and the spectacular Healy Pass.  It’s a bit of a whirlwind tour, but it’s wonderful to finally see the breathtaking views that are such a feature of this lovely county.  The fuchsia hedges that Fennie remembered from a trip to County Cork, and which are so characteristic of the area, line many lanes.

Ma wants to visit the wool shop in Bantry to see if she can find some emerald green wool to mix in with the blue she bought in Dingle last year.  Inside the shop, where wool tumbles out of every cupboard and shelf like a wool avalanche, she tells the owner what she’s looking for.
            ‘I have some baby blue,’ says the owner.
            ‘I’m looking for emerald,’ says Ma.
            ‘Beige?’ the owner offers, plunging into a woollen lucky dip.  ‘Brown?  Red?  Black?  Purple?’
            After Ma has rejected what feels like every shade of wool in the shop, the owner trots off and returns with exactly what Ma is looking for.  It’s as if she’s been testing Ma to see if she’ll weaken and take an alternative.  There then follows an almighty haggling session, the clash of two immovable forces, before the owner concedes heavily on the price of the wool, but gets her own back with the cost of the pattern. 

It’s market day in Bantry and we take a stroll to marvel at the stalls.  A man and woman are sitting on the kerb with their fat, jolly baby, a scruffy dog and a cardboard box that clucks and squawks.
            ‘Don’t go too far,’ the woman tells the scruffy dog which is sidling off in search of an adventure.  Meanwhile, the man is lifting his jolly baby into the air.
            ‘Sure, she thinks she’s at the fair, so she does,’ he tells us, when she beams uncertainly at us.  ‘Bejeesus, she says!’ he laughs.

Eating out is prohibitively expensive, so for our last meal in Bantry, Tom makes End of Holiday Stew, using everything left in the cupboard and we enjoy the other half of our fecking bargainous eppel teyrt with custard for pud. It’s a magnificent end to our stay.

Saturday 1 October
As we load the car, we finally get to see the view from the cottage, which turns out to be rather lovely.   

Having stopped briefly at Cork on the way down, we plan to explore more of the city at our leisure on the way back and take in a return trip to the Crawford Art Gallery.  

During our stay, Jack Yeats’s painting, ‘A Fair Day, Mayo’ has been bought for one million euros, making it the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction in Ireland.  Unfortunately, we’re not the buyers, since Ma’s lotto tickets turn out to be duds – not a winning number between us.  I do very much like Yeats’s work The Small Ring which hangs in the Crawford.  It depicts a young boxer looking at his felled opponent and I like it for the way Yeats captures the stillness of the moment. There’s also a magnificent but eerie sculpture gallery, the kind of room I wouldn’t care to be alone in after dark, although I’d happily spend lots of time in the Crawford Gallery Café.

Alas, the weather halts further exploration of the city; it’s absolutely teeming down and not much fun for walking. We seek shelter in the English Market, but everyone has the same idea.  It’s a fascinating market which has been trading since 1788, but it’s too full of hot, wet people to linger.

The rain hammers down all the way to Rosslare, but at least the sea state is calm.  We board the ferry and Tom takes Ma off for a hot meal. On their return, I order a toasted Panini at the bar and, after only a moment’s hesitation, a Jameson to go with it. ‘Is it for yesself?’ asks the barman.  It is indeed, all for mesself and it hits the spot very nicely.  Here’s to Ireland.

PS Apologies for any crazy formatting in this; I've struggled to get it to play!


Pondside said…
While it sounds lovely, it also sounds like one of those holidays that had to be worked at. The enjoyment certainly wasn't front and centre to be plucked like some sunny memory made on a beach in the south of France.
Chris Stovell said…
So very true, my dear Pondside - but that seems to be the story of my year!
Milla said…
I've very much enjoyed these Irish tales, Chris. Lovely stories, beautifully told.
Fennie said…
Yes, I've enjoyed them, too. They are almost like short stories,these blogs, dripping with colour in every meaning of the word. It's a shame you're coming back. I want to give you another Jameson's (if that's what it takes) and turn you round and send you back again to wander over that land of Erin. Who was it said, 'The isle is full of noises?'
Frances said…
Chris, I will remember to connect with your mom whenever I might wish to buy any yarn in Ireland. What a marvelous lady!

As earlier commenters have said, I also can tell that this break was not a total relaxation time. Yet, you've find great inspiration for your fine writing.

Is it not so strange to see how our various exchange rates are valued? We have many visitors from abroad at the shop, and many seem to find our USA currency a party to play in.

Of course, we are happy to encourage their play, even if we get the signal that we might not have such fun playing in their countries.

Believe it or not, I have yet to buy any Jameson's. Must take care of that lack of experience.

Maria said…
Gosh, that was great. I've been having a bit of a catch up read on your blog, Chris. I'm slightly homesick (I usually am!), so it was nice to virtually accompany you. You captured the essence all right, 'eppel teyrt' and all.
Debs Carr said…
I love those pictures and really must make the effort to visit Ireland.

I love the sound of your Ma haggling. What a wonder pful lady.
Cara Cooper said…
I've never been to Eire, only to Northern Ireland and that was just one day in Belfast for work - this sounds fabulous and made me definitely want to visit. After all, you don't go to Ireland for the weather so any dry days are a bonus!
Posie said…
I could just picture your mum in the wool shop, it reminds me of the poem 'When I am old I will wear purple', the end of holiday stew sounded delicious could do with someone into creative cooking here.
Cottage Garden said…
I've enjoyed your Irish adventures Chris. As a storyteller you have a touch of the blarney yeeself - a lovely read it was:-)

Fuschias in hedgerows - gorgeous!

Kitty said…
Sounds just lovely, I have always wanted to go to Ireland, and who knows why we've never been. x
Shirley Wells said…
I love Ireland and I've really enjoyed your stories. I wish you were going again too. :)
elizabethm said…
Loved Ireland when we went but we also had more than our fair share of the teeming rain. Would love to go back in the sunshine. You do sound to have made the most of every moment, rain or not, and I have loved reading it.
Flowerpot said…
REally makes me want to go to Ireland Chris - haven't been there since I was 17!
Chris Stovell said…
Milla, Fennie, thanks both, that's very kind. And am certainly up for a return visit and another Jameson!

Frances, I can higly recommend the Jameson's experience. As for shopping with Ma? She is a truly formidable shopper, but she almost met her match in the wool shop!

Thank you Maria (new blog? Must pop over) it's certainly a place that gets under your skin so I can only imagine how much you miss it now.

Debs, it can get tense at times when you're the one watching from the sidelines, but she's great!

Cara, it really is a lovely country - well, the bits I've seen are! - and, as you say, you don't go for the weather. On both occasions we've been very warmly received by the folks there and taken so many memories home.

Posie, as I've said to Debs, you have to have nerves of steel to watch Ma haggling! And can recommend the End of Holiday Stew!

Aw, thank you Jeanne. Actually Blarney Castle was within striking distance but we didn't make it this trip!

Kitty, definitely a place to put on your list. Mind you, there's always so many lovely places to see but a shortage of time and money in our case!

Shirley, thank you, how kind!

Thank you so much, Elizabeth. It certainly wasn't a conventional holiday this year, but the sights and memories made up for the lack of sunshine.

Well, who knows where you're heading at this rate, Fp. You've had so many changes in your life recently.
Preseli Mags said…
Here's to Ireland indeed. I love the English market in Cork. Thank goodness you finally got to see those lovely views! But how mean of the mist to hang around until the last day.
Calico Kate said…
What a wonderful holiday you all had, I have enjoyed reading it all and chuckling at 'eppel teyrt'! I can just hear it.

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