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 OctoberAs 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!