Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Over the hills . . .

Yesterday morning, close-packed marble size raindrops falling heavily on the roof-light above my bed brought me to another day of consciousness.  It seemed to be a day better suited to driving than exploring local lanes on foot but by mid-morning when we were ready to leave the house the rain had ceased and warm sunshine beat down from a large patch of blue sky.

Back in May, when we were staying near Skibbereen, Lisi and I met there artist Kathy Pentek and each of us left her with a commission; one painting for myself and several for Lisi.  Yesterday, dawning inclement, we chose to drive across the peninsular to pick up our commissions.  I had left Kathy with a more or less free hand, my only constraints on her imagination being that the painting should have something to do with my birth-sign; Capricorn.  Kathy’s painting delighted me.  I can but be amazed at how an artist, having spent no more than an hour or so with a total stranger, has managed to produce a painting which has created so much impact on my senses; in a way, I see in this painting a fractured mirror of myself.

The mid-morning sunshine did not endure.  In swirling mists under a heavy, grey, marbled sky, sharing the landscape and road with no more than downs of insouciant sheep, we drove over the gorgeously spectacular Healy Pass.  Concomitant with the heavy rain earlier in the morning was the gushing, streaming, seeping lattice of mesmerising waterfalls and rivulets flowing down and over steep hill and mountainsides.

The three hundred metre high Healy Pass is named after Tim Healy, an early governor of the Irish Free State.  Previously called ‘The Kerry Pass’ the road was built during the famine years of the nineteenth century by poor relief workers.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The cottage at Drombeg

On Saturday morning Cellphone, Sat-Nav and Lisi with her map guided me easily through beautiful wild mountain countryside to Joe McCarthy’s house on the outskirts of Ardgroom.  Joe, to be our landlord for the coming two weeks, manifested as a genial smiling character who immediately led us in his car through twisting west of Ireland lanes to a distant corner of his farm on which stands the cottage which we have rented from him.  After very comprehensively settling us into the cottage Joe left us appreciate the beauty of the cottage and its breathtakingly beautiful location.  The two storey stone-walled, slate-roofed cottage, Joe told us, was built a hundred years ago by his grandfather.  During the twentieth century the building had fallen into disrepair until, during the nineties, Joe restored and renovated the property to create a comfortable two-bedroomed house suitable for holiday letting.  The cottage, a gem of a building, excellently restored and re-fitted is but nothing compared to its location on rising ground overlooking stone-hedged fields, Kenmare Bay beyond which rise the Kerry mountains.  There is no noise pollution here; peace, almost tangible here, is disturbed only by the music of rain on the windows, the song of the wind whistling around the house and the call of the Curlew.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Dingle Peninsular

Cliffs, Dingle peninsular, Ireland
At around three hundred and fifty kilometres, the road journey on Thursday from Lough Key House to Moriaty’s Farmhouse at Ventry was, by my standards, a longish drive.  Lisi and I left Frances’ wonderful B&B about ten o’clock and arrived, after an uneventful drive through pleasant countryside, by-passing en-route the cities of Galway, Limerick and Tralee town.   Late in the afternoon we arrived at Moriaty’s Farmhouse.  Brid, our landlady, welcomed us by name which, as we were her only guests, would not have been too much of a problem for her.  The custom in Ireland seems to be for B&B hosts to offer tea and cake or scones to new arrivals, Brid followed the custom and when I asked where we might find an evening meal nearby she recommended to us to ‘The Skipper’.  Brid was right, it proved to be a very good venue for supper.  A few kilometres along the lane from the B&B, ‘The Skipper’ is an unpretentious but excellent fish restaurant.  French-born Paddy, its chef and owner, came to Ireland with his parents seventeen years ago when they decided to move here from La Rochelle.  I ordered pan-fried Brill under a Chanterelle sauce served with plain boiled new potatoes and a simple fresh mixed salad; a quite unexpected and delicious treat.
Abandoned village, Great Blasket
Friday dawned partly cloudy, promising improvement.  After a good breakfast we set off on a short circular tour west of Dingle.  The craggy scenery along this deeply indented rocky Atlantic coast is outstandingly picturesque.  Five kilometres off the coast are the Blasket Islands.  The history of these islands, uninhabited since the 1950s, has been very well documented by some of its late inhabitants; Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Muiris Ó Súileabháin and Peig Sayers have become literary legends through translations of their tales of life on the islands
into english and other languages.  Near the tip of the Dingle peninsular there is an impressive, purpose-built ‘Blaskets Centre’ which houses a comprehensive exhibition of everything to do with the history of the islands.  I spent a long time at the centre but to have closely examined all the exhibits I would have needed to be there much longer.

The Dingle Peninsular Tour beyond the western tip, the north coast, is scenically less dramatic.  We rather hurried along that part of the route to get to Dingle with enough time to explore the town.  Dingle is attractive but has, inevitably I suppose, been degraded to attract the easy tourist buck; there was something about pretty Dingle that seemed, to me, to lack authenticity.

In the evening I returned to Paddy’s ‘The Skipper’ restaurant this time to try (authentic!) fresh scallops in brandy cream sauce which I enjoyed quite as much as I had enjoyed my fish the previous evening.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Summer 2013, a review.

Caveat depascor!  Rather than being something that may interest my blog followers, this post has been written as an aide-mémoire to myself.  I shall be editing it as and when the records and notes I have made in many places come to light.

Burgundy, June 2013
My drive home in June from Ireland through Scotland, England, France and Italy was slow and comfortable.  I stopped frequently and, in France and Italy, found several B&Bs which were new to me and, in their originality and differences, interesting.

Tiled bathroom at amazing B&B:
'Il Torchio, Calco, Italy
By 27th June I was home in Greece.  I had been away for two months during which much had happened around the house.  Seeds of all manner of plants, unseen when I left in April, had germinated.  Plants, largely unwanted weeds, many of them huge had, in hot wet spring conditions, grown set seed and were now dying for want of water.  Deep-rooted perennial plants had put on incredible growth; vines, just budding when I left, now drooped new growth heavy with leaf to make drapes of shade below balconies and across the steps I needed to climb to reach the door into the house.  But for a light layer of dust, inside the house was much as I had left it.
I had not been home many weeks when the first of my visitors arrived; my elder daughter, her partner and their two young daughters.  Two and half weeks later they all flew home on the plane on which my younger daughter and her three children arrived to stay with me until, on 20th August they left with me to drive back across Europe to be in the U.K. by  Friday 30th August to attend the wedding of Tom, Lisi’s second son, to his fiancé Kate.

The wedding service, held at one o’clock in the chapel of Wren’s Naval College at Greenwich, was memorable for both its setting and content.  During the afternoon the new Mr and Mrs Palmer treated their guests to cream teas on a chartered boat trip up river to the pool of London and back.  By early evening we had returned to the Naval College where the wedding banquet was held in the fabulous, ‘Painted Hall’.  The day finished with a wild party in the vaulted space below the ‘Painted Hall’; it was a day I shall remember!

I spent most of September drifting around in the U.K.  The week after the wedding I spent in a ‘Mobile Home’ on a pleasant site near Canterbury after which I travelled, with Lisi, to Lincolnshire where we house, dog and hen sat for her sister and brother-in-law while they took a short holiday in Florence.  From Lincolnshire we move on to spend a week in Derbyshire thence to Scotland to visit my own sister and brother-in-law and to visit The Helix, a project being overseen by my eldest nephew.

Work in progress building Andy Scott's thirty metre high sculptures at The Helix, Falkirk, Scotland.

Last Wednesday, free for a while of family commitments, we returned again to Ireland, driving as quickly as possible across the six counties to reach Carrick on Shannon late in the afternoon.

After a tasty early supper at the ‘Oarsman’, after an interval of almost four months, we arrived back at ‘Lough Key House’, to tea and a wonderfully warm greeting from Frances.

Big bed, Lough Key House, Boyle, Co. Roscommon, Ireland