Good day from the English countryside, chaps!
Well, I’m currently sitting at the table in Mum’s house, listening to Bruce the Whippet crying for his fourth walk today and the third episode of the I.T. Crowd this evening. It was a swift turnaround, getting back to Dublin and promptly hopping on a plane to Liverpool, but there you go. I’d just had a whimsical week in the West (of Cork – which is in the south. But couldn’t miss out on that alliteration). Nothing like some time at home home to bring you down to earth (and feed you up good and proper).
There’s something magical about West Cork – first of all, it’s like the complete Irish stereotype rolled into one small enough be-hilled area, scattered with tin-can roadside pubs and Guinness-guzzling wizardly old men. I once joked that in certain back-road areas, you realise how in the city you take for granted the fact that, in general, you can understand most of what people are saying. On Sunday evening, Dad and I went to a local pub – Bushes Bar – to watch the France-Portugal football final, to find the place as full as I’ve ever seen it, with two women in the midst of all the excitement, sitting on stools with buckets and untangling little crabs from fishing lines. In the bar. Watching the football.
Secondly, just about everybody in Ireland – and even further afield – has their ‘West Cork Connection’. You can’t so much as mention the place without being immediately met with a Schull-based childhood anecdote or a mention of some friends living on Sherkin Island or in a converted barn in Ballydehob. I think that’s really wonderful – it starts off countless conversations with people I’d never usually talk to and leaves me with a pleasant little tummy-feeling (and a dash of smugness, if I’m honest) to say I’m from such a beloved jewel of a place.
Weeks spent at Dad’s house often include a lot of cooking, a spot of gardening, gin-infused rubbish-talking in the sunroom and languid strolls around the island or up Loch Ine Hill (if the weather isn’t to my liking and I’m not swimming). I think that overall, Loch Ine is one of the main highlights of the place.
Ever since I was a little child, my dad’s been an avid long-distance swimmer (and incredibly convincing in getting people to join him in the water). A few years ago – 8 if I remember correctly – he and a group of pals started the ‘Loch Ine Lappers’ swimming group, who essentially meet up numerous times a week – all year round: rain, sleet or shine – and swim laps of the Loch Ine lake. Naturally over the years us kids have picked up on the Swimmy Love and join them whenever we’re home (predominantly my sister and me – we enjoy a bit of splashy-splashy while my more sensible brother sits in the sun/car reading obscure philosophical works. Each to their own). So there was a bit of that too this week, including an evening jaunt around Bullock Island on the first sunny evening of the week. Tuesday – my last day. Typical.
Something else I always like is our Passing-the-Rainy-Day outing to Schull for lunch in Hackett’s pub and a visit to the mesmerising jewellers, Enibas, at the end of the main street. Oupa usually comes with us (Dad’s dad). He and Dad always order a Ploughman’s Platter, and I always order spicy lentil soup. It’s a rainy-day ritual that we’ve mastered at this stage – magical as West Cork may be, it rains just about all the time. A nice excuse to don the Aran Woollens. You never have the chance to miss your winter woollies.
I will admit that at the end of my visit I often look forward to a quick break back to the city; the omnipresence of wifi and the ability to visit a shop which doesn’t just sell eggs and cheese is always a little exciting after some time in the sticks. I will be back soon though, for another dose of westerly whimsy. But for now, I’m off to enjoy the English countryside for another little while. Keep an eye out for the next post!
Lots of love and taraaaah for now,