Sunday, August 9, 2020 – continued
We drove over the Donegal county bounds into Sligo and I discovered that we would be going really close to W.B. Yeats’s grave, so we stopped for a look despite some consumer resistance. It’s a very beautiful graveyard with a lovely view over Benbulbin. The children were, nonetheless, broadly underwhelmed. “Those dying generations at their song” eh?
Our airbnb host in Mayo messaged to ask whether we needed a cot. Herself suggested that I reply “No, as I am the shortest member of the family and I am 51.” Oh very funny.
Eventually after our very long drive, we arrived in our accommodation about 6. I was attracted to the place when I saw it because the view was so beautiful but Mr. Waffle was a bit reluctant as it was spartan inside. We compromised by deciding to stay for a few days only before going further west.
The view was entirely as advertised.
It was in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking part of Ireland) and our hosts spoke to us in Irish which was rather nice. I could tell that the mother was a teacher as when I said that we were staying after in Galway and forgot the séimhiú (alas) she said patiently, “I n…”. The house itself was very old fashioned. It had belonged to the grandparents of the current owners – a brother and sister in college – and they decided to let it out on airbnb. Their mother, in Irish mother fashion was the person most on top of the logistics though. Herself and the daughter let us in with masks on. She soon took over from the daughter in explaining the house’s quirks. It was a bit old fashioned but it was clean and fine really. As I unpacked in the bedroom, the smell and the atmosphere reminded me of older country relatives’ houses that I had visited growing up and I thought all that’s missing really is the sacred heart on the wall and I turned around and there he was looking benignly down on the bed.
My saintly first born agreed to make dinner as her father and I were exhausted. After dinner we sat out for a bit looking up at the stars and catching glimpses of the bats swooping about.
Monday, August 10, 2020
After our epic trek from Derry the previous day, we didn’t feel up to much. I spent a good while looking at the view. The weather was beautiful. I settled myself down and finished off Queen Mary. After 622 pages it was like saying farewell to an old friend.
We carried out a raid on the Centra in Clonbur which left a bit to be desired but better than nothing. Herself came with me as she, yet again, had agreed to cook dinner. She made burritos, possibly the most successful dinner of the holiday.
In the afternoon I persuaded Mr. Waffle and Daniel to come swimming with me in Loch na Fooey.
It was cold but I’ve had colder. I pointed out to Dan that we were actually swimming in “Les lacs du Connemara” but he remained unmoved. “Only one lac,” says he.
Afterwards we drove in to Leenane a small town on Killary Fjord. Ireland’s only fjord. The thrills keep coming.
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
I thought after my investigations the previous day, that Leenane might provide a satisfactory breakfast so Mr. Waffle, herself and myself went to explore. Not entirely satisfactory but not bad either.
The roads were full of sheep which treated cars with complete indifference. My city child was keen to get up close with a mountain sheep but as soon as she hopped out of the car, they scattered to the four winds in alarm.
In the afternoon I persuaded everyone out to Loch na Fooey for a swim. Everyone swam except Michael who sat on the beach reading his book with his coat on so not a 100% success rate but look, you can’t have everything. He was resigned to his fate in going to the lake and being forced to look at scenery but wild horses weren’t going to drag him into the boggy lake water.
Leaving the children back to the house, Mr. Waffle and I went into Cong to inspect the former abbey and sample the delights of the town. Fine, you know, but seen one ruined abbey, you’ve seen them all; this was certainly the strong view of the children.
The film “The Quiet Man” was filmed there in the 50s and the town is still very proud of this. There was, inter alia, a plaque on a bar unveiled by Des McHale sometime UCC prof of maths; author of the Kerryman joke books; father of the Guard in “The Young Offenders”; and, it transpires, author of a book on “The Quiet Man”. His daughter is a friend of my sister’s and she confirmed that he is originally from Mayo which possibly explains his interest.
We ran into a former colleague of mine. She was with her husband and children. She explained that only two of the three were hers. We chatted about Corona virus. Wouldn’t you hate to be from Kildare, Laois or Offaly gone back into lockdown? One of the children piped up, “Hey, I’m from Kildare!” “Shh,” we said as one and my mortified former colleague hastened to assure me that the child had left Kildare before lock down was announced.
We came home and watched the sun go down from the front door.
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
It was probably the hottest day of the year. Mr. Waffle expressed a desire to walk up the mountain and see the deserted village. I insisted that we all go. Daniel, however, had a sore foot so was invalided out and I decided to stay with him. The other three had a wonderful walk which two of them very much enjoyed and one tolerated. Apparently there were spectacular views. Still Daniel and I sat in the garden in the shade of the hedge, reading our books and looking out over the lake and, I have to say, that wasn’t bad either.
We tried to go and see a sheepdog demonstration (herself became fascinated by sheep) but the farmer said that unfortunately, he had to take his wife to hospital; I contacted our accommodation in Clifden where we were going that evening and the owner said someone would meet me but she had to take her newborn to hospital; finally I contacted our hosts about checking out of our accommodation in Mayo and the owner was in hospital getting eye surgery. I felt like I was some kind of disaster maelstrom. Probably not though. Anyway, the owner’s Mammy came across the field to check us out and said he was fine really – it was only laser eye surgery – and not to worry about him.
On this cheering note, we took ourselves to Clifden about an hour away, on the coast where we would be staying until the following Monday.
When we were booking accommodation for this holiday, it was a bit thin on the ground and we ended up renting this apartment in Clifden that was much too big for us. It had, 6 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, two reception rooms, a kitchen and a dining room. Though no dishwasher regrettably. The children each had a television and they were thrilled. I had hoped that perhaps my sister might be able to join us for the weekend and use up some of the space but, alas, it was not to be.
Leaving the children to bond with the excitement that was the enormous flat, Mr. Waffle and I walked into town. Clifden reminded me a bit of Dingle. It was clearly a tourist town heaving with people from Dublin (including ourselves, I suppose) and prices were quite Dublin like as well. It was not what I would call undiscovered.
We went out for dinner and when we came home it was to discover that the extended family group from downstairs were having a party. Good voices, in fairness, but unappealing at 3 in the morning.
Thursday, August 13, 2020
Herself spent the morning watching the Covid committee on Oireachtas TV. Unclear what to say to this; my child has unusual tastes. Mr. Waffle and myself went into town and visited the library: not bad at all. Opened at a time when there were many French tourists in the area, I assume.
We picked up some shopping in the excellent supermarket (a bit notiony but dammit, I like notiony) and had a wander around town and all in all did very little all day. I saw a copy of a biography of Queen Adelaide in a second-hand book shop and picked it up as my new area of specialised interest appears to be lesser-known British queens consort (or queen consorts? Inquiring minds want to know, advice in the comments please).
Friday, August 14, 2020
Distressed by the indolent nature of the previous day, I forced them all out of the house and we went to Roundstone, stopping off on the way to have a look at the site where Alcock and Brown crash landed on the bog after the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic by air. I am forced to concede that it is, well, a bit of bog. I thought Roundstone would be a bit bigger and different from how it actually was. I was worried when we got there that we would have nowhere to lunch at all but happily we were able to get sandwiches from a shop and eat them by the sea so not too bad.
We went to the beach afterwards. Gurteen beach and Dog’s Bay just outside Roundstone are the most spectacular beaches on a tombola (back to back on a peninsula). Only Daniel and I swam but it was probably my nicest swim of the summer. The water wasn’t too cold, the sun shone, the beach was breathtakingly beautiful and we had it pretty much to ourselves.
I don’t have a good photo so you’ll just have to take my word for it; on the other hand, I do have this photo of me doing a handstand in the sea so it’s not all bad.
We then had a successful, though early, dinner in Guy’s bar in Clifden (latest booking I could get was 5.30) getting us home in plenty of time for some of the party to watch Barcelona v Bayern Munich. I was fascinated and delighted by this extraordinary story of two local girls rescued from their paddle boards after 15 hours at sea.
We went to bed relatively early and I was not delighted to be woken by the carousers downstairs at 4 in the morning. We moved to a bedroom on the opposite side of the corridor and that was fine until at 8 someone downstairs started playing the guitar. Why, I mean, why? So we moved back to our original room, the 4 am crowd, understandably, showing no sign of life at 8 in the morning.
Saturday, August 15, 2020
In my ongoing attempt not to miss anything, I took those who were willing – Mr. Waffle, Daniel and myself – to Mannin beach and very nice it was too though you would want to keep your wits about you in the effort to find it. That may explain why there was almost nobody there except ourselves. That and the light drizzle.
Still, notwithstanding the rain, the water was shallow and warm and we went for a nice cup of tea and a bun in a cafe afterwards and the sun came out. The cafe was lovely and…vegan. The west of Ireland is full of vegan/vegetarian outlets. I am surprised. Herself confessed to me recently that she has gone vegan outside the home but is still only vegetarian inside because she knows if she went vegan it would tip me over the edge. She is correct. I was sorry she missed the vegan cafe though.
Proving how thoroughly middle-aged I now am, I insisted on going on a nice drive. The Sky Road loop gets a mention in the tourist books and it is well worth the trip in my view – the whole drive was only about half an hour and the views are spectacular.
Herself made dinner again. Interested parties discovered that between eating out and herself and Mr. Waffle cooking dinner, I hadn’t made dinner since leaving Dublin. Not even sorry. We played cards after dinner but it was so warm that we went outside to the courtyard. Sadly, we were then eaten alive by midges. These are not typical Irish holiday problems.
All our neighbours having left, I enjoyed my best night’s sleep since arriving in Clifden.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
I was awoken at 11 by a grass strimmer which sounded like a loud and angry mosquito but this was an acceptable improvement on being awoken at 4 in the morning. We mooched around and after lunch I announced that we would go to Kylemore Abbey. This was greeted with no great enthusiasm but we gathered ourselves up slowly. So slowly that I realised that there was a risk we would not get there before last entries at 4. On the drive there we were stuck behind a slow campervan (inappropriately named, the Rapido) and we pulled into the car park at 3.56. Mr. Waffle and the children ran to get tickets. We made it. I have to say, I wasn’t particularly keen to go in the first instance but having committed to it, I would have been bitter to have missed it.
The house is a bit of a Victorian monstrosity but the site makes it look amazing. It used to be a girls’ boarding school for years but now it’s open to the public and quite nicely done. The President and his wife turned up at the same time as us and, to be fair, aside from their own personal guide showing them around, they had no special attention and didn’t cause any disruption to other tourists – all of whom were Irish and, as such, obeyed our code that no one should ever, under any circumstances, indicate that they have recognised a well-known figure – so he was left in peace also.
We had a cup of tea in Letterfrack afterwards. “Does that name mean anything to you?” I asked the children. It did not. To me, it was nortorious, as it contained an industrial school – a sort of juvenile detention centre – which even by the standards of the time was considered harsh. I was surprised to see that it had closed as long ago as 1974.
After we had dropped the others home, herself agreed to come to the Sky Road at sunset with me if I took her to see a Marian shrine on the road which she had found intriguing. We were both quite pleased with our deal.
We then had a quiet evening in, trying to finish off all the food we had bought. Mr. Waffle found a book on Marconi (also active here where a big station was built as the first landing point for messages from America) written by another UCC academic – Mick Sexton, former elec eng prof. They were following me around along with Marconi.
Monday, August 17, 2020
We left Clifden and headed east towards Leinster. “Stay with us” as they say on my favourite podcast.