Monday, August 16, 2021
We drove south towards Cork. We stopped off for food at lunch time in Ennis. Ennis is lovely and very lively. It benefits from being a commuter town from Limerick – you could see there was money spent in the town – and also has a good local community so doesn’t feel anything like a dormitory town. I have friends from nearby and got excellent lunch recommendations. I inadvertently skipped the queue for tables and although we apologised profusely, everyone in Ennis hates us and we may never be able to go back. I went into a local book shop and came out bearing proudly a jigsaw with a picture of Kinsale (where we were to stay for the next week). I was slightly dashed when Daniel pointed out, accurately, that it was full of sea and sky, the jigsaw makers’ kryptonite.
We drove on to Kinsale, travelling down from Limerick along the road I am extremely familiar with having spent my childhood driving up and down it with my mother: to visit my Nana, my cousins, and my mother’s butcher in Bruree ( he used to slaughter his own animals and she would buy half a cow, a sheep or a pig, bagged up and frozen, throw it in the boot and take it back to the chest freezer in Cork, it was a largely successful arrangement but sometimes his labelling was eccentric and she would thaw stewing beef only to find it was actually steak).
Covid has meant that my children are more familiar with their own country than I ever was at their age. We worked out that they have been through 30 of the 32 counties and have stayed in 16. They weren’t very interested I fear. Nor did they find my exposition on the Barrymores (inspired by passing their ancestral home in Buttevant – the Barrymores themselves were inspiration my mother always said for “The Rakes of Mallow” – though I see Wikipedia does not agree – I also told the children that Steeplechasing was invented by the young rakes in this part of the world – so many things to share!) any more fascinating. As we passed Murphy’s brewery on our way into Cork city I said, “That’s where your great-great grandfather worked and your great great uncle.” Were they interested? They were not, I fear.
We finally arrived in Kinsale where the (v expensive – though Kinsale was always expensive even when there was no money in Ireland) Airbnb was, happily, a lot more attractive than it looked online. And I didn’t feel quite so ripped off when I realised it was a family home and the family were living on their boat over the summer while we moved into their home. It reminded me vaguely of my father talking about when he was a child going on holidays to Fountainstown and staying in a house while the owner decamped to the hay shed for the summer.
The house was nice, central, with parking (always a challenge in Kinsale) and a good back garden well set up for sunshine and rain. It also had a hot tub (as my brother said, “what, did they win the lottery?”). There were a lot of affirmations stuck up everywhere. I think I would find it a bit tiring to live full time in a house that was quite so keen to tell me to live my best life.
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Herself and myself got up with the lark and drove into Cork. We had breakfast in the Crawford gallery and then had a wander around the gallery.
We went to the Market and bought lunch ingredients and marzipan fruit. I took her into Saint Peter and Paul’s for her to admire, as we were passing. Pugin, she didn’t think much of it. My father always hated a gothic revival church and Pugin, in particular, which is unfortunate as Ireland is stacked with them. Catholic emancipation coincided with the gothic revival and the results are as you might imagine.
We spent a tricky 15 minutes trying to find where we parked in the multi-storey car park which brought our relationship to its knees following a successful morning but all was well in the end.
Herself had wanted to hire a bike and go cycling along the coast in Sligo but I was a bit nervous. Although she is 18 and cycles all over the city centre in Dublin, I always worry most about those quiet, narrow, rural roads where cars are bombing along and a cyclist is an unexpected obstacle. The compromise was that she could go out for a cycle with her uncle while they were in Cork. We dropped round and picked up a spare bike from him ( does everyone who owns one bike kind of acquire others without noticing?).
We visited my 92 year old aunt who was pleased to see us. We stopped off at my parents’ grave on the way back to Kinsale. She can find her way to it no bother which is more than I can say in relation to my grandparents’ graves.
When we got back we went for a swim in Garrettstown which was nice but chilly. It gave us a chance to fully appreciate the hot tub afterwards.
Herself and my brother went for a 30km round trip evening cycle out to the Old Head which they both seemed to really enjoy. Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.
My brother stayed for dinner and tested to hot tub after which he pronounced satisfactory.
There was some talk over dinner about Leaving Cert results. My brother showed us a press photo, circulated by a friend of his, of some of his school friends getting their results 30 years ago. They looked delighted if slightly oddly dressed (bat wing jumpers forever). My brother said that he had been standing beside them looking at his results as well and he was a bit disappointed (as he said himself, alright but the lower end of expectations). The photographer from the Examiner caught his eye and suggested by a wave of the arm that he move out of shot. Media manipulation, eh? Only now can it be told, the real story of LC results day.
Wednesday August 18, 2021
Like a fool I had booked myself and Mr. Waffle in for food foraging at the crack of dawn. I was up at 7.30 on holidays. The horror. The food foraging itself was quite interesting actually; I learnt a lot about seaweed. I will never again look at the foreshore in quite the same way. We had a picnic afterwards and I thought it was to be from the food we had foraged but, happily, it was not or largely not, some seaweed bread our host had baked earlier, that kind of thing.
Herself went off cycling again. On her own. I was a bit nervous but she lived to tell the tale.
My oldest friend and her husband came to visit us. She has a house in Ballydehob which is not exactly handy for Kinsale (Cork is a big county) but she was in the vicinity to check on her mother’s house. I can’t tell you how lovely it was to see her for the first time in I don’t know how long. I surprised myself by almost crying when she came in the door. You don’t really realise how much you have missed what has been taken away by Covid until you get it back, I find.
Thursday, August 19,2021
I dropped herself up to the train in Cork. We were a bit tight for time. We’d walked into Kinsale before she left to get her a sandwich for the train and, perhaps, we lingered too much. Anyhow we made it. I must say though, as we drove along MacCurtain street (the last leg of the journey), I couldn’t help saying to herself that it reminded me of all the 100s of times I had been in the exact same position with my mother, driving to the station with moments to spare. She was strangely uncomforted by this. But look, she made it. I’m not sure it could have been much tighter. When I said to her, “Aren’t you glad though that you spent that extra time in lovely Kinsale rather than sitting in the boring old station?” she just said, “No.” It looks like she is her father’s daughter. Him and his odd punctual ways.
We went sailing with the boys in Oysterhaven in the afternoon. My oldest friend (mentioned above) lived in Oysterhaven as a child and when I was young, I used to go to her house a fair bit. Given the epic distance from the city, I often stayed over. But I’d say I hadn’t been to Oysterhaven in at least 30 years. As we rounded the bends in the country roads, each corner was familiar. It was so strange.
I suppose around Kinsale and further west is the landscape of my childhood. All of these places are inextricably associated with my parents. I can’t help thinking of them when I go to places I have been with them. Particularly places we went regularly when I was young. Probably, the last time I was in Oysterhaven was with my parents (it wasn’t really somewhere you get under your own steam). It made me feel quite sad to be there again after such a long time.
As we passed my friend’s old house, I said to Mr. Waffle and the boys, “And they and the neighbours lugged down concrete to the rocks and you could swim from there, it was very exciting. The beach was a bit far away.” As we rounded the next corner and were on the beach, I was slightly mystified. I mean, it might be a long way if you had small children I suppose, but it can’t have been more than a 10 minute walk from the house. I had forgotten. I texted my friend to ask why they had bothered with the concrete place and she said: 1. It was nearer; 2. It was a swimming hole which was exciting; and 3. The beach was often covered in tar from the Betelguese disaster. I have to say until she said it, I had completely forgotten how much tar on the beach was a feature of the west Cork of my childhood. You were always trying not to get it on the soles of your feet, on your towels, on your clothes. You were constantly on the look out for it and, excitingly, on the odd rare hot days, it kind of melted. It was as much part of the landscape of my childhood beach days as the windbreak and the sandy sandwich. Thinking about it as an adult, I am appalled but it never bothered me as a child.
The sailing was grand. Like everything in Ireland this summer, it seemed to be largely staffed by teenagers (is this a “the policemen are getting younger” phenomenon?). When asked about our sailing experience, I said that I had capsized my boss more than once on an away day in the Lake District 15 years ago and gone on a Glenan’s sailing course for a week in college. The young woman smiled and said that her friend’s mother had done that back in the day. Feeling a bit elderly, I have to say. The lovely young woman who came out with us was the same age as my first born and, she was chatting away to the boys like a peer which, I suppose, she was.
Meanwhile back in Dublin, herself was having a fantastic time for herself. I thought she might be nervous in the house on her own but she definitely was not. One of her friend’s was house sitting and pet minding for the director of Dublin zoo so she spent the evening at a dinner party in the zoo which was excellent apparently.
Friday August 20, 2021
It was lashing, my God, positively biblical quantities of water.
No rain in Dublin and herself got her second vaccine dose and remained dry as well.
Mr. Waffle went around to visit a friend from London who has a house in Kinsale. The boys and I hung around the house and then headed up to Cork.
I made them go to the Crawford as well.
But we did also go to a game shop where they got more Magic cards (if you don’t know, you’re better off).
We visited my aunt who was touchingly delighted to see them. Then I deposited them with my sister’s partner to play Magic for the evening and my sister, my brother and I went out for dinner which was very nice. We lost track of time and I was a bit worried about the boys and my sister’s partner as we didn’t get back to her house until 12. I needn’t have worried, they were all still locked in mortal combat and I had to give them 15 minutes to finish off the game.
Saturday, August 21, 2021
Mr. Waffle and I went out for a delicious breakfast leaving the boys asleep in bed.
The weather was beautiful (biblical rainfall had moved to Dublin where my poor daughter got soaked on her bike) and we went to Kinsale beach in the afternoon which is not the most beautiful beach in this neck of the woods but is very handy and close to the town. There was a wedding party getting photos on the beach and it was lovely to see the return to normality.
We all swam – it wasn’t too cold. Then the boys and I walked up to James Fort which was lovely. It was just a delightful day.
We decided to go to the Bulman for dinner but our luck ran out. They were taking walk-ins only which is always a bad sign. When we arrived, the waitress told us that there was no way they could fit us in. Alas. Back to the supermarket. Sigh.
Sunday, August 22, 2021
Mr. Waffle and I went into town and I picked up a print of the Bulman though it was not a moment when I was feeling particularly kindly towards that establishment. I’ve hung it in the downstairs bathroom – compromise.
My brother joined us for lunch bringing with him a mini-fridge stocked with ingredients (yes, really). After lunch, he, Daniel and Mr. Waffle settled down to watch the match while Michael and I went for a stroll around the town. Cork were playing Limerick in the All-Ireland hurling final. As I left the house, 15 minutes in, I heard my brother say, “It’s not over yet.” I wouldn’t exactly regard that as a good sign. As Michael and I walked around the town, the pubs were heaving but not a sound came out other than the noise of the TV commentary. I regret to inform you that Cork were annihilated. My Limerick cousins will be unbearable.
Unclear how those thinking of purchasing from Lisney estate agents in Limerick would feel about the above (the all-Ireland hurling champions bring home the Liam McCarthy cup).
As it was the last night of the holidays, we had dinner out which was grand; after our experience at the Bulman, we went somewhere that took bookings.
And we finished the jigsaw.
Monday, August 23, 2021
We packed up and came home to Dublin. The roads are so good now that we flew up. We stopped off for lunch at Junction 14 (Ireland’s finest motorway stop) and were home before 3. Herself was out and about but made dinner for us that evening which was excellent. I picked up the various packages and books were waiting for us at the post office and the library. The Irish Times despite being cancelled was delivered every day we were away. And that is the end.
I did have a good time and it was lovely to be off for so long. However, I am looking forward to holidaying abroad next year. If nothing else it will be much cheaper.
How were your own summer holidays?