Did I tell you we were spending a week in Kerry with Mr. Waffle’s family? Well we did. Just for a change this year, we went to Dingle.
It’s a long, long drive from Dublin to Dingle. We spent all day in the car, much of it, it felt, crawling through the picturesque town of Adare. Dingle is in the Gaeltacht (the Irish speaking part of the country) and the children’s fears were divided between concern that they have to speak Irish and fear that they might run into their teachers, several of whom are from the Dingle peninsula.
As we passed the sign saying “An Ghaeltacht”, I said to them, “Right so, only Irish from now on.” “No,” said Michael, “we only have to speak Irish where they can hear us.” Regrettably, they severely overestimated the strength of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht and I think about two words of Irish passed Michael’s lips during our stay.
The children were delighted to discover that there was to be no escape from mass in Kerry. And in Irish to boot. Having recently learnt the Irish mass off by heart for their first communion, they were very sound on the responses. The church was heaving with huge crowds standing at the back (last experienced in other parts of the country about 1983) and we ended up sitting right at the front so the priest was able to get the full benefit of Daniel’s clear articulation of the responses (they were taught to speak out for their communion) and Michael’s regular audible whisper, “Is it over yet?” The Princess got to sit beside the mayor of Kerry. If the mayor of Kerry is at your mass, it is not going to be a short one. A nice lady beside us was delighted with Daniel’s responses, patted him on the shoulder and told him, in Irish, that he was a good boy. Virtue rewarded.
Our second trip to the beach. Imagine going to Kerry and getting two fine days in a row. I had intimated to the boys (who loath the beach) that trips to the beach would be limited and indoor activities would abound because I had hardly thought that the weather would permit two consecutive days on the beach but so it was. They were only slightly mollified by the presence of their cousins.
In the morning the boys and I went into Dingle and shopped while the Princess and her father climbed Mount Brandon. In the afternoon, I took herself and the boys went off with their father and cousins. She was keen to go to the beach and the boys had dug their heels in and refused to go again. I was keen to go to the beach where we had been the previous day [subsequently identified as the most dangerous place to swim where a local has never been seen swimming - we were led astray by all the foreigners swimming; we're mercifully all still alive] but he took us to Wine Strand which was, I felt, less good and less near a tea shop (but, you know, we’re alive). There was some coldness on parting and I said, rather rashly, that we would be perfectly fine to make our own way home.
After about an hour on the beach, we were ready to go. “Let’s start walking home,” I said, “I don’t want to bother Daddy and the boys.” There was a horrified pause. “Can’t we get a taxi?” said she. Oh my city child. “It’s only 11 kms.” We walked up from the beach with our gear and our sandy body board and I recalled my own late teens and early 20s when I used to hitch hike all over West Cork. “Come on, we’ll hitch,” I said. “REALLY?” she said. I stuck out my thumb. We were picked up immediately by a silent Cork man who dropped us at the main road. Somewhat heartened, she tried herself. A lovely matronly Dublin lady with an immaculate car picked us up immediately. She would have driven us all the way back to our house but I felt we hadn’t walked at all yet and asked her to put us down in the next townland. We thought we might get a cup of tea there. A chat with an English tourist revealed that there wasn’t even a bar (horror) but there was a shop.
We walked five minutes up the road to the shop. We were there a long time as the Princess likes leisure to choose and there were no other customers. We told the shopkeeper about our hunt for tea and on hearing that we were on foot, he promptly shut up shop and drove us himself to the nearest bar. He too wanted to drop us home but I was keen that we should walk at least a little of the way. It was only as he drove off that we realised that the bar was closed. Woe, no tea. We walked for a bit. We saw a lot of caterpillars.
Mr. Waffle rang to see whether he could collect us from the beach. “Oh no,” I said mysteriously, “we’re nearly home”. We stuck out our thumbs and to my indignation (having being picked up immediately previously) had to wait nearly five minutes before a hired car pulled in. The driver was a Dubliner who lived in America and the Princess piled in with his American daughters in the back. He drove us home and on my instruction pulled up out of sight of the house. We walked in to cries of acclaim – “What a distance you have walked, you must be exchausted!” Triumph.
More tomorrow. Maybe.