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  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

Monday Sanity Break, 22 May 2018 - Visiting Ireland

Ireland is a truly beautiful country that is currently divided into two pieces, Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom and Southern Ireland which is called Eire, currently a committed member of the European family. How all this works out is one of the many questions surrounding Brexit and no-one will value any speculations of this writer.

It is our first visit and we have hired a car and in over 2 weeks are circumnavigating the Irish landmass, mostly in the countryside but visiting both Belfast and Dublin.

We flew into Dublin from Helsinki on Finnair, a coshare flight with Japan Airlines. This was the third flight in 26 hours or so, after Melbourne to Narita and Narita to Helsinki via JAL. We met two dear friends who had flown from London, secured our luggage and hired a car. Then drove, heavily jet-lagged, to a small place called Evergreen B&B not too far from Dublin airport. Evergreen is in a beautiful garden and scored 8/10 for accommodation, comfort of its bedrooms and heroic breakfasts. The owners, Jimmy and Mary, were cheerful and welcoming. They scored only 4/10 on the agreed Faulty Towers score sheet, where a high score is not one to strive to achieve.

We were advised of a gold club with ‘bar food’ available until 9.30 PM. Setting a trend soon to be established in Wicklow, we overshot the golf club but eventually found it in time to order bar food and a bottle of wine. Three of the party ordered Sea Bass. When the plates arrived the fish were clearly salmon. Rather than making a fuss we tried it and it has to be said it was tasty salmon. While paying for dinner Henry asked the bar attendant why we were served salmon rather than Sea Bass. ‘We ran out of Sea Bass’ the youth explained. Henry’s comment, ‘Perhaps you could have told us and allowed us to decide what else we would like to eat’ seemed surprising to the lad and there was no point in trying to teach him how to handle customers.

The next morning we headed for Wicklow on the South East coast. A great feature of our drive was a big house called Power’s Court with its beautiful garden. The books had emphasised that Irish drivers are dangerous and we drove very carefully, always stopping in a layby when a car or truck driven wildly loomed on the narrow roads. Mostly we travelled through high altitude spectacular but barren country on the ‘Military Road’, built during the times of trouble so the British soldiers could seek out and ki ll or capture Irish ‘terrorists’.

The highlight was the large lake in a deep valley owned by the Guinness family, leading to jokes about making Guinness by the lakeful.

Then we stopped at a Glenderlouch, which is an impressive monastic ruin. This is mostly without roofs, and hard rain and strong winds blowing emphasised for the large number of visitors the difficulties of life as a Monk.

Wicklow was our destination and due to extreme scarcity of accommodation in Wicklow we were booked in different places. Trouble was, it turned out that the addresses were sketchy in the extreme. One place was South of Wicklow, the other North, though we did not know this before setting out to find both places and deposit people and luggage appropriately.

The plan was to find Henry and Mrs T’s abode, believed to be South of Wicklow on Dunbar Road, and called ‘Dunbar Lodge’. But there was no number and Dunbar road is very long. Soon found ourselves far beyond any plausible location of a B&B in Wicklow. We drove back, but still saw no sign of a ‘Dunbar Lodge’. Finally we asked a young man coming out of a pub, who confirmed we had been hunting in the right side of the town but needed to look for a house whose roof ‘sloped down to the ground’ just past a large sign involving AAA.

Again we headed South and again overshot. This time we turned into an old person’s home to ask for advice. The desk person was well practiced: ‘I get about three questions a week about your Dunbar Lodge. Please tell them to put up a sign’. The kind manager of old persons then gave us detailed instructions about how to find the place, which was hidden away down a narrow lane with a tiny hand-written name high on a nearby fence. After another overshoot to the centre of Wicklow, further discussions with kind people, we were there, and in the hands of a young back packer from Brazil. She was apologetic about the difficulty of finding the place, which through no fault of hers was simply awful. We already had paid and knew there was no other accommodation available, so advice to self was to cop it sweet, and in future recall that in matters commercial price is usually an indicator of value.

Naturally being modern oldsters we logged an apparent address of the second B&B into the Sat Nav function on one of our phones. The supposed address was three Gaelic words that I cannot recall. But the device seemed determined to take us well away from Wicklow. We drove around with Henry (the nominated driver) supporting the sweet lady on the Sat Nav device.

Suspicion about Sat Nav instructions is a great destroyer of a driver’s confidence, and the people in the back seat required frequent stops to ask people in central Wicklow how to find the B&B called ‘Three Gaelic words’. On our third run North, after several stops to ask people where the relevant B &B was, we found it.

The nice lady running the place guessed immediately which Henry’s B&B was. ‘Didn’t you read the reviews?’ she asked. ‘Afraid not’ Henry replied, ‘it was cheap and Mrs T thought she had found a bargain’. Then came Henry’s question about the Sat Nav fiasco. ‘That’s simple’, the nice lady responded. ‘You have to log in ‘Three Gaelic words, Wicklow, County Wicklow’. If you omit ‘County Wicklow’ the device will take you to another ‘Three Gaelic words’ in a place called Bray.

A day later we travelled further South along the coast, and then turned inland to Clonmell. There we had hired rooms in a nice hotel called Fennessy’s, run for the past 22 years by Mr and Mrs Fennessy. Their hotel had tiny but adequate rooms to foster unavoidable intimacy but large and delicious breakfasts. We stayed for two nights and in the day between we travelled to the Rock of Cashell. This was an ancient but ruined monastery that sits on a high outcrop of rock and was at one time turned into a castle. Thin but persistent rain and strong winds again reminded us of the tough lives of Monks over the past one thousand years.

We lunched at a bakery in Cashell and found another interesting example of behaviour of Irish retail food providers. Two of our party ordered cottage pie but only one was delivered to our table. After several minutes waiting for the second cottage pie three of us provided with food started to eat before the food became cold and one of our party went to ask about his meal. ‘We ran out of cottage pie’ was the explanation. ‘Would you like something else?’ Our friend eventually obtained a tasty chicken pie, but again the lack of natural response to deficiency in the kitchen was a marked but interesting aspect of life in Ireland. I am inclined to stitch these episodes with the extreme difficulty in finding accommodation booked weeks or even months earlier to ask whether or not jokes about Irish behaviour are not so unfair as one assumes from a distant county like Australia.


Fiona Prior views 'The Children'. More here.

Sporting life

Being is the Republic of Ireland, today I must focus on Gaelic football, courtesy of the Irish Independent, whose edition today rather reminds one of the Herald Sun – front half crime, rear all the sport that’s suitable to report.

The front of the Independent concerned crime, with the latest murder of a young women put in context by reprise of similar murders over the years. Difference here was the suspect has been shot dead by the plod (Gaelic: ‘gardai’) although the victim’s body has not been found yet.

The sporting section started with an unusual heading ‘Ryan issues silent cry for help as Tipp gamble pays to pay off’. The opening paragraph explains this flourish. ‘The team Michael Ryan picked for Tipperary’s game against Limerick seemed not so much a selection as a cry for help.

‘A new goalkeeper, a new full-back, an entirely new midfield pairing made up of two championship newcomers, five players starting a first championship match, no Brendan Maher, no Michael Breen, no Seamus Callinan’.

A bit later the verdict: ‘As failed gambles go it was up there with the time God decided to play the Devil at poker for the soul of a Spanish railwayman’.

The final score, incidentally, was Limerick 1-23 to Tipperary 2-14, by no means a complete flogging. The real embarrassment came in the last half when Tipperary introduced its old stars from the bench, but was unable to resist Limerick’s ‘late flurry’.

Go to Limerick, Caaarlton, some fine players there, probably still inexpensive.

Image of the week - Rock of Cashel, Reconstruction

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