The clans are gathering. Friends and family slowly amassing. There's a strange feeling about how this works because we are not on home territory, but camping out in a strange house in a strange landscape. I have a sense of the various ports and airports - their direction and distance, and I imagine each party arriving in those quarters, and starting to make their way over the green land. Some made it to our house last night, and these of course were old friends - people who have known our son since before he was born, so although we were all in a strange place, and there were all the formalities to be completed - checking in, mostly - there was an extra quality to their arrival. 'Hallo!!!!!' and hugs or handshakes, and smiles, and picking up the threads of the conversation which may have been let drop months or even years ago…. And all this is for a party. I imagine it must have been like this for the armies before the campaigns over many centuries - finding old friends, testing out who's with you and maybe who's going to let you down. I am surprised by the turn my thoughts have taken here. No sense of war at all. Just a big crowd gathering for a wedding.
We bogged about a bit yesterday morning, The bride-to-be, along with her mother and me, went for some pampering at the spa. It was delightful to listen to Anita from Hungary - fluent in English but with a powerful Irish/Hungarian accent as she did my nails. It turns out we have a common acquaintance - Father Liam! Back at the ranch we gathered a gang of 9 to go for lunch at Cashel. We headed for the Bishops Palace Hotel, which had been one of the possible venues, and there we showed Granny round the elegant entrance hall and drawing room, admired the fabulous 18thC furniture and staircase, and took her down in the lift to the Buttery Bar restaurant. There we met up with Margaret the waitress who looked after us last time, and had a splendid lunch - variously choosing chowder, black-pudding salad, hake and chips and cabbage and bacon. We left Granny to sit quietly in the hall and went out into the garden - picking mulberries from the splendid sprawling trees which had been planted in honour of Queen Anne nearly 300 years ago, and then made our way up the path to the castle and abbey on top of the rock. It's windy up there… I think Mervyn Peake must have seen it because it's a kind of Ghormengast in miniature - a great tooth of limestone rearing up from the flattish lands, topped with great extravagances of towers, turrets, machiolations, conical and steeply sloping roofs, arrow-slits, sheer drops, all in grey stone, with the town sprawling around the base. Inside, some small courtyards and massive ruins, scaffolding for repairs, and a small range of rooms furnished with solid practical oak tables and coffers in the style of the 16th or 17th century. There are chapels and corbels and barrel-vaulted roofs, and angels and wall-paintings and vanished music, and a panel showing the Queen's visit last year - when she wore a brilliant and very diplomatic green coat.
Then we hurtled round Tesco (sigh) stocking up for a supper tonight, for all these friends arriving - risotto was the plan. We collected up all our party from the Palace and went back. We were driving behind a convoy of three tractors loaded with huge straw bales - the first of these had its load wrapped in black plastic and was going very slowly indeed. After a few miles, the second tractor driver decided it was too slow even for him, so he boldly overtook the first. Straw particles streamed out behind him as he scratched past the overhanging trees. Eventually the plastic-covered load turned off and the great stream of traffic of which we were just a part surely heaved a collective sigh of relief as we assumed the speed of the 2 other tractors. But, more trouble - a bus was advancing towards us and the whole caboodle came to a halt on a narrow part of road as the front tractor and the bus had to measure their way forward. From our position 4 or 5 cars back it seemed there was plenty of room, as the drivers were walking quite comfortably between them (maybe sucking air in through their teeth), but it took a good while to reach a decision that one or other of them could move in safety. Irish country lanes!
As guests we can use the swimming pool and other facilities - and how calming and soothing that is. No diving allowed - the pool is no more than 1.3m deep but how warm and spacious. There is a steam room, a sauna, a jacuzzi, and a stern requirement to wear a swimming cap. This makes the men in particular look very purposeful….
Gillie and James were i/c of making the risotto - not so easy when you're in a poorly-equipped kitchen and the plan is to feed 20 - but they did a magnificent job. It was delicious, and one-by-one the groups of friends arrived. There was texting and telephoning, and Andrew had to deliver THE DRESS and Lulu over to the bride's house at Thurles 20 miles away and bring back more stuff for today's party…. But in the end the evening went splendidly. Baby Maddox loved the singing. Young and old came to eat and drink - about 25 in the end. 'Hallo!' 'Hallo!' There were bouts of washing-up to have enough plates. The sky gradually darkened and stars could be seen…. It was all quiet by 11.30.
Today's the day!