It's weird leaving a place when you've settled yourselves in, turned that blank canvas into your own temporary 3-D artwork called 'home' for a week or so. We've been emptying cupboards, throwing things out, packing the car, giving things away…. The house has been a hive of activity and hospitality for the duration of the wedding and did us very well. We've been making it all bland and anonymous again. Tonight, after a perfect balmy sunny day, the dusk is settling and we're done. First thing tomorrow, we'll be off to catch the ferry to Holyhead and eventually home.
We went to a bizarre private castle this morning, called Farley Castle and owned for the last couple of decades by Cyril and Margie Cullen - he being an ex-civil servant who went to Lesotho and taught people how to do hand-knitting, and then came back to this marvellous little pepperpot+Gothick genuine castle and taught his four beautiful daughters how to play the harp. They went on to play for all sorts of illustrious audiences while simultaneously becoming a doctor of literature, a doctor of medicine, a barrister and an architect. He meanwhile promoted his fashion-design business (based on knitting), sorted out the castle by knocking out un-needed bits, and then turning his hand to making Parianware porcelain. The castle is small, delightful, crammed with stuff, and he is an idiosyncratic guide who struts his stuff with gusto. Margie, meanwhile, elegantly mans the till in the shop and wraps whatever you buy… in our case, two interesting little plates and a model sheep. Things on the shelves were pretty pricey…..
We had lunch with Chris and Caroline who looked amazing considering the onslaught they had dealt with over the last few days. We met their new puppy Doc, and took away with us the various items which the bridal couple couldn’t pack in their air baggage. Then we tootled off through the astonishing Silvermine Mountains…. so beautiful, so unpromoted, so little-known. Here the rounded hills are criss-crossed with sturdy hedges making parallel lines of tiny fields, and we saw so many lovely cattle of all sizes, and so many horses, donkeys and foals, we fell in love with the countryside all over again. No wonder the beef, butter, milk, cream and cheese is so delicious round here - all grass fed, all small-scale (again like the best parts of Normandy), and all produced with pride by the farming families. I did say, didn’t I, how many of the tractors are driven by young lads - the sons who plan to take over from their dads. Let's hope and pray they can do so, without the European/banking/corporate world smashing it all to bits.
I've written enough for tonight. Time for bed and we're off at 5am in the morning.
We've just boarded the Jonathan Swift at Dublin Port... we left Dundrum in darkness, with just a minor spat on the way because Andrew wouldn't stop to let me photograph a wondrous roadsign showing a car flying over a man. I have been irritating him a lot during the last few days collecting pictures of the glories of Irish roadsigns - these will go on display sometime soon. I am cross he wouldn't let me capture that one, as it was unique as far as I am concerned. Most of the ones I have collected are variations on the 'beware road chippings' theme, as you will see.
We hurtled along the empty motorway through the last of the night, and gradually the dawn lifted over the beautiful land, showing us the farms and fields, the mountains and woods.... Entry to the port has been smooth, via a marvellous long tunnel which completely hides any view of the city of Dublin. A coffee, a croissant, a chat with a Polish security man, and here we are. Next port of call is our friends in Shropshire, right on the Welsh/English border which runs down the middle of the tiny river at the side of their land. The place-names round there, and the turbulent landscape, always make me think that Camelot was round there somewhere. I imagine Gawain and Lanceleot and Guinevere and the rest of them rounding those corners, and dragons resting warily in their caves. It is a shock - seeing the Irish place-name signs, which are always written in Irish and English of course - to realise how the English mangled them over the colonial centuries, imposing English meanings or sounds onto something more fluid, more powerful and rich than anything we could devise.
A final thought - looking at how many castles there still are in Ireland, and knowing how many there must have been in the 16th and 17th centuries, and how they all had their spiral staircases of course - I am thinking of that butcher Cromwell, and how he recruited a left-handed regiment so his men could storm up into the Irish strongholds. A left-handed regiment.