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I’ve been up to a great deal recently, not least of which was a trip home to Texas (for a bit of a family emergency). My time was limited and jealously guarded, so I divided the days between the little Bigs and my goddaughter. I wasn’t able to see all of my dear family or all of my precious friends, but I enjoyed what was gifted to me. Especially the MEXICAN food!! Dear lord, how a girl misses homemade tortillas and frijoles!

I’ll tell you what I didn’t miss, and that was the HEAT! Not the luscious red and green peppery variety that add just the right kick to so many good Tex-Mex dishes. No, I mean the temperatures! Whewee! Girl, it was 106 in the shade!! (that’s 41C y’all) The poor grass was a burnt crispy brown, and the earth was parched. I spent as many days as I could in the cool waters of Barton Springs; so thankful for Her refreshing goodness. The sun was a searing brand and our flesh like the hides of cattle awaiting the branding iron. That kind of heat sucks the life from you. It leaves you panting in a corner gasping for air. Clothing decisions are made based on what will stick less to your skin and allow for maximum airflow.

And though my descriptions are accurate, don’t let my Texan nature (even though I did find the MOST HEAVENLY cowboy boots which I desperately need – for slogging through it when it gets deep) (also, you can see a few other pics of the trip on my facebook page) and propensity for Tall Tales fool you. I didn’t wilt like a flower. I was well able to hold my own, though I did feel it and was oh so thankful for the cooler weather I knew awaited my return. Speaking of which….

Can I just say that 65 (that’s 18C) and a nice sunny day were a welcome relief! I walked out of the terminal at Shannon and wanted to kiss the ground. My body was so thankful, and it was this mood of thankfulness that ushered in the most Irish experience of my life!

A local, if you don’t know, is the nearest pub to you, which means it’s probably the one you frequent most often. Our local is the only pub in the village. It’s a wee bit over 2km down our laneway and on my second night back we decided to walk down.

It was a pleasant evening and a leisurely 30 minutes stroll in the gloaming sounded divine. The hedgerows are in waning bloom right now, but still rife with heady smells. Farmers were busy cutting hay and fields were dotted with lights of late working tractors. This was our first visit to the local.

The pub is attached to the publicans house. In fact, it was his wife we spoke to the first day when we got lost trying to view the new house. Anyway, the interior is a lovely bare stone. There are three, maybe four, tables, and a comfortable size bar. He has three taps: Heineken, Murphy’s, and Guinness. I always drink Bulmers, which he had plenty of. There were a handful of people inside when we walked in, all silent as Gay Byrne interviewed Christy Moore on RTE. When Christy finished his last song and the credits rolled, a little guy started to play his guitar and sing. Mo O’Connor. He moved between guitar and electric fiddle, playing a blend of everything from traditional Irish to blue grass to classic rock.

The music was fun and the pub started to fill. Within just a few songs (and a few pints) one of our neighbors ventured over to see who we were. During intermission Mo discovered I was from Texas and told me he had played at Antone’s , loved Austin, and had been married once to a Texas girl…for about 6 weeks (they had a drive-through wedding in Vegas).

After that, he played a Willie song just for me, then a few other Texas songs..and then one by one our neighbors came over to say hello. After the last song the entire pub stood up to sing the national anthem, then the sing song started. A sing song is just people sitting around, taking turns sharing their favorite song.

Two nuns were home visiting from Australia. They got up and sang two songs. Then an older man sang two. Then a young woman sang, then another, then another…. And while all this is going on I feel a poke on my arm. An older gentleman was asking me how I liked the music. I was grinning ear to ear, so my elation was fairly evident! We began chatting, then Himself chimed in to ask about the road bowling; we had seen a group of men at the end of our road playing a few weeks earlier. It turns out our village will host an All Ireland game this year! And a regular fixture happens every Sunday! Himself asked about the size and weight of the balls because he had never seen one (Donegal not being one of the counties this old sport is played), and about the rules. Our neighbor explained that the aim of the game is to make it down the 2.5 mile stretch of road with the fewest throws, you can ricochet or bounce off things and it counts as the same throw. If a ball is lost in the hedge these days a metal detector is used to hunt it out. Then the respectable older gentleman quietly goes out to his car and returns in a few moments clasping a small, tightly wrapped object, close to his chest. He pressed it secretly into the hands of Himself, and whispered for us to hush. It was a road bowling ball! He told us to keep it. He had made a gift of it.

The kind pub owner was trying to usher us all out. No lock-in tonight. We all happily sauntered out, hands raised and a chorus of “Good luck” was heard all around. As we started down the lane on our way home, I switched off the torch (flashlight). The sky was a pitch-black-almost-new-moon and we were under it. At 3am. Just like the old guys I had seen all those years ago in the county Clare, walking home from the pub down a country lane all alone in the darkness.

I guess this is life in the county Cork. I must say …. I like it…. very much!

We moved. But most of you know that by now.

Moving seems different here than it does in the States. For starters, rented dwellings come furnished: plates, beds, curtains, chairs, cleaning supplies. All these are scattered about rental properties and most of them are of low quality. Since He leased his own house to a young couple, all his furniture was left behind (including the leather sofa he nearly wept over). I was less than impressed with the furnishings we were seeing, until the Pink House outside of Bandon.

I really loved that house. It was only 7 kilometers outside of town, had a lovely big kitchen with Belfast sink, solid wood dresser in the kitchen, claw foot tub, big oak sleigh bed in the master, nice wood floors, open fireplace, exposed rock work…but alas, there was NO broadband. We rang every company offering service in the area, the estate agent (they aren’t realtors over here) rang around too, but no joy (that means, no luck). I was crushed. I really liked the look of Bandon and the only other house we saw that felt good was smack dab in town, which I wasn’t too keen on (after spending all these months in purgatory I couldn’t bear the thought of more car noises).

We weren’t sure what to do. Should we stay in temporary accommodation longer and hope something came on the market? Should we look in other parts of the county? Should we just take a short term lease somewhere we didn’t really like? That’s when he spotted it.

He was browsing, like he does, and happened to find something near Midleton. Where the heck is Midleton?? He had to practically drag me to look at it. I was pouty about it not being in Bandon and almost didn’t go. We visited Midleton first, to get a feel for the place, and again, I was bound and determined to find fault. It’s too modern, there is a big shopping center, there isn’t any public art, there is only one street in the old town centre (you can see what my attitude was like).

He patiently put up with me and we drove out to find the house. “Turn right between the pub and the school. Keep going. Up the hill you will see my car. It’s black.”, were the directions. Down the road, past the pub, up the hill, kept going…. kept going…passed a graveyard…kept going. WHERE IS THE BLACK CAR? Turn around, back down, knock at the first house with a black car (it was attached to the pub). “sorry, no, this isn’t Aoife. OH, THAT house! It’s up the hill, keep going, and on the left….AFTER the cemetery.”

We did. And…OH, MY! It was gorgeous!! I had been instructed to keep a poker face and not let on if I decided I liked it (he wanted to negotiate on rent). OH, MY! 300 year old farm house. Four gardens. Old wood floors. Belfast sink. Lovely furnishings. Big wood table. Wine rack. Stand alone tub that looks out onto the setting sun! Wood stove. One raised garden that gets FULL SUN! A For Real Registered on the OS Map STANDING STONE! Outbuildings. An iron age ring fort in the back pasture!! (that’s a Fairy circle, it is) I was in LOVE! …. and had to keep a poker face.

“Well. Think about it lads and give me a ring later”, she said.

I was beside myself. I wanted this house. The views from the house were stunning. The laneway peaceful and quiet and litter free (remind me to tell you about the litter issue sometime). And a train station, with regular service into Cork and Dublin was just down the road in Midleton!!

Now, I meant to start this post by sharing how our actual move went. Because we were only (ONLY) taking my clothes, his clothes, bits and bobs, my antique dressing table, the exercise bike, artwork, TV, stereo, and other non-furniture household items, we figured it would easily fit into a mid sized commercial van, which he could drive down to Cork while I followed in the car. HA! We completely filled the van with just the non-furniture, furniture! So, we rented a small self-storage unit in Dublin for a week. Then we came back to the house to load up the van with the other non-furniture stuff, clean the place, hand over the keys to his tenants by NOON, and then drive to Cork where we rented a second self-storage unit. Are we crazy yet?

All of this …. and we didn’t even have a house in Cork! (we did have temporary accommodation in the city, which consisted of a rented room in a house full of Italians! that’s another story) We were flying by the seat of our pants, and it was FUN!

Now, we are moved in….to the 300 year-old farmhouse and I have to pinch myself that it’s real. I went for a run this morning…my first in our new house… and as I eased into my rhythm under the warm summer sun, I thought, “I’m out for a morning jog on a tiny laneway in rural Ireland, and I LIVE HERE!” That’s when I looked over the low hedge to my right.

This is what I saw.

Shortly after I moved over last September the chorus of, “I want a fish”, began. Himself was intermittently exuberant, pouty, and generally beseeching me to “allow” him to get a fish…or two.

Finally, I gave in. Two little goldfish came home with us; a little Shubunkin I named Cú Chulainn because hir black spots remind me of the legendary Ulster warrior’s battle rage, and a cute Comet I name Emer, who was the hero’s wife. Goldfish are a lot of work. They are quit susceptible to shock so must be treated carefully when changing their water, which must be done EVERY week. They also need to be fed twice daily. Guess who changes their water and cleans their bowl? That’s right. ME. :-/

When we moved to Cork last week the little fishes had to be transported. While He drove the van with our belongings (protected by his little Samurai house guardian), I drove the car with the fishes safely strapped into the front seat. I am happy to report that despite experiencing perhaps their first ever turbulent water with at least three or four waterfall-like-episodes they seemed delighted to be having a grand adventure.

Except poor Cú. He regularly gets swim bladder infection and I have to fast them both, then boil and hand-feed them peeled peas. (he is VERY high maintenance!!) (also notice who treats these fish who supposedly belong to Himself…hmmmm) Last night Cú starts his floating trick. It was so bad that s/he was literally upside down! It was too late at night to rush out for fresh peas so I placed my hands on either side of the bowl and sent Reiki to the little fish.

I don’t talk much on this blog about alternative health care, even though I am a massage therapist and birth doula who is reiki attuned. This is my first post about healing modalities and, in keeping with my quirky identity, it was for my fish. (notice that I called them MINE just there) I am again happy to report that little Cú was right side up within one minute. (no kidding!)

So, if you haven’t tried Reiki …. it comes highly recommended by two little Irish Fish.

Gloriously Sunny!

Today was a divine-cloudless-ice-cream-cone-eating-sundress-wearing-windows-down-moment-of-eternity-summer-day.

In the endless unfolding present of today which was perfection, we visited three beaches in east Cork. We walked on the sand, hopped on barnacle covered sea weed washed rocks, gorged on strawberry twirl 99’s , and bathed in the sun.

We first visited Pilmore strand. It is just outside of Youghal (yawl)on the far eastern fringes of county Cork. It is designated as a blue flag beach and offers a nice parking lot with plenty of space, but the beach itself, while nicely expansive, lacked soft sand. Perhaps the tide was low today. It was a little marshy so we traveled onward to our next stop…. but first, a little wrong turn to the very tip … at Knockadoon camp, which overlooks knockadoon head. It was a nice detour because we saw Jesus in the Garden (someone had a lovely planted front garden with Jesus crucified as the center piece – dedicated to the pelican ??) and the Purrrrr-fection of a cottage with thatched roof and rose covered walls. :drool: Next stop was Garryvoe Strand. This place was hopping! A nice hotel overlooks the water. A little shop was doing a brisk trade in 99’s. A hot food stall was set-up, as was a bouncy castle for the kids. The parking lot was crammed full and loads of families spilled out over the beach for a joyous day of it. We walked around a bit here, exploring rock outcroppings and eating ice-cream. The barnacles attacked my leg and I experimented with sea weed as a bandage. Again, it was mostly a pebbly beach with little soft sand so we ventured to one more stop; Ballynamona beach. It also had a nice parking lot and loads of people were about. We walked down and sat in the sand…where I buried Himself – trapping him and leaving him vulnerable to the hugging attack of a little terrier. The beach was also pebbly but with more soft sand (as evidenced by my burying antics). We watched puppies run up and down, saw a mean game of beach badminton,and enjoyed the view of the lighthouse.

I don’t know if there are more beaches in east Cork. If so, we want to explore them as well ~ but next trip is definitely west cork!

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