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!