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It’s still raining here in county Cork. There have been maybe a handful of sunny days over the summer, and I am glad I took full advantage of every one! The moment we realized a day was bright and clear we were off: either to the beach, for a long walk down the lane, or stretched out on a blanket in the back garden. We seized our moments, sucked the marrow from them, and for that, I am grateful. In this moment; however, it is time to accept that summer is past and autumn is settling in. Hopefully we will have a few warm, sunny days yet: the dog days, so to speak.

We had a little summer storm move through yesterday. The wind was fantastic. I am truly a child of the winds: the powerful blue northers that sweep down from the Great Plains, the tropical storms and hurricanes of my precious Gulf of Mexico, and the fierce spring thunderstorms, with their tornadoes and lightening. Last night, when the winds howled and sang in our trees, I donned the wellies and his big grey coat and headed into Mr. McCarthy’s field. The true height of the ridge is in that field; our house being snuggly tucked in just a smidgen down the lee side.

In the field, now home to a lone bull, I could feel the full force of the south winds. They pushed into my chest with a thud. It was glorious! The tall ash and pine shrieked, the thorn wailed, and the clouds above raced past. Such life, such power. I danced and twirled, my long hair a mad frenzy behind me. And I wept, for the sheer joy of being alive in it. I think I could have stayed in that wind all night, but I remembered a saying that our last guest, Euyen, shared.

Euyen is Vietnamese and escaped in the ’70’s after the communists came to power. Her story is harrowing, and awe inspiring. Having bravely escaped as one of the thousands of ‘boat people’, and lost her father after years of imprisonment, her family are now safe in the U.S. She graciously shared many of her stories with me, and a few involved folklore. A folk saying in Vietnam is that the winds get inside you and make you sick. As a child, if anyone had been caught out in a rain storm, the moment they came home an egg was rubbed feverishly over the back. Afterwards, it was cracked open and if streaks came out from the yolk it was said, “Good. It has captured the winds.”

When I remembered this, I turned my face toward home. While I love the winds, they are great powers, and not to be trifled with….or taken for granted.

Yesterday we drove into Cork for a little treat. Every Sunday from 6-8pm Bar Pigalle on Barrack Street has a group of string musicians playing. Last night there was a cello and two violins. They played a mixture of modern music with a couple of classics tossed in. From the back garden is a gorgeous view of St Finbarr’s Cathedral and the interior is classy and cozy. Definitely worth a visit!

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A most unusual gift was left for me sometime in the night. I sleep with the window open because I love to hear the winds and rain. This morning, when I open my eyes, I see shiny silver trails in arches leading from the window to the bed. They are not sticky or thread like, are only visible at the angle of my head on the pillow, and….when I touch them, they vanish.

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When the criticism over the Australian newspaper’s article on the ‘Punch drunk‘ Irish started, Himself and I just looked at one another.  Long a topic of debate and disagreement in this household, the “lazy stereotyping” of the Irish as ‘fond of a drink’ continues.  Though, how can you blame them?  The Irish ARE fond of a drink.  Yes, I know not everyone here drinks, and not everyone drinks to excess, but people drink a lot, spend inordinate amounts of time talking about their drinking exploits, and the government promotes the country as having a pub culture.  In fact, in a sense it is economically advantageous for the country to be seen as a place to drink.

This doesn’t negate the fact that a conversation should be had about the excessive drinking that occurs in Ireland.  It’s a health issue, as well as a societal issue due to its various secondary impacts.  Yet, here’s the rub.  If you don’t drink, what the HECK do you do?? It’s no fun being in a pub after a certain hour when you are not drinking.  Drunken, staggering, slurring, idiots are not entertaining.  In fact, they can be dangerous.  If you accidentally insult them or refuse to play along with their lame games, you risk verbal or perhaps physical repercussions…. or at the least, you are stuck baby-sitting them!  Even if you manage to stay far away from them, they interfere with your enjoyment of whatever musical gig is on.

It is nonsensical for the tourism industry to focus on a pub culture that simply doesn’t exist anymore.  I rarely see people going to the local pub to enjoy an evening sharing stories, catching up, and casually sipping a pint while enjoying music or song.  What I normally see are people putting back pints as fast as they can, then ordering shots.  Granted, there are pubs that cater to sports fans, and a good game on the television with a group of Gaelic or Rugby supports can enliven a pub with a sense of community and comradery that is unequalled.  Also, there are certainly pubs in obscure villages where the few locals gather to spend an evening.

If Ireland wants to go back in time (as the tourists certainly want it to) and have pubs that offer a sense of warm conviviality, a few things would help:

  • turn down the bloody music!  It’s impossible to talk when bad pop music is blaring.
  • bring back the snugs! I can’t tell you how many pubs I’ve been into that are gaping cavernous places clearly designed to accommodate large numbers of drunken, falling, belligerent bingers.
  • better yet…no piped music at all, or sound system.  This will encourage musicians to play, and maybe poets and storytellers to speak up….not to mention enabling you to hear your friends talk without them needing to scream.

While I’m at it… can there be some local government innovation to create diverse, interesting activities that don’t cost a fortune?! I realize the weather often sucks, but gosh…. aren’t there some other countries with equally unstable weather that offer varied, stimulating, and cultured entertainment?

Now, himself has a rather less jaded, and more on topic, view.  (cut me some slack…I came here from Austin.  Home of diverse hipness.) He believes the Irish created the stereotype, and brought it on themselves by revelling in the stereotype.  Though, he says proudly that if the Irish had won the world cup the whole country *would* be closed for a week and out in the streets drinking! Seriously though, he figures the Irish have nobody but themselves to blame because they sold themselves as a country that loves nothing more than the drink, the craic, and some gambling.

What about creating genuine walking trails that meander through cute villages? What about eradicating littering, and enforcing fines on those who do it? What about cultivating a sense of pride in place, beauty, and architecture? Ireland has picturesque countryside, some of the best farm fresh food around, and a rich cultural heritage of archaeological treasures.  Why not focus on those?  Put in place initiatives to stimulate farmer’s markets, manicured walks, frequent historical and scenic stops along designated walks.  What about an organized way-marked way for the Táin?  Who wouldn’t want to walk in the footsteps of Medbh, while traversing clearly posted and easily accessible trails, with easy access to villages with accommodation and farm fresh food?  Or better yet…. places for wild camping along the trail? Or heck…. re-create Cromwell’s bold (and evil) march, or some of the better known Rebel marches… like the one Red Hugh (wasn’t it him?) made from Ulster to Munster? There is SO MUCH more to Ireland than boozing!!

ok, I’ll be done with my rant now, but this had been a topic of conversation in our house lately.  What about yours??

Today was glorious! After the summer-that-never-was, we were given a gloriously warm and sunny day. Hallelujah! Himself, being the entrepreneur he is, took the afternoon off and we headed for the beach.

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Our favorite southern beach is only 25 minutes away. We packed a lunch, donned our swimwear, grabbed a blanket and a towel, and dashed down to soak up the rays. Many like-minded souls had preceded us, and we marveled at the packed parking area. After sashaying past the groups of little kids, we found a cove for two…..and shared it with another couple and single female. No bother! We had sandwich rolls to devour, sunscreen to apply, and Vitamin D to absorb.

The harbour was awash with gorgeous sailboats. Himself took his first sailing lesson a few weeks back (he dreams of cruising the Mediterranean), so we eyed-up the many options anchored before us. After several hours of baking and reading P&P, I decided to immerse myself in salty Mama ocean. Brrrr, she is chilly this far north, but yumyum, what a treat! My skin loves the prickly tingly feel of salt water. Growing-up as I did on the Texas Gulf Coast, the beach was only 10 miles as the crow flies. I spent many pleasant days as a child, and triple that as a teenager, on Matagorda beach. I adore the ocean.

Today was the first time I ever swam in Ireland.

It was immensely appropriate to purify myself on this holy Friday, as we enter the Old Lughnasadh time. Aoine Chrom Dubh – may our harvest be blessed.

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