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booklet

You know those quaint stone cottages we all fall in love with, the ones that dot the Irish countryside (or used to), fueling our vision of romantic country living?  Well, I live in one of those.  It’s been sensitively modernized, but the interior retains the rough stone walls, now sealed with a coat of white…something.  I’m not sure what the ‘white something’ is: it could be whitewash (maybe), it could be paint, it could be a substance I have no inkling of.

The sitting room has a wood stove.  Wood stoves are a god send during the winter – or any time of year here in Ireland!  Once those stones heat up, they radiate out delightful warmth for many hours.  There is a down side though.  If you know anything about wood stoves, you know they occasionally belch smoke.  Smoke and the ‘white something’ do no play well together. In fact, if they spend significant amounts of time together, the stone walls eventually look like this: photo 4 (3)

Not sure how visible the soot is, but trust me -these stones look pathetic!

Having never lived in a stone house, or in a climate where treating ‘damp’ is a yearly occurrence (more on that later), I had no idea what to do.  Should we paint the walls?  Is there a special cleaner?  Do we pray?  Since I was not prepared to invest the considerable time and effort to paint these nook-and-cranny surfaces, I opted for cleaning.  I got myself a sturdy, deep bristle brush and a sudsy bucket of water; moved all the furniture to the centre of the room; put down several towels under my work area, and then let the elbow grease flow.

After 2 hours, I had this:

can you see the 'clean' line?

can you see the ‘clean’ line?

And after 4 hours, most of the walls looked like this:

photo 2 (6)

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We didn’t move; in fact, we may have narrowly escaped a fate worse than…. making a cuppa, then realising you are out of milk!  Yes, the townhouse overlooking the harbour in Crosshaven would have been lovely–especially on a sunny day!  But when you’ve signed a lease, paid your money, and started moving bits and bobs, only to arrive on ‘The Day’ to a padlocked front gate with a hand scribbled note saying, “Do not move into this house,” you begin to feel something isn’t right in the state of Denmark (or, was that fishy?).

And such was our mis-adventure in Crosshaven.

Seems the owner saw my listing on AirBnB — we rent our spare room to the occasional globetrotter– and didn’t like it.  So naturally, instead of ringing us like…I don’t know, a sane person, to either let us know she didn’t like it or ask us questions, she padlocked the gate.  Like you do.

There we sat in front of the house: a car-load full of stuff and  her scribbled note in hand. Himself rang her, to find out what, in the name of all that’s Green and Emerald-like, was going on.  She was paranoid, unable to communicate, belligerent, and (in the language of my Little big) Cray-Cray.

It was painful.  I personally can not recall a time I have been treated with so little regard or respect by a total stranger (only family is suppose to treat me that way…huh?).  We considered legal action, since she was in violation of the tenancy agreement of 28 day notice.  But I think it’s safe to say, Himself has decided against that course (hence, my freedom to finally write about it).  Instead, we collected our rent, deposit and the items we had already moved, and began to heal our wounds.

And wounds there were–it was a traumatic experience.  The owner’s behavior was abusive; it stripped us of our personal power.  But more than that, it was shaming.  We had been judged, and found wanting.  I saw this immediately, and calmly reminded us both that we had done nothing wrong.  By naming the experience, it helped us recover.  But it took days! Our hearts hurt, and we both found ourselves taken with a sense of violation.

Looking back, this woman’s behavior (when we initially viewed the property) did set-off warning bells.  At the time, I chalked them up to a bit of eccentricity (which I am fond of myself).  However, repeatedly asking whether someone is “sure” they aren’t friends with so-and-so, accompanied by a squinty, suspicious look, is more than a little impolite–it’s downright paranoid.  As is repeatedly telling prospective tenants you “don’t need to” rent your place–the implication being, you are not in need of their financial contribution and thus retain ALL personal power in the transaction.  Oh, had we headed the warning signs!

Ah, well.  We are now forced to spend the late spring and early summer in the glorious countryside, while flowers bud and bloom all around us.  Yes, tragic…I know.

528206_10151540323469166_1504651762_n (1)

I can’t sleep!! Most of this I attributed to jet-lag, thinking my body must still be on “Texas Time”. (admittedly, I like the sound of that…it’s like a country song – WAIT, I think it might BE a country song!)

Anyway, I’m not sleeping…. at least not until 4am, which is NO BUENO! Even Himself is not sleeping…. well, he doesn’t really count because his night-owl tendencies are well documented. They are why we are in a relationship to begin with! (late night chats across time zones) As I lay tossing and turning last night, having him check for the nth time that the doors and windows were bolted, it dawned on me. The house is haunted!!

{EDIT: I’ve since found more information on the old demesne across the street. You can read about it on the landed estates site.}
But first, let me tell you about the demesne across the lane from us. The stretch of laneway that runs northwest of the house is stunning! Truly breathtaking. The land is gentle, mostly rolling pasture, dotted with sloping rows and patches of mature trees. A mountain range is just visible on the horizon, and the hedgerow is healthy and vibrant.

The mature trees belong to an old demesne, undoubtedly British or Norman. You can just make out the expansive roof and rows of chimney tops above the treeline. Since Sunday was gloriously sunny I decided to explore. At the tail end of my run I ventured down a few lanes in search of an entrance. The first trail I took led me down to an abandoned dairy. No Manor House, but they had a lovely little stone bridge and their hedge was thoughtfully planted and in full bloom. But I found joy down the second lane!

After a sharp bend in the road, and the sudden onslaught of a few large neighbor dogs, I was under huge trees; a sure sign of colonial occupation. The house is large and ruinous! (sooo romantic) Tattered curtains billow behind broken windows. The first visible building was a massive stables with high walls and tiny windows. From under the arch leading into the stables you can see the house. Whoever owns the property clearly uses the land for a dump. There were abandoned farm implements, barrels, broken machinery, and strangest of all…… a dilapidated TRAILER! Talk about Beverly Hillbillies! I was uncomfortable roaming too near, you never know when a wild dog might leap out at you! (in some ways, it’s easy to tell the Irish settled those mountains in Tennessee….just say’in – and I have a few in my bloodline) Still, very Gothic feeling!

Now, to my haunting. As you know, we have a …. probably bronze age… standing stone in the back garden. In the field, and on the low rise, just behind the house is an iron age ring fort. (to the locals, that’s a Fairy Ring…and very dangerous. The rumor has it, if you enter the ring your sleep will be disturbed for 7 years) The main structure of the house is 300 years old so its occupants would have seen numerous uprisings and rebellions against British occupation, many waves of emigration, and the deadly famine.

It started almost immediately upon moving in. We routinely see things in the corner of our eyes, but not inside, the object is always outside. Whatever it is that we see moving is large and often white. After a certain time at night we feel we are being watched. One night, Himself was sitting at his desk in the sunroom, working VERY late (after midnight) when he had a sudden feeling that he shouldn’t be in the room and then :bam: My Chinese lantern fell to the ground. Its attaching hardware tossed out of the wooden beam onto the floor. At that same time, I was upstairs sleeping and suddenly woken by a bright light outside. I thought perhaps the moon was out or someone had left an outside light on. I got up to see, and to hunt down my sleep mask, but there was nothing. No moon, no light…just a glow.

Since we started noticing these things, we also find that if we aren’t asleep before midnight it’s going to be VERY difficult to get there! Last night we both tossed and turned, heard continual noise downstairs…even the repeated sound of a doorknob being turned. It’s a mad house in this house after the witching hour! I’m beginning to think the little Spook, built high up into the stone wall in the sitting room, is mocking us. Or at least a few of his friends are. 😀 Either way, I need a friendly truce with the spirits because my beauty sleep is nonexistent!

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.

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