The last time we were here in Dunquin we had guests who stayed with us for a few days. They were easy to be with and pleasant company but they altered the dynamic of our one week stay. This time we have our daughter and husband coming to stay for three nights but we have learned from our last experience and extended our holiday to two and a bit weeks. Our thinking is this will make their company pleasant also, but not overly intrusive. We shall see. Today is Saturday and they arrive tomorrow so I thought I might find it difficult to find the time to write a blog for Tuesday unless I got started on it before their arrival. Hence here I am. I wanted an excuse to feature Mrs Summerhouse’s first Irish watercolour and ink (for better or for worse she decided not to bring any canvases with her this time, not sure why). A sweet little house with a great view and it’s for sale.
So this first part of this blog returns to that tried and tested theme of Irish houses. On Wednesday we went to a concert, more of which later. It gets dark very late here (about 9.30) but driving home from the concert it was dark enough to note, yet again, the absence of any lighting in the hundred or so houses we passed on our drive back to the cottage. Dunquin seems to be almost a ghost town, perhaps it is. I’ve already written about the probable explanation for this in a previous blog – the empty houses, not the ghosts. It is that these houses were built when mortgages were readily available and cheap (that Celtic Tiger again) but now they’re impossible to sell because nobody has any money. There are ‘for sale’ signs everywhere and again, as I wrote in my last blog, many of them the same houses as when we were here before. On one of my speculative visits to one of the estate agents in Dingle, Michael Kennedy, the estate agent, explained a little more about the difficulties of selling property that people had put a lot of money in to and can’t now get their money back.
Apparently, the local council in an effort to prevent, or at least reduce, people building to either resell at a profit or rent out as a holiday home, have put a condition on current applications for planning permission and this applies to houses built in the last 7 years, that they can only be bought by people who have been resident in Ireland for at least 7 years and who plan to make the house their main residence. And no, eligibility for Irish nationality did not count, you have to be living here. As Michael said there is a serious shortage of property for long term rent for younger people on the peninsula, otherwise known as the Kingdom of Kerry, so you can understand their well-intentioned thinking. It’s unofficially, I believe, called the Kingdom of Kerry because Kerry people see themselves as independent of Dublin and any laws those in the capital might pass thinking they applied to the whole of Ireland. So no to speculative building, second home buyers and, most of all, to awe struck English gits like us. So strike the idea of us buying another home here. Except, and it’s a big except, if you buy an old house. As I’m not all that fond of modern Irish houses, too much bling in my humble opinion, that really doesn’t present a problem. Mrs SH’s happiness at me not being able to buy yet another house was cruelly snatched away when I pointed out that I only liked old houses, like the one in her picture above. Perfect.
But worry not dear readers (and extended family), I’m not really looking to buy another house. So enough of the house buying aspect of this holiday and move on to safer ground – music. In past visits music has always been a strong thread running through our vacation. Even to the point of me arranging to have a couple of guitar lessons from a chap called Gerry O’Beirne. I enjoyed these, I’m not sure that Gerry did but he was probably too polite to say. After the second one I had the good fortune to hear Gerry play in a Dingle pub. As I’ve written elsewhere he was exceptional and I was embarrassed that I had put him through the misery of trying to teach me Celtic guitar. To say the gap was wide would be something of an understatement. So no lesson this time but we did make a point of going to see Gerry in concert at St James’s church in Dingle, enticed by the poster, see right. Again, suffice it so say, he was outstanding. Before the concert I went to check out the joint and there was the man himself tuning up, he’s a great tuner upper is Gerry. You probably don’t remember me. Correct. You look familiar, he says. Thanks Gerry for trying to pretend you remember. Back again, says I. It’s summer, he says. And with that slightly tangential remark, our ‘conversation’ ends. Go well, I end lamely. I just know that my good wishes were important to him even though he clearly has no bleedin’ idea who I am. Brought it on yourself, I think. But that’s the way I am on holiday, boldly going where no man has gone before at least for a while, so you end up with egg on face. Isn’t that better than just wishing you had said hello and then chickened out? Well, no actually it isn’t. But one doesn’t really know this until it is too late and the egg is in place.
Finally, while in this world of mysterious Irishness, as per the last blog, one other piece of bizarreness. I was talking to my man Christie in the Blasket Centre café and he told me that they were making a film just down the road. Ah, I thought probably a remake of Ryan’s Daughter which was made many years ago in this area. Perfect setting of course for this type of film. What’s the film called, I asked? Star Wars, he replied. Excuse me, Star Wars? Now I know I haven’t seen a SW film for quite a while but I’m thinking either outer space or the surface of Mars, in other words Pinewood Studios or Morocco or some such but a wild cliff top on the verdant but windy West coast of Ireland. Get out of town. I didn’t know that the last SW film was filmed in part just down the coast on one of the Skellig Islands. Apparently the director likes this part of the world when I asked Christie the obvious question – why here?? They’re building wooden beehive huts or something on the cliff top and, wait for it, a metal, yes metal, road to get up the cliff side. If you don’t believe me just Google Star Wars making and there’s all the photos in a newspaper report of the entirely fictitious set. I know I’m retired and holidays, when you’re retired, are a bit different, but this holiday is just packed with an increasing degree of weirdness. A bit like retirement itself.