In one of my retirement blogs about Ireland last year I asked the question, during our second visit, whether it was wise to go back to a place that had given such pleasure the first time. Is there a danger that, having had such a great time, there was a likelihood, on return, that the place had not been as excellent as my memory had painted it? Re-reading that blog this morning as preparation for this final blog from Ireland – we leave tomorrow – my conclusions were, as is predictable for me, ambiguous. Some parts of the second holiday, last year, like the Tuesday night Irish music concert, were disappointing, while new unplanned experiences, like stumbling across music in the pub had been very enjoyable but, in the same vein, beach walks had been good then and they were good now. Deciding to return this time and for an extended stay (two weeks) called for some fine judgements. Fortunately the judgement is not left exclusively to my / our memory, an unreliable instrument if ever there was one. As you know I keep a daily diary and all the plusses and minuses of our last two holidays in Dunquin are recorded therein. Not to mention my blogs from those periods.
So consulting our two visits last year it was clear that the positives (not least really excellent weather – it’s hammering it down now* and we’re due to take the pups for their morning walk this Friday morning – and again on the whole, we’re been very lucky) outweighed the negatives. Enough so to make the decision to return for a third time and for two weeks rather than one, an easy one. True we’ve complicated this visit with the usual stays in Killarney and Limerick (place of my father’s birth) and this time a night in Galway, place of Mrs Summerhouse’s mother’s birth. Assuming we come again at some point, although maybe not this year, we will definitely not be driving a couple of hours more than we need to to visit Killarney. It’s pleasant although touristy, but the five hour drive takes a toll for all four of us.
I started this blog on Friday knowing that I would struggle to write anything otherwise. We would be leaving Saturday first thing and driving to Limerick to stay in our usual hotel. It is very expensive by our standards but one of the few hotels in Limerick that allows dogs in the room. Their (the dogs) rate being not a whole lot cheaper than ours. On reflection I’m a bit fed up with this hotel it’s the classic old country house converted to a hotel. Therefore it has large grounds another plus doggie-wise. Problem is the hotel and the grounds are chock full with little girls in white dresses (Holy Communion time according to Mrs Summerhouse who knows about these things) and, as an added bonus this time, a huge bloody wedding – more white dresses. You needed sunglasses just to avoid being blinded by all the whiteness. It was a zoo, a very bright one but so invasive that we went to the village pub, one of several, for a beer. I have to say that, on the whole, Irish pubs are not what you might call dog-friendly, any more than the hotels. The first one I went into I asked if they allowed dogs in. No! That was it, no I’m sorry or they can sit out the back. In fact he was so abrupt that I thought I had misheard and asked again – same response, a single word – no. The next one (at least it being Ireland there’s always another one) let us sit outside in the smoking area, so that was progress. Back to the zoo, it was still all going off, we returned to our room – actually a whole house because of the dogs, ordered a bottle of wine and never left until the following day.
We did something on this part of the trip that we had never done before we went for lunch in a fish restaurant owned by Brian. It’s called Morrell’s and was recommended to us by daughter and son-in-law. This was braver than you might think as I had already insulted this man on the phone by telling him to stop talking in a silly Irish accent. It was in fact his real accent but I had thought it was my son-in-law trying to be funny, hence my saying to him, for Heaven’s sake stop it with the silly accent. Sorry Brian, the fish he cooked for us was excellent and not poisoned at all. From Limerick another different addition, we travelled to Galway, land of Mrs Summerhouse’s mother. So from land of my father to land of her mother. We haven’t been to Galway (see photo at beginning) for probably 40 years and when we were there it was the scene of an embarrassing episode even more so than the Brian happening. This involved a fight with my brother in law (in training to be a priest) and sparked when I hit him on the head with a spoonful of mashed potato. As I remember it wasn’t the hitting on the head that upset him but the fact that I was wasting food when people were starving in Africa. Fair point and it still makes me cringe even all these years later. We have made up though and he is no longer a priest. So given the gap we didn’t remember much of the place but it did seem to have grown way beyond what I remembered. And again so many tourists after Limerick which I think most tourists don’t bother with, a serious shock to the system.
And now we’re on the boat home so we are. Eighteen days away and it’s gone by in a flash which must tell me something. From tonight we are back to our retirement life with all the pleasures and challenges that it brings. Did we need a holiday to get away from it ‘all’? I say we did. Did we get the holiday we needed? I’d say so. Should I stop talking Irish? I’d say so. Retirement does strange things to a person and this holiday has been full of strange happening.
*One final piece of Irish strangeness reported to me by Christie at the Blasket Centre re Star Wars – again. He told me on Friday, the day, you will remember when it was hosing it down, that they were planning on filming a storm scene. Perfect I thought, except they couldn’t film while it was raining and stranger still had brought their own 4,000 gallon tank of dyed water for the rain as Irish rain didn’t show up on film. Hmm.