Well, it has happened again. Ireland was on our bucket list, although as a late addition. When Joy learned that one of her favorite art instructors would be teaching a week-long class here, she began lobbying for Ireland. It seemed a reasonable request until I learned that the course would be held in Ballycastle, County Mayo, in the far northwest region of the Republic of Ireland (go any farther west and you are in the Atlantic Ocean)
Gallant husband that I am, I volunteered to ride the train with her on the way over from Dublin, which is on the Irish Sea coast. One of my better decisions. The Irish countryside is beautiful, in places very much like western Oregon. A big difference, though: I’d never seen cows and sheep in adjoining pastures before. Where we come from you have cow country and you have sheep country but never the twain shall meet. Here the same farmer may have both a herd of cattle and a flock of sheep.
We were en route about four hours altogether, soaking up the scenery.
The little village of Ballycastle boasts a population of about 260 (on a good day; Wikipedia says 249). The major “industry,” other than farming, is the art center. Joy was in a class of 10 women. I went to the opening reception with her and knew she’d have a good week. Compatible group. Two of us couples stayed in a new, comfortable Airbnb house. You can’t tell much about it from Joy’s picture here, taken through a gate.
This is a view of the house I didn’t see. Looks like the house is imprisoned behind a high fence, doesn’t it? Just the opposite is true. She lived much better during the week than Mike and I would do in our small Dublin apartment.
After my brief overnight in Ballycastle, I caught the train from Ballina back to Dublin. In a couple of days Mike would arrive for another round of baby-sitting. We had a good, relaxing time, doing a little sight-seeing. Unfortunately in this internet age he was still pretty well tied to his office and his duties, but we managed to have a good time anyway. I did appreciate the company. A highlight of our time together was his birthday dinner.
While in Dublin I read Neil Hegarty’s The Story of Ireland to fill in the gaps of my limited knowledge of the island, and visited Dublinia, an excellent museum of ancient and medieval Ireland. I knew something of the invasion of the Vikings in ninth- and tenth-century England but didn’t realize that Ireland experienced the same influx of Scandinavians. Later, of course, came the Normans and the English. You’d be hard pressed to find pure Irish stock after so many centuries of cross-breeding.
I also picked up a little more insight into the violence that rocked North Ireland in the last century as Catholics and Protestants did bloody battle with each other, ostensibly in the name of God but actually in the service of ancient animosities that were periodically papered over but never really resolved. There is peace now, but one wonders, given the history, whether it’s permanent.
At the start of this post I said, “Well, it has happened again.” What has happened is that we’ve checked Ireland off on our bucket list–only to put it back on again. We’re hoping we’ll get back to Ireland one day. We won’t return to Dublin, since after several weeks we have a fairly good “feel” for the place, but Belfast and Galway and the River Shannon, the many charming villages, etc., beckon. And if she signs up again, we just might return to Ballycastle, population 249.
The course of true love, they say, never runs smooth. I was eager to meet Joy at the Dublin train station following her classes when her text message arrived. She had missed the train in Ballina, Ballycastle’s nearest station, she said. Go to Plan B, she said. I’ll be taking the bus, she said.
Fortunately, Ballina is also a bus stop, so she caught the next coach for Dublin and arrived three hours later than in Plan A. Remember that husbandly fretting I mentioned a few posts ago, how I get a little nervous when she’s out and about and on her own and I’m not there to protect her even though I wouldn’t know what to do if I were there to take care of her? Let’s just say that my fretter still operates effectively. No harm done, though. We have enjoyed our last couple of days in Dublin before heading for London and are still on speaking terms. As I said, true love.