Oh Ireland, you are lovely as your seasons change.
February has breezed through (sometimes howled) and with it new learnings, adventures, family visits, a change of season and the arrival of ‘The Travelodge’.
In the background a little niggle, some uneasiness. Something is shifting, in part the season and definitely me. I’m changing, adjusting.
March is now upon us and the shift is slowly unfurling and we’re in Spring, full blown Spring.
A layer of clothing has been shed and we’re surrounded by daffodils and blossoms. The tiny buds are appearing on those big, strong, bare winter trees.
Finding Community and Slowness:
As I stood in the post office one morning I once again found myself in a moment of certainty. Certain that this little village has so much to teach me about community and slowness. Here, I learn from teachers who wouldn’t consider themselves teachers.
Standing in the queue I made a mental note of the three days of importance on the local calendar. St. Patrick’s day, the parish Confirmation day (towns are commonly referred to as parishes here) and Mother’s day.
The queue never moves fast. It doesn’t need to. There is simply no hurry here. Its purpose is not only to create an order but to connect community. People know each other, grandchildren are asked after, information is shared and genuinely warm “how are ye’s” are met with warm smiles and often a “grand, yerself”? In 2 months no one has told me they are busy, seriously, no one.
My dad still insists on paying his bills at the post office. He will never learn to pay a bill online and he will never own a mobile phone. I love that about him, holding on so dearly to his time in the queue and his freedom from being contactable. I get it.
Some of my most rewarding conversation, observation and connection comes in a queue. It’s a genuine luxury to stand in a queue and engage in the moment.
As the winter leaves us, the lambing season has brought the sounds of bleating lambs to the paddock. Running the laneways has the added delight of watching these wobbly toddlers find their legs as they scramble to hide behind their mums when I pass. Not so different to when I drop my four-year-old off at preschool and have to peel him off the back of my jumper.
In the grass there are gentle hints of Spring with tiny flowers finding life.
We no longer wake in darkness awaiting the sun to rise. It’s rising earlier and setting later. As restorative as the darkness has been it now leaves and we are waking up to the promise of newness and energy. So much promise.
Adventure and Exploring:
The off season is an excellent time to adventure because you can wander and explore without crowds. I’ve always loved the calmness and quiet of off peak travel.
Day Trip – County Kerry
One Saturday with half the house knocked out with winter bugs I took the two middle kids on an adventure into County Kerry.
Cork to Kerry was quite a dramatic landscape shift. The green pastures gave way to mountainous ranges and snow topped peaks.
The rain started as I was driving and in my mind I’m thinking ‘oh shit, here I go again’ off on an adventure with no clue about what I’m driving into. I do that sometimes, set out without researching. I like things to unfold.
One time when we were out hiking and nearly at the summit of Mount Kosciuszko the weather turned. Zero visibility, crazy wind and a baby on my back. It turned out fine and quick decisions were made but it did make me think about how quickly things can turn with weather in unfamiliar terrain.
On this afternoon we arrived a little later than planned and me a little unnerved after the snow and rain. We were armed with a lonely planet guide book (of course) and Killarney National Park was the loosely planned destination. I thought we’d hike into the Muckross Abbey but in a moment of weakness I relented and accepted a ‘ride’ in. I’d landed us in the Jaunting Cars car park (the one time typical mode of transport in Ireland) and with only a few hours of daylight and the rain spitting, it seemed like the smarter option.
I may have overpaid (teeth grinding a little, no idea if this was a bartering thing, can’t do that). The kids were so excited about riding in the horse pulled car and heck sometimes you have to do something different. I chalked it up to a travel ‘rookie’ mistake.
The abbey was spectacular, a little eerie and steeped in history. Raids, famine walls and dead poets. Truly, three of Irelands most revered Gaelic poets are buried here. So fascinating reading up about them afterwards. They wrote about the hardships of their time. I have come to appreciate that history is best told through stories and poems. It’s how people lived and felt that interests me. Ergo, my preferred stories are autobiographical or memoir in nature.
As we made our way into Muckross house my ‘rookie’ mistake unveiled itself…there was a big carpark and we could have driven in and easily hiked around! Oh well, next time.
Wandering the Lake by the house was spectacular. It’s all kinds of awesome to watch kids as they instinctively begin to play and powerfully roar. It’s them expressing how I feel inside and without abandonment, kids roll like that.
While taking a paid ride into a national park isn’t something we would normally do…on this day I let it go as part of the adventure. I actually learnt a lot from the driver and he pointed us in the direction of our next stop. This kind of tourism does require support. It’s supporting local people, it’s an experience and it’s more aligned with contributing than consuming crap – all good stuff in my books. I’ll take these thoughts with me as I travel.
Off peak is seriously the BEST! No-one-here. Of they went my two, climbing, imagining, playing and exploring…all while I got to snap some incredible landscape and ponder life through the arch of a castle door. I wonder what others have seen through this door over the 600 years it has stood there?
I love to snap the kids as they set about the business of being kids on an adventure. Mostly that’s how I snap, life as it’s happening around me. I use a camera because I prefer to look through a lens and then I upload images to share to my phone later. I like the idea of not being attached to my phone for a camera.
Local Adventure and Exploring:
On any given day in Ireland the sky can be white, grey or blue and this can change by the hour, not unlike Melbourne. I love the moody white and grey skies but equally those blue hues as a backdrop to the typically colourful Irish homes is pretty postcard perfect.
This day in Cobn was one of those sky changing days. A beautiful town and home to heartbreak pier, the place where many families said good bye (often forever) to loved ones. Of the 6 million adults and children who emigrated from Ireland, over 2.5 million departed from Cobn (previously known as Queenstown) between the years of 1848 and 1950. Little wonder there are now over 70 million people claiming Irish ancestry and heritage around the world. My kids included.
Also the place where the White Star Line Ticket office still stands. The same office that boarded the last of the passengers on to The Titanic. We did enter The Titanic Experience and even though there were nerves I think it was well worth it. The kids were given a real passenger boarding pass and at the end they were able to look up their fate. They were all survivors. I have a feeling that all children are given a survivor’s ticket.
It was a moving experience, as history exploration can often be. I can still hear the sound of the children and babies as the ship re-enactment went down, a mother with 5 children on that deck and no where to go. I like this about travel, the emotions that an encounter can evoke. It can teach (by feeling) humility and empathy. Questions, discussions and reflections followed about migration, hardship, loss, honour and respect.
Adventure doesn’t always involve far off travel. There is much to explore locally and free for most of us, I’m sure of that. Roche’s Point lighthouse marks the entry point into Cork Harbour. Cork harbour is the world’s second largest natural harbour, Sydney being the first. Maybe we are following the world’s harbours!
Roche’s point is also where the Titanic was anchored as last of its passengers were ferried here from Cobn. Interestingly, in 1914 when it was deemed that a new lighthouse was needed it couldn’t be started until 1917. The land owner needed to contacted and he was until 1917 in prison, in Naples….no modern day government acquisition.
“WATER AND AIR, THE TWO ESSENTIAL FLUIDS ON WHICH ALL LIFE DEPENDS, HAVE BECOME GLOBAL GARBAGE CANS.”
~ JACQUES COUSTEAU
We take 3 for the sea and just grab bits whenever we can and definitely when we are out adventuring. We are on a journey to become more sustainable and do more of what feels right. At the start of the year I asked the kids if they wanted to collect trash each day to help protect our waterways, emphatically they said yes. The littlest, Jimmy, he is the master…nothing escapes him. Any trash to him is simply called “three for the sea”.
In turn, we also question our own use of plastic and how we can continue to reduce single use. We travel with our own bottles and keep it cups. If, on the odd occasion we have bought a cup we do so without the lid. Recently, I was in a cafe in London and the water cooler had paper cups. I simply asked for a glass, easy. We ask for drinks in restaurants without straws. Simple changes.
The practice of collecting has without a doubt made us more conscious consumers and better ‘shit’ givers. I find that the more pared back life is, the easier it is to do more, care more, give more.
Special Family Visits:
When you’re from a big family and both of us are there is usually someone close by, no matter where in the world you find yourself. A week long visit from our London family was filled with late night chats, some a little too late, night time concerts (mostly Frozen inspired), bake ups and non-stop play.
After a special celebration we shared local produce procured from the local farmers market. Cheese and chats at the market with the local cheesemaker who actually lives and produces his cheese 200 metres down the road. He invited us to visit his ‘working’ shed and purchase our cheese directly from there. “Bring the kids…it’s important to connect kids with food” he said. Um, HELLO, “I-hear-that” I say as my heart expands a little more. Cork was just named Ireland’s favourite food county! I’m going to do a whole post one day about the food here, slow food, local food even the family pizza restaurant lists the local suppliers. Using local produce is just a normal thing here.
Weeks like this are a good time to switch off from social media for a bit. My only app. is the Instagram app. and a little reset is always refreshing. A chance to ask myself what it is about social media that I like and then coming back with a little more intention in my use of it.
By the end of the week all the bonds were a little tighter and great memories had been made.
Engaging in New Hobbies:
The kids all still leave for school happily and return home happy. Country life in Ireland suits them. I have no doubt in my mind that surrounding them with paddocks, open sky and expansive horizons play a part. As does the experience of a country school. I don’t have to find ways and excuses to escape the pressures of modern life, because for them right now, they simply don’t exist.
The creatives have started a pottery course and the sporty ones are keenly trying their hands at spike ball and hurling.
This will not be their life forever but the experience, I think, they will hold close.
Well hello there! To much fanfare the great dame finally arrived. Driven from Holland to Ireland via Belgium and France with 14-hour boat trip across the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea. It was a long weekend of adventure for Greg and Tommy that featured stops in historical places that Tom had read and dreamed of seeing. He’s an avid history geek and has a keen interest in war history. Accordingly, they stopped in Normandy and Fromelles. The story of the Mulberry harbours that were planned and built in Britain, shipped overnight and then set up in within days were particularly, mind blowing to the boys.
Why The Travelodge? I met Greg working in hotels and the ‘dodgy’ lodge in St Kilda was one of the hotels we worked in. It fits this home on wheels. We have taken ‘the lodge’ out for a few adventures and I’ll write about them soon.
Our ferry out to France in April has been booked and our ‘home where you park it’ slow travel adventure will begin in earnest.
Do I regret selling the people mover, the fridge, the tv and all the things? No, they’re all just things and the real guts of life…it can’t be felt through things that hold no meaning.
I’m stepping into Spring and stepping out a little. I’ll change some of the things that don’t feel right and put more time into the things that do. This space, this experience that we have created allows for that and is challenging me to do so.
I hope this new season finds your heart in a good place.