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Friday, 24 July 2009

The second week in Ireland

My first day with the family was a wonderfully relaxing chill-out day, just sitting drinking cups of tea and getting to know Mary and her beautiful little baby daughter. Michael had had to go to a funeral in London that morning (but was back late that night) while Berny was still at her nursery school with the rest of the week to go before the summer holidays - and her reluctant retirement. What she didn't know was that parents, friends and family were getting together the following day to give her a surprise party to thank her for the years of teaching. Some of the parents of children in school, including Lulu and Mary, were actually Berny's previous pupils themselves, and Berny's granddaughter Jess is one of the current class.

Chris, Lulu's fiance, with Jessica, their daughter

It turned out to be quite an emotional occasion but it was wonderful to see just how much she had been appreciated over the years. No surprise! She's a lovely kind gentle person with a great love for her charges and her work. It's just a shame that new regulations in Ireland have made it difficult for her to keep the nursery open.

She'll miss all of this lot every bit as much as they will miss her!

A couple of years ago Michael's sailing boat was sunk during a storm, and since then has been away being repaired, but at long last, while I was there,
it was delivered to Lough Corrib fully repaired, and the relaunch attempted.
It was an exciting day for Michael and the family, but not without its problems as it proved more difficult to get the boat into the water and off the trailer than was expected.
However eventually with a lot of help and manoevring - and some not so clever comments from an up-himself boatee - Fair Pearl II was free of the trailer and tied up at her temporary mooring - job done! To celebrate we all went to the pub at Cong before Tom and his colleagues headed back northwards, and we headed back to the other side of Galway. The mast would be fitted later and Fair Pearl would be ready to go! Michael wants to put her to sea eventually and to sail across to Scottish waters and the Caledonian Canal. He could go up the canal from Fort William to Inverness, sail down the east coast and head west again through the Forth and Clyde and the Union Canals, via the Falkirk Wheel I talked about before! I think he'd really like that.
However here is where Fair Pearl II will be moored for now, between expeditions out into the lough.

Another day Michael, Berny and I set off on a jaunt into the Burren again.
We had brunch at a great wee cafe in Ballyvaughan, right next to the signpost that even features on postcards. I can imagine there could be a few hold-ups at the junction while drivers find the sign they are looking for! I love the name of the cafe!

From there we visited Aillwee cave, a relatively new discovery in the surrounding limestone scenery. It is not one of the most exciting caverns I have seen,
but there are a few interesting stalgmite/tite formations and a "free-fall" waterfall, not cascading over rock, but through a hole in it, like a rush of water from a large downpipe.
It will be a few thousand years before the ~tite on the right will meet with the ~mite at the bottom!
Nearby there was a bird of prey centre where we enjoyed a display of some beautiful birds,

including thelittle owl,
and a demonstration of some of them flying and catching food catapaulted into the air by the young trainer.

Our intention next was to drive to the Flaggy Shore and enjoy a walk but the rain came on so that idea was shelved.

However we drove to have a look at Newtown Castle, , one of the "ten pound castles" of Ireland, that were built with grants from the British government in the 15th and 16th centuries, long before the Irish Free State came into being!.
This one has been restored and is open to the public... during the week... and of course it was the weekend when we were there! However, it's always possible to take photos, and this was the one I liked best, even if it misses out the Burren College of Art next door.

Next we saw the martello tower at Finvarra Point. Again we only saw it from the outside so I have no idea how it is set out inside. The last martello tower I saw was at Glengarriff where there was just one room on each of its two storeys, but I have seen diagrams of them having two rooms on each, with stores being kept on the ground floor and officers' quarters on the upper floor, these having been built as coastal "forts" to defend the British Isles, which also included southern Ireland, at the time of the Napoleonic threat.

The weather not being too bad later, we drove along the road above the Flaggy Shore and stopped now and again to venture on to the shore itself.
Erosion has created great slabs of worn down limestone, just like flags you might put down on your floor or make into a path, and everywhere you look you see the fossils of what look like some sort of seaweed. Michael knows all about fossils but I couldn't name even one type.

So it was time to head home again and as we went on our way we passed Mount Vernon, an 18th century country house where many of Ireland's literati came to live and work when the place was under the ownership of Lady Augusta Gregory one of the co-founders of Dublin's Abbey Theatre.

The rest of the week passed too quickly, just chilling out, and with a trip into the shops at Oranmore on my last day. It had been planned that we would visit Lulu, but roadworks outside her place had made it impossible to get to so we abandoned that idea.

The last few pictures are of the family - and the cats, Tilda and Coco.
I was so sad to leave them all as I left for Shannon once more. Thanks guys, for a brilliant time and I do hope to see you all again before too long.

That story of how I met the family? I'll tell you next time!
Talk again soon.

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