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Heading off - AGAIN!!! I started life with nothing ... and I still have most of it

... And so to Britain

IRELAND | Monday, 6 October 2008 | Views [963] | Comments [7]

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…And so to Britain

            In 2001 we had the pleasure of meeting Ann and James Turtle through out house exchanging – they stayed in our place while we went skiing and then we caught up with them in Coffs Harbour where they did the remainder of their five weeks in Oz. They live in the Cotswolds and it was to their place that we headed once we’d landed in UK. I’d booked a rental car to pick up from Heathrow but we flew into Gatwick airport. Not a problem really – for about the cost of our fares to get from Gatwick to Heathrow, we arranged for a replacement car from there and a one way drop off payment so we were on the road to one of the prettiest parts of England quite smartly and had a smooth trip there with a delightful pub lunch at the “Swan” in Three Mile Cross. There are three dogs in a fenced kennel / run area off the car park. One of these is the “Official Mascot of London Irish Rugby Football Club – Retired”.

            James and Ann live in a really delightful circa 1910 farmer’s grand house surrounded by about a half acre of grounds bounded by a massive hedge – which must take a very great deal of trimming at the relevant times. There were apple trees dropping their bounty faster that these two empty-nesters can consume them along with other fruits and veggies as well as a delightful floral display I don’t know how they find time to do exchanging. Their son Matthew has just signed up with the South Australian Police so he and his wife Libby will have their delayed honeymoon en-route to some town in SA. We therefore can expect Ann and James to visit Oz – hopefully finding their way to us in Yamba but if not I guess we’ll just have to meet them somewhere else mutually convenient to both parties. They drove us to a couple of the Cotswold towns we’d not been to before – Chipping Campden being the most significant of these. Ann and James are trying to sell and move from a village where one must have a car to do the weekly shopping, go to the doctor or visit the library etc to a town where one is able to walk to all of these so they’ve been “Bunburying” as is done in the play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ where the hero invents a friend called Bunbury whom he is required to meet but instead he (the hero) just goes exploring around the countryside. Their ‘Bunbury” searching (if they’re the right words) has led them to Ludlow in Shropshire which is where some of my (Ian’s) forebears lie in state behind the altar of St Lawrence Parish Church.

            Towns like Ludlow and Chipping Campden  were ‘Wool Towns’ and their churches are known as Wool Churches meaning that the rich farmers and weavers endowed the church handsomely in good seasons. St Lawrence Parish Church in Ludlow is about the size of a Cathedral with marble and stained glass and crypts and side chapels and all of the trimmings (as is the church in Chipping Campden and many other Cotswold towns – it’s just that we visited these two particular ones on this trip). The introduction of cotton caused the Cotswold town to fall from prominence and it wasn’t until the tourist boom of viewing quaint villages and towns with golden sandstone buildings that they have boomed again. They are a mecca for the tour coaches and all scream for photos from a million different angles (thank goodness for digital cameras these days – even if I do prefer film).

            I had been wonderfully surprised and incredibly impressed by the control exercised on the European motorways with the drivers passing (often at great speed and then moving back out of the fast lane(s). It wasn’t until we headed North that we struck our first “revhead” pass-on-the-wrong-side, cut through from the outside lane right across three or four lanes of traffic to exit at a slip road without any indication of intent – not even after the event drivers. We had witnessed a German registered vehicle use the median strip to overtake the queued traffic heading from Chamonix towards the Mont Blanc tunnel but he was obviously important. Overtaking on the inside is a phenomenon we see regularly in Sydney and Utah but not it seems on the Continent. Young English drivers have the ability to scare! And like in Oz both sexes are at fault with liberal use of the middle digit to indicate their contempt for other drivers. We witnessed as one driver had the temerity to turn into his own driveway!!! The blasts on the horn by the hoon who was momentarily delayed should have woken the dead!

            Merran’s brother-in-law, Alan has a mother and a sister near Newcastle-on-Tyne so we hied ourselves up to see them and to inspect the retirement home which Lily (his mum) has moved to since we were there last. It is always wonderful to catch up with them both – as well as with Gordon who is Alan’s B-i-L.  We’d stayed overnight in York on the way up to see them and had done some exploring by ourselves before joining a “Ghost Detective” tour – great fun and really informative. Two of those also taking the tour were dressed as dead Vikings (for whatever reason) so they added somewhat to the ragtag look we offered as we perambulated through the dark streets and narrow lanes near the famous York Minster. Before the final dash to Tyneside, we took in the Jorvik Museum which takes on back about 1000 years to the Viking village which stood right in the centre of today’s thriving city. The remains of medieval and 17th century buildings (as well as 20th century concrete) can be seen on the side of the excavation. The animation, actors dressed in true to time costumes as well as the smells and sounds of the tour are wonderfully well done. We were the first folks in line as the doors opened and we had a quiet time of it until a Danish School Excursion (field trip) descended on the place – rather noisily. We also visited probably the most unusual address outside of Harry Potter. It’s a real estate office at 1½ Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate.

Cornwall beckoned as we’d booked a week of timeshare in that part of the world. Besides catching up with Annmarie and her parents we did some sightseeing but the real jewel in the crown of this week was the totally unforgettable trip to the Minnack Theatre to see the Cambridge University Players production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Yeoman of the Guard”. This theatre is cut into the Cornish cliffs not all that far from Penzance and/or Lands End. One very determined lady was responsible for the creation of the theatre and plays and operas as well as operettas are performed here every night of the summer concluding with a ‘Last Night of the Proms’ production on the third Saturday in September. We only got to know about this venue (and therefore to attend the production) because a tour company called ‘Pixie Tours’ run by a former teacher and International Rugby Referee Lawrie Prideaux services the timeshare resort and has a permanent 14 seat booking for every Tuesday night. This particular resort (Clowance Estate) is an old manor house with attendant stables and coach houses etc and now only 180 acres surrounding the main house – as opposed to the original holding of over 5,000 acres which were forced to be sold to pay the St Aubon family’s death duties bill. The St Aubon family is still in residence on St Michael’s Mount even though they deeded the site to the National Trust (with a 1000 year lease for the Lord to reside there).  The resort has a nine hole – 18 tee golf course, a couple of lakes one of which has hire boats and a very fancy boathouse and a wonderful tree house which can be hired to hold kids birthday parties etc. There are extensive walking tracks and even a fairy grove. Our actual accommodation was in an A frame cabin which was pokey and the choice was twin beds upstairs or make up the divan each night – we chose the former. One other couple we spoke to had opted for the divan “In case they fell out of bed and broke a hip or something – then how would we get down the stairs”. I remarked that it would be the paramedics who would have the problem if there was a person upstairs with a broken hip  and were they in the habit of falling out of bed???

Arnold (Annmarie’s dad) took us on a couple of wonderful walks along the cliff tops near Cadgwith and Coverack where we came across installations of sculptures in open fields. There are walkways mown to enable one to get up close and personal with these fantastic creatures of different media. Have a look at www.terencecoventry.com to see samples of his work.

Annmarie and Dave have done an amazing job of renovating a home about three miles from Newquay but she is finding it a real drag to get there to run her shop and take care of their one year old – Ross. All of which will be just that much harder as she was three months pregnant when we were there. We had a wonderful visit to her/their place on one day and to her parents for the wonderful walks the next and then had all of them over to the timeshare on the Thursday. I think that Eileen enjoyed getting out of the house and she certainly enjoyed seeing Ross in a different setting. Friday was our last full day in Cornwall so we went adventuring along the narrow, hedgerow-enclosed green lanes to find standing stones, stone circles and the Minnack Theatre in daylight. All of which we achieved as well as St Michael’s Mount and the delightfully named town/village of Mousehole. Finally enjoying a cream tea (we’d call it a Devonshire Tea back home but seeing the two Counties are chic by jowl we’d hate to start WW111 by misnaming this delightful afternoon delicacy) at Lands End.

Merran had the great idea that we spend a few days in Ireland (our first visit) to see just what everyone had been talking about so we left Clowance Estate reasonably early and headed cross country to Tintagel the legendary home of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table for a nostalgic visit – we forsook StMerryn on the way there however. There is a real ruined castle on the cliff tops and the weather was wonderfully warm and clear so we got another zillion photos – each! Our destination for the first night en-route to Ireland was the aforementioned Ludlow and we had the Devil’s own trouble finding the B&B we had booked online – but we did with the help of about five different Police Officers on the other end of a built-in phone system at the local (unmanned after certain hours) Police Station. The call cuts out after two minutes and one needs to call back again – getting yet a different officer, all of whom were in Worcester -about an hour’s drive away. Like York which we visited on the way North to Tyneside, Ludlow has streets which are lined with B&B establishments. The Ludlow ones were MUCH cheaper.

After a stroll around Ludlow (including the markets in the Castle Square) we headed on up to Holyhead where we were to catch the ferry to Ireland the next day. I’d booked a B&B online again as we wanted to be sure that we had a roof over our heads and that we were convenient for boarding. What a surprise – there was a note on the window of the  “All Day Breakfast” café which told us to go next door to the pub for the keys to the front door and our room as the proprietor had been called away. When we got into the shoe box which was our room (complete with matchbox sized bit taken out of one corner to accommodate the ensuite) there was a note saying here’s ₤12 which will cover your breakfasts as I may or may not be back. There was nowhere to hang clothes, nor to hang towels – it was a room with ensuite shower & loo. The wireless internet was right there – but secured and he didn’t leave the password on our note. Not my best online venture but at least he used Paypal which allowed for a secure method of payment. The other downside to the place was that Merran’s left hip decided to pinch a nerve or pull a couple of muscles or whatever and she has not been comfortable since. Not even with my tender ministrations.

While we’d been in Cornwall, we received an email from our B&B in Dublin to say that there was no electricity and no hot water so we’d been booked into a different establishment at the same cost. As the street on which the first B&B was located turned off the one where the new one was located and as I’d printed out a Google map set of directions we knew that we’d have no trouble getting to this new locale. HAH!!! I went straight ahead instead of veering left and we were in a tunnel heading for Belfast. €6 for about 1½ Km !!! Even more expensive than the Mont Blanc Tunnel – and we didn’t want to be in it anyway. It’s even more expensive during peak hour traffic times (as Merran’s sister and brother in law found) when it cost exactly double! Off at the first exit and head back into the city to follow the map and the directions. Which I all very well & good except for the way in which the street signs are (inconsistently) located around the corner where they can’t be seen until one has passed the street or has turned into it. The signs are in Gaelic with English subtitles or else the two different languages are side by side which made for some speed reading to decipher which is which. Anyway, we finally located Carrick Hall where the staff all seem to be from somewhere other than Ireland – the desk clerk / dining room attendant from Nepal, the manager from China and the lady behind the bar / dining room attendant from Madagascar. It transpires that the hotel / B&B is owned by a man from Sri Lanka who runs a college in downtown Dublin which teaches hotel management and English. He has campuses in Dublin, Colombo and Budapest with yet another scheduled for somewhere in Spain. Apparently, the serving in the restaurant, the bar and at the front desk are al part of the work experience / assessment and they are paid at proper wages rates during these assessment times. I have no idea if the chef(s) in the Thai restaurant which forms part of the hotel are also students or not but the food was EXCELLENT.

On our next day we caught a bus right into Grafton St where we caught the hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Money well spent to get a good overview of the city and its history. After that it was off to Galway and the wilds of the West Coast of Connemara to a delightful B&B which Merran’s sister Pixie & her hubby Alan had used during their trip to Ireland earlier in the year. The views from the “Sea Breeze” on the Renvyle Peninsular were stunning – and we had beautiful weather which really set off the nearby Kylemore Abbey with its wonderful lakeside setting and fantastic gardens. During our five night stay to get a taste of Ireland, we had NOT ONE JOT of ‘Soft Weather’. The skies weren’t always blue but it simply DID NOT RAIN!!! The God of Vacation Practitioners was smiling upon us. Again. As we drove back through the countryside towards Galway, I spotted a fellow collecting peat so we stopped to speak to him and got a potted version of how to cut, gather and stack peat. Because this summer had been so wet, he was late getting his peat in – and it was too wet to stack properly and was continuing to take up water (because it had not had a chance to establish the dry outer shell so necessary for the drying process). It was an interesting short time having an insight into a totally different way of working. From Clifden we followed the coast road all of the way to and through the outskirts of Galway. Here there is a wild beauty and what I would suggest would be a harsh terrain for the farmers with peat bogs between the limestone outcrops. All of the “fences” are stone walls which are necessary to clear the stones from the areas of pasture. Apparently, a great deal of the soil has been built up by the farmers hauling vast amounts of sand and seaweed to amalgamate with whatever soil was already there. All of the paddocks are small which means that the stone walls give some protection from the Atlantic winds and storms. As I said, we skirted Galway (which our hostess that night said we should not have done as there are wonderful buskers in the streets). Our luck held when it came to finding a suitable B&B at Kinvarra and after settling in we headed of to “Watch the Sun Go Down on Galway Bay”.  There is a deserted Martello Tower right on one part of the shore and this was our venue to see the sunset.

Mary our B&B hostess had suggested that we take a boat ride to view the Cliffs of Moher which we did. They are only about ⅔ the height of the Bunda Cliffs which run along the Great Australian Bight (which we have not seen from sea level) so they are still impressive. The souvenir and sweater shop had Aran knit jumpers on special so I now have a very nice blue sweater which should add a certain ‘je ne sais pas’ to our photos instead of Merran splash of red. We found that asking the landlords or other locals about what to see and where to eat worked well and it did with Mary as she told us which pubs had good evening meals and which one had the live music that night. The mussels in white wine with garlic were like ambrosia and the music was fun – five fiddlers (one of whom switched to the mandolin for some tunes) and a chap on the tin whistle. They were joined by a young(ish) chap from Wisconsin on the banjo. We had a foot-tapping good time. It would have been good if there’d been a vocalist or two but hey it was a great bit of craik (my one Irish word – it means fun).

An Aussie lady at the music pub told us about a ferry which cuts off about 70 miles (and the fuss of getting through Limerick) so we headed off around the wild West coast of County Clare. There were county flags flying all over the place as finals of something (I think it was the football) was to be played on the following weekend and (nearly) everyone was wearing his or her heart on their sleeve to show support. So there were banners of blue and gold squares in Clare and green and gold ones once we hit Kerry. They were everywhere – even on a small cairn on a tiny rocky inhospitable island out from Doolin harbour where our “Cliffs of Moher” cruise had its base. The Dingle Peninsular, the Ring of Kerry and the ring of Beara all invited us to explore but Merran’s hip was such that no walking was possible and we were booked on the ferry back to England on the 27th so a decision had to be made as to just what we could fit in and the Dingle Peninsular will have to wait until our next visit to Ireland – as will the Aran Islands and all of those bits we missed this time. But we did get a photo of the town sign in Castlemaine complete with a notation that it was the birthplace of the “Wild Colonial Boy” (a folk song about an Aussie bushranger and his shootout with the police).

 Eamon, an ex-shopkeeper was our host that night and he told us of a seafood restaurant at Valencia harbour where the ferry took folks to Valencia island just offshore which provided protection for the small harbour and its fishing / lobster fleet as well as home to what appeared by the number of lights to be a fairly large town with outlying farms. This restaurant was called The Point and as we drove towards it I asked Merran if she tought it was spelt point or pint (because of Eamon’s  Irish pronunciation). She admitted that point had not entered her mind as an option. She had heard pint and was sure they would serve pints and therein lay the name. The wife of a fisherman called O’Neill had started the restaurant to cater for those folks waiting for the tide to be right for the (original) ferryman to shuttle them to the island. (Nowadays there is a motor driven ferry which is not affected by tidal movements. Progress? I’m not all that sure). The restaurant is still owned by the same family and their little fishing boat has now grown to a complete warehouse/factory to handle the entire catch for the fleet as well. The meal lived up to the setting with yet another glorious sunset.

Kenmare is touted as the ‘Jewel in the Ring’ of the ring of Kerry and it is certainly a colourful town with brightly painted building rivalling each other for attention as they line the streets. While it is obvious that tourists put a big percentage into the gross receipts, I think that this would be a prosperous town anyway as it is at a crossroads on one of the major accesses to the Kerry peninsular which seems to be a productive farming area. Having driven around the ring, we headed to the Beara peninsular and the Ring of Beara. This area seemed wetter and wilder than the ring of Kerry and oyster beds added a different set of patterns to the harbours and inlets to counterpoint the designs of the stonewalled fields. There are at least forty different greens to the patterns of grasses, crops, freshly cut hay, baled hay, rolled hay all seemingly dotted by black-faced sheep and pastel or white farmhouses. All very bucolic and rural but oh, the rocks. There are rocks everywhere!

We stopped at the tiny town of Roundstone which gets its name from the fact that rocks surround the harbour and the Irish word for this comes out as something like “Roundstone” ergo … As it was about lunchtime we looked for a take-away (take-out for some) of fish & chips to eat on the harbour wall. On entering a pub which touted meals on a blackboard outside, we met a lady who was adjusting a TV to “Get some real sport”. Once she found a telecast of a cricket match she stopped and said “Ah now that’s real sport”. Merran asked if she was really interested in cricket only to be told that she was an international umpire who’d umpired test matches between the Dutch and South African women’s teams and County matches between the men’s teams. To my shame I did not get her name but she talked long and knowledgably about the various BIG names of international cricket. She has a real soft spot for Shoab Aktar whom she regards as a cheeky, naughty boy. Not a lot of time it seems for the serial texter Shane Warne however. Not the sort of person one would expect to find behind the bar in a tiny pub in a tiny town in IRELAND where cricket is not a high profile game. The fish was okay and the chips Bloody awful.

Because we’d had such a problem getting from the ferry to our accommodation, and because we knew where the Carrick Hall hotel / B&B was we headed there and had another delicious Thai meal and got the last available room. There was a group booking. They’d played golf that day – a sort of grudge match against some other group and had a combined dinner (late) and a few quiet drinks. Hah! I have no idea how they got the horses up the stairs. Well it sounded as though they were conducting a full eight race program with at least twenty runners in each race with the full stands of spectators also crowded into the corridors. They were NOISY and at 0415 it wasn’t really appreciated. The faces at the table for breakfast and the moaning were some sort of comfort to us. Onto the ferry without a single trip through the tunnel and back to good old blighty. We made it back to Ann & James’ having picked up a ready to heat meal and some fruit salad. Sunday saw us tootling around villages like Bibury, Boughton-on-the-Water, Stowe-in –the-Wold, Upper and Lower Slaughter for yet another nostalgia trip. Lower Slaughter had an art exhibition in the village hall hosted by two of the artists who offered a glass of wine and delighted in a chat. We intended to have a day in London on Mon 29 Sep but Merran’s hip / thigh / leg was so sore she had to get to a doctor who assured her it was not sciatica, arthritis, rheumatism etc etc and advised her to up the dosages of painkillers. 30 Sep, Heathrow and USA.



While you where doing all of these exciting things we had to watch the footie grand final, Manly flogged Storm 40/0
Trust Merran's hip recovers so she can enjoy the hol without painkillers.

  Owen Knight Oct 6, 2008 3:12 PM


It sounds like you are doing so much and every day more exciting than the last!!
Hope you enjoyed Newcastle on Tyne. Alnwick is where John was born and bred so I know it well!! I hope that you missed the floods up there as I believe, from friends in Morpeth, that it was dreadful!!!!!
Keep safe
Love kerry

  Kerryanne Knox Oct 6, 2008 9:23 PM


Where are the photos? So much to see and no photos!!
Have you checked bundynbeaches lately? Couple of entries I think you will both enjoy.
Love Trish and the golfer.

  Trish Bulbeck Oct 6, 2008 11:28 PM


What a colourful and informative journal, when do you find the time to write? Hope your hip doesn't give you too much trouble Merran. Still cool here in Auckland!
Ann & Richard

  Ann & Richard Oct 7, 2008 7:07 AM


no good drifters!!

  Brian Blowes Oct 8, 2008 8:47 AM


Glad to read that you are having such an interesting and enjoyable time.
We also had a few funny experiences in Ireland, we can look back and laugh.
Hope Merran is OK now.
It,s great to read of your adventures, keep it up!

  Maureen & Rick Oct 30, 2008 2:44 PM


Hi you two,
Glad you loved Ireland as much as we did.
love Sharon and Paul x

  Sharon Brett Nov 16, 2008 10:04 AM

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