Saturday, June 25, 2011

Visitor etiquette

There is a saying that visitors, like fish, go off after three days. I'd be very interested to hear what you, my dear blog readers (should there be any) think about the way visitors should behave. I'll just add here that all the visitors in the photo above have always been EXEMPLARY in their comportment.

I'm going to talk here about the fish ones, the three or more dayers. Some arrive with carrier bags that they hurry into the kitchen. The white wine is placed in the fridge, the red on the kitchen counter. Extra bottles materialise for later, or tomorrow. A box of chocolates is prominent.

During their stay contributions are made to supplies and offers to help with cooking and washing up - but not too many offers, and they certainly don't insist that the table must be cleared and everything washed and put away, so destroying conversation and atmosphere, but when you crawl out of bed in the morning after an evening of conversation and lubrication, you will find the dishes clean in the drainer.

This paragon will also, of course, be excellent company full of wit and repartee. On one evening of the stay they will bring you out for dinner to a fine restaurant. The days will fly and you will be sorry to see them leave.

Others arrive bearing many gifts but they are on holiday and don't expect to have to do anything more strenuous than open a bottle of Chablis and pour the milk onto their muesli. They may, if left alone long enough in the morning, manage to toast a couple of slices but will come calling you because they cannot find the marmalade. They keep theirs in the cupboard beside the tea bags and cannot conceive of anyone keeping it in the fridge. They also smoke.

However, these guests, once you have all woken up and had a few hours away from each other, once you have taken the first chilled glass and dinner is on the table, become the best friends you remember. They have scandalous stories and interesting opinions. They want to hear what you have to say.

Some are like the above but do not bear gifts. They buy nothing, but thankfully spend all day in bed, eat only four pieces of toast in the day and provide boxes of wine at night for fear you will run out. They are also excellent conversationalists.

Then there are the visitors who arrive bearing only smiles and a sense of entitlement. They are on holiday and so pleased that you will be looking after them because they really deserve a rest. You know only one of them well. The others are good friend/members of their family. On arrival you give them tea and freshly baked cake. On the first night you are generous because you believe things will change. They will, of course, contribute something tomorrow. They were tired/in a hurry/forgetful/came by Ryanair.

In the meantime they drink your wine - not too bad as they consider half a glass of Liebfraumilch to be profligate - and eat the food you have cooked. After dinner they sit firmly in their seats telling you about their friends/children whom you have never met. In desperation you start to wash up. Then you dry up (something you never do) praying they will go to bed. You will probably be lucky here as these people believe that early to bed early to rise etc etc.

The next day comes and they go off on a jaunt (thank God). When they return they are full of stories about their day, the chowder they had for lunch, and expectations of dinner. They make themselves tea and settle down with the cakes they have brought home for themselves but not for you. At dinner you put on music a little too loud for conversation. You wash up again.

By the third day your eyes are swivelling. At dinner it's a toss up between opening wine because you really need to drink a lot of it or not opening any because you're damned if you're going to give these freeloaders anything you don't have to. But they are leaving the next day. You relent a little out of relief while praying that nothing, NOTHING, happens to delay their Ryanair flight in the morning.

So tell me what you think. How should guests behave?
What should they bring, if anything?
Are there major cultural differences in visitor etiquette?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Garderobes and tunes in the kitchen

Some people have anxiety dreams that involve walking naked down a street. Mine involve having to use  a lavatory in front of other people. So this wouldn't be my idea of fun:

This is one of the garderobes at the 15th century Listowel Castle in Co Kerry. They are not for those who fear heights either, as you look down two or three stories to the ground. I just looked on Wikipedia, that glorious font of not-quite-true information, to see how to spell garderobe. It says there that the word means a place to hang clothes, or a euphemism for historical toilets, but it seems it isn't a euphemism at all. We took a guided tour (the only way to see the recently renovated castle) which was excellent. The very knowledgeable guide told us how clothes were indeed hung in the garderobe at the end of the day and the door firmly shut. Ammonia fumes would rise from the steaming heaps below so killing any bugs and mites living in the clothes ready to munch you for breakfast.

The castle is beautifully restored using, where possible, methods and materials that would have been used when the FitzMaurices built the castle. It's full of shadows and memories.

It's tunes time here in Gortavrulla. We have a friend and his two daughters staying. Con is from Donegal, though has lived in Cheshire since the 50s. He's 96 and still playing fiddle. Whenever I'm back visiting my parents I always go and have a few tunes with him. He's full of stories and Donegal tunes. It's the only chance I get to play the highlands he's been giving me over the years. So last night a fiddle-playing friend came down and we had tunes in the kitchen - the best place by far for jigs and reels. We even had an appreciative audience - the daughters, and Dominic's two friends from Germany. Tonight we're into Feakle for the session in Shortt's. Tomorrow he's off to Donegal to meet the friends who are still alive (his words). One of them - the one he used to go to house dances with when young and foolish - is a year older than Con.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Clogher Head, Dingle

Long time no blog. But here we go again with a few photos.

Clogher Head at the western tip of the Dingle Peninsula. Which I suppose I should call Daingean, except Daingean to me is the small town on the Grand Canal. And I don't think anyone does call Dingle Daingean.

Still Clogher Head. There's a troll's house in the distance. We parked the van in a small car park and woke to a wild sea.

Later we were in Dingle town and walked into the Dillon Gallery. Paintings of exactly this sea covered the walls. They were by Honora O'Neill who lives in Clogher. She'd completely captured the light and the movement of the water.

Excellent chowder in Dingle/Daingean. Every eatery was selling it but we went into the Goat Street Cafe in the end. Partly because it was a bit out of town, partly because it looked like a place where local people ate, and partly because of the name. Years ago - more years ago than I care to remember - we were in a small wholefood shop/cafe somewhere in Dingle. As we sat drinking tea a herd of goats was shooed past our table, in at the back door and out at the front.