Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New crew and Carnadoe

The weekend crew arrived at Richmond Harbour mid-morning in the rain. Joe was about to set off for Carrick and Enniskillen to look at cars - he'd sold his Focus at the end of teaching in June and was looking for a new one. We began with a spot of training - basic information about the boat, then out on deck in the drizzle with a spare rope to practice throwing lines around bollards. Several goes and they were both flying it, both at bow and stern, so we were ready for off when the lock keeper arrived to let us down into the Camlin River.

We were entertained while we waited in the Harbour by several boats which rather resembled little fat grubs. These were Wilderness Narrowboats visiting from England. Here's one of them:

You might notice the lack of rain. I've jumped forward here to Drumsna where Beehive came in having left the pack behind for a little while. These extraordinary boats fit on purpose-built trailers. This crowd from the Wilderness Boat Owners Club had taken the ferry to Dublin, launched their boats and travelled the Royal Canal to Richmond Harbour along with members of the Royal Canal Amenity Group (RCAG).

The entertainment was several Wilderness boats practicing for that evening's parade around the harbour. The boats were to be lit up, and there was choreography planned. However, things were not going according to plan. A brisk wind had got up and was interfering with proceedings, but they were adapting their boat dance with great enthusiasm.

I'd love to have seen the final event, but we were to meet Joe in Dromod and needed to make a move. Crew at their places (Erin fore, Ryan aft) we let slip the ropes and made way. Into the lock they sat outside in the rain as we went down, and Ryan stayed there as we wound along the grey Camlin River and popped out onto the Shannon where they both had a go at the controls. Not bad for a first attempt.

Here's the two intrepid crew in Rooskey Lock:

Erin at the bow

I asked Ryan to look noble so he did rather splendidly

Relief when the weather cleared that evening. Joe arrived in Dromod with the camper van which was to provide extra berths. The clouds cleared, the sun shone, and we all smiled.

Next morning to Carnadoe for lunch. Joe brought the van while crew and I took Winter Solstice. Erin was already fishing by the time Joe arrived having brought her fishing pole with her. As I'm sure many will know, fishing pole is American for fishing rod, for both our friends were from New York City and State.

It was Ryan, though, who caught the fish. You might just about be able to see it - he's holding it - but on the other hand...

And then there was the swimming. This was Erin's idea, and into her togs she got as we swung at anchor. Down the steps, let go, scream, up the steps. I abandoned any small idea I might have had of joining her.

But then we did have wetsuits on board.

If Erin wore one too maybe it wouldn't seem so much like cheating.

Still took me ages to lower myself in.

Ryan, meanwhile, was back at the fishing:

Re the wetsuit thing. The next day Erin was talking to a woman who had been swimming every day for the last couple of weeks. The water was the coldest it had been, she said. Due to all the rain. We felt less nesh for our wetsuitness.

And back to Carnadoe for barbecue! In sunshine! Oh joy! Apologies for the exclamation marks, but it was an exclamatory event after the mizzle drizzle lashing rain of the day before.

Carnadoe is such a sweet spot for a barbecue. And I'd had visions of the van parked down by the quay, all nice and cosy. Hadn't reckoned on the very narrow entrance with stout stone pillars and shiny red gates. The van wouldn't fit through either forwards or backwards, so it was up on the wide verge of the very quiet road. What a tolerant crew to put up with this.

But who would want to move from a place like this:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Winter fuel in summertime

Early morning and it looked like a mucky day for turf. Joe started clearing the shed while I walked the dogs and the sun broke through.
By the time I got home it was shorts weather and Joe was removing the doors. Our friend John Evans helped him build these a few years ago, just after a couple of other friends had helped him build the turf shed out of the old still-standing wall of the cow shed (seen on the right in the photo).

Liam Higgins from Birr was due to deliver the turf sometime after eleven. The first year he came to us we had an extremely narrow bridge for him to cross, but he managed it anyway, tyres only half on the edge (gulp). A few years later, on the day of Princess Diana's funeral, Joe and the neighbour widened and strenthened the bridge. Now it's just narrow, and in whimsical moments known as the Princess Di Memorial Bridge. Here's the lorry coming in:

And crossing the bridge:

This time Liam had a three quarter load for us - previous years we've had half. We would come to feel those extra sods of turf a little later in the day, but for now it was great to see it arrive, and to watch the lorry turn in a small space as though it were a small van then reverse into position. Here's Liam taking off the net while Joe relaxes:

Then the tipping begins:

And the shed begins to fill:

Unfortunately this is about as full as the shed gets from the tipping of the lorry. It's down to us after that. Once Liam has gone we're left with a fine pile:

This photo is deceptive. The ground slopes and the mountain of turf is much bigger than it looks. Really. Much much bigger. You should see it from the other side.

I was on wall duty to begin with, as Joe flung turf towards me. I used the bricklaying method for stacking which seemed to work ok. We've never had to build a wall before in the shed. The last time we did it was when we first moved to Clare and didn't have a shed ready in which to put it. Our neighbour helped us build a reek of turf with proper walls that would allow the turf to dry while the rain ran off the outer layers. Eventually we wheelbarrowed it into the old cow shed adjoining the house at the time.

We'd installed a Stanley range in the kitchen. During our first winter here we began burning turf on it and were delighted with ourselves until black goo started to drip down the outside of the flu.

Joe, being from Dublin, had no experience of turf delivered by the load straight from the bog. Me, being from Cheshire, knew only coal. We had to show our ignorance and ask. The turf, of course, was too wet. We should have known that from the weight of it and its slightly fluffy appearance. It had been a bad year for turf with incessant rain keeping the bogs flooded. Silly us.

This year's turf is excellent. Most of it was cut last year so it's sharp and dry and light, and very black in the Midlands fashion. The shed is now full (admire that excellent wall, though I think traditionally all the sods should be pointing out):

It took about four hours to get it in. Joe was on turf fork duty but I can't do that sort of lifting job. I've developed other methods. There's the back to the turf pile, bend over and sling between the legs trick. Then an arm-swinging from the top of the pile job. The idea always is to have a sort of continuous motion. Joe finished the job. I had to bale out with the excuse of making tea and getting in the laundry. You know. Proper girly jobs.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Feakle at the festival

The road led to Feakle this last week for the annual Traditional Music Festival.

There was the usual mayhem outside the pubs. Gentle mayhem though. Mostly.

Outside Pepper's is always a favourite when the sun shines.

People sit beneath the road sign at the table across the road and strum guitars or try to look like famous musicians. (Actually some of these might be famous musicians - the two Japanese were fantastic players).

Here's Joe playing tunes in Shortt's Bar on ... Thursday? Friday? Not sure.

This photo pretty much sums up the week really. Some days we played tunes in the afternoon too. We stayed in the van down by the mortuary which is what we've done for the last couple of years, going home at two or three via the chip van. One night they'd all but finished. It's amazing what you'll eat at that time in the morning. Joe had some class of chicken burger and I ate the chips the woman beside me said she couldn't finish because she felt sick.

Each year there are more camper vans/motorhomes. The last two years there has also been a caravan almost entirely held together with duct tape. There are similarities beween boating people and camper van people, one of which is that some of them run their engines for an hour to charge up their batteries. I sit there grumbling when this happens, trying not to breath as the fumes come straight in. I'm generally a wimp when it comes to confronting people with their inconsiderate habits, but I have a good line in 'are you having problems with your batteries?' Oh so grumpy and intolerant.

I was an attractant for drunken banjo players at this festival (husband not included). Both sat far too close. One kept going on about being a Scottish chieftain or some such. He was certainly Scottish.

Some people were having none of this diddly eye nonsense taking up their viewing space inside the pub.

It's a fabulous location for festival, and there's an opportunity to walk off the Guinness along the kilometer between Pepper's and the rest of the village. Great views as you go...

...and the chance for a spot of contemplation.

Recovery has taken longer than usual. On Monday I thought I might get to bed at the usual after-session time of around two. We were down in Shortt's with our friend Pete over from England. Eileen O'Brien was playing with Seamus Bugler that night - she's Paddy O'Brien the Tipp box player's daughter for those with an interest in musician dynasties. A great fiddle player. And then there was talk at the bar. Whiskies were had. It ended up the latest night of the week. Then we had a house session on Tuesday night with festival refugees. Wednesday was boating refugees. Lashing rain, high winds, friends in Scarriff on boat with three children. Another late and great night. Thursday I was playing with Seamus in Shortt's. Dear god and goddess let me have an early night tonight.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

All change

This is going to be a quick one, mostly photos I think, because the Feakle Traditional Music Festival has started and I'm now well into diddly eye mode. It began last night, and we had plenty of tunes in a pub session as well as being on stage at the opening, celebrating the playing of box-player Seamus Bugler - but that's another story.

We went to Grange on Winter Solstice this year. We had planned on Kilglass (see photo above) but the Shannon Rally was in there. The journey to either Grange or Kilglass is simply beautiful. You turn in through a gap in tall reeds that only becomes apparent when facing it straight on. For a while you wind between reeds, fortunately well marked - without the markers you would need a guide or plenty of time in which to get lost and find yourself again. The waters open into small lakes and large pools which provide excellent anchorage. Eventually you find yourself at a point where you can pass through the Carrigeen Cut to Kilglass, or turn right to Grange.

The last time we were in Grange for the peace and quiet a family of water skiiers turned up. We started off a bit annoyed - this river is ours after all! - but they turned out to be charming. And of course they considered this section of the river to be theirs. They'd been coming there for years, had grown up there, but they were very tolerant towards us interlopers.

This time we were looking once again for peace and quiet after a chatty and boaty couple of days. We knew the rally was coming into Grange the following day, but that was tomorrow. However preparations were in hand. There was a digger, a mower, a strimmer. It went on all evening. Eventually we upped and crossed to the other side of the lake and dropped anchor. Joe and Frankie certainly thought it was worth it:

And later we were treated to a fabulous sunset:

We left Winter Solstice back in Richmond Harbour for a few days - until after the festival - then we'll be bringing her south again, back into the home territory of Lough Derg.

Now I have to go and bake an orange and ginger cake and a make a chilli con carne. The van is down in Feakle already so we don't have to worry about drinking and driving. We'll be on festival time - to bed at quarter to or quarter past three (for some reason) and up around eleven. Our musician friend Pete is arriving this afternoon on the ferry from deepest Shropshire. He'll be staying in the house while we come back and forth.

Diddly eye diddly eye.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back to the Shannon

There was canoe polo going on in Richmond Harbour on the weekend we returned to the boat from a few days of crisis weeding, mowing and laundry. We knew this was happening. We'd had to put Winter Solstice on the bank beyond the first bridge, along with other refugees from the harbour. We would be allowed out between one and two on Saturday and Sunday, or after five.

Canoe polo is a very energetic game. There was a pitch marked out with floats and rope, the polo nets at each end more stable than the ones we'd experienced at (too close) hand in Ballybrannigan and Kilcock on the Royal. There are five a side and they play for ten minutes each way without a break. It all gets a bit wild, and the referee is as abused as in any game. You can use paddles or hands to catch, block and otherwise control the ball. I thought it was a new game but no - it's been going a while in Ireland and has been popular in other European countries for the last thirty years.

The dogs were ready to go:

We waited at the bridge for the games to stop. There was another cruiser in front of us, and this one approached from behind:

It was Cormac on 76M, one of the barges that used to carry goods along the Grand Canal. We'd seen it tied up at Abbeyshrule when we came through, so weren't altogether surprised to see it again. Cormac came alongside, a little unnerving when you've all those tons of metal settling against our relatively fragile timber. We were re-nerved, however, when the chilled white was passed across the decks. Cormac was, as ever, the hospitable gentleman. We went through the lock before him, so promised to return the glasses at Rooskey.

It was good to be back on the Shannon again. Such a contrast with the Royal Canal. There was boat watching to do again for one thing. There were so few boats on the Royal, and I missed that great distraction of seeing who is coming in and out and the entertainment of the boating equivalent of the hurler on the ditch. Nothing like sitting in your own cockpit having safely moored in a good spot to make comment on everyone else.

The river was busier than I've seen it in a while. There was hardly a spot in Rooskey, but it was late enough - we'd dropped anchor on Lough Forbes for a few tunes and read of the paper.

Rooskey is not the place it used to be. It's finally possible to see it as the village it once was thanks to the bypass. We tied up near the bridge on the road side, something we'd never have done before - you wouldn't have a wink of sleep with the juggernauts juggering past.

Next stop Dromod. It took us all of fifteen minutes to get there. We just popped in for lunch but ended up staying. It's a great spot, especially on the side away from the amenities where the dogs can mooch without annoying anyone. Great people/boat watching. There's a forest trail where we cycled down to another bit of the Shannon. And a pub which we were enticed into by the crew of a boat taking a break from the Shannon Rally.

The closest boat in the photo is a hire boat, driven by possibly the most incompetent hire-boat skipper and crew I've ever seen. This was unusual. These boats are hired by Sven on Lough Ree and he trains people properly. It's cruel of me to say it, I know, as I've been there myself. But Joe and I, even at the very beginning, were never so bad that we drifted helplessly for fifteen minutes between one wall and another without ever managing to come close enough to fling a rope.

Shower in the shower block the next morning. Arrived to find a face peering through the frosted glass, knuckles rapping frantically.
'I'm locked in', said the voice. 'Can you let me out if I push my card under the door?'
'Well I'm coming for a shower myself,' I said. 'But surely you can get out. Surely it doesn't lock you in.'
Not so, he said. So I put in my card, anxious myself then about being locked in. Out came the young fella, a teenager, looking calm enough in the circumstances.
'A buzzer goes,' he said. 'You'll be ok. I didn't come out in time.'
This still didn't seem right. I'd always assumed you'd be able to get out from the inside even when your hot-water-time was up.

Good enough shower, though not a spacious or powerful as those on the Royal. Good old soaping, then the water went cold. Shit. But not far to go. At least the hair was washed. Then it stopped. Shit shit I'm all soapy bugger bugger. What do you do in that situation. Frantic pressing of the start-stop yoke (like you get on the sinks in public toilets) and a dribble came out. Then the buzzer started. I think I was as sweaty when I came out as when I went in with the fear of it. Must send an email to Waterways Ireland.

All for now. More to come.