Friday, September 2, 2011

Onions, Skodas and Winter Solstice

Before we went off on the boat I picked the onions and laid them in the greenhouse to dry. A great crop this year. The onions didn't mind the cool weather at all - stopped them bolting and going to seed. So lots of lovely big fat onions that will last for months. Just have to string them up now and hang them in the boiler shed.

After the onions we went up to Drumsna. Got there in time to catch Albert Lock and arrive in Carrick-on-Shannon for dinner at the Oarsman. This has definitely become our favourite place to eat. We loved the Indian restaurant when it first opened - the one at the back of the town, not the one upstairs. Oh dear, can't remember the name of any of them. The problem with Indian restaurants out in the West is that many of them begin with great and innovative menus but nobody wants to eat this type of food. A mild curry is preferred, or really, steak and chips. People haven't learned how to love Indian food in the way they have in England where there's been a big Indian population cooking fantastic (and cheap) food since the fifties. So the food becomes more and more bland and there's no atmosphere because there's so few customers so even less people go there to eat. Big pity, but I don't know whether there's a solution. Or maybe there is. Look to Enniskillen and the Kamal Mahal which I've lyrically waxed about before.

We went to Enniskillen on the Saturday morning, not for food but for Joe's New Car. Here it is:

It's a Skoda which used to be joke cars held together with string and glue and a good dose of optimism, but then VW took them over and now they're Very Good Cars according to the people who know. It's diesel, so economical to run, and it has a cavernous boot which will be brilliant for taking stuff to and from the boat.

That afternoon we had a great treat. The poet Paul Muldoon was reading at The Dock, the arts venue in Carrick. This was the former Courthouse building, and we were in a room with high ceilings,  tall sash windows and fantastic light. I bet Paul Muldoon is a brilliant dinner party guest.

So back to the boat and on to Cootehall where the ghost estates become more ghostly, then to Lough Key. On the way we got caught at Clarendon Lock over lunch, but that was no hardship - a lovely spot with a nice walk to the bridge for the dogs. Not so lovely when we got back. Joe had been fretting about boats tying up to us (the jetty below the lock is very small), but I was doing my usual saying it would be grand. There were boats tied up all around us but all seemed well until I noticed the felled flagpole on the deck, the ensign spread around it, and realised how very close the big Emerald Star hire boat was to our aft deck. And this:

I have huge sympathy for people on hire boats, but this was our second knocking in two days. Another had tried to come into Cootehall - too fast, which is the usual problem - and gave us a major broadside bang. Cue much shouting at which I felt sorry for the poor fellow at the helm. We all calmed down and roped them in, but it makes one very nervous.

An addendum to this. Of course it's not all hire boats that go too fast. We've met some great people doing so well in difficult circumstances (ie lack of proper training by some of the hire boat companies). Later we took the ropes of two boats coming in so slowly and carefully, with people on board eager to learn how to handle this craft they'd only just picked up, and there are others who come back year after year who have excellent skills.

Not to worry. Back to lovely Lough Key and a sweet evening there. But it was cold. So cold. I had on eleven items of clothing including longjohns and thermal vest. Oh summer days.

At Drumman's Island, Lough Key

The castle, Lough Key

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