Friday, September 28, 2012

From out waters to in waters

The harbour, Clifden
On Friday I drove out to Clifden at the tip of Connemara to read some poems at Clifden Arts Week. It's become an annual gig for my poetry group Skylight Poets. For the past three years we've read from our latest anthology, but this year there wasn't one. Instead we're starting up a new poetry journal. I'm one of the editors, madly learning a new desktop publishing package and designing the first issue, due out in January. We plan to produce another issue in July, then we'll see where things go from there.

 It was into the back of Foyle's Hotel on Friday night - the bit they call Mullarkey's - to listen to The Unwanted: Cathy Jordan, Rick Epping and Seamie O'Dowd were playing a mix of American and Irish music. There was a young fellow warming up the stage before them singing fantastic blues and playing steel guitar and harmonica. I'm fairly sure his name was Nicholas Timothy but it could have been Timothy Nicholas.

Saturday and there was A Plan. After a look around the exhibitions in Clifden, of which there were many, I drove to Dromaan via home to pick up the dogs and some clothes. Meanwhile Joe had taken the boat from Scarriff along with supplies for the night and morning. We met in Dromaan at four (great timing by both) and headed up the lake to Rossmore for a dinner date. Three boats, six people, five dogs.

We were the only ones there by boat but it was popular with fishing people. It's fairly isolated, reached along small lanes from the main Whitegate to Portumna road. And on the water it can be pretty rocky when the wind is coming from the south east - which it was that evening, but only blowing force three or four. It was a few years since we'd been there, so good to revisit. The dogs liked it too, especially the tasty snacks they found on the road out of the harbour, traversed twice daily by milking cows. Cow shit all the way, and back onto the boat both inside and outside Aoife.

The next morning was flat calm and beautiful.

We headed off mid-morning back to Dromaan. My garden was calling. So much rain, so much weeding not done because everything is waterlogged.

Not much better today. The sun is shining but the vegetable beds are sodden. Maybe tomorrow I'll get a bit more done. Ho hum. Tunes tonight anyway in Mountshannon - there's a trad festival on, a low key affair and all the better for it. We'll be playing in the hotel, our usual summer session with Cliodhna Donnellan and Seamus Bugler.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Brian Ború's ghost

This is Béal Ború or Brian Ború's Fort just outside Killaloe on the Scarriff road. We cycled there from the boat on the new jetty at Killaloe itself. The fort is right beside the river, although you can barely see the water through the many trees, mostly beech. Here's a peek of it from the opposite side of the fort to the above photo.

Precisely what Brian Ború had to do with this place isn't altogether clear - his main seat of operations was at the top of the hill in Killaloe itself where his palace of Kincora stood. What I find most interesting about the site, though, is its really ancient history. Hundreds of stone implements have been discovered here during various excavations - hammer stones, axes, perforated stone sinkers for lines and nets for fishing. Just beyond the trees seen in this photo is where the River Shannon narrows (boaters pass between two markers here) and becomes shallow - a natural crossing place for people and livestock. A place to defend - whoever controlled the ford had power.

In the centre of the fort is a big hollow. Stones had been arranged for bonfires in the middle. It must be tremendously atmospheric in the dark with the flames leppin and cracklin and all those ghosts milling around behind you. Spooky I'd say. You'd want company when going for a pee in the bushes.

We were in Killaloe to try out the new Tuscany Bistro - new to Killaloe that is, or, rather, Ballina. It's other incarnation is closer to Limerick in Annacotty, but they've now taken over the premises of the old River Run (Run River?) restaurant. They also look to be expanding into next door - their livery is painted over the two shops - but, according to the planning notice in the window,  they're waiting for change of use from retail to restaurant.

The exciting thing about Tuscany Bistro is that they do gluten-free. What joy when I saw the small print under the pastas. A whole new choice opened before me. The pasta dish was good, but the desserts were the best. Another time I'll go for a salad - they seem to have a dressing that people rave about. A nice evening, even though our food arrived at different times (not good). But they gave us a very big glass of wine each in recompense, so they were forgiven. I'll certainly go again.

Cycling round Killaloe I found a path I didn't know existed. I'd turned up past the petrol station on the way back from Béal Ború, leaving Joe to return to the boat. At the top of the hill, just before the centre of town, was a signed laneway to the left. 'Viewing Point' it said, so off I went to view. Here's what I saw.

Some view! And there was a boating person I knew in her back garden moving her leeks to give them more room. The pathway continued along towards the bridge so I too continued. Took this photo. And I've only just noticed when flagging these pics for inclusion in the blog that there's Joe cycling along the jetty.

What are the chances of catching that?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A week on Derg

We had a week on the boat before I went to visit my parents in England and before Joe flew to South Africa (Pretoria) to a conference. In between I was doing the final revision of the manuscript for a book that's coming out next year - yes! It's about Winter Solstice and her crew on the waterways. You will be kept informed.

We're still just messing about on Lough Derg, but this time we made it all the way up to Terryglass. Though we began in Mountshannon and got caught there for a day longer than we'd planned partly because we were enjoying it and partly because it was very windy and the dogs get upset when the lake is a bit rough.

We did a car shuttle to Dromaan using the bikes, and on our way back noticed a gallery open just before the turn down to harbour. Through a courtyard with fabulous views of the lake, in through an open door to a big bright room to find Elizabeth Carrington at her desk (? I'm sure artists don't call the table they work at a desk). We ended up buying two prints of her paintings - big ones, on high quality paper. We paid half the money and left them there as we were on the boat - and we still haven't picked them up. Isn't that terrible. It's just been a bit too hectic the last couple of weeks. But I can't wait to get them home and hang them.

In Dromaan Harbour we found Flynn, Winter Solstice's sister boat who's been bought by someone who is (hooray!) doing her up. It was terrible to watch Flynn steadily deteriorating in Mountshannon. The same people also bought the boat Flynn is tied to whose name I can never remember. Two projects. Not for the fainthearted. Poor Flynn looks terrible at the moment (she's the blue one), but that's because all the bad things are being undone before the good things are done.

Flynn and her companion
Others were able to relax as they don't have a project boat.

On the lunch break
After Dromaan it was Dromineer where we had to avoid Shannon One Designs on the way in - they'd been having a regatta for the past week.

SODs at Dromineer
We were walking the dogs through the Yacht Club, having a look at the other SODs lined up along the shore and got chatting to a couple who also had a small dog. A bit less than Aoife-sized. Aoife loves that - someone shorter than her! Joe got lots of brownie points for naming the little fellow a Norwich Terrier. A game progressed between the dogs as we chatted - not Frankie though, who wasn't impressed. Turned out our new friends, although from Ireland originally, lived in Cheshire not too far from my parents, were members of Nantwich Choral Society (my hometown), had put on an Irish music event with musicians we used to play tunes with... then the small dogs decided they'd had enough grown-up chatter. Time to go. Bark bark bark. Two of a kind.

We met again at Terryglass. Some of us drank too much wine. But not these two:

In the shade
It was hot. Shorts came out, and bicycles. We stayed another night and had dinner in the Derg Inn with our new friends. The Derg Inn is reasonably priced again. For a while, when everything went mad and people were charging stupid money for food, we stopped eating there. Went next door to Paddy's which is perfectly good but lined with televisions showing sport. An excellent burger and chips in the Derg Inn for around €12-13 (sorry crap at remembering prices). Good wine. Good atmosphere.

The harbour was packed, even with the new jetties. We hadn't been in Terryglass since they were put in. And there's electrics too, like so many harbours now. We're getting spoiled, but at least we can charge up our devices.

WS in Terryglass - we still daren't take off the bimini rain cover in spite of the sunshine