Monday, August 24, 2015

Going South

We left Belturbet to the sound of a power washer on the jetties opposite, the ones that used to belong to Emerald Star and are now a private marina. A very loud power washer. So loud it made us leave before breakfast. We wound our way up the River Erne to the junction where right takes you to Crom Castle and beyond and left takes you back to the Shannon-Erne Waterway. We were tempted by Crom. The sun was shining, and we sort of had time, but we resisted and turned left.

I dropped Joe at Ballyconnell where a bus would take him back to Belturbet and the car, and met him again at the next lock - didn't fancy trying a lock on my own, though I suppose it's feasible as they have ladders. Then it was on to Garadice Lough and Haughton's Shore. Joe took the car again. Last time we'd stopped in Haughton's Shore in vile weather it was full and we had to tie off someone else. This time it was earlier in the week and earlier in the day.

Joe phoned to say there was one space left. The pressure was on. I fretted all the way along the Woodford River. As I approached the final bridge before the turn into the harbour a hire boat came towards me. Did this mean it was already full? Damn.

It didn't. My space was still there. In we slipped, Winter Solstice and I. Then it was car to Ballinamore for the next stage, bikes on the back for the return cycle. I was hoping I'd make it OK as I've had this wretched knee ligament injury.

I did. Joy! Only a bit of rain. No wind. And photo op as we neared home - Garadice in the evening.

Actually Joe had the photo idea first.

And here we are back at the boat.

Next morning we woke to thick fog, but you could see the sun was going to burn it off. We left as soon as we could see well enough and crossed the flat calm lake. And into the gorgeous Woodford River again.

A land of kingfisthers and high tree-lined banks.

This was at Lock 5 - Ardrum - a very deep lock. It was good to come up out of it and see daylight again.

A hot day. Unbelievable. This called for an anchor drop for lunch. There's a small lake called Kiltybarden just off St John's Lough south of Ballinamore. It takes a small leap of faith (well, tiny really) to find it - I called for back-up from the crew who wasn't impressed as he was scraping paint off the deck (a very long-term project) and couldn't see what the fuss was about. 'There's the markers' (you eejit was implied). 'Wrong markers though!' I could say in triumph. 'That's the way we came.'

We found it easily enough really, but turned and came back to a little spot between St John's and Kiltybarden where it was sunny and sheltered.

And I had my first swim! What bravery, swimming off the boat in weather that, although warm, was certainly not sweltering. Down the ladder into the black depths, kicking off into the freezing waters, barely surviving the temperature. Ahem. Get a grip here. And admit. I put on the wet suit. Yes I know that's pathetic, and I only did it because there was no-one around to see except the crew and the dog. But at least I got into the water.

Next stop Keshcarrigan. This time I got a photo of this lad:

Isn't he magnificent?

This tells you all you need to know:

We left the boat in Drumsna for a couple of days. Back tomorrow for the next stage back to Lough Derg.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Enniskillen Beckett Festival & back to Mountshannon

This was the theatre space for Stirrings Still, Beckett's last prose piece. Doesn't look like the usual for a thespian venue, does it? We were picked up by a bus just outside the castle in Enniskillen for a 45 minute journey to a secret location. Isn't it astonishing how anything secret, even when you're grown up, is more enticing than something you know about?

Off we went, following Lower Lough Erne towards Enniskillen, watching the clock to see were we close, trying to guess where we were going. At least that's what I was doing. Was it going to be Belleek? No. The bus passed the pottery factory and out the other side, passing through a bit of the Republic on the way. It's years since I was there on the boat. Looks pretty much the same.

The signposts were telling us we were on our way back to Enniskillen by the time we turned off, the bus squeezing through great stone gateposts into the grounds of Castle Caldwell. The building in the photo is right beside the jetty where we'd stopped a couple of times on the boat.

Up the stairs into the chill of the derelict building. Actor Ian McIlhinney was sitting in a room within the room, playing the part of a man watching himself rise and go. His pre-recorded voice read Beckett's words. It was extraordinarily moving and very cold. Thank goodness I'd gone in my usual state of over-preparedness for the Irish summer.

Our last day in Enniskillen. We'd spent the night on the jetties at the Ardhowen Theatre where there was a contemporary dance event (weird and wonderful). We trolled off to the Round O in the rain, needing to hook up to electricity to charge the phones (inverter caput). As we sat there in the now driving rain and many-miles-an-hour winds, we noticed the bandstand in the park beside the Round O. Here it is:

The cars form a protective barrier against the weather, the one facing us with the boot up. The people in blue are the brass band. You have to hand it to them. No audience, vile vile weather, and still they turn up for duty.

It finally stopped raining as we came into Carrybridge. We'd already decided the only thing to do in such weather would be go to the hotel for dinner. They do a mighty steak and chips, and a sublime panna cotta for desert.

Next day we paused in the tranquility of Trial Bay and played a few tunes. Warmth. No wind. Sunshine.

And back to Mountshannon. Weather wild again, but at least it had warmed up a bit. People were daring themselves as the waves jumped onto the pathways.

This week it's been trad. The Feakle Festival is on and we're off playing tunes in the pubs.

Back to the boat next week.