Tenth Week: Raining in Ireland

Shredded Wheaties (aka Chex)

Dia dhaoibh! Ní fhaca mé le fada sibh!

That’s Irish for “Greetings! Long time no see!” Here we are, still in Inch, Ireland on the Dingle Peninsula. Ireland is wonderful, but it seems we picked the rainiest and coldest couple of weeks in the summer. Even the locals have expressed their disappointment in the weather. Rain makes the island green, but it certainly affects how the tourists spend their time. As we have walked through the town of Dingle, you can see tourists lining the streets in their slickers and ponchos. However, when the sun peeks out behind the gray, everyone raises their faces to the sky in thanksgiving.

This week we have had to be creative in our planning. Luckily we have a car, so we can go just about anywhere. And I have to say, I have become an expert at driving on the left side of the road, even in the narrow lanes that peer over to the ocean. I feel like I’ve learned a new trade here.

Our first trip took us over to Killarney, which is about 45 minutes from here, for a day of shopping. The kids wanted to spend their money, and I had my mind set on buying a mandolin. Killarney is a busy little city, and the traffic was horrible. It’s a central city in County Kerry, and there had just been a major football match between Kerry and County Cork, which had everyone in their green or red jerseys. I’ve watched a bit of Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) sports like Gaelic football and hurling and find them to be fascinating. These are definitely not wimpy sports.

We walked around Killarney and found a lot of things for the kids in preparation for school. They all got new lunch boxes and new shoes. Liam had expressed that he wanted to get his shoes in Ireland, which he received. I found a great music shop and bought a beginner mandolin. Again, the kids have found interest in it, so we have officially created our band, with Tai on mandolin, Bronwyn on bowed psaltery, Liam on bodhran drum, and Grey on egg shaker.

Dingle is a music-lovers dream. There are concerts and gigs every night. The Church of Ireland parish, St. James, hosts concerts three nights a week. The show is hosted by Eoin Duignan, who plays the uilleann pipes, which are an Irish version of bagpipes. He starts the show and brings in local artists. One duo was Teresa Horgan and Matt Griffin, who played traditional songs with an updated twist as well as some Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. On another night, a singer-songwriter named Gerry O’Beirne played, who was fantastic, followed by Laura Kerr and Donough Hennessy on fiddle and guitar. All of these musicians were incredible. Eoin talked about how music has brought life to Dingle over the last 30 years. When he came here in the ’70s, no one was listening to traditional music, but now Dingle has become a hub and many musicians are moving here or moving back here.

On Wednesday, we went down to Inch Beach, which is a 5 minute drive. There is a footpath on the Dingle Way, but it’s pretty steep for the kids. It was cold and overcast, but the scenery is so breathtaking that you almost don’t mind. It’s fun to watch people brave the cold water in their wetsuits or in their bikinis. There are many people out there learning to surf or paddle board. The kids just love having the freedom to run around and no matter how often we say, “Try not to get wet,” they are often soaked when we leave. But after being cooped up in the house and car, we don’t really mind as long as they’re happy.
Despite the rain on Thursday, we ventured out to do the Slea Head Drive around the Dingle Peninsula. There are many scenic and historic sites to visit. Molly has been here twice before, once in college where she did much of the trail on bike, and again after college when she hiked it with a friend. This was her first time doing it in a car, and she liked it much more, although the mist and rain clouded much of the views. We couldn’t quite see the Blasket Islands or the Sleeping Giant, although we knew they were there.
We stopped at the Gallarus Oratory, a 6th Century church built by early Christians. It’s built solely with stones, and archeologists have concluded that no mortar was used, meaning that the stones fit so closely together that nothing can get in. This is called “corbelling.” It was raining pretty hard when we were there and it was completely dry. This was one of the neatest places to visit because there was hardly anyone there on such a yucky day.
On our way back, we stopped at Kilmalkedar Church, another holy site founded in the 6th or 7th Century by St. Maolcethair. The present church was built in the 12th Century. It has an ancient graveyard, with crosses so old they’ve sunk into the ground. There are stones with Ogham carvings, which is an alphabet that pre-dates modern languages. There is also a stone with a small hole in it that has historically been used when two parties make an agreement. Both parties make an oath by putting their thumbs into the stone. People have used it to renew their marriage vows, which Molly and I did while we were there.
On Friday, it rained even more, so we decided to take the kids to the movies to see Minions. The Dingle cinema reminded me of how movie theaters were when I was a child. It had one very small screening room with no stadium seating.

Saturday we needed to replenish our groceries, so we drove over to Killorglin, which has an Aldi. We also had lunch at a place called The Real Burger, which had the best hand-cut chips I’ve ever had. Their burgers are made from beef raised on their own farm. They also had homemade milkshakes, including a Skittle milkshake. Over there, food dyes are not used, so the Skittles are safe for Liam to have, so he indulged. He didn’t even finish it!
That night, I drove back over to Dingle for a concert at the local music shop. They have small shows in their shop 3 nights a week on the opposite nights as St. James. This one only has room for 30 people. Two young ladies from Kentucky called the Local Honeys opened the show with Appalachian music, a nice tie-in between Ireland and America, which made me miss home. The other performers played songs in traditional Irish Gaelic. It was a nice change from the typical Irish pub music you can hear anywhere. This felt more intimate and much more cultural. They played fiddle, accordions, and banjolins (a cross between a banjo and mandolin). The guy playing banjolin looked like Popeye, but had a beautiful voice. There was also a young man who was a world champion Irish dancer who was phenomenal.
Sunday morning we went back to St. James in Dingle for Holy Communion. The priest who celebrated did the service in both English and Irish, which was a treat. That afternoon, we went back out to the beach. The great thing is that you can drive onto the beach and it’s not crowded at all. It’s like having our own beach. The wind whipped, but we still had fun.
On Monday, it rained again, so we found the Dingle Aquarium to visit. I thought this was a really impressive place considering it was so small, but they had some really wonderful tanks with all kinds of fish. There was a tank filled with only the kinds of fish found in Finding Nemo. I particularly liked watching the sand shark (below) and the kids enjoyed the skates and rays they could touch. Molly is a big fan of the penguins.

 

Last night, I drove 2 hours to the city of Cork, to see one of my favorite singer-songwriters Damien Rice perform. He is from Dublin, so to see him perform in his native country was a treat. A fiddler named Colm Mac Con Iomaire opened for him. Colm is renowned for playing with Glen Hansard in the band The Frames, who later went on to produce the Grammy-award winning music for the movie Once. Damien Rice was especially fantastic. He plays guitar loops, so he really is a one-man band. It was a great concert and well-worth the drive. I also got to see parts of Ireland I had never been to before.

Last, but not least, Tai was the third child to lose a tooth on this trip. Now, the Tooth Fairy has come to England (for Liam), Scotland (for Bronwyn), and now Tai (here in Ireland). International indeed!
Our time here is winding down and we can all feel it. The kids are very ready to get back to normal life at home. I’ve even heard them say they can’t wait for school to start! Maybe it’s been the rain bringing us down, but Molly and I have had heavy hearts this week. We know that this once-in-a-lifetime trip is almost over, and the separation anxiety from this spiritual home for us is beginning to set in. We’re hoping to make the most of our last week here. We leave Inch on Saturday and head to Bunratty, which is near the Shannon airport. We will have a long day of travel on July 21 but hope to return to Hill Street that afternoon. Then we have a couple of weeks to settle back in before school and work begin.

I’ll sign off with lyrics from a song on Damien Rice’s latest album, which I think makes a wonderful invitation to live a fully conscious and guilt-free kind of life, which I believe God calls us all to live:

Trusty & True
We’ve wanted to be trusty and true
But feathers fell from our wings
And we’ve wanted to be worthy of you
But weather rained on our dreams

And we can’t take back
What is done, what is past
So fellas, lay down your fears
‘Cause we can’t take back
What is done, what is past
So let us start from here…

‘Cause we never wanted to be lusty or lewd
Nor tethered to prudish strings
And we never wanted to be jealously tuned
Nor withered into ugly things

But we can’t take back
What is done, what is past
So fellas, lay down your spears
‘Cause we can’t take back
What is done, what is past
So let us start from here…

And if all that you are
Is not all you desire,
Then, come…

Come, let yourself be wrong
Come, it’s already begun

Come, come alone
Come with fear, come with love
Come however you are
Just come, come alone
Come with friends, come with foes
Come however you are
Just come, come alone
Come with me, then let go
Come however you are
Just come, come alone
Come so carefully closed
Come however you are
Just come…

Come, come along
Come with sorrows and songs
Come however you are
Just come, come along
Come, let yourself be wrong
Come however you are
Just come…

 

 

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