|Betcha I was wearing one of THESE babies!|
How I remember those tea/aunt visits. We would arrive, dressed in our Sears best, and a huge tea would be laid out - slices of buttered barmbrack, chocolate bikkies, bowls of smoky bacon crisps .... and it was always a big score if the spread included Fuller's Walnut Cake.
|Barmbrack. Add some Irish butter and it is heaven.|
We had to sit in absolute silence as the adults chatted. Sometimes an aunt would take pity on us and give us an old Enid Blyton annual or let us out into the garden (if it wasn't lashing down with rain.) Still, often we had to stay indoors, perched on a leather "pouffe" and wait while the grown ups chatted endlessly. I really believe it taught me great patience and gave me the ability to entertain myself with nothing more than my imagination.
So when I brought my active, easily-bored daughter to visit said aunts, I was nervous about the whole deal. I shouldn't have been. First, the aunts were kindness themselves and heaped old toys - and new shiny presents - onto her. Plus Kid found an Irish cousin to be besties with, just as I had when I was a child. When it was time to leave Dublin and go back to America, Kid begged me - literally on bended knee - to stay for "just one more day, please please please."
But this trip won't be to the Dublin area, with the aunts. Instead, we're heading out West, to see Hen's Castle (a tiny ruined castle on an island in a lake) and the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Dingle ... whatever we can fit in.
|The Burren. Real magic happens here, no lie.*|
I remember my own first trip to the West. I was eighteen, and our mother drove us all over the countryside. It was the days before the Celtic Tiger and the EU, so Ireland had no highways and travel was often down tiny hedgerows where only one car could pass at a time.
The sights were so lovely that they gave us a headache. No joke - I believe we got sick from too much beauty. We'd turn a corner, the sun would poke through the heavy clouds and light up that tiny little stone castle in the middle of the island, in the middle of the lake. And my sister, and I, and our friend, would all gasp and grab for the Instamatics. (Hen's Castle is simply not to be missed.)
Or, simpler than that - we'd drive past a farm and see a white mare with a coal black foal - a "magic foal,"we called it. Or a grey kitten with green eyes that matched the fields around it. Or, later, sitting by the banks of a stream with our sandwiches and thermoses of tea... Mum tells me to stand up and jump, and everyone gasps - "Ooooooh!" We were sitting on turf, of course, which magnifies movement under you so a jump feels like a small earthquake.
Or, later, the smell of that turf burning in the grate at the Bed and Breakfast, or the pub down the road.
I hope that my daughter enjoys that as much as I did. If she survived the aunts, she'll be fine. Plus, the bestie cousin will be there, so the signs are good.
* Picture of The Burren courtesy of TD Giddings. You can see more landscapes here.