That Time I Went to Ireland

I can’t really say how it all came together. It was one of those things where words were exchanged between a few people and next thing you know I was booking a flight to Dublin for 2 weeks over Christmas.

I would be going to a small town on the southern coast of Ireland called Ardmore. There would be a Cliff Walk and a tower. My mission would be to look after two little fur ladies whose parents wanted some sunshine.

Secondary mission was to escape Christmas. After a number of years alone on this planet and having moved to a Muslim country specifically to escape Christmas I can tell you, that is a fools mission. That fat man and his bag of “joy” creeps up on you and makes you feel bad no matter where you go.

I arrived in Dublin for a night and then set out to find a bus to a town called Dungarven. My dear friends the Livingstone’s had been in Ardmore, dog sitting as well, and I was given specific instruction on how to get there, so that was a bonus. Ben picked me up at the bus after 3 hours of hot and cold, multiple stops and a farter. I was relieved to be there. We made the drive to Ardmore in short order.

As we approached the house we drove up a very steep hill. I mean, this was the kind of hill where even in an automobile you kind of clench your muscles hoping the turns, the car and the elevation are all going to work together to get you there.

It was then that I said aloud, “Is there any reason why I might need to climb this hill Ben?” He thought for a minute and said, “Not really.” And so it was on. I think it was the first time it occurred to me that I had NO idea what I was getting in to and I probably should have asked more questions.

I arrived to their beautiful home, an old/new farmhouse, set on a hill, with a lot of windows, a greenhouse, what would come to be a view of the bay, (it was foggy on arrival) and my nest for the next 12 days. I met my (now) dear friend Sally Ann and her little ladies. Bunty is an 8 year lab and Tipsy is 1.5 year old Daschund. You couldn’t find an odder pair but they came as a set and had their own little weirdo sibling relationship which consisted mostly of Bunty enduring Tipsy’s playfulness. We would be getting along just fine.

I had the afternoon, evening and the next morning to learn all the things. And there were alot of things. Dog routine was first and foremost. Then came house things, gate codes, keys, local resources, phone numbers, water things, fuse boxes. Kitchen appliances. Tides, local weather, walking routes, feeding, grocery store locations, places to go in town, TV, how to lock doors (Ireland has some weird door locks – trust me). It was a lot.

I also had the pleasure of driving for the first time on the other side of the road in a right hand drive. SA took me for a spin and I did pretty well. We drove to the city beach and then we drove to another beach nearby – Whitings Beach. It was down a long road that was very “Irish” and by that I mean one lane for two cars. I received all the instructions on what to do if you come head to head with another car. Don’t go too far over because ditch and mud and also stone walls covered in foliage. Don’t try to back up – play the tourist card – go slow – wait – be patient, smile.

I never went back to that beach. I mean, it’s stressful enough driving someone else’s car, on the wrong side, by myself, on long wet sometimes flooded roads with few cars. No. Just no.

Then I learned some of the finer points. Like doggie behaviour for example – what’s normal, what’s not. Tipsy is just a little bundle of wiggles who likes to eat. So I had to be careful that she didn’t trick me and eat Bunty’s dinner.

APPARENTLY, Bunty was a more complicated beast. She liked to sleep either outside the door on the patio in the sun, OR in the car. Yup, Bunty would sit beside the car door until I let her in. Then she would sleep there for HOURS. At first I was holding up a finger and saying “Bunty’s in the car, Bunty’s in the car,” and asking Tipster to remind me that her sister was in the car. I would check once an hour. Then I got comfortable and just left her there for the entire day. She was fine and happy.

Bunty would also wander into the front yard, and sometimes, only sometimes, she would let herself out through the hedgerow and go for a walkabout. Apparently the neighbours would text SA and say “Bunty is at the end of our lane.” Or she would just come back on her own and I’d hear her bark at the gate. I’d have to go let her in since she didn’t have the gate code. Or pointer fingers.

Ok so that worried me some but SA was really lovely in saying “Look, she does it, she’s fine, she will come back. She will only be gone 40 minutes. She might do it ONCE in all the time you are here. It might be tomorrow, it might be in two weeks. DO NOT WORRY.”

I also asked about the windows and the gate and access to the property. Because there are a lot of windows. Well you know what happens with windows, at night, in a secluded farmhouse, girl home alone in small town Ireland near the cliffs. Next thing you know M. Night Shyamalan is taking credit for the haunting of pretty Kathi. I was assured that NO ONE could get in past the gate and I was perfectly safe. Only Ben’s brother had the code. It was not an issue. I was safe and sound and would not become famous lore in Ireland.

Then they left.

The first morning we were there on our own, I was sitting at the table eating some homemade granola and there is a tap at the side door. I look up to find an extremely handsome man standing in the window/ door. SO many things went through my mind in a split second. No one has the gate code, this IS the Holiday II, wait I do NOT look like Cameronn Diaz, I’m supposed to be safe here. WHAT is happening. I opened the door to the fellow. I mean, it was broad day light and he could see me. “Hi, I’m Ben’s brother.” Ah, ok. So I had visitors (the kids came in too and I got the whole third degree.) Bloody delightful.

Then Bunty went out to the yard. I let her out. Why not. She likes it. She sat on the top of the yard staring at the gate for several hours. I watched her and sort of felt bad that she was sad and waiting for her mom to arrive home. They had never been apart. Poor kid. Then, at 2:32pm I watched her saunter across the front of the house and she was gone.

I waited. Like my mother used to do. I stared out the window. I paced. I looked out. I tried to be calm. After 1 hour exactly, I went out to the gate and there she was. Just laying there waiting. It went well.

The next day, however, Buntpan wandered off. In the dark. Now I was becoming less and less a fan of this routine because first of all it was fine during the day, but this time, at night, this black dog was walking around alone. I had come to learn that the road outside was a place where the locals like to speed. Also – there is a blind curve nearby. They do not slow down. And she’s black. And it’s dark. I should have known she would go. On our way back from our walk, she had stopped a local farm gate. She just sat down and was like “I’m here now.” I was very patient and waited. Closer to the house she stopped again. Dead stop in the road. Show down. She stared at me and I stared back. Texas stand off. She eventually came with me but it was a good 4,5 minutes of staring and it was cold and dark. She was just plotting her escape.

SA texted and I was all sunshine and rainbows. Not my job to make her all worried when she’s on vacation. I will bear the stress and Bunster will come back and no one will be the wiser. But it was 8 pm and I was PISSED. And then SA called. DAMN. I do not have a poker voice. So I fessed up and she don’t worry. She will come back. And in fact, an hour and 15 minutes later there was dear old Buntybutt at the gates.

The next day, or maybe two days later, I was working away and the gate buzzer rang. Two lovely people from the village with the Buntser in tow. She had been down the hill in the village. The mom drove the car up while her son (10 or 11) escorted Missy B up the road because she wouldn’t get in a strangers car. Nice.

Buntybuns was leashed for the rest of my time in Ardmore.

For her part, Tippy tips was a dream. She burroughed into her bed and only stuck a nose out on occasion. She sometimes refused to go for walks when it was too windy or too wet (she’s not stupid) and she often kicked Buntpan off her bed and took over. Then on one of my last days there, Bunty was being a classified weirdo because it was SUPER windy and she was unsettled. She didn’t want to eat her dinner and that was unusual so I was having a therapy session with her when I got distracted and suddenly I heard SA’s voice in my head from 8 months ago (it seemed) saying, “just be careful Tippytaps doesn’t eat Bunty’s dinner too” and I ran around the corner to find Tipsy half way through her second dinner.

If you think for one living second I was let off the “additional treats for dessert” routine after that you’re wrong. Despite having eaten her body weight for dinner, Tipsy still spent the next 4 days staring me down for her snack time. Bad Tips. I gave in though.

Socially, it was a difficult time. I had a nice time at first. Met some local ladies when they were swimming in the bay. Yes, the Irish routinely swim in all weather and I admire that. If I was thinner and better equipped and a little more comfortable with stripping down in the open air I might have joined them. I met the local character at the restaurant in the village. I met the shop keeper who gave me the most glorious and much needed hug when I next saw her on Christmas Eve. I drove to the grocery store in the next town over. I drove to Dungarven for some shopping and snooping. I drove all the way to Waterford to meet my friend Kerianne and her family for lunch. It is SO delicious to have a very dear friend out and about in the world. I’ll always remember that day because its when I first found out I’m going to be a great Uncle.

And then Christmas came. And strangers arrived to town. I was no longer the red headed step child in a small town and a curiosity from Morocco. I was just invisible behind the veil that is the end of December. And that’s ok. It was lonely while I was there but I kept myself busy. Each day I saw a lovely local friend who came to help with the dogs, because apparently I have arthritis in my left foot and walking for a couple hours every day in wet, cold, wind is not my friend. I had books, and shows, and outside time. I was comfortable and happy.

I think we all got lucky on this one. Not only were the dogs manageable and lovely, the house was beautiful and clean, and safe. It could have gone all kinds of wrong when I think about it now. But it didn’t. It was lovely.

Some highlights for me:

  • Nightly Face time calls with nieces and friends.
  • My amazement and overwhelming sense of accomplishment every time I drove somewhere new.
  • The gorgeous landscape that is Ireland.
  • The amazing people who are so friendly and so nice and so chatty.
  • The beautiful town that hosted me.
  • Having a kitchen where things were all at my eye level. (IYKYK)
  • Light, windows, and a view. And windows. And light. And super high ceilings.
  • New friends.

And then I topped off my trip and started the new year by not only falling, hitting my head, and busting up my knee, but I got to spend time on January 3 with 3 of my favorite people on the planet.

I have not one complaint. Ok, maybe a few.

And the wandering dog maybe. That might be my only complaint. But I forgive her because I love her.