Thursday, July 1, 2010

Greetings! I am actually sitting in the airport currently, waiting. We flew over the ocean to Newark, and now we sit and wait for several hours. Long journey, and here I am without a book! But the laptop is charged and I promised I would do this, so I will take the opportunity to talk about our time in Kilcar.

Kilcar is a small town on the southern end of Donegal County, in the northwest corner of Ireland. Jeff and I made it that way several times, and truly fell in love with the landscape. Kilcar is only about 1.5 hours from Omagh, and it is where my grandmothers’ family hails from. Her cousin currently still lives in the family home two miles out of town, in this beautiful valley very close to the ocean. The town itself is a one street sort of place with four pubs, some other shops, and an impressive hand weavery. It was once a fishing town, but now the space nearest an inlet of the ocean is a Gaelic football pitch. Perhaps the most beautiful place in the world to play a sport, though thoroughly miserable during ocean storms I’m sure!

So grandma’s cousin’s son, Kevin, and his family Maureen, Chris, and Kenny welcomed us into their home for two nights. We arrived on Saturday late and were greeted by a cup of tea, and then went out to John Joe’s for a pint (or three) and music. We are not ashamed to say it—Kevin was definitely slowing down with the pints so that we could keep up. The music was really good, a blend of contemporary and traditional Irish with banjo, guitars, and an electric fiddle. Kevin and Maureen knew absolutely everyone in the place, and it was packed until 2am with people of all ages. We were totally spent, but went home for another cupa and chatted until 3:30. Yikes!

The next morning we all slept in and awoke to a proper fry up. I have spoken about these before, it is what I tried to make for St. Patrick’s—eggs, potato bread, beans, tomatoes, bacon, black pudding, white pudding, and fried mushrooms. Just all of the vegetarian things was plenty breakfast for me, I do not know how they put it away! And Maureen is a tiny thing. That day we went out and about to Silver Strand beach and got a view of the lighthouse on Rathlin Island where my great grandfather worked. Grandma remembers him telling stories about rowing his boat out to an island for a week at a time with one other young man, and talking about the silver beach nearby, so this one must be the one. Very special. We also drove through the countryside for a while down tiny roads and heard about all the folks who lived here and there. Our final destination for the day was Port, a small secluded old fishing port where it is suspected illegal drugs enter the country because it is so out of the way! No one lives there, but as it happens, locals sun there on such a nice day.

Back at home we had Chinese takeaway and chatted Gaelic football with Chris. He is 14 and would love to come to America someday and visit. I think he would fit right in and could teach the cousins a new game. He is very sharp and certainly not shy, so I think he would fit in with the Wagner clan very well. The boys watched a match and the ladies (including Kevin’s sister Ethine, pronounced Etna, who has visited the Chicago sisters) chatted it up in the kitchen with a bottle of wine. Conversation centered on what Jeff and I are doing in Clanabogan and spiritual mediums, which are much more respected and common than they are at home. Good craic, you might say.

The next morning was a national holiday, so we slept in again. Then another beautiful breakfast of breads, cheese, tomatoes and salted butter (!!! We miss salted butter!!!) and we visited the family home which sits just 50 yards up the hill from the house we stayed in. We met grandma’s cousin and had a wee chat with a couple of Kevin’s brothers. Jeff and I said goodbye to everyone and set off around noon for a boat trip along the coast to see the sea cliffs. It was nice, but actually I liked seeing them from the top better than from the bottom. We were the only tourists on the boat and we were the closest vessel to a mayday call, so we had to respond to it. Surreal! The coastguard helicopter was hovering in the distance, and that was what we were aiming for. We were called off before we got there because it was just a mechanical problem and the coastguard was on the way, but very nerve wracking for a while! On the way out of town we stopped at the Donegal weavery in town to check things out there—a very different operation from what I have been doing but everything is still woven by hand albeit in very large quantities. Jeff found himself a scarf, and I enjoyed looking. Unfortunately the boat and subsequent car ride home left me car sick, a damper on the weekend, but all together a lovely time. The family was incredibly gracious and more than happy to have us out again, and I am pretty sure that we will be able to return the favor when Chris comes out some day. Good times, I just do not know why I didn’t manage to see them earlier!