Abhaile leis an teaghlach

Children in Ireland learn the Irish language from an early age and all signage is bilingual. It was more foreign than I could imagine and having only 18 letters and missing j, k, q, v, w, x, y, z it was just too hard to try to make any sense of it. Having said that it is a magical, lyrical language and the title above -Home with the family- was just right.

We arrived late afternoon but there were still many hours of light left in the day. We were welcomed by Ashling, her mother, Ann and sister Lauren. Soon after settling our stuff, we were made welcome with a cup of tea- the first of many! Sue was an easy guest – I think her one green tea bag was coaxed into parting with its paltry flavour many times during the day.

Deb, Ashling, Ann, Lauren

Ashling had visited us in Australia in the last few years, and it had been an eon since we had visited the family with our children, but we were not forgotten. It was a warm home in every way. Ann and her beautiful daughters effortlessly played hosts. Even the animals seemed eager to please. Cats, dogs, chicken and even a couple of chinchilla seamlessly fitted into the homely scene

Day one and I wanted to reminisce. We headed to the beautiful village of Grainguenamanagh where John and our girls had stayed in Parochial House, thirty-one years ago. I found the house, introduced myself to some of the locals, including the Parish Priest and remembered Sean, singing his praises and morning his loss. He had been the parish priest for ten years and was dealy missed.

A cuppa tea was in order. We headed for Strongbow’s fortress at St Mullins on the mighty Barrow. We decided too that before heading back we would check out the Brownshill Dolman. This ancient portal tomb is estimated to have been constructed around 5000 years ago and the mstery of how they placed the 103-ton capstone on two portal stones remains.

We were expected by three(ish) and from the amount of food Ann and the girls had prepared, we understood there was to be quite a crowd. Lunch/afternoon tea/dinner rolled on to the wee small hours peppered with cups of tea and various family members coming and going. Introductions, stories, connections, re-connections… Teenages did what teenagers do, dad’s and kids retired to the lounge to watch the hurling. It was a final! It was a big deal! I was so pleased Ashling gathered the brood and we got a hadful of photos. It was such a wonderful afternoon and evening. Then Joe arrived. He is the eldest brother and lives on the farm with Kitty, the matriach who is elderly and bedridden. Everyone in the family does their bit but of course the daughters seem to take on a bit more. It was arranged and we would visit the farm before we left.

The decision was made, and we were off to Wexford, Kilkenny could wait. We drove to the Ring of Hook, visited the oldest intact operational lighthouse in the world- 800 years old, skirted Loftus Hall, the most haunted house in the world (seriously!) and watched two little children in their full wetsuits get washed down after a swim in probably the coldest water and at the coldest beach in the world!

It was time to visit the farm. Of course all visits begin with a cup of tea. I went and said hello to Kitty and then Joe took us on a tour of the dairy farm. Sue was very much at home but I have to say I am not really a country girl but I distracted myself from the odious odours by focussing on discovering how everything worked. It was definitely an education for me. We also got to see where Joe had sunk a bore after Laurie, John’s dad, had succuessfully divined the well and the water course. We left Joe and decided that it was time to go to the pub.

Our time was up. Three days had flown by. Lauren had returned to university, Ashling was off to work and Ann was left to say goodby. It had been such a wonderful experience. Kind, gracious and overwhelmingly generous hosts had given us experiences which we will never forget.

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