Saturday, November 07, 2009

Dad Diaries: #7

Ireland is surrounded by the sea, which creates a richness of atmosphere and lush vegetation. Ireland is also a nation of stones. The endless grid of stone walled farm plots aren't there for decoration; they are one good way to use the stones from the fields.

Uncle Billy's charming little cottage has a stone wall, of course. It has a small plot of land, but not enough to farm, barely enough to garden. Since it is not a full-time residence, only perennial flowers are maintained.

Just a short walk down the lane is the sea. There is no beach - it is rocky and sometimes perilous. I had no knowledge of tides, so I didn't wander too far along the coast. Plus, I had my ever-present sidekick Joan with me, and she was only 12; not exactly the Age of Reason.

The neighbor closest to the sea also manages Uncle Billy's cottage for him, and they are good friends. She is a widow, and her sons were then 28 and 25 - beautiful young men who spoke mainly Erse. I wanted to spend some time on the sea, and her oldest offered to take me out one morning while he set their nets. We motored out on a choppy sea (he asked me "Ya don't get ill from the waves now, right?") and they tossed out tons of nets which they would haul in that night. Then we motored back. It was nice out there, listening to the lilt of Gaelic, the waves slapping the boat, the light of early morning. He told us to come back later that evening, and he would give us some fish for Uncle Billy to cook.

Joan and I wandered down the lane later that evening after a full day of touring, castle gazing and hiking. I was starving and rather grouchy. We arrived at the house of the fishermen, and the mother hands me a sack of beautiful fish - medium sized, gleaming and fresh. The sons are smiling behind her, and cleaning piles of fish. We thanked them profusely and head back down the rock wall lined lane. It has gotten really dark in the time we have meandered back and forth, really surprisingly dark. There are no lights on the path; this is country property, not city streets. I am thankful that Billy wisely handed me a flashlight as we headed out.

Suddenly Joan, who had been skipping around with the sack of fish, yelped "What's that sound?!" and stood dead still. There was a definite rustling in the vines on the rock wall. I hissed "IT'S RATS!" and Joan jumped about a foot in the air, terror on her face. Then I added the hammer: "And - THE RATS ARE AFTER THE FISH!" Joan screamed and took off running, holding the fish straight-armed out in front of her, heels thudding on the packed dirt road. She beat me to the house by a good two minutes, even though I am running, too. I cannot run fast as I am laughing so hard! As I get near the cottage, I hear Billy assuring Joan that he has never heard of rats leaping onto bags of fish whilst strolling down a lane, but that he supposed she used good judgment to run her lungs out. I opened the door and busted out laughing anew. Joan's hair was standing out like a lambswool duster, her cheeks were bright pink and she was sweating bullets from the exertion of her sprint.

The fish were divine. Served with - what else - potatoes and a green salad.

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