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What is it about the human urge to always want something you don’t have? I had the most beautiful office in the country, overlooking the bay watching the ducks fly in as I answered the phone with my office telephone voice and our clients none the wiser. All winter looking forward to the summer hoping I can wrangle taking the phone off the hook and skiving off early to enjoy the west.

Through a moment of madness I completely forgot all about that and got it into my head that I wanted to open a new business in town. I had seen an opening and decided to go for it. I’ve been frantically working away for the past 5 weeks pulling together my new Irish Contemporary Craft shop – now open called Kaleidoscope.  Another Denise Tanham reinvention.

So back to the hustle and bustle of getting up to go to out to work every day, finding clothes that actually co-ordinate rather than my favoured sloppy joes that have become by new best friends over the past nine months. Now I find myself driving in the opposite direction to the cars with surfboard hats driven by smiling carefree people who wouldn’t ever dream of opening a shop in 5 weeks.

So while I’ve been working nonstop obsessively trying to get ready for my Grande June Public Holiday opening, the other half has had to pick up what I usually did in keeping the house together. (Note I said what I did and not my half, as we all know there is a big difference, no matter how much meterosexual yer man is) I’m not complaining I have been fed most of the time throughout the last five weeks as I chained myself to the PC screen making lists of lists, but food was a very loose term in the other half’s choice of groceries.

Who would have guessed that they now sell processed “fresh” fish in a plastic bag that you just stick in the oven, don’t try it if you think it sounds hassle free, it’s just plain gross. And did you know that they still sell dried instant pasta in a packet? I hadn’t seen that one since 1989.  Bless him.

Speaking of fish I was delighted one Saturday on a recent research craft shop scouting escapade, when I learnt that yer man had decided to take himself off fishing for the day instead of the usual reading of newspapers.   The first I hope of many fishing day trips as that’s what the west was supposed to be about.  Asking the local fishing tackle shop he went off on his merry way armed with instructions of “take the 1st left after the post office down a boreen where you will find a jetty to pay a tenner for a rowing boat for a day’s fishing.” So off he goes finding a boreen and jetty at the end but no-one around to pay the tenner. Knocking on the nearby house it was clear no-one was home so reasoning he will catch them on the way back blissfully takes the boat out for a long day fishing.  Enjoying the peacefully quiet lake with not a sinner in site, there was plenty of time to ponder thoughts while eating his left over sausages from breakfast and spinning flies what more could a man want? Now for those of you that know my other half, he is an emotional man and pondered all afternoon romantically about what story is behind the man the boat was named after,  B. O’Donnell.  Staring at the engraving he imagined all sorts of old man and the sea scenarios.

Deciding to venture home after an enjoyable even though unproductive days fishing, he tied up the boat and knocking again trying to pay his tenner no-one was home. In true Kelly form he justified leaving without paying, saying to himself he will pay double next time and drove off. But as he drove only a further   200 meters down the road he passed another turning strangely familiar to the tackle shops directions with a big sign saying fishing boats for hire and a jetty busy with 4-5 men fishing away on the lake. Realising that he had just had a day’s fishing courtesy of a Mr. B. O Donnell’s private boat by his private jetty he chuckled and put the foot down on the accelerator. Thanks Mr O’Donnell so long and thanks for the boat next time he might catch a fish.

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One year on…

One year on

I’ve been enthusiastically waiting for the May bank holiday since March, I’m not sure why but sometimes its best not to analyse things too much, anyway the weekend didn’t disappoint. It seemed like months ago since I’ve had any time off but when I look back Easter was only a month ago! There is just something about looking forward to the first bank holiday of summertime.  The sense of holidays nearing, time to relax and take it all in, relaxing in the West. All around me there are signs of summer’s approach, insects and birds reappearing, the grass is growing longer and as I whizz into town in the car, I pass roadside gorse hedges blooming bursts of bright yellow, lovely eye candy. You can almost smell it.

Most years it’s around the May bank holiday I start to pull my summer clothes from under beds and unused cupboards, shaking the winter smells from them and smiling as I come across old favourites. Squeezing  into white jeans too tight, even though I swore to myself I won’t need them again cos they’ll be too big after all the weight I was going to loose over the winter!

Now that the summer is here at last. I can’t wait to see the town in full swing, with promises of music festivals, arts festivals, walking festivals, cycling festivals, running up Croagh Patrick festivals, I want to experience them all. It’s now been officially one year since our first visit to Murrisk. I found myself casually mentioning down in Staunton’s our local that the fleadh festival in Louisburg wasn’t as busy this year. Hoping the locals would pick up the subtle hint that I had been around for more than a quick visit, maybe it would raise my outsider status from a tourist to a blow in. They are a tight lot the Covies. I think my children’s children would have to be living here for more than 40 years before the reference of ‘Jackine’s’ is taken out of our description.

But still I’ll not let that deter my enthusiasm for Westport and Murrisk, wearing my familiarity with what goes on around here like a badge of honour, I now find myself less wide eyed when chatting to locals about what’s going on. Although I do have a confession to make when out for a drive recently, we did stop the car to look at the lambs and take pictures of them. The other half showing his office buddies the video of them all baaahing at us the next Monday morning, put us back a few steps on the integration ladder. No doubt heads were shaken and mutters of ‘bloody jackines, it’s just bloody sheep’ were said out of earshot.

So I look forward to new experiences from now on, experiences of comparisons to what I missed or didn’t know what was going on a year ago. The first weekend of the summer gone and now nothing more than 12 weeks of busyness to look forward to

Horses For Courses

Paddy the Plasterer

Huddled together

two men

unlikely Comrades

in Moran’s on a Saturday afternoon.

One mans shoes shine

against the other mans muddy boots

The toothless one smiles

at the Dubliner’s veneers.

Looks of hope, desperation, indifference

dance the room

each study the form

And they’re off

COME On ‘Paddy the Plasterer’

Shouts the veneered Dubliner

COME ON ‘Paddy the Plasterer’

Shouts the toothless farmer

Come on

Unlikely comrades, but comrades all the same

The Shopping List

There are things you learn about after a while when living in the country that you never should run out of, of course it comes with experience and my list of essentials keeps on growing as I grow alongside the experience.

Apart from the obvious things like milk, bread and butter here are a few I have made sure of never running out of since our move to Murrisk.

1.      Solpadeine and Panadol. Both in preference, although if I had to choose between one or the other my first choice would be Panadol and then Solpadeine

Anyone who has ever suffered from migraines will nod in agreement here; never, ever get caught out. Solpadeine only wins over Panadol when the migraine is self inflicted.

2.          Chocolate ice-cream, loosely tied in with one of the symptoms of above.

My hangover cures when living in Dublin were McDonald’s milkshakes, not Super Macs or any other imposter, no, they wouldn’t do, it had to be a McDonald’s milkshake. They seemed to have a secret elixir in them that was the only cure after nights of over indulgence and magically stopped me driving the big white bus. Sadly for me there are no McDonalds nearby dishing out my hangover cure, but probably a good thing in the long run, chocolate ice-cream is the best substitute.

3.          Having birthday cards and wrapping paper in storage

 Things like getting birthday presents for people and actually remembering to organise them wrapped and all in time, become a logistical feat that all us country folk should be proud of.

4.          Toilet Paper

“You didn’t get more toilet paper again did you?” with me nodding a knowing look as I wrestle my 16 roll bumper pack through the front door. Shudder to think of running out of it with no shop for 4 miles.

I recently spent a weekend in Dublin and mulling it over for the past few days I am pleased to report that I don’t feel any negative feelings to the city that has put up with me for the past couple of decades, just because I enjoy the West so much. After all it doesn’t have to be a “them” or “us” situation. Still there are subtle comparisons that stand out each time I flip from one place to the other, and sometimes it’s hard to pin point the differences but here’s my stab at it…

In Dublin we run around with our shopping lists and get everything we could possible need within one fowl swoop. So by Sunday we have nothing else left to consume by demand and consume by choice instead. Introducing your local city (country) market to a suburb near you. Food markets are just all over the suburbs and create a new ‘community’ meet to go to for weekend browsing. Almost all markets I have been to in the city are food based and are thriving, students, couples, friends, families all out and enjoying the food stalls.

Now I am sure I have said before there is nothing I’d want for, living near Westport food wise from red leaf tea to Tesco’s finest, it’s all easily accessible, sometimes too accessible! Who hasn’t ever found themself in the middle of isle 15 of some such large supermarket chain looking at the shelves and saying to yourself “just bloody show me where the breadcrumbs are?”  Westport is no different, but not once have I ever found myself saying on a Sunday, “Let’s go to the food market.” In fairness that’s because there isn’t a food market on a Sunday around here but with good reason. There are plenty of other things to do instead,  leisurely walks either in woodlands, beaches, mountains or bog walks all easily within reach and do just the same thing as an urban market afternoon, fill in a couple of hours while the Sunday dinner is on, hypothetically speaking.

A Country Parade

St Patraicks Day Parade Westport

Just Passing By in the Parade

Have you all got your bit of green ready for tomorrow to celebrate our patron saint of drinking days? Every year for the past 3 years I have been making a concerted effort to do something Irish on Paddy’s day other than going to the pub. Crazy I know you may say but they have worked out to be the most memorable Patrick Days and you feel just as patriotic if not more than you would watching your local parade floats fizzle by overflowing pubs.

Last year we explored Newgrange and the year before the Hill of Tara. Did you know that all OPW entrance fees are waivered on St Patricks Day? It’s not often you get something for free from the government, so my advice would be to take advantage of their grand generosity and find out what local Celtic cultural monument or historical site is within reach and go along for a visit. Be an Irish tourist for the day.  www.heritageireland.ie  Lets not leave it up to only the American Jersey speaking visitors who get to see all of our national heritage wonders.

Now this year we may have out done ourselves entirely living at the base of Croagh Patrick, the obvious thing would be to climb the bloody thing again being Paddy’s day and all, but I think I may just use the excuse that it would be a shame to miss seeing what a local town parade’s atmosphere is like and escape to Westport to take some “Oirish” snaps instead.

I’d imagine most pubs will be playing live music sessions and there is nothing like the sound of an accordion and a fiddle to bring out our ingrained patriotic feelings along with the stone walls, small country pubs, crackling fires, I have no doubt it will match other Celtic heritage trips.

If I do happen to cross the mantle of a pub at least I can follow some tips printed in Today’s’ Mayo news on how not to get totally sozzled.

Their fist tip is a very wise one, one that we have all been caught out by before. Simply to Eat.

Tip number two is to drink at your own pace and

Tip three is being conscious of the time you are spending drinking.

Fairly simple you’d think but guaranteed tomorrow in towns all over Ireland by eight O’ Clock it will be very untidy as we are without a doubt a drinking nation.

Knock Knock…

Well I’ve been a bit remiss at the old blog lately and haven’t had time to write partly because life is too fast no matter where you live and mainly because the rugby season has started again. They’re not great followers of rugby here in Mayo or so I was lead to believe. Big GAA fans and when they support the Rugby its Munster they’re gunning for. Leinster doesn’t even get a look in.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to fly to Twickenham to support Ireland against England in the 6 nations Rugby tournament. When I arrived in our local airport Knock, clutching my tickets, I expected to be one of few supporters travelling from the west. Wrong! As I walked into departures I was hit with a sea of excited faces of more than 200 men filled with anticipation of sweet victory.

Knock Airport is a strange one at the best of times.  Mayo’ites may not be aware that every time I mention Knock airport to my urban friends, almost always it produces a reaction of hysterical laughter or a snicker at least.

For those of you not in the know….there is a fantastic bit of history associated with the initial development of Knock airport which involved the local priest Fr James Horan fanatically campaigning the government in the late 70’s to build an airport in the middle of Mayo. He named himself as a great visionary and saw the airport bringing pilgrims to the holy Knock shrine. He wanted Knock to be the next Lourdes. Now you’ve got to remember this was well before the time of discount travel and the cost of most flights were a half a months salary, so this guy in the funny priest’s outfit campaigning on the six o’ clock news did raise many laughs over just how ridiculous our little country was. It was very ‘Father Ted’ well before it’s time.

But we have Monsignor Horan to thank now as we fly out to London, Dublin, Alicante and Birmingham all from the west. They have rebranded Knock and it’s now referred to Ireland West Airport, wisely, as there is something most wouldn’t know unless you actually lived in Mayo, Knock Airport isn’t in or near the town of Knock at all. An Irish classic! I’m sure they’ve fooled many an unsuspecting tourist on that one, rushing to the airport to catch their flight, following the signs towards Knock town only to find out the airport is a further 30 minutes drive away. Divine intervention they would need.

So here I am in the departure lounge along with business men, men with their sons, men young and old, all going to support our team. Joining the bustle at the bar to enjoy the first beer of the weekend just to get into the swing of things, and as I eyed the odd female supporter like myself felt perfectly at home. The tip of my tri-colour feather boa peeping out of my bag ready to produce if I was challenged. We embarked on our journey east to Twickenham.

Our travel efforts rewarded with a victory over England on their home ground, it was an experience to be remembered. We arrive back into the west bleary eyed, horse from talking, tired from all the travelling, very grateful that our very own Airport is only an hour’s drive from home. Hats off to you Father Horan.

Kerry Friends We Met At The Match