The Area

I accidentally picked one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland to move to. Initially I had been looking closer to Dublin where most of my family are but the closer you are to Dublin the more expensive the houses are plus affordable land is virtually non-existent. My sister helpfully pointed out that I was now a good two hour drive from my mother. I don’t think my mother was too impressed when she heard that I had replied “well she’s not going to be around for another 20 years whereas I may well be!”

I am right at the top of the Hook peninsula. If you drew a line south from my place you would hit Hook. It makes for a lot of wind and sea fog. However, within easy reach is the fabulous Tintern Abbey, the baby sister of the one in Wales. There is a beautifully restored walled garden here and if you take out membership for a small fee you can visit anytime with 5 guests. They leave the surplus fruit, veg and plants on a table here for you to take but just ask you leave a small donation. The little cafe has the most delicious homemade cakes in it – so good I go and buy them when I don’t feel like baking. And an added bonus when I went to buy some recently I had no cash. The cafe owner shrugged and said we’ve no wifi here (big thick walls) so the card machine doesn’t work. “Pay me next time you’re in.” He told me he has to say this at least 5 times a day and in three years has only been “done” half a dozen times………..

I am 5 minutes from the Ballyhack ferry to Passage East and then a 10 minute drive to Waterford city. Waterford is a fabulous city with loads of lovely restaurants, cafes and quirky little bars. It’s also the home of Waterford Glass and the tour is really fascinating.

 

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The Waterford coast from Duncannon beach

 

If you are into John F Kennedy as lots of Americans are I’m close to New Ross and the JFK Memorial Park.  There is also a replica famine ship in New Ross that you can tour.

 

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Dunbrody Famine ship

 

On the road to Hook Lighthouse, Loftus Hall has the dubious honour of being the most haunted in Ireland but I really feel they are missing a trick by not offering historic tours rather than the scary nonsense. The staircase in it is one of only three ever made. One was in The Titanic, the other is in The Vatican and the third is here. It has an amazing tiled floor in the entrance hall, which when the two Italian craftsmen who designed it went to the owner looking for payment after two years hard work, had their hands cut off so that they would never be able to replicate it for anyone else. The history of the house ties in with both Tintern Abbey and Hook Lighthouse.

When I first moved in and the days were short I did a lot of driving around finding beaches and interesting walks. Now the days are long and the weather is good I have less time for exploring because there is so much to do outside.

 

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Grange near Fethard on Sea
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Baginbun Head

I’m looking forward to exploring and finding more hidden gems when the days once again begin to shorten and by then I have everything done that I want to outside, but this is wishful thinking.

 

The Neighbours

Wexford people are some of the friendliest in Ireland. When we were kids we spent our summers in north Wexford, my mother always said this. She was a Mayo woman and I think she missed the easygoing friendly ways in her native county. When I moved in I couldn’t believe how lovely and welcoming my neighbours were.
Firstly I think they thought that I had bought the place as a holiday house and seemed to be genuinely pleased that I was going to be living here. There are a lot of houses closed up which I presume are holiday homes.

Neighbours dropped in cards, little gifts, called in for a chat and a cup of tea. People driving by stopped to say hello, one man warning me that he had seen my dogs squeezing out under the gate, “there are a lot of young lads tearing down this road you know.” You’d find it hard to imagine anyone tearing down my road apart from tearing out the ditch trying to pass a wider vehicle.

I was given their mobile numbers and told call them if I needed anything or wanted to know anything. One older lady called in with a warm apple tart and the parish newsletter.It was through her that I met one of the daughters of the old lady who had lived in this house. She also arrived with a gift and a card and we had a lovely chat about her parents and grandparents who had lived here. She was thrilled to see animals back in the place and particularly pigs and poultry. Her mother had reared poultry and her father pigs. He was a great gardener growing all their vegetables even courgettes which back in those days no one had seen before or knew how to cook. Her father owned the bakery in Campile but he still managed to feed a family of 4 daughters on 4 acres.

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Before Christmas I decided to ask them in for a glass of mulled wine and mince pies and they all piled into my tiny sitting room and had a lovely evening. Even though where I’m living now is even more remote than where I lived before, I have much closer neighbours. In the beginning I thought this would drive me crazy but it really doesn’t and it’s nice to know there is nearly always someone around during the day. It makes it feel very safe. It also means if I’m away the house is safe. I have almost never turned on the house alarm. My last house didn’t have one so anytime I have turned it on I’ve forgotten and set the damn thing off coming back in.

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But as I was getting acquainted with my neighbours so too were the pigs but their new neighbours were less than impressed. I’m surrounded by horses here. The lane beside me leads up to 10 acres which borders my fields and there is a thoroughbred yard across the road. Beside me they have sport horses and ponies. The pigs on realising that they had neigbours and being very friendly inquisitive animals immediately poked their snouts through the by now diminishing hedge and grunted.

What followed was chaos – snorting, galloping, tails up and thundering hooves. The pigs were perplexed which made them even more inquisitive. I looked out one Sunday morning to see my neighbour beside me holding one of his horses lathered in sweat. The animal had got itself in a state just hearing the sounds of the pigs beside him.

Horses are scared of pigs because back when wild boar roamed freely they were big and powerful enough to take down a weak horse or a foal. It’s an ancestral fear. But with a lot of patience and work I now have horses in my field closest to the house with two weaner pigs cavorting around and they are all quite happy together.

Even in the animal kingdom proper introductions are everything.

The First Day(s)

To me the first day was the day with all my animals around me and to me my animals are family (even the ones for eating). You can’t say, “ah the poor cratur has no one else”,  because I have felt like this all my life. I consider animals as part of my family and always have done. I grew up with animals and I cannot envisage a life without them.

Waking up and going out to feed the pigs and let the hens and ducks out on a lovely sunny autumn day in my new place was magical.

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Honky sunning herself

 

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Lady L loving all the grass and dry ground

Watching them stroll off to explore their new place with tails up is my abiding memory of that day. The ground was firm and dry. They had left a quagmire in Meath. The soil here is so much dryer and sandier.

I kept the poultry in the old shed for a day or two. It had been used as a pigsty in the past. There was the sleeping area and the feed trough that was fed from the outside (now blocked up with a sheet of corrugated iron) and presumably the “toilet” area. It is hard to imagine two fully grown sows in here but there was. Even back then pigs were treated abominably. I wouldn’t even put Parker the KuneKune in here to sleep and he’s a small pig.

Initially I had some fun with wandering hens but the funniest had to be the young duck who decided to fly into the neighbours late one evening around Halloween. I went looking for her and the kids all piled out to help in full Halloween costume. Picture me, the parents and three kids dressed up as ghosts and ghouls chasing a poor duck. The kids got a lesson that evening on how to catch an animal. We herded her into their porch and as she flew up I grabbed her. Various hens got out into the lane way between me and these neighbours but were relatively easy to shoo back. It doesn’t take long for them to realise where home is.

It took the cats a full month to explore outside. The fat cat hid in a hole in the lining in the bottom of one of the couches when anyone called in. He shot out the door one night after about three weeks as I was calling the dogs in. I was sure I’d never see him again and was distraught. But next morning he appeared and shot back in when I went out to feed the pigs. He didn’t go out again for about three weeks. Now I can’t get him in.  On the plus side when I first moved here I couldn’t keep up replacing poison. The place was overrun with mice. Once the cats went out, no more poison taken.

The dogs loved it from the beginning particularly the beach. I’m only five minutes from Duncannon and in the winter it’s MY beach, Now it’s full of day trippers and I hate it.

 

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I will never forget the first time I realised I was so close to the beach. The estate agent had muttered something about beaches when he first showed me the house. But it wasn’t until the second viewing when we drove down to Roche’s in Duncannon for lunch. When you come around the bend at the top of the hill,  the whole bay is there in front of you glistening seductively. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. The sea, the estuary, the Waterford coast, Duncannon Fort and the old lighthouse, now a private house. That view is good for the soul.

Every time I walked on the beach I felt the urge to pinch myself to wake up from a lovely dream. I also kept thinking about dad. Was he up there somewhere watching me and quietly pleased he had engineered the whole thing? I like to think he was. I don’t think I’ve ever been on the beach since where he hasn’t come into my head in some shape or form.

It was promising to be a lovely autumn and although there had been mutterings and forecasts about a dire winter I put them out of my head. There had been so many before and they’d always been wrong………

The Arrival

The journey took 4 hours. 4 hours with your heart in your mouth is a long time. I was following behind watching a wonky wheel and praying (to dad) it wouldn’t come off. The sun came out and at one stage beyond Bray I smelled burning. I rang my son. “Pull over, I smell burning.” The reply, “what are you on about you crazy woman? Now hang up I’m trying to listen to the rugby” or whatever. He also killed me for making him answer the phone while he was driving. A few miles down the road he indicates and pulls in. I come screeching in after him. “What’s wrong?”. “Nothing, I need a pee”…………

But at least I got a look at the pigs and they were fine, Honky was lying down and the other two were looking out wondering what the hell was going on.

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My view for 4 hours………

This photo was taken on the M3 on a bank holiday weekend. As Conor Faughnan of AA Roadwatch once said “you can play hockey on it.” Further on the traffic was horrendous with long tailbacks into Ferns and Enniscorthy. As we rolled through Ferns a woman came out of her house walking a spaniel. Honky had her snout stuck out the side and grunted at her. The poor woman almost had a heart attack. I was watching behind laughing.

We inched along all the way to Wexford and at the Duncannon roundabout there was an accident. Of course there was, it was the bank holiday and we had already been stuck in what seemed like hours of traffic. Luckily it was only slowing down the Rosslare traffic and we were able to turn out THE most hateful road on the planet – The New Line road. It took me a few weeks to learn that this was what it was called, but I hated it long before I knew. It’s a narrow straight two lane road with an 80km limit and those sneaky bastard speed vans parked intermittently along it. If you get stuck behind some plonker that decides he will drive well below the 80km speed limit, you are that word that rhymes with ducked.

Towards the end of the road my son obviously got fed up and put the boot down. I could see the trailer hurtling along behind and was convinced that a wheel would spin off. Eventually we got to my place and he backed into the field. We opened the ramp and the pigs staggered down. One or more had been sick (who knew pigs got travel sick?) probably towards the end when he speeded up.

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Checking out their new accommodation

I immediately got their food and put straw in the small sheds in the picture above. They were quite happy to be out of the trailer and were exploring. Later I went out to check them and they had completely ignored my efforts to make them comfortable and had moved themselves into the big hay shed around the corner. So I had to drag all the straw out and move it into them.

We unloaded the poultry and fed and watered them. Let the cats into the house and he announced he was going to drive back. I couldn’t believe it. It was almost 6pm and was getting dark and we had had nothing to eat. I persuaded him to come up to The Hollow and get something to eat first. He did and then drove back up to Meath.

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A very welcome plate of food and a glass of wine after a long day

I crawled into bed that night and passed out.

The Animals

Saturday morning of the October Bank Holiday was to be the day. I had organised the trailer from my farmer friend neighbour for the previous week but luckily he could still manage without it the following. It was a big cattle trailer and I figured I would need it for the three pigs for the long journey. I persuaded my son to go and pick it up the day before and we reversed it into the stable yard in front of the stable. I had really wanted to have had time to do this a few days before but it wasn’t possible. That first evening I put the pig food into it and Honky and Parker (the pets) shot up the ramp like pros. Lady Lavinia was having none of it and went without her tea.

I rounded up the poultry as usual that night and managed to grab them one by one to put into a big cage the previous owner of my house had left behind. I fed and watered them and left them in the garage. The cats were still in the house, still freaked and still fighting. They had hated each other from the beginning. I fed them and went down to my son’s and fell into bed. I spent the night “rehearsing the dance” as my mother and her sisters used say. Pretty apt when you are all worked up about something and you keep doing it over and over in your “half” sleep. I woke up in the morning still exhausted, weak and worried.

My son who rarely stresses about the stuff I do can be a monumental pain and takes forever to get organised when it’s not him that has to be somewhere. So I went up to the house myself and he was to follow. In the meantime and unbeknownst to me another farmer neighbour stopped my ex and warned him that the trailer I was borrowing had only ever been used around the area and up and down lanes and might not be able for the long motorway journey and I should check the bearings etc. The ex rang my son.

When I heard this I almost had a nervous breakdown. It’s all well and good if something happens towing horses as you can take them out and hold onto them. I had visions of smoke coming out of the wheel and burning which had happened to me with the very first battered old used Rice horsebox I bought. But what the hell do you do with pigs on a motorway? The son did the usual shaking the wheels and then went off to get a gun thingy to tighten the nuts. Another farmer friend called over with a goodbye present and he did the same sort of shaking the wheels. If there was anything wrong with the bearings all that shaking couldn’t have helped. Then we had to try and load the pigs.

Now farmers are the best in the world but they are utterly useless when it comes to pigs and they aren’t much better with horses unless they are used to them. So I had all sorts of “helpful” advice. I grabbed the bucket and the pair of brats shot up the ramp. Lady L was starving but she stopped on the ramp. My son shouted “back up, back up.” I backed up and she backed down. I came down the ramp again and this time she put her back feet on it. She stuck her huge head into the bucket and I couldn’t move. My son was growling at me to back up. She was digging into the grub and was in danger of reversing. Then out of the blue she stepped forward and he slammed the gate behind her shoving her up the whole way. And I was trapped inside. “Oh don’t worry,” he says “there’s a jockey door.” Except a bit like the ball bearings it had never been opened or closed and was jammed shut.

I told him to open the gates a smidge and I would squeeze out but don’t on your life let her out. Somehow she was still eating and I escaped.

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Honky, the greedy guts up first
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All loaded up
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Poultry, fencing stuff, feeding troughs, water containers all in

I went into the house to get the cats. The fat cat was so freaked out he had crawled under the kitchen units where the dishwasher had been taken out and I had to dismantle the kick boards to get into him. He and The Thug were put in separate cat boxes in the car along with the dogs. I was following the van towing the pigs and the poultry.

It was to be what felt like the longest journey of my life.

The Unpacking

I would think it took me 3 months to fully unpack and that’s not counting the 15 or so boxes of kitchen stuff in the shed to this day. This house was renovated as a holiday house and not much thought was given to storage. There is no where to put a mop, a bucket or a vacuum cleaner and the sparkling-shiny-white-newly-installed and almost never-used kitchen from Cedarwood is useless for me and it doesn’t suit the house. It needs to be changed but it’s on the very long list.

Plus the kitchen was as dark as a dungeon. Me who lives for sunlight and cooking had managed to buy a house with the most depressing kitchen on the planet. The whole west facing wall was solid, not even a small pane of glass in the back door. The kitchen window was north facing and they had managed to put in the smallest window possible. I hated being in it. One of the first things I did was get onto Munster Joinery to come and replace the entire panel in the back door with glass. The difference that made was unreal.

But back to the unpacking. There is no hot press – none, nada, zilch. To those of you that don’t understand this particularly Irish term – it’s an airing cupboard. Where in the name of all that’s holy was I going to store sheets, towels and bedding? At the top of the stairs is a small door leading into the attic. I threw the boxes of stuff in there. In winter it is Baltic, in summer (now) it’s hot enough to boil the few bottles of wine left over from various booze cruises.

Apart from the unpacking the trying to find stuff has to be the most frustrating. You remember you’ve seen that item somewhere, but where? And then the stuff they have lost. I was there most of the time they were packing up. I saw them labelling boxes. So where has it gone? How can stuff just vanish? The trifle bowl was the most frustrating, that and the pasta maker. It’s not like I use them often but I needed the trifle bowl for the annual family Christmas dinner (after Christmas Day) we take turns hosting and after a glass of wine one night I decided it would be a brilliant idea to invite them all here…….I knew they were both in the same cupboard in the kitchen in the previous place, still in their boxes. I hunted everywhere and ended up buying a new trifle bowl on Amazon that just made the final delivery day before Christmas. A couple of months later I drove back up to the old house to get some last bits and pieces and I went into a really depressing cold, empty shell and looked in the cupboard. There they were in at the back on the bottom shelf.

I had decided I would stay in my new house that night and the next and then drive back to Meath to organise moving the animals. I was worried about the sow, Lady Lavinia who had never set foot in a trailer in her life and was very clever and very, very suspicious of them. All the times I had loaded up her offspring she had never been temped up the ramp for food. I knew Honky and Parker (my accidental pet pigs) would be fine as they had both been in trailers before and would do anything for food.

I also had sleepless nights over the cats. I have one old cat who we named the fat cat or Fat Kitty. He’s the most nervy odd cat in the history of odd cats. You can’t just bend down and scoop him up when he’s outside but you can when he is in the house. I had to leave him and my daughter’s cat (who I inherited when she went off on her world tour) behind with the pigs. I knew I had to capture them both the night before the move so I could put them in cat boxes on the day of the move.

I didn’t realise how freaked they would be at the empty house that I left them in the night before while I went and stayed with my son again. On the plus side the pigs were happy to see me back as they always were after I’d been away.

Tomorrow was another day and I was still tired and weak from the tummy bug.

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Fat Kitty trapped in the old house

 

 

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The Thug too

The Move

The move was scheduled for the following Monday the 23rd October. They would pack up everything and drive back to their depot in Drogheda, then the next day drive to Wexford. That meant I was homeless for a night. Luckily I was able to stay with my son. I had to organise someone to look after the animals who were staying put until the following weekend (the October bank holiday).

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The only thing I could find to have a cup of tea when the removal company left

Of course in the middle of this I managed to get some sort of bad tummy bug. My son’s girlfriend is a NICU nurse in one of the main children’s hospitals in Dublin and she reckons she is immune to the vomiting bugs but is a carrier. She could well be right but I think it was a combination of grief, exhaustion and stress.

The next day I left early to get on the road to arrive at the house before the removal vans. It was a very difficult drive. I think I cried the whole way. Everywhere I passed once I got into Co. Wexford reminded me of dad. Passing where we had spent all our summers – Kilgorman. Passing through Camolin where we had picked strawberries and then piled into the pub for toasted sandwiches afterwards, starving and sunburnt. Even now writing this makes me tear up.

I arrived at the house to find the electrician finishing connecting the power out to the shed I was putting my fridge and freezers in. I had had to beg the removal company to move them full and connect them overnight to power while they were in the vans. He made the fatal mistake of asking how dad was. He knew he had been bad. I started to tell him then began bawling. The poor chap didn’t know where to look.

Just at that moment the first truck arrived and it got me and him off the hook. Initially I kept up unloading boxes and thought to myself this is a piece of cake. But that was just the first van. They reversed in the second and when I saw the number of boxes I nearly cried. How in the name of God could I have that amount of stuff.

They unloaded the last van and scarpered. I recommended the place up the road for them to get food. I couldn’t even make them a cup of coffee. Someone had given me the advice to pack a kettle, cups, tea bags, coffee and MOST importantly the corkscrew separately. Had I taken that advice? Had I heck………..

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I managed to get my bed made up and the sitting room half-way “sittable” in. I went up the road to The Hollow a mile away and got fish and chips and found a bottle of wine in the car. There was a gammy corkscrew left in the kitchen drawers here and I broke it trying to open the bottle. Half the cork was still in it but I didn’t care.  I lit the stove and collapsed.