The Goodbye

We finally laid dad to rest two years after his death, in the sea off Kilgorman beach. It was a sad but magical day. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the wind and waves were gentle.

As we walked over the dune carrying his ashes and red roses, I saw the sun glinting on the sea almost directly opposite “the gap”. The tears immediately began to fall.

That was the first of many signs.

I had scribbled a few extra lines onto a well-known poem the day before his anniversary after a walk on Duncannon beach. We had read the original at his funeral and when I saw the sun shining across the sea and on the shells I thought of him, as I always do.

Do not stand at my grave and weep

I am the sun glinting on shells

I’m the sun’s reflection on tide

I am the wind that blows your side

I’m in the darkening clouds that cry

I am there where you are, I did not die

The second sign – the roses we threw in after his ashes, were washed back onto the beach, in a line, along the shore where he always went for a run after a swim.

The third – a seal appeared and swam where we had scattered the ashes. In all the years we have never seen a seal in that close and generally they are only at either end of the beach at the rocks.

I’m not religious and after he died I tried to feel he was still here (as people say) but there was nothing. He was gone and it was final. I found that the hardest aspect but gradually began to accept that once we die, that’s it. There is nothing else. Of course that doesn’t stop you thinking of the person, remembering them, missing them.

But yesterday that changed. I really felt he was watching us, that he approved and he was happy. He was somewhere behind the scenes orchestrating the whole thing and sending that seal to make us realise.

I tried to take a photo of the seal but his head vanished out of sight only to reappear a few seconds later when I wasn’t ready. Then we saw 3 roses bobbing in his place.

The clouds darkened as we walked off the beach and began to cry. But it was shortlived.

Later that evening, driving home the cloud formation and light over the county Wexford countryside from the new M11 motorway was breathtaking.

And even later the sunset spectacular.

I’m glad we waited as long as we did to lay him to rest. It felt right, it felt final, it was a good goodbye.

Rest in peace dad, dadad, Gerry dad.

The Food

img_1948

I know I “may” have waxed lyrical about the food since I moved here. I know also that the food in Ireland has improved immeasurably in recent years but holy cow – the fish in Wexford. Not only the fish, the tomatoes, the strawberries and the spuds. The spuds, namely Wexford Queens bring terroir to a whole new level. Put that in yer pipe Frogs, and smoke it. Wexford Queens grown in sandy soil with sea breezes sweeping over them. There is nothing to compare. Nothing as good. Nothing on the planet.

Did I mention the fish? The fish. Oh my God. I live down the road from Mickey the Winch in Arthurstown. He was the owner of the Pere Charles that sank with the loss of five men. Since then he’s never gone to sea but started a smokehouse, Ballyhack Smokehouse smoking wild and farmed salmon. He also sells fish weekly in my local village but if you miss that, you can pop down to his house.

img_1713
Poached wild salmon, Wexford new season Queens, Kilmore asparagus

img_1827
Monkfish wrapped in pancetta, olives, local tomatoes from Campile, courgette fettuccine and Queens Wexford

img_1810
Moules Mariniere

Moving to Wexford from Meath where the only place to get good fish was in a super little but wholly inaccessible fish shop in Navan. It was a brilliant shop but it was a hike and parking was a nightmare. So much so that I only went a couple of times a month and stocked up. Here, I can get fish daily almost and it’s only a 5 min drive.

img_1407
Kilmore asparagus with my own duck egg and sourdough

I get local, seasonal and mostly chemical-free veg from Ronan’s Farm Shop in New Ross. I also get Wexford free range pork and bacon (sadly not organic)  and organic chicken. The chicken is from Regan Organics and is second to none. They do duck eggs as good as my own. That’s always my marker. Do they do it as good as I do? Few do, but they do.

The Nutshell café and health food store  in New Ross are terrific for all the other organic dry goods. They order me in 5kg bags of organic strong flour. I make all my own bread because the only decent bakery is in Tramore (Seagull Bakery). I also make my own focaccia and brioche burger buns that I keep in the freezer.

img_1835
Homemade free range pork and beef burger, brioche bun

I often take a spin up to Gorey on a Saturday to the market there where they always have a great selection of in season vegetables. Then pop into Partridge’s for a coffee and an almond scone with the mammy.  After that a potter around the shops. Gorey has to be one of the best shopping towns in the country.

I buy chips of jam strawberries from Green’s and make pots of strawberry jam. It’s become a summer tradition. I’ve since discovered a local strawberry grower – Danescastle.

img_20072
Green’s strawberries

img_2040
Strawberry jam

But it’s not only great ingredients, the local restaurants and pubs are pretty great too. Such a joy when you don’t feel like cooking or have unexpected visitors.

img_1163
Beer battered fish and chips

I’m pretty spoiled by having Roche’s of Duncannon who do the best fish and chips and Yellowbelly beers down the road.

img_2171

I’ve spoken about The Hollow Bar up the road as well that do great fish and have a gin and tonic menu to die for. Not to mention Aldridge Lodge and Dunbrody (which I’ve yet to sample).

Wexford has pretty great food. It doesn’t have the fame of Cork or even West Cork but that’s because no one is shouting loudly. I aim to change that.

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.

img_9528
Honky sunning herself

 

img_9497
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.

 

img_9766

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.

img_9464
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.

img_9465
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.

img_9466
A very welcome plate of food and a glass of wine after a long day

I crawled into bed that night and passed out.