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

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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.

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Poached wild salmon, Wexford new season Queens, Kilmore asparagus

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Green’s strawberries

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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.

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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.

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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 Now

It’s almost mid-summer. I’m now here going on 8 months but I feel like I’m here so much longer. The feeling of unfamiliarity has almost gone. I had to ask initially where everything was. The feed supplier, hardware, recycle centre, health food shop, butcher (non-existent), the baker, the candlestick maker. I’m sure I drove my neighbour daft texting her, asking stuff. The drive home from Dublin, Meath and elsewhere is now familiar and I have reference points to know how much longer it will take. It’s very disconcerting in the beginning when you have no idea.

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The animals have all taken to it like ducks to water. Indeed the very first ducks were born here the other day. And hopefully in a week or so there will be chicks to join them. Will I breed pigs again? I’m tempted to but not with the present stock. I think the way to go is breed pure bred rare breeds. I’m waiting for my inspection for my new herd number. I didn’t realise the old one was related to Meath. The vet rang me last week and said they’ve a big backlog and he will be out towards the end of next week.

I have decided I will grow a few sheep next year because I have way too much grass. The end paddock is the biggest one and I didn’t use it in the winter and now the grass is waist height in it. My neighbour is cutting it every day but that day hasn’t actually arrived. Probably for dock and other weed control it would be an idea to stick a few goats on it but the thoughts of them escaping…………. Sheep don’t thrill me either apart from eating them. From listening to other sheep farmers they seem to have one aim only and that is to find ways to kill themselves.

Who knows what the future will bring? Would I do it all again? Definitely. I never loved Meath. When I moved there initially, I said “six weeks and I’m gone”. Not sure where to but I found it really backward and insular. We had moved home from living in England for 6 years with two small children. It drove me crazy how limited the shops were. I used drive to SuperQuinn in Blanchardstown once a week to do my grocery shopping and then later in Blackrock on my way home from visiting my parents and that was before the Clonee bypass never mind the motorway.

I suppose I gradually just got used to it but I do remember when the kids were small driving back after being in Wexford with them, how much I hated going back. There is an invisible line at Clonee where the weather changes. You leave Wexford or Dublin in glorious sunshine, hit that line and the sky darkens, without fail. When I was house hunting last summer it happened every single time. I would leave my house and the wind and rain and drive to Bray or Ashford depending on who was coming with me and the sun would come out. For the 10 houses I viewed (some of them twice) it only rained for two but it was grey and dreary on leaving, every single trip.

The locals laugh here when I tell them the weather is miles better in the sunny southeast. They don’t think it is, but they haven’t lived in Meath.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and it’s the first without dad. In truth he hadn’t a clue what it was for quite a number of years. Dementia had robbed him of everything. We all wished him dead. Sounds an awful thing to say but to watch someone you love go through that dreadful illness is the worst form of torture for you and for them. If an animal had that poor a quality of life you would be accused of cruelty not to humanely end it. Humanely? We treat animals humanely. We treat people abominably.

I’m so glad I decided to write all this down before I forget, because at the back of my mind is the dread that dementia is genetic and I will go the same way. I hope if they can’t find a cure they at least find a way to put people out of their misery if they make a decision in advance that is what they wish.

For now, that’s the end of this chapter. But I’m sure there will be many more.

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 Decision

It was made in a split second, the decision to move from where I had lived for 24 years. To this day I don’t know why, but all I can say it was the best move (in every sense) I ever made.

Instead of staying in the marital home after the divorce was finalised I found myself agreeing in my solicitor’s office to finding a place for me and all my animals in a limited amount of time. He suggested 6 weeks, I argued 3 months. I won.

And so the house hunting began.

I can tell you now that if you are looking for a place with character and a small bit of land; it’s a bit like looking for the perfect horse. The horse you are looking for hasn’t been born yet, nor has it’s mother!

You will find any amount of, as I referred to them “horrible houses”. Characterless, soul destroying bungalows plonked on sites with no consideration for the environment around them. Then you will find the “do er uppers” or a very big builder’s bill. In between, you will find small cottages that someone has tried to give “character” to and hasn’t always succeeded. Then the bit of land…….here in rural Ireland an acre give or take is referred to as “a garden”. I wanted more than a garden but not the next step up which seemed to be 12-15 acres.

And so the daily trawl through Daft and My Home began and the day trips to Wexford. A 2-3 hour drive each way give or take. I can tell you estate agents/auctioneers are an absolute nightmare to deal with. I had some that didn’t turn up for appointments because they never got the internal office memo. I had some that couldn’t have cared less if they never sold a property. And it seemed most were very economical with the truth. I would view a place and ask all the pre-requisite questions “had it been on the market long?” No. “Had there been any recent offers?” No. But lo and behold when I got back home to Meath and decided to put an offer in someone had beaten me to it……..and of course they offered a few thousand more than I had.

 

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The very first place I viewed was perfect in every way except it had no land and only a tiny garden. I viewed it twice, I gave it very serious consideration. I asked the estate agent would it be a possibility that I could buy some of the land adjoining it and she went off to investigate. I remembered a long time ago going shopping with my sister for her wedding dress. The first one she viewed was perfect but she said she couldn’t buy it as it was the only one she had seen. My then husband on overhearing this piped up that he had bought a van that morning and it was the only one he had seen. She ended up buying the dress.

Could I buy the first house I had viewed? I put an offer in (a low one) thinking that as there had been no interest in almost a year and no recent offers and I needed to hold some money back to buy land.  But guess what? Yes, you guessed right, a higher offer was on it. I refused to increase mine and I waited and waited.

 

 

The Beginning

Last October 2017 when Hurricane Ophelia was scheduled to make her appearance, my removal company was to start packing up 24 years of my life to move from the Meath/Cavan border in Ireland to the sunny southeast – in Wexford.  However, Ophelia wasn’t the only spanner in the works. My lovely dad was dying and the move had to be postponed. As Ophelia blew, dad was fighting his last horrible battle with life. He left as Ophelia did on the 18th of October 2017.

My move was postponed to the following Monday.

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