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Published: August 21st 2007
Ahhhh, Scotlun'! When will we see your likes agin? Well, on 14th July as it goes and as we touched down on the tar MacAdam of Turnhouse just to the West of Edinburgh thoughts were not on Bastille Day celebrations in France nor were they on my own birthday. Instead I was thinking about the beautiful flight down the Firth of Forth past the volcanic beaches of Gullane and the sleepy villages of Fife and towards and clearing the magnificence of the Forth rail bridge. we were back after almost 2 years. We quickly cleared all formalities and were met by two McArees and a Thomas one of whom was joyfully waving handmade Scottish and Irish flags. Sharon and Joyce and Tommy whisked us away in a speeding car towards Auld Reakie and our adventure had begun. How great to feel like a traveller in a place you know so well. The same was to happen in Edinburgh, Dublin and Donegal, on the mountains south of Braemar and also West of Crieff.
The first week passed as a blur. I didn't sleep particularly well but certainly not enough. Sharon and Tommy, the impeccable hosts as always, treated us to great craic agus ceol
. Mornings meant veggie bacon a-fryin', while evenings centred on beers like chic-sounding beers with names like Stella Artois and San Miguel. I fitted in far too much time immersed in virtual worlds full of imps and goblins on Tommy's PC. Every swish of my sword screamed FREEDOM!!
, every spell cast HOLIDAY!!
. Sofie headed to East Kilbride and I dinnered at Ciara's lovely new apartment and succeeded in not setting foot at all in Edinburgh centre. Later Sofie was to spend time in garden allotments, and meeting up old teacher friends from Toll X.
On Thursday we made our way to the City Chambers for a double civil marriage ceremony. We had exchanged rings in Vietnam and this was just a way of putting an extra shine on them. For Sharon and Tommy they were going to do things the other way round. It turned out to be a lovely day and a wild night!
Needless to say there were several sore heids raised above the duvet parapets the next day, a day of travel to France, of lost passports (Blathnaid's), missed flights (Sharon, Tommy, Nigel, Niamh, Brian, Joyce et al), lost luggage (too many to
mention) and general Cannonball Run madness. I arrived safe and sound (sans baggage) and Sofie traveled next day with Huma and Tim. I arrived to meet Mum and Dad, Orlaith and Elaine McAree in Toulouse airport - they had arrived at 9 a.m. and we succeeded in extricating ourselves avec
rental car by 8pm! Dad drove us to sleepy Agen and we managed to find food at the unearthly hour of 10pm on a street-side kebab house with great effort, gnashing of teeth and rumbling of tummies. Still, it was great to see the last four members of my clan after so long away on our travels.
After some sightseeing and shopping in Agen we arrived at Chateau de Rodie near Corbiac, near Tournons d'Agenais, near Somewhere-sur-Lotte near Agen like so-many force-fed geese flapping hither and thither. Who knew that there would be Courbiacs
5 miles apart? Typical French arrogance, I thought. As it turned out everybody in France or in this part of France was lovely and friendly and scarily helpful. I felt like we were walking into some sort of trap. I'd read Bill Bryson's accounts of the suave French cold shoulder. So we arrived in this
wonderful 700 year old Chateau de Rodie with its voluminous Grande Salle
, inviting piscine
, sweeping vistas of French countryside and all accompanies by a cacaphony of farmyard noises which emanated from a farmyard. (Later, some residents were to talk of spectral figures, unexplained patches of cold, rumblings and murmurings at night) But what was one to expect of such a place?
What a lovely week we had once everybody had arrived with their stories of airline jiggerypokery. Is it possible that the French have exported most of their stock of rudeness only for it to be bought at massive discount by the airlines that even now are sending unwitting tourists her way? Je ne sais pas... Anyway, apart from the scorching weather, afternoons wiled away by the pool, huge banquets and discussions of wines, venturings into the nearby countryside, baking of cakes, taking of photographs (from every possible angle), discussions of the Impact of Communications Technology on the DIY Marriage Ceremony in Continental Europe, shopping, sunflowers, catching-up with old acquaintances and all that, there was an actual wedding ceremony as well. It was lovely in so many ways and there are many wonderful images and memories to convey but
I will focus on the way in which I single-handedly, (with some support from the assorted onlookers) married Sharon to Tommy (nee Thomas) with such aplomb that my services as a ceremonial witness will no doubt be required in future. Of my performance A Tour de Force
, said Daniel (aged 7ish), The marriage has reached new depths!
, chirruped Anya (4ish), Is there no end to his arrogance? It's positively French!
, burped Leo (1ish but known for his contrariness). One small step for marriage. One giant leap for marriage-kind
It was great to see Tommy's family in France, to have an auld chat with Niamh and Brian, to marvel at the Dublin twang of Timm, to listen to the kids laughing and playing and plotting, to see Nigel again with his panama hat.
And so another chapter ended while a new one (as it often does) began. Discussions of name-changes were strained. After tents negotiations, a demilitarised zone was eventually established behind amnesia associated with the consumption of gallons of vin rouge et blanc. The vin is mightier than the sword. Peace reigned.
After one week across La Manche it was time to leave Sofie to return
to Caledonia, just as I flew to Hibernia, the land where my spark was kindled. I had a fantastic time in Dublin catching up with old friends who (by some trick of the mind) seemed to have sat with me far more recently in my head than was the reality. Trick of the mind (or of SkyPe), had I really been away from Dublin for so long? It reminded me of the story learned at school of Tir na n'Og (The Land of Youth) where the eternal youth seekers returned to find friends long dead, long gone. Here, however, friends and family were postively radiant, fit and healthy, enjoying life, sprightlier than I, nesting, trading, engaging, living. It was great to see them all (Fergal and Catherine, Timm and Grainne, Maurethe and Pete, Kieran and Maeve, and Eoin). It's not the economy stupid, it's who we know that makes the world go round. What about centripetal force you might ask....
Again, I didn't really make it much into the city centre, content with walks around Bray, up the Head, and down by the sea to Dun Laoire (no longer drab and dreary). All around me babies and bumps and
growth and change and I felt oddly a stranger in my own land. L'etranger. A visit to Monaghan and a few days in beautiful Donegal lifted my spirits no end. Dun na nGall. To my mind, it is still the most beautiful county in Ireland - that much hasn't changed. So, there are stupid looking houses everywhere, unimaginative and ungainly "development" but why should people strive for a future in line with my draconian notions eerily reminiscent of de Valera's (dancing at the crossroads, peasants as far as the eye can see.) I'm like that yank in JB Keane's The Field. Feck em - go for it - well, with a little bit of sensitivity for the lovely surroundings if you wouldn't mind... Donegal resplendent in golden sunshine is a sight to take the breath away, reverse the flow of blood and turn the eyeballs inwards. Port Salon beach, Rathmullan, Gweedore, Dunfanaghy, every bend in the extremely bendy road offers up a new wonder. I even managed to take a tour around the old Donegal Trains hostel near Dunfanaghy. It brought back great memories for me. I called into Carndonagh to see if Kevin, Sinead, Dara or Kate were about
bot none were seen. A few lovely days in Inishowen and Fanad, driving around the Bloody Foreland and considering the Flight of the Earls and soon I was flying back to Dublin after a motivational stop with Orlaith and Elaine. I felt guilty to be enjoying such a great time when my two wee sisters toiled with the travails of an undergraduate education. I wish them both luck but life does not end at College but it is certainly lived there and more power to the elbow of the one that learns anything in the pages of a textbook.
So back to Scotland and Edinburgh for the madness of the Fringe. And also the complete antithesis of the city and its civilisation was attainable by a visit to the Scottish Highlands with Edi who had jetted in from Barcelona. We spent a great days on the Free Fringe tour and went on to a Munro tour. I think I have bagged a respectable 30 now but Edi has a wondrous 90+ ad he lives in Mexico. Again, luck was on our side with the weather (in Inishowen a July record for sunniness was measured while other parts had a
wettest record to savour) and later the trend towards Arctic chill in Edinburgh was one last nail in the coffin of Scotland's summer. May she rest in peace.
Over the final days some evidence of decay was noted: Edi's walking boots after more than ten years gave up the ghost. warren noted a more pronounced swelling of the belly, less easy to ignore. Sofie's old teaching pal, Euan, was to observe that Sofie looked just the same but Warren.... Still it was lovely to the see the improvements to the Caley Sample Rooms - mere plastic surgery with the same dead innards as before.
The last night with Joyce, Ciara and Sofie was at a Jason Byrne gig. He was great as he always is and the Fringe was over for us. Edi was away back to Germany and Mexico. Sharon and Tommy were just returning from their honeymoon in India and Karlie had missed us by a hairs breadth but our time was at an end and attentions already turning to Turnhouse and Doha and Vietnam again.
I've been back a day and been riding the bike and had heated arguments with shopkeepers already. I will
Let it Rain
taken by Huma
start back to school on Wednesday while Sofie has already started. This will be our last year I think. We both miss ye all and to cries of Haste Ye Back
we say: Aye
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