Monday, February 16, 2009

I moved to a small farming/fishing village in southwest County Cork, Ireland, in 2000 and came back to the US in April 2003. These journal entries are some that I kept and sent to my mother as a way of staying in touch with her and letting her know what my life in Ireland was like.

May 30, 2000:
Boarding the Aer Lingus flight from JFK to Dublin was the most orderly I have ever experienced. There is usually a mad rush for the plane by travelers heedless of the rows announced, followed by a scrambling to change seating so traveling companions can sit together. This time it was flawless, another sign that I am on the right track. Then the plane left on time! It didn’t just taxi out to the runway at the designated time, the plane actually lifted into the air and carried my spirits along through the clouds.

May 31, 2000:
Clearing Customs in Dublin was a breeze and I made the connection to Cork City, where I was met by Cordula, an ex-pat German, and her friend, Mike, a Brit who travels here every few months. We had breakfast and then left for Beara, the peninsula which I now call home. It rained the whole way and we broke up the drive for a pub stop in Bantry, which necessitated a stop in a country lane further down the road, where Cordula and I hit the bushes and a makeshift loo.

I got settled in the mobile home which I’m renting until September. I have a view of the beach. The sea is not in sight from my window although it’s the first thing I see as I walk around the bend, about 100 yards, on the road to the village of Allihies.

June 1, 2000:
I walked into Allihies for groceries and to stop into the pub to meet old friends. Actually, there are four pubs in the village, and while the Lighthouse Bar is my favorite, I try to get around to all of them -- O’Neil’s during the day, the Oak Bar on Saturday night, and the Lighthouse whenever else I’m in town. O’Sullivan’s is under new management and attracts a younger crowd, so I haven’t been there yet but I will try it some afternoon. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m spending all my time drinking in the bars, but they are where people meet, news is exchanged, arrangements are made to get a lift somewhere, and so on.

My first weekend turned out to be a bank holiday weekend, which means there are lots of tourists. I’m glad for the locals whose livelihood depends on them arriving in droves during the summer, but I love it when just the locals are around and “everybody knows your name”. Many people recognize me from my previous visits and have offered whatever help I need to get settled in. They look forward to my children and granddaughter visiting. Ara will arrive in Dublin on June 16th, and people have arranged to get me to the Cork airport so I can fly to Dublin to meet her, as well as to see that we get home from Cork.

At one end of the mobile home are wrap-around windows with “U” shaped seating. The view of the beach on one side and mountains on another nearly makes me cry, it’s so beautiful and serene. The farmer next door put a cow and her calf into an enclosure next to me, and I smiled a lot just watching them for a couple of days. They’re gone now into another nearby pasture. The farm dogs are also funny to watch -- they wait until someone passes by and then they run out to bark a couple of times, just in case their owner is checking to see they are properly watching out for intruders.

June 7, 2000:
I went into Castletown today with Margie (owner of the Lighthouse Bar), who also owns a shop in Castletown. I visited the Gardai and formally applied to reside permanently in Ireland. I don’t see any problem and will probably receive the OK within 4-6 weeks. I also bought a mobile phone and a stereo, and quite a few bags of groceries. I kept running bags and boxes back to deposit in the “boot” of Margie’s car. The computer center was closed so I have to wait to get email capability, and I didn’t find the library this trip. I stopped in McCarthy’s Pub, which was the first place I visited when I got off the bus in March a year ago. The owner and one of the barmaids, two lovely Irish women, remembered me and welcomed me back. One of them is a hiker/mountain climber. She recently climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, as well as Hungry Hill (about 2o miles from here), immortalized by Daphne DuMaurier in her book of the same name. She took my phone number and promised to let me know of her next trip. Coincidentally, the box containing my hiking boots arrived today! We discussed hiking at length, especially the Appalachian Trail.

I almost forgot to mention that yesterday I was walking to the village and decided to cut about a quarter mile off the trek by hopping rocks across a small river that runs over the road. People do it all the time but they usually remove their shoes when walking across. Because I’m used to quite warmer weather, I couldn’t bear the thought of stepping into the cold water. I took my time and carefully picked a route across. Two hours later, with a bag of items from the shop, and after 2 or 3 pints of Guinness, I remembered how easy it had been crossing on the stones. I should have taken my time, for needless to say I fell in! My white jeans are stained with river mud, shoes are still drying, and I’m just waiting for someone to let me know they witnessed my ordeal.

My address here is:
Martha Federle
Ballydonegan, Beara
West Cork, Ireland

June 8, 2000:
My heat and hot water are from bottled gas. I knew I’d have to change the tank soon enough, but this morning, the coldest so far, the gas sputtered out. It took me a couple of tries but I soon had it secured and got the small heater going. The pilot light for the hot water had to be relit, which caused me some concern, but I finally turned the knob the correct way, pushed it in and held the match in the correct spot. Voila! Hot water! Heat and hot water are things we often take for granted, and I’m grateful to be brought back to the awareness of and thankfulness for the elements: earth, air, fire and water. I learned to appreciate them while hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and I evidently needed a little reminder.

June 18, 2000:
The sun is brighter than I’ve ever seen it here. Our neighbors are cutting silage -- they mow all their fields, catching the green grass in huge trailers. They empty it in a large concrete enclosure in the farm yard, which they call a silage pit. It is lined on the side walls with black plastic. The mowed grasses are piled higher and higher and spread out evenly by a tractor with large prongs in front. When it’s all finished and packed down, they’ll cover the top with plastic, weight it down with sandbags and tires. It will sink somewhat as the moisture drains down and out to an adjoining yard, and it is fermenting. This will feed all their cattle through the winter. Some farmers bale it and wrap the bales in plastic.

Ara is signed up for riding lessons. I have been trying to reach the woman who gives the lessons and finally met her at the pub yesterday. Now we need to get Wellingtons (rubber boots). I’m told I’ll need some Wellies too for the rainy season, so I‘ll buy 2 pairs.

My landlord seems happy to have me as a tenant. He is staying with his parents for a few days to help with the silage operation. I think today I’ll meet the woman who will be my landlady from September through May. I will have a much larger place with a coal burning fireplace AND and washer and dryer. I’m actually doing quite well with washing things out by hand. By the time they’ve hung out for a couple of days, been rained on a few times and flapped in the breeze, they are as soft as if I’d used fabric softener. I couldn’t believe the softness of my towels!

June 20, 2000:
We went to Cordula’s yesterday for coffee, cake and pastries. Mary O’Sullivan was also there -- she will be my landlady beginning in September. I was fascinated watching her and listening to her speak -- the quintessential Irish lady. When she left I remarked that her facial features and expressions reminded me of my mom. Ara gave me a surprised look and told me she was thinking the same thing -- she was reminded of Grandma Feds. It emphasizes how Irish my mom looks, and when you consider that her ancestors could have come from this very part of County Cork…..

Ara was sick during the evening. She is sleeping now -- after eating a light breakfast which appears to be staying down. Jeannie finally reached us by phone at 8 a.m., midnight in California.

The forecast was for rain today but at noon the sun is shining and very little fog is left clinging to the mountaintop.

June 21, 2000:
Beautiful clear day -- time to wash towels and get them out on the line. Ara and I walked to the beach this morning - picked up a few shells and feathers. It was cold and windy so we didn’t stay long.

Ara is homesick and cries whenever she thinks about her mom. I told her she may have to go back home if it bothers her this much, and she cried “Then I’ll miss you!”. I think Grandma Willett used to send me out to gather eggs when I got a touch of homesickness.

The following is a cover letter to my mom, transmitting an installment of my Ireland Journal:

July 5, 2000:
Dear Mom,
Thanks for the note - it came yesterday. We love it when the Post stops here.
I appreciate your keeping my journal for me. Some day I hope to type and print it out, and keep it with my Appalachian Trail journal I’m not good enough to ever write a book, but possibly some day, far into the future, my great-great-grandchildren will read it with the same curiosity that we read the diaries of pioneer women traveling west on the wagon trains! Just think, someday I’ll be part of the “good old days”.
Jeannie has been calling Ara nearly every day, which seems to help with her homesickness. I think Jeannie is enjoying the freedom - her first in nearly 11 years!
Take care, all of you, and write me again.
Love, Marty

June 22, 2000:
Ara and I got our Wellingtons yesterday. They were relatively inexpensive - 20 Irish pounds for both pairs, about $25. I really don’t need them now, but I’m told that they are a must for the winter.

I have a gas heater which I usually light in the mornings to take the chill off. I haven’t had any problem lighting it, but yesterday it didn’t light right away and when it did, it came alight with a flash which seemed to blow outward. I smelled something burning and realized it singed my hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. You can’t really tell except my eyelashes on my right eye are now about half length. I hope they grow out fast! Now I’m careful to hold my head way back when lighting the fire.

June 25, 2000:
Riding lessons begin this afternoon at 2 p.m. Then there’s music at the Oak Bar at 4:00. I hear that I missed a grand session at the Oak last night. I’m going to have to start going out on Saturday nights instead of the afternoons. With 4 pubs in town I need a calendar to keep track of the activities!

The sun is brilliant today. Much of the time it goes back and forth between cloudy, rainy, foggy, and sunshine, but today is warm and sunny.

June 27, 2000:
The farmer next door has been baling hay for the last week and hauling it to the farmyard on the back of his tractor. He has two little boys, aged 2 and 3, who obviously adore him and love to ride in the tractor with him. He’s going back and forth right now, with both boys in the cab with him, and they look so cute.

July 3, 2000:
Ara had her second riding lesson yesterday. One of the women whose horses are used told me she looked so good on a horse. She sits straight and tall, and if I do say so, she looks just beautiful! I arranged for my first lesson this coming Thursday. I’ll take a couple of private lessons before joining a group. I think the one-on-one instruction will be good for me. Also, I’m planning to join a small group of ladies who meet at the village hall during the winter for painting lessons. The instructor is from England and I already know several of the women, who vary widely in age so I won’t feel out of place. I’ve always wished I could paint but never had the confidence, time, or opportunity to try. I don’t expect a Mary Cassat to emerge (or a Nancy Soellner Federle) but I think and hope I’ll have fun and learn something.

Ara and I both fell in the river yesterday evening trying to cross the rocks. After several pints of Murphys Stout, I had an excuse but I don’t know what hers was. I hardly saw her - I was in the pub listening to music and she was up at the playground with what probably was every kid in the village. I know she enjoys the freedom and relative security. I admit I went up to check on her once when I hadn’t seen her in a couple of hours.

July 4, 2000 - 8:40 a.m:
Paul Hanley drove up on his way to work this morning. He handed me an envelope and said “This is an important one - it’s for Ara.” Such personal service! My messages might wait for a day or two but hers are special delivery! (Paul let us send some email on his computer and is printing out the responses for us.)

Well we actually walked about 6 miles along the coast to Foher. It’s one of my favorite walks, a mountain on one side and cliffs overlooking the sea on the other, with incredible rock formations at the bottom of the cliffs.

This evening I feel such happy anticipation and it causes me to laugh. I’m going to town, Castletownbere, tomorrow! After a couple of hours there I’ll be glad to return, but I’m looking forward to going. Unfortunately the library will be closed by the time I get there. I may just buy a book in town. And of course, there’s the ATM machine. I really need cash right now!

Another cover letter:
July 11, 2000
Dear Mom,
Nothing much happening, at least the little events which make up my days and weeks would seem to be nothing. But it suits me just fine. Ara and I will go to the village this evening. She even got a shower and a hair wash!
We have cows in the field behind us now, and every now and then we hear a loud bawl! The fields aren’t large, and they move the animals frequently so the grass isn’t over-grazed. I like to watch them.
Well I’ll close and get this in the post.
Love, Marty

July 7, 2000:
Yesterday I went into Cormacs’ pub (O’Sullivans) for a glass before returning home from the village. Cormac told me I had a pint already paid for. Kojak, a local who is out on a fishing boat, paid for one before he left - a drink for me on Independence Day, July 4th. That was so sweet of him.

Shona, Margie’s daughter, is over today and the girls went to the beach. I went over myself for a while, just to make sure they were ok. Lots of people are sunbathing, although the air seems chilly to me. The Irish refer to cooler air as “fresh”, as in “The air is fresh today.” The girls are catching tiny crabs. The receding tide is leaving lots of jellyfish strewn over the beach and among the rocks. I sat on a big rock looking out at the water for about half an hour. Figuring my sunscreen had run its allotted course, I came on back. The girls will probably come back starving!

We never lock the door in the daytime anymore, and when we go out in the evening we leave the key under Ara’s sandals next to the door stoop.

July 9, 2000:
It turned cold and very windy after a beautiful sunny week.

Ara is still in the village at 7 pm, while I came home an hour or so ago! She has spent the day with friends and when I left the Lighthouse Bar, she and three others were playing cards in one of the back rooms there. I met Paul at the Lighthouse, and he gave me printouts of emails from a friend in Arizona (Florence) and one of my brothers, Bill.

I just got a call from my neighbor, Nora. A local fisherman just brought some fresh fish and she’s offering me a cut of it. I didn’t ask what kind it is but I hope it’s a lemon sole or black sole, but when they just come in off the boat like that they are so fresh that it’s all delicious.

Good heavens, I hear thunder! With all the rain we have, there is seldom lightning and thunder. I’m prepared with loads of candles and an oil lamp in case the power goes out, as it often does.

July 10, 2000:
Another “fresh” windy day! It started out with a heavy rain but now it’s sunny and all the fog has lifted off the mountains. The sky that shows through the puffy white clouds is a beautiful shade of blue.

Nora stopped by with the fish this afternoon and her Hoover. Ara has just vacuumed the floors (or hoovered them, as they say in Ireland and the U.K.) Nora and Billy are going to England next week for their daughter’s graduation from nursing school, and she asked if Ara and I would stay at the farmhouse just up the road. She has students who come throughout the summer for 2-week periods, and she needs an adult to sleep there so the students aren’t alone - they are mostly 15-16 year olds. The ones coming next week are from France. These students attend classes in Irish music, local history and culture, etc., in the village and stay in houses of the local people. Nora’s farmhouse is the house where her husband, Billy, was born, and is over 200 years old. She and Billy live in a bungalow a bit further down the road, but I guess Nora spends nights there during the summer and looks after the girls. Ara is excited about it. Nora gave us a tour of the house before the students arrived and explained how they had remodeled, added on, converted, etc. I’m so glad to be able to do something for Nora as she is constantly helping me out, doing laundry for us, and so on.

It‘s later now and I‘ve eaten the fish. Nora had beheaded it (or whatever you call removing the fish head), and cut it into 3 sections. I poached it in salted water and put butter and a few herbs on it. I ate it with boiled potatos, and I‘m in heaven! Ara wouldn‘t touch it which meant I had to eat it all. I‘m not sure what kind of fish it was, but there were some kind of darts or spears down each side. I wouldn‘t want to meet it alive in the water!

We’re going to town tomorrow!!! Anticipation builds!

July 14, 2000:
Today is Bastille Day!

It’s hard to imagine the sea air, unless you’ve ever spent some time in it. It’s thick with moisture -- you can almost see it on an overcast day. Yesterday, despite the fact that I half filled it with grains of rice, my salt shaker quit running. I knew there was still salt in the shaker and the opening wasn’t plugged up. I emptied the shaker of salt and rice onto a saucer. This morning the salt was actually moist! The air is wonderful for the complexion, however.

July 15, 2000:
I am enclosing some little articles from the West Cork weekly newspaper about recent court cases. If I ever have to go to court I sure hope I get Judge James O’Connor. He mostly rules that the defendant contribute a specified amount to the poor box, the garda benevolent fund, or other charity. I’ve heard from some of the locals that going to the court proceedings can be fun and I believe it.

We’ve finally gotten a warm sunny day after a week of rain. Ara walked over to the beach to get some sun. She came back laughing to tell me there was a woman sunbathing who had taken her top off (no doubt a tourist and certainly not an Irishwoman). I told Ara to keep the top of her suit on when she went back! I said, “I want to see bathing suit lines in your tan!”

I felt pretty bad today and have just laid around all day. Too many pints last night and I smoked a cigarette, or a “fag” as they call them here. It was the first thing Ara told her mom when she called this morning. I think I’m off the drink for a while. And I’m certainly off the cigs. Wonder how many ginger ales I’ll drink before I cave in, ha.

July 16, 2000:
How time flies! Last night the pilot light went out on the water while I was cooking supper. I went outside in the dark and changed the bottle of gas. I’m getting good at it! Even relit the pilot but it took me a while. I think the line needs to be cleaned out.

We’re going to a musical production “Voyage of Brendan” in the village hall tonight. On Tuesday night there is a “Table Quiz” at O’Neils Pub. They put teams of four people to a table, who compete by answering questions. I’m thinking about joining, but I hope the questions aren’t strictly local knowledge stuff. Table Quiz is evidently a fund raiser used all over Ireland. It costs 3 pounds to enter and the proceeds are for some charity.

July 20, 2000:
For the past three nights Ara and I have stayed in the farmhouse. With all the space we have, I miss “home” - home being the mobile. Ara is in love with a two-story house, and I like having an upstairs. It will be a welcome change when I move into “my own” farmhouse in September.

The girls I’m looking after for Nora are three 15-16 year olds from France. Only one speaks English. I used to think French was a pretty language, but to tell the truth, I’m getting sick of hearing it and would much rather listen to Spanish, Italian, Portuguese or Irish. The girls are typical of teens everywhere, I suppose, sometimes self-centered, inconsiderate, and rude. Of course I wasn’t like that, as I’m sure my mother would agree! They have a surprise waiting when Nora returns as she is much more forceful than I. I let them know what time in the morning it is, and if they’re late for class, then it’s their problem and not mine. After raising four kids and constantly worrying about getting them out the door on time, I’m not about to go back to that!

I got a shock yesterday when I looked at my phone and discovered the card was used up and I can only make emergency calls. I will have to go to town to get another one. How aggravating! I should be able to take incoming calls but it didn’t ring at all yesterday so I’m not sure. Usually I get at least one or two calls every day.

Have I updated since I had my last riding lesson - the one where my horse decided to canter instead of trot? Well, I’m having another lesson tomorrow - a private one this time. I think I’ll arrange for Ara and me to go on a ride next week. The instructor’s son takes people out to ride in the mountains. It’s probably not the same as trail riding in the U.S., but similar.

Ara’s counting down the days until Jeannie gets here. We’re going to Cork City the day before, and we’re going to shop! And eat at Burger King and McDonalds (yuk, yuk, yuk!).

July 21, 2000:
All I can say is “Dear God, it’s nearly over!” I mean the French student-sitting. I’ll get their breakfast in the morning, help Nora change the beds, and move back to my cramped little home with no one to worry about except Ara. Then on Thursday morning next week, Nora will take us to Castletownbere to catch the bus for Cork, and we will meet Jeannie on Friday morning. Then I will go back to being only responsible for myself.

I rode this morning and I’m beginning to feel really confident and in sync with the horse. At the last session I rode her up and down the sand hills to sort of get the hang of balancing myself with the horse. Sara asked if I wanted to come to the beach at 6:30 pm )Irish time, maybe 7:00, ha). They are going to take the horses for a swim, but I guess I’ll probably still be here babysitting students (Ara is much more mature than those 15 and 16-year olds) and washing dishes. There will be a next time.

I have a suntan! I didn’t want to get one and I’ve used sunscreen religiously, but I’m brown all the same. Everyone here is either tanned or burned or somewhere in between. The week has been absolutely brilliant, and no one is missing the chance to be outdoors and catch some rays. I love Ireland when it’s misty and rainy, but it’s heavenly when the sun shines - same as the Appalachian mountains.

I‘m totally lost without a phone. There may be something wrong with it - I don’t see how I could have used up the money on it on the few local calls I’ve made. I need to get to town soon to see about it, and also to get some cash and visit the library. I’ve read two books this week - one of them over a couple of nights of waiting up for the girls to get home. This is a nice little job for some of the local ladies during the summer, and I guess they make a few pounds from it. It’s been suggested to me that if and when I’m settled into my own house I might want to take 2 or 3 students in, but I can honestly say, “NO WAY!!!”

July 23, 2000:
What a day! First, the swim from Dursey Island to the mainland. Seven swimmers and seven boats, each swimmer with a boat to look after them, made money for the benefit of Cahermore School. Nora took Ara and me to watch. She and Mary O’Shea were selling subscriptions - the equivalent of sponsoring a swimmer. There were many tourists and quite a few locals, and I would imagine several hundred pounds was taken in.

Mary and Nora asked me if I would be interested in joining the ICA - Irish Countrywomen’s Association. Of course I’m interested! Mary was also insistent that I join the Beara Arts Committee, and I’ve volunteered to help out at the Allihies Mine Museum. I have enough clerical skills to offer and I think I would enjoy it. It will be an opportunity to help the community as well as to get to know the local people on a more personal basis. I think the next thing would be the Altar maintenance group! They haven’t exactly asked me, but have casually mentioned it. I might draw the line there.

Then Nora, Ara and I drove to Castletownbere. We visited an art exhibition at the school. It’s hard to imagine the talent and quality of art in such a remote place, but believe me, it’s there. One room is devoted to the works of the artist who teaches the class I want to join.

After leaving the art exhibit Nora took us to dinner in town and then back to the Oak Bar in Allihies to hear the music. Ara found friends outside, so when Nora left, we stayed. Cordula came in and we wandered up to the Lighthouse Bar. Several visiting musicians came in and played and sang traditional Irish music plus a few Bluegrass tunes. It was spectacular - one of them had an incredible tenor voice, and it was a beautiful change from the usual music, which I also like, but this was quite a treat. I talked to a fisherman from Skibbereen who thinks I’m quite Celtic - he said I only have a slight American accent - ha. (Does this sound like a pickup line?) I assure everyone I still sound American. My heart is here right now and I love this place.

July 24, 2000:
I spent a couple of hours at the mobile home this morning while Ara went over to the beach. I have a small fridge (about 4 ft. high). It has a small freezer compartment which had iced up, so I defrosted it and cleaned everything up. I will need to buy stuff for when Jeannie is here, and it will now be a lot easier to put things away.

It’s warm and sunny again today, and the weather forecast is for the same again tomorrow, after which we’re likely to get rain again. “Warm” here is in the low 20’s, celsius, and I’m told that 23 is about as high as it gets in the southwest along the coast. The east and inland get a little warmer. This is my favorite kind of weather - warm in the sun but always a cool breeze blowing. I really shouldn’t be in the sun but it tends to be chilly indoors. The farmhouse walls are about 2-½ ft. thick. I love it actually - the deep windowsills are beautiful.

Nora called this evening and said Ara should go over to the beach where they were taking a tiny little pony into the water. I think it’s a Shetland we saw this afternoon. By the time we reached the beach we could see it in the distance - evidently they didn’t keep it in the water very long.

Ara is somewhat upset with me this evening because I didn’t want to go to the village. She wants to see friends and play on the playground, and I should go into the pub! Trouble is, just when I’m enjoying myself she wants to go home. Nothing happens really until 10 pm or so, and I need to go into Castletown tomorrow, so I don’t feel like drinking tonight, especially when it’s a mile plus going, and another mile plus coming back!

Aug. 22, 2000:
Gary, my landlord, stopped by yesterday to see if there was anything I needed. He told me the final week’s rent will be free for me. He’s very happy to have had a steady tenant for the entire summer, and it’s been great for me as well, even though a bit cramped for space. I love the location and I suppose I’ll consider it for next summer if I haven’t found anything permanent by then.

The gas ran out yesterday just as I was beginning to cook my supper. It was about 8:45 when they delivered a new tank, so I ate a bit late. It’s seems strange to stay home in the evening after going out nearly every night since Ara arrived. I’m drinking lots of water the past couple of days and watching a bit of telly. No beer!

The wind is fierce today. I walked to the village this morning to pay for a bottle of gas, and at times I could hardly make any headway against the wind.

I just love the speech of the people here. A woman I spoke to said “It’s fierce windy - a right gale altogether!”

I can’t seem to stay even with people, much less than get ahead a little bit. I gave Nora a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies this morning. She returned the plate this afternoon with a fish she had cleaned and filleted, and which was ready to fry. It was a Pollock and was “swimming last night”. She also took my laundry and I’ll get it back clean and folded tomorrow. I’ll drive into town tomorrow as I need money! Will stop at the ATM and the grocery.

Aug. 25, 2000:
After the warmest and sunniest week yet, a thunderstorm this morning knocked out the electricity. Fortunately I cook with gas, but the fridge is small and I doubt it will stay cold for long. Nora told me this happens during the winter but I hadn’t expected it yet. She said that when she and Billy moved back from England in the 70’s, electricity was just being brought to the area. Most people of a certain age have lived in England for a few years "working on the building". Some stay and are raising their families there, but many have returned home.

I’m looking out the window towards the beach right now. The seagulls are lined up, forming a perfect arc that conforms to the rounded curve of the beach. I wonder how they know to do it - not one out of place.

I met John Kelly (the musician) at the Oak Bar last night. He’s one of the musicians who play in the village and had rented Mary Dan’s house for the past few winters. He advised me to buy an electric blanket! I wonder how cold can it be. I think it’s probably more the dampness and the thick walls of the house. The upstairs has portable electric heaters, but it is no doubt prohibitively expensive to keep the heat on for long periods of time. I would worry more about it, but if I could survive the cold, snow and rain of the Appalachian Mountains, I hope I can do the same in an Irish winter, and I won’t use an electric blanket.

Well, the electricity came back on in about an hour, although it has flickered off and on a couple of times since.

This past week I bought all the ingredients I need to make sushi and miso soup, except for the crab and tofu, which I’ll have to get in Castletownbere or Bantry. I’ll have to cook the rice the old fashioned way, I’m afraid. I looked at a rice cooker (only one model available) the last time I was in Cork City - it was over 35 Irish pounds, $40-42. I can’t afford it for as seldom as I’d use it here, but I do miss my rice cooker which I sent to Joe. I don’t know anyone who would appreciate it more. He says his dad’s rice is terrible - probably still using Minute Rice!

August 31, 2000:
Nothing much has happened lately except for an electrical storm last week. The power went off, then on, and then off again. By early evening it went out and since the rain had stopped, I walked to the village. All the electricity was out so they had candles stuck in bottles all over the pub - on the bar, on tables, and even back in the loo. It was great fun and I almost hated it when the power came back about 3 hrs later.

September 1, 2000:
The wind has been howling and it rains off and on since yesterday evening. The rain is blowing in sideways - it looks like it’s coming in great horizontal sheets. Right now it’s relatively quiet and patches of blue skies are visible. I think I’ll stay in tonight, even though it’s a Friday night.

September 2, 2000:
I don’t know where to begin packing all my things for moving. It’s definitely going to take several trips!

Still no progress on sushi-making. The vinegar turned out to be malt vinegar. It was the only clear vinegar on the shelves - most others are red wine vinegar. The smell of the malt vinegar was awful, and I wasted the sugar trying to sweeten it up. I couldn’t even taste the stuff and it all went down the drain. I just need a bottle of good old Heinz vinegar but I’ve never seen it here.

It’s halftime now of a very exciting game of Gaelic football - sort of like soccer but they can also carry the ball and there are two ways of scoring - under the crossbar for 3 points and over it for 1. It’s the All-Ireland semi finals between Cork’s archrival County Kerry (next county over) and County Armagh in the north. Most people here are such rivals of Kerry that they are pulling for Armagh. I think it would be like Ohioans being for a Pac 10 team in the Rose Bowl and against Michigan. I’m for Kerry, however. At half time they are behind and hopefully the second half will be better for them.

I don’t even enjoy watching soccer anymore, as Gaelic football is so much more exciting. But the sport I really love is hurling. It’s played with a small disk that can be held in the hand or balanced on a flat stick, and scoring is the same as in Irish football - 3 pts. under the bar and 1 pt. over it.

Later: Kerry won the match! Now they’ll play Galway in the finals. This match went into 30 minutes of overtime after an exciting game, and Kerry pulled it off. A friend of mine is in Dublin for the game today, and I’m happy he’s bringing a victory back to the Kingdom of Kerry.

September 3, 2000:
I had a beautiful Sunday - the day was sunny and I got three loads of wash on the line! I’ll move with clean clothes, sheets, towels, etc. I went outside this afternoon to see what might be dry, and was shocked to see about 50-75 sheep on the road, spilling over into my driveway. I ran for my camera, then realized the gate was open that separates the short driveway from the yard. It was amazing just listening to them. I never knew there was such a wide range of sheep voices - altos, tenors, bassos, a soprano here and there, contraltos. They were so confused and the two boys finally got them out on the road again - then they got into my neighbor’s field, barn, and driveway. The sheep dog working them did a superb job and they finally moved along. I got what I hope are excellent pictures.
Then I walked to the village to the Oak Bar, where there was music tonight. With most of the tourists gone, the place was fairly crowded with locals - many families with babies and children. It’s a wonderful atmosphere with the kids feeling so free to run around and the adults enjoying the chance to talk to each other. As the evening came on I just marveled at the sea view with the sun setting over the water and the mountains sharply defined in the evening light, the flash from the lighthouse on one of the nearby islands. This is heaven!

September 6, 2000:
Yesterday was moving day and I got everything here. Putting it away was and is the problem, and I wish I had been more organized in my packing.

I couldn’t get the door locked last night, so I spent a restless night. I still haven’t been able to do it. Then today I had a terrible time getting hot water, but I finally found and pressed the correct switches for the immersion heater. I was able to do my dishes as well as take a shower! I feel pretty good right now except for when I think of all the groceries and incidentals I need to buy, to say nothing of the bags of coal that I’ll burn in the fireplace. To get the fire going well I’ll need a bag of sticks (kindling) and little firestarter blocks. I’m going to get some peat as well one of these days because it smells so nice.

I can see the sea from my sitting room window, and I can spot a fishing trawler out there.

I have to figure out where to put my groceries. There is a dresser (what we would call a china cabinet) in the kitchen, and a press in the living room (now I know what the “press” part of “Cubby hole and press” is. I’m still not sure about the cubby hole. I have an electric cooker and there is an old wood stove which doesn’t work any more but which looks gorgeous and holds things on top such as spices on top.

The windowsills (and outside walls) are about 19” deep, and that’s just from the inside of the house! The walls extend another 8” away from the windows on the outside. The windows are nice - double glazed, and a new roof (slate tiles) has just been put on the house. I was more than warm enough last night, but knowing the front door was unlocked kept me well beneath the covers. I took my heavy frying pan and my rolling pin with me when I went to bed, ha. I have to get that worked out before another night goes by.

September 7, 2000:
I slept very well last night. I had built a nice fire and was thinking about watching the Irish soaps later on, when Mary Dan came to visit. We talked (mostly I listened) for several hours. She seemed surprised that I had everything put away. When she left the last time, I had boxes, bags and suitcases everywhere.

September 8, 2000:
I spent several hours today in Bantry, and I’m beginning to like the town better each time I go there. It’s the closest place for shoe repair service, so I took two pairs. I also spent a small fortune on art supplies, and I hope they find some talent to work with.

September 9, 2006:
Renting here in Ireland is a bit different than I’ve ever experienced. Nora was always bringing me food and little gifts, and gave me a bottle of wine as a moving away gift, and Mary Dan had two bags of coal (40 kilos each) delivered as well as a tank of gas for the portable gas heater as a moving in present.

I went to Bantry yesterday to shop for art supplies, and bought vinegar for sushi at an organic food store there. I got a lift to Castletownbere with Katie, a woman who lives back at the end of the peninsula, got the bus into Bantry (about an hour’s drive), shopped, browsed, had lunch, etc., until I returned on the bus four hours later and back home with Katie. I have to do it again next Friday as I left two pairs of shoes to be re-heeled and I must go back to pick them up. I like Bantry and the people seem very friendly. My American accent is pretty obvious but most people are surprised and pleased that I have moved to Ireland.

I have a good fire burning and it’s only 10:45 am! It’s kind of drizzly outside and I thought it would be cheery to have a fire. It really isn’t cold yet.

I bought a bottle of Gallo Cabernet Sauvignon and I’ve tried for 2 days to extract the cork. I’m getting frustrated now and am on the verge of just breaking it up and digging it out. Then I’ll have tiny bits of cork in my wine glass.

I’m taking pictures of the inside of my house. It would seem gaudy to you, but with the lighting here it is lovely. The kitchen walls are painted bright yellow, as is the bathroom upstairs. The living room is bright green; the lower part of the stairway wall is green and the upper part, landing, and a couple of the bedrooms is pink, and one bedroom is blue. None of these are pale colors but all are very bright. The overall effect is really nice. They use oil-base paint here most of the time. The fireplace isn’t large but is surrounded by tile.

Several people have told me how to get whatever I need from the shop in the village when the weather is bad or I just can’t get there. John Terry O'Sullivan, who owns the shop, also owns and drives the school bus twice a day and passes by my house. If I call the shop and place an order, he will drop it off on the way to pick up the children in the afternoon. Whoever has an order just meets the bus at the crossroads. They sell the coal, gas, etc., in addition to a good selection of grocery items; they deliver the coal and gas to the door. Kieran brought out the coal and even carried it inside for me. I think 40 kilos is about 80#. Kieran is a big man and he looked strained when carrying the coal. Kieran is the one who is in love with Jeannie.

September 13, 2000:
I’m waiting to make sure the water is hot before I get into it. Yesterday it was a bit lukewarm because I jumped the gun. I’m going to Castletownbere (CTB) with Cordula this morning.

I was just looking up a telephone number in my book, and it got me to thinking about how simple it was years ago in Cincinnati. You knew Sycamore was a Silverton/Deer Park number; Melrose or Redwood was Norwood; Bramble was Oakley, and Dunbar was downtown. At one time there were only 4 digits following the exchange, so we were Sycamore 5214. Here, it is so simple - a phone number beginning “70” is somewhere in CTB, so 70002 is the office of the Gardai (police); “73” indicates the Allihies area, and 73001 is Eileen at the Post. “50” is Bantry, and so on. If you’re dialing within the local exchange (say, 027, for Cork), you only have to dial the 5 digit number. For the record, I was a very young child back when our phone number was Sycamore 5214!

September 14, 2000:
I went to Bantry today and picked up my two pairs of boots that were re-heeled (at 4 Irish pounds each, approximately $5.20), and much cheaper than in the U.S. I ran a few other errands and then stoped in a pub, JJ Crowleys, to have lunch and a beer. Well, the craic was too good to leave, so I ended up staying for the next 3 hours. The crowd was all local and they were very friendly. One man started playing an accordian and others sang. They stomped their boots on the floor to keep time in lieu of a bodhran (drum, pronounced bow-ron). It was a magical afternoon, the kind that keeps popping up in this area.

September 16, 2000:
I stepped out my front door after supper to have a cigarette, and the cattle across the road - 7 of them - all came up to the fence expectantly. They eyed me intently, for what reason I’m not sure. I had to laugh when the first few ambled up, and then a couple started running towards the fence. The sheep in the side yard don’t pay much attention to me now, but at least they don’t run away like they used to. I did a couple of loads of wash this afternoon and hung it out on the fence since I don’t yet have a clothesline. I kept an eye on the sheep grazing nearby, but I guess they aren’t interested in nibbling clothes. Now if there were goats…..

To add to the above, the farmer just came and moved the cows to my other side yard. I just saw them outside my window - they are right up by the house and watching for me. Guard cows?

September 18, 2000:
Yesterday I went on a parish outing that was sponsored by the Allihies Sr. Citizens group. There were about 53 or 54 people, some quite young (30’s), several 40’s, me, and quite a few seniors. The bus went up and down the roads picking up passengers. I got on just down at the end of my driveway at about 11:30 am. We continued on up the Beara Peninsula and Kenmare Bay, over into the much larger Iveragh Peninsula which is the Ring of Kerry. We drove to Sneem, a very touristy but pretty town, to a restaurant for tea, coffee and sandwiches. Then we had about an hour on our own. One of the women I had been talking to (and who will be in my art class) wanted to go into some of the shops. As we were coming out of a small art gallery we met four of the gents from our group. They said, “C’mon girls, we’re going to the pub!” I would have liked that but Nuala didn’t even respond to them. Later she said “That’s the trouble with them - you can never get them out of the pub.” When they returned to the bus on time she admitted, “I wronged them.”

Then we drove back towards Kenmare and stopped for an hour at Spillane’s Bar. Pat Spillane was a legendary Kerry footballer, and he now has a huge, comfortable bar. I got a chance to meet and talk with some of the people I didn’t know.

Back on the bus and to the Kenmare Bay Hotel, a lovely large old hotel on the outskirts of town. We had our meal in the dining room, which was like a ballroom. I had soup, plaice (fish), potatos, peas, cauliflower, and ice cream for dessert. The other entrée was lamb and it sounded good, but I had a lamb casserole last week which lasted me for 3 days, so I’m glad I got the plaice. It was delicious. After dinner we went upstairs to a very large bar with windows around on two sides and a big dance floor.

One of our group, Tony O’Sullivan, played the squeeze box and we danced to his music until the regular entertainment came on. The place filled up with tourist groups who were staying at the hotel - American, English, and a few Aussies. We had a raffle - I won a bottle of Paddy’s whiskey, and the priest, Fr. Liam Comer, won the other one.

We left the hotel to return home at about 10:30 pm. The bus driver had a microphone, so some people took turns going up to the front of the bus and singing. It was really a lovely outing and the bus dropped me off at my driveway at about midnight.

I groaned when I realized I had to push the rubbish bin down to the road as it is picked up Monday morning long before I get up. I could see cows standing in the field next to the drive - watching me. I always speak to them and I swear they wag their tails - or maybe they are actually swishing their tails.

Cover letter, Oct. 3, 2000

Dear Mom,

Here are a few more pages of my ramblings. I just finished my breakfast dishes and am listening to classical music on the radio and watching the waves hit the rocks in the distance.

I just heard that the 2nd fishing boat in a week has been lost and only one survivor. One of our neighbors in Ballydonegan lost a boat 2 nights ago - he watched it being dashed to bits on the rocks, and couldn’t do a thing to save it. His loss is about 7,000 Irish pounds. One of the men lost a couple of days ago was from Galway but is well known in Castletownbere. It’s tragic.

Mom, you remember the oil lamp you gave me? I have it sitting on my living room window all filled and waiting for a power outage! My neighbor was so delighted with it she wants to get one as well. I found another lamp in the press - it was a little rusty and needs a wick, but I sanded the rust off and have the wick on my shopping list. When I get my electric bill I might start using them to save electricity, ha. I have a supply of candles in also.

I was thinking about the things I miss and don’t miss. Surprisingly, I don’t miss the dishwasher. There’s something about doing dishes by hand, and of course one person doesn’t generate that much. I do miss my cast iron skillets, but they would probably rust in a hurry around here. I gave them to Joe - he always loved them. I hope he takes good care of them as there is 30 years of seasoning on them.

Little things make the dampness apparent - for example, the stores don’t carry powdered cleanser such as Comet - you have to get the liquid stuff. I finally realized that the powder would cake up! I haven’t used the dryer yet, but it’s nice to know it’s available though I shudder to think of the cost of operating it. One hour in the sun with the wind blowing dries most things - even heavy towels.

I’m amazed at the lack of dust. I used to dust my TV and computer screens daily, and here I can go a week or more.

I miss a good vacuum cleaner and I think I’ll buy one of my own someday when I have extra cash to spare (when will that ever be???).

Some German visitors told me about Ryan Air fare from Cork to Frankfurt, round trip, for 14 Irish pounds. That is approximately $16! Of course the fare doesn’t count getting to and from Cork, to and from Frankfurt, or the cheap, cheap spirits and wine I’d buy to bring back! I don’t see how I can manage it before Phil leaves for Italy, but I’d sure love to go. I can’t go anywhere until I get my passport back.

I’ll close for now. Please write - I am always so disappointed when the Post goes by without stopping here!

September 21, 2000:
Having cows outside my door (and some nearly grown calves) can be amusing. They are always jumping the fence and going where they shouldn’t - the calves that is - and the mothers stand there bawling at them. Their cries are then picked up by other cows in other fields and then you have a symphony! I awoke to a symphony this morning and looked out to see a calf in my driveway. He was soon joined by two other juvenile delinquents and they made their way into another field. Somehow, the owner must have gotten word because he drove up and parked his car, and ran into the field after them. He drove them out but they started up my driveway, so I went out and herded them back down to him. I guess he drove them to a more escape-proof field up the road, and then he came back for another one. The mothers are settling down now. I remember Grandpa Willett getting so angry with cattle, and it was the first time in my life I ever heard the term “son of a bitch”. (I had to ask Celeste what it meant, and she did a prize job of hemming and hawing and not really telling me what it meant).

Mary Dan stopped by this morning for a chat and a cup of coffee. She told me that the people who were on the outing Sunday thought I was very nice. (Of course, I’m nice. Thank God I had washed my dishes this morning and the house is relatively neat.

I asked Mary to tell me about the house. It was built in 1929 and her parents bought it and moved here in 1931. She was born in 1932 and her parents lived here until they died - her brother actually inherited the house but he lives in the U.S. and she manages the letting of it. I absolutely love it - it has a good feeling about it. Fortunately, I haven’t noticed any ghosts and I light a small joss stick - osenko - every night to honor the spirits of the house. Cordula has strange lights & footsteps on the stairs and landing, strange figures around the bed, etc. I don’t think I could handle it, being alone. She isn’t afraid of them but sometimes they drive her crazy.

The “girls” (the cows) are quieting down a bit since their calves were taken away. I was told the crying could last up to 3 days.

I’m off to Castletownbere in a few minutes with a list which is much longer than I have money to pay for. I won’t need to visit the butcher however, people keep giving me fish - I have cod, a German man is giving me some Pollock, and Mary Dan has provided me some mackerel.

The sun was shining again this morning so I figured I’d better wash sheets. They’re hanging on the fence and nearly dry in just 3 hours. It doesn’t look like rain but that doesn’t mean anything here, so I’ll have to bring them in before I leave for town.

Sept. 23, 2000:
I sure am enjoying my fireplace. I clean out the ashes every morning which is a joy to get ready for that evening’s fire. I buy Polish coal which doesn’t smoke and leaves no soot on anything, and usually a peat briquette. My sitting room is small and warms up quickly - when the weather is really chilly, I can close the door to the room to hold the heat in.

I have a TV in the room, which only gets two channels, which is plenty for me. I only watch a few shows, and of course, the weather forecast. Since the house faces south I get the sun all day, when the sun is out. Right now it is windy, or “fresh” as it is referred to here, and the sea looks rough. I can see the water hitting the rocks and sending up great sprays into the air.

Sept. 24, 2000:
Tonight was music at the Oak Bar. Before it started, Mark and Carina brought their new baby in - just home from the hospital. I’m sure her lungs got a good jolt from the smoke! Carina had to go to Cork, 100 miles away, for the birth; a normal hospital stay is 4 days!!!

Joining the musicians were Karen Grace’s 2 daughters, approx. 10 and 12, playing the tin whistle and banjo. Karen plays a concertina herself. I was impressed by the encouragement, attention, and appreciation everyone gives to young musicians.

Sept. 25, 2000:
I went with Cordula to CTB today and then to the house of her German friend, Amira. Cordula has a terrible cold and Amira has a whole range of homeopathic cures that she mixed up for her. I’m anxious to see how it works. The Germans are great believers in homeopathic treatments - maybe it will work.

We heard that the rest of the week will bring gales so I bought bread for the freezer. I’ll be living on fish this week.

While getting into the tub this morning I hit my toe on the edge of the tub and I’m limping pretty badly. It is blood red now and hurts like hell! I don’t think it’s more than just a bad bruise. Wonder what Amira could mix up for me.

My first art class went well. Of course I’m terrible but I had fun. Most of the others are bordering on professional and I could easily get discouraged. We did still life, and I know that won’t be my best effort. I look forward to landscapes.

Sep 26, 2000:
Mary Dan stopped by to give me a mackerel. The Irish are so generous. She calls me “darling child” (she is only 67 herself) and asked about my toe. “Show it to me darling child.” I had planned to stay in bed today and enjoy the sound of rain and wind, but the sun is shining brightly so I’m up. Tonight is the first mtg of the Irish Countrywomen’s Assn (ICA) for the Fall, and I’m going. The ICA sounds like Grandma’s Homemakers Club (which I probably mentioned before). Tonight they will have someone to talk about flower arranging. I’m always been dismal at it, so I hope I learn something.

Speaking of plants, I have one given to me as a housewarming present - it has short green leaves and the fruit is hard little bright orange balls about the size of cherries. The south window seemed to be too hot, so I have it in the north which isn’t working too well. I have one each of west and east windows, but they are upstairs and I’d like to keep it downstairs. My tiny little aloe plant which is an offshoot of one Grandma Willett gave me, is growing after a fitful start.

Sep. 27, 2000:
There were about 21 members at the ICA meeting last night, many of whom I knew at least by sight. A Dutch woman from Eyeries, about 8 miles up the coast, gave the demonstration and I really learned things about flower arranging that I didn’t knew. She used a lot of flowers and greenery from her garden, and the results were stunning. She did 2 arrangements which were beautiful, and they were raffled off. Mary O’Shea won the big one, and since it was her week to provide flowers for the church she was going to donate it. Nora won the other one. There will be lots of events coming up and I’m going to jump in and get involved. There is one English lady who wasn’t there last night, but I’m the only other non-native Irish, so I feel honored to be accepted so soon. In April there will be a weekend outing to Dungarvan (Co. Waterford) and we will also visit the Waterford crystal factory, then on to a hotel with all facilities--swimming pool, hot tub, etc. The way they talk about the last outing it must be a fun time. It will cost about 50 Irish lbs plus additional for the bus. Someone told me they have a savings plan whereby you put away a little money at a time for the trip so you don’t have to come up with a lump sum.

A box came from Herbert yesterday. I had asked for my green silk dress and what I got was my green wool suit! Also in the box was 4# of coffee beans, and I’m enjoying a lovely pot of coffee right now. The Price Club at Pentagon City roasts the beans there in the store and the flavor is so rich and fresh. He also renewed prescriptions for me, bought my hair coloring and sent a few extra fleece jackets and a pr. of jeans that I left behind. I’m already working on the next list - with the green silk dress at the top of the list.

I need to buy a pair of dressy pumps as I only brought boots and Birkenstocks with me, but I can get those in Bantry whenever I get my hands on some money! I need a haircut so bad, but it will have to wait until next week.

I have a nice fire going now. I lit it yesterday but it soon died out. I realize now I put the coal on too soon. I’ll have to admit it’s easier to start a fire with a Duraflame log, but the coal is so warm and cozy, and the peat has a wonderful smell. I’d like to sit here all day! I just might do it.

The rain stopped and it’s turned into a fine day. I went for a walk with my neighbor, Betty, and then back to her house for coffee with Bailey’s Irish Crème. She offered me a drop of poteen, the Irish moonshine. It was excellent stuff – didn’t burn on the way down as some I’ve tasted. It was smooth and delicious and very potent! Then we walked in the opposite direction collecting blackberries on the side of the road. I have about 2-1/2 cups which I’ve washed and put in the freezer. I would like to make a blackberry pie or cobbler. They don’t have anything like Crisco here, so I’ll have to decide whether to use butter or lard, probably I’ll try butter.

Sep. 30, 2000:
Time flies! I’ve been in Ireland for four months now, and it gets better and better.

My neighbor, Betty, called me to come over for a cup of coffee around noon. She sent me home with close to 5# of potatos, a parsnip, a carrot, a courgette (as they call them here but a zucchini to us), a roll, a packet of sliced roast which she had cooked, 3 slices of apple pie and 9 cupcakes! Yesterday Cordula gave me a huge bunch of home grown tomatos and green peppers. I surely won’t starve. God only knows what I can give in return. If I can get my pie crust down I think I’ll try some chocolate pies and maybe a banana cream. I plan to bake lots of cookies to give away for Christmas – chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and those little round Mexican wedding cakes or whatever they are called. Betty’s son just drove up with a pack of cigarettes because they knew I was out. Such neighbors.

Every night before I go to bed I have a swallow of the poteen that Betty gave me and I sleep like a baby! It beats sleeping pills or Melatonin, and it tastes so good.

After rain this morning the sun is now bright, so I did a load of wash. It is so breezy I expect my wash to end up in the next field. Can’t waste the sunshine here, or the breeze.

I have all the windows open - it gets rid of the musty smell – but it’s kind of chilly. Thank goodness I have my backpacking clothes so I stay warm but my hands and nose are usually cold. I should be out looking for more blackberries but I’m too lazy.

October 3, 2000:
My second art class was held last night. If I hadn’t already paid for the 1st three weeks and spent nearly $65 on supplies I would have chucked it. We’re doing still-life and at my table are 3 apples, a big onion and a black coffee carafe. The initial effort was done on paper and last night I transferred it to the art board. I thought the carafe would be the easiest but it turns out I’m quite pleased with the fruit and onion, but still haven’t got the carafe just right. Most of the people in the class are quite talented and I’m really humiliating myself, but I’m having fun anyway. I certainly won’t ever sell anything. We were told to bring rags for cleaning the brushes, etc., and of course I didn’t bring rags with me when I moved – it’s something you wouldn’t think about – and I constantly find the need for them. I’m considering buying some cheap tea towels and ripping them in half.

The wind and rain are blowing again today but I don’t feel as cold as I did yesterday. Betty is going to show me how to gather sticks and roots so I don’t need to use as much fire starter, which can be costly. She said the old people wrap candle wax, the fat from rashers (bacon) and other stuff in paper and use it to start the fire going. Having spent 3-1/2 months living outdoors I can rise to the challenge of making do with alternatives. Not that I didn’t use some pretty hi tech equipment on the trail, but I did a lot of improvising as well.

Cover letter to Julie, Oct. 5, 2000:
I asked Julie to get some prescriptions filled at Kaiser for me, and then wrote her:

We had a terrific gale here a couple of days ago. I was visiting my neighbor and could hardly make it home! I was pushed by the wind back and forth across the road, and I must have looked like a drunken woman. I wasn’t too scared until I looked up and saw the power poles rocking back and forth, and the electric lines being blown by the wind! It only lasted a few hours and it was fantastic to watch the spray from the sea hitting the rocks. Today is sunny and breezy – I got up early and threw a load of wash in, and then went back to sleep for an hour. Clothes dry so fast on days like this. I have every window in the house open to freshen the place. I really love it here, even though my hands are always cold.

I really enjoyed your letter and the pictures. You look terrific though it was so soon after your surgery you probably didn’t feel as good as you looked. Poor little surgery girl!

Love, Marty

Oct. 18, 2000:
(Cover letter to my mom).
Dear Mom,
Your letter just arrived and I was so happy to get it. I was sitting at the window enjoying the sun shining in (napping to be exact) and waiting for the Post. I had a little cry when I read it.

If you think being in your 80’s are more difficult it’s probably because you are on the go more. Enjoy it, even if it makes you tired! You never had that much variety during the last years you were in California.

When I saw the sun shining this morning I quickly put a load of towels and a pair of jeans in the wash. I still haven’t had to use my dryer because things dry so fast outside if the weather cooperates. But I enjoy the gales as well – I seem to have more energy when the wind is raging. Keeping warm is the hardest thing.

My house is so clean from having company that I don’t have much to do today. I cooked this morning. People bring me vegetables all the time. I have so many tomatos and peppers, so I made a sort of spaghetti sauce that I can freeze in small containers.

I have some pastries left from yesterday and I just had one with a cup of tea. I still don’t like tea very well but I can’t drink coffee except in the morning. The best part is holding the warm cup, ha.

I wrote Phil & Taffy some time ago but have never gotten an answer. I used the street address that Taffy gave me when I was there. If I sent mail to their APO it would go from here in Ireland to New York, and back to Germany. Maybe they didn’t receive it.

Have you heard from Bill and Wilma lately? I’ll have to email him the next time I’m in town. My email, by the way, is I didn’t bring many email addresses with me – i.e., Celeste, Sr. Rachel, etc., so I don’t often send emails, plus I only check for my emails when I’m in town. I really don’t miss having a computer at all except once in a while for games. It gets so tiring shuffling the cards by hand, ha.

I should be able to develop another roll of film soon, and I’ll send you some pictures. I think I have some of the house and I took one yesterday of the group. Every day I love this house more – it’s certainly not fancy or new, but it’s bright and cheerful. There must have been happy times and people here. I open the windows every day and it is never damp or musty except the salt and sugar will quickly liquefy if they’re not kept in closed containers. I just live with it though. Everyone else has the same problems – with or without central heat.

I’m trying to root some ivy, and Rita has offered me some cuttings from her house plants. Grandma’s aloe is growing slower than in the U.S., but it looks healthy. I needed it after I picked blackberries.

I’ll get this in the mail on Friday. Keep your letters coming. I miss you, my darling mother.
Love, Marty

Oct. 13, 2000:
I’m waiting for Betty to bring her 11 month old grandson by for a couple of hours. She is keeping him for two weeks (her daughter lives in Cork City). Betty is going to Mass this morning and I’ll keep the baby for her. I believe there is a memorial mass every Friday at the church in Cahermore, and her infant daughter is buried in the graveyard next to the church, so she always visits and tends to the grave.

Yesterday began as a sunny but windy day so I got my wash out early. I have an umbrella-type clothesline that is set in cement. The wind kicked up and pulled the cement base loose – then it stormed off and on the entire day. Today is beautiful so I can put the nearly dry wash back out but on the fence this time.

Cordula is coming by this evening and we are going to watch “telly bingo” and drink a bottle of sparkling wine in celebration of her divorce. You buy a 2 pound card and then watch the numbers being drawn on TV on Friday nights. I’ve never won, but of course I have come close.

The moon has been beautiful all week, and tonight is the full moon. Almost the whole night it is so bright that it looks like I have a bright streetlamp just outside my window. Last night the moon’s reflection on the sea was breathtaking. I wish I had a good camera and could have caught it on film, but it will have to just stay in my memory.

I just went out and freed the bull – the rope around his neck was caught on the barbed wire. He was afraid of me I think. Also, the cows stick their heads between the fence and the top row of barbed wire, and one of them was having a time getting free of it, so I lifted the barbed wire for her. They like to graze the grass on my side! I’ve already gone out a couple of times when they got too close to my wash. If one of them gets too close to my clothes they could really cause me a problem.

My electric bill came yesterday, 35 pounds for two months. Mary Dan gave me 20 pounds since I wasn’t here in August. I’ve been conservative with the electric, so I’m hoping I can keep it to no more than 20 pounds a month, even when I have to use the electric heater more often. Mary Dan told me “Keep warm, darling woman, or you’ll perish!”

It’s my turn to have coffee at 2 pm next Tuesday. Four of us have been getting together weekly at different houses, and I invited Mary to join us. I have to come up with something sweet, but how will I top the Linzer torte and rich cakes that Cordula and Rita serve? We start with coffee and usually end with wine. The wine selection here isn’t all that great, but I’ll come up with something. Betty is ordering me four bottles of Irish whiskey which she can get for about 8 pounds a bottle (at least 15 pounds at the store). I’m getting two Powers and two Paddy’s so at least I can offer people a drop when they visit. I’m learning to like it myself.

Oct. 15, 2000:
Cordula gave me some stuff she makes with pork fat. The butcher gives the fat to her for free. She fries chopped onion, a few apple slices, and spices in the fat, then refrigerates it in containers. I used some to fry potatos today and they were to die for. My cholesterol might see to that! I was afraid the apple would give it a sweet taste but it doesn’t.

I have a date! He’s taking me to his niece’s wedding in CTB on the 27th, and to the reception in Kenmare. Herbert mailed me my green wool suit instead of green silk dress, so I don’t have any idea what to wear. I need shoes and nylons as well. There goes October’s budget (and November’s!). I also need my hair trimmed. I got it cut about a week and half ago, but she didn’t take enough off and it’s already in my eyes. I hope I enjoy myself at this wedding. Denis has 7 sisters plus 3 brothers, and 37 nieces and nephews. Talk about being outnumbered! Also, his mother is still living so that means a lot of family will be there. I’d better dress conservatively.

I spent a couple of hours in the pub this evening – came home at 9:30 and cooked half a steak I bought yesterday. I fried half an onion with it, and it was so delicious and tender that I wished I had cooked the whole steak. It’s the first steak I’ve bought in Ireland and I’m hooked. I asked Aiden, the butcher’s son, to give me a small steak. Well, he is 22 yrs old and I suppose it was small for him, but I thought half would do me. The butcher slaughters his own beef and lamb; the pork comes from Cork and I suppose the chickens are local. All are outstanding. They also have great vegetables, all organic. I’m topping supper off with a drop of Bailey’s Irish Crème.

Oct. 16, 2000:
I have to clean and polish today for the tea tomorrow. I don’t have any baking equipment except for one small cookie sheet, so I may buy a cake in CTB today. I have two bottles of wine – a Gallo zinfandel and a German Rhine wine. There just isn’t much selection in town. We’ll start out with coffee and tea, and since I have whole coffee beans sent from America I know the coffee will be good.

Oct. 17, 2000:
I’m worn out! I got up early and cleaned the floors for the tea this afternoon. I did much of the cleaning yesterday. They arrived at 2 pm – Mary Dan brought a plate of sandwiches, Rita brought wine and a candle, Betty came with a lemon pie, and Cordula gave me a couple of jars of spices – Turkish spices and ground chiles (very hot). I had Pringles, cheese spread and crackers, and some pastries, and of course coffee and tea plus the wine. We ate, drank and gossiped all afternoon. Rita and Cordula are Germans, Betty has lived in this area for 28 years but is still considered a “blow-in” by the locals, and Mary is born and bred here. It was great fun and we plan to continue with our weekly hen party. I’ve already done two dishpans full of cups, saucers, and plates, and have one more to go. I’ll sit for a while with a glass of wine, a cigarette, and a lovely fire burning.

The wind has been blowing all day and the rain has been heavy at times. I just realized I didn’t get any mail for yet another day. Maybe tomorrow.

Yesterday I visited the Garda about my application for permanent residence – filed on June 5th. They checked on it and said it was sent to the US Dept of Justice on July 5th. Knowing how fast USDJ works I’ll be lucky if it comes back in another 4 months. But my passport is in Bantry and I’m assured if I need it they’ll get it out to me within hours, so I don’t really mind how long it takes.

Oct. 19, 2000:
Another “windows open” day. I’m sure I’ll have to build a fire by 3:30 or 4:00, but this morning is warm and still. Of course, warm is relative – I’m wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.

I ordered two more bags of coal, two bundles of peat briquettes, and a bag of sticks. That should hold me for a while. I’m paying slightly more for it than if I bought it in town, but at least it will be delivered and carried in for me. I doubt I could even budge a 40 kilo bag of coal. The locals think winter has started early this year, but also say we’ll have sunny and warm days like this in November and December.

Note to anyone who has read this far: this is the last of the journals that I have stored on my computer. The remaining ones have either not been transcribed or I just haven't found them yet.


  1. Find those journals, sis! If you ask me, you could publish this stuff. You have a great talent for writing, and probably a little gift of gab rubbed off on you while you were in Eire. Something about that upside down kiss of the Stone!

  2. I found this journal by accident, and loved reading it, but now am curious about the rest of your time in Ireland. What took you there in the first place, and why did you come back to the US?

    1. I hope this reaches you. Your comment was written in Oct. 2014 and I just now read it. I don't open this blog very often.

      I was in Ireland on 9/11; the Irish were horrified, but the British TV (which is about all you get here) were very snarky after acting properly sorry about it the first couple of days. Then they turned on America and Americans - you just can't believe it! Of course there were a few Irish who felt the same way and they became rude - not the women though.

      My oldest son is an officer in the Army Reserves and was called up to be deployed to Iraq - he and his fiance decided to fast forward their wedding by 5 months, so I went back to the U.S. in Jan. 2003 for the wedding. The British TV had really misrepresented Americans as being against our government, president, etc., and they showed film clips of demonstrations that led you to believe the entire U.S. was in a violent reaction to our going into Iraq. When I got to NY for the wedding I couldn't believe the obvious patriotism of everyone and I realized I belonged here. I moved back in April of that year, just after my mom was diagnosed with cancer (she lived until the end of November). I don't think I ever want to leave the country again, and am enjoying traveling right here in the beautiful U.S.

      Being American we all have our own beliefs, as well as definite feelings about the President, Congress, and the rest of the government. But we are all still Americans. I loved my time in Ireland and met some wonderful people. But I have always been glad I came "home".

  3. How nice of you to answer my question!

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