Santa's in Town!

Trip Start Mar 01, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Ireland  , Connaught,
Monday, December 17, 2012

I've spent nearly three weeks at Loughwell Farm Park with this boisterous, busy family just outside of Moycullen Village. They run a pet farm on the property and during the holidays Santa makes an appearance from the North Pole.  During my visit, Joseph, Ana and Mark have welcomed a brand new puppy into the household.  Rex, the miniature Jack Russell is doing his best to befriend Benny, the family’s beloved yellow Lab.  Benny is so sweet and gentle natured, but it is a bit scary to see little Rex, who’s only the size of Benny’s nose, chasing after the bigger dog. Fortunately, the most exciting thing to happen so far was my fall into the drainage ditch coming home after dark one evening; all the animals are safe!

I’ve enoyed the frosty mornings and glimmers of sunshine that appear during winter in West Ireland. And I’ve never eaten so many potatoes!  They are definitely the Irish equivalent of Italy’s pasta.  Baked, roasted, mashed, fried- but not salted!- I was chastised by the kids when I seasoned the veggies for dinner (the late afternoon meal, not to be confused with evening tea). For breakfast there’s delicious brown, baking soda bread with jam (loganberry and orange marmalade, homemade by Nana) and dark, Irish tea with milk. 

Work for me on the pet farm includes taking reservations for Santy (as he’s known in these parts) and spending afternoons in the "hut" greeting guests.  Gaelic is commonly spoken here and sometimes the Irish accented English can be hard to decipher. It took me days before I realized that “pet” was just a term of endearment.  It’s not warm out here in the hut, but thank goodness there’s a heater and plenty of hot tea.  It wouldn’t have been half the fun without Colleen, my partner in crime.  She is the most intelligent, lovely 17-year old and it’s been a pleasure to spend time with her.  She’s encouraged my blog writing with this gem of wisdom, “Writing is the language of the soul and once you’ve mastered it, you’ll never have trouble communicating again.” 

Colleen also lost her grandmother this past year, and I can tell you that an Irish wake sounds a lot more fun than sitting shiva.  Similar to Jewish tradition, the deceased is buried quickly, but in the time before the burial, the body stays at home.  The family stays up all night celebrating the life of their lost loved one, drinking and making music to ensure that the devil thinks there’s a party going on and won’t steal away the deceased. If you must rest, the family sleeps alongside the body.  In the year that follows, there are no other celebrations in the house so Christmas will be a quieter event in her house next week.

I also asked Colleen about the “bog”. It was mentioned in one of the books I’ve read that takes place in Ireland, and I’ve heard people talk about it.  Apparently, it is the earth that is sundried in the summer.  Her dad used to bring her to the bog in the summer, where they’d spend months digging it up for use as fuel in the winter.  I recently watched “Michael Collins” about the man who negotiated the first treaty with the British, to win Ireland’s freedom.  There was a scene where they had no weapons and Collins picked up pieces of earth and lit them on fire.  I think it must have been dirt from the bog that they used to burn down the British buildings.

Moycullen isn’t far from Galway, so on my days off I’ve enjoyed some traditional music in pubs and even the latest James Bond movie.  I’ll spend one final day in Dublin this weekend before heading to London for Christmas.
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