Thursday, June 25, 2015

Adventures in Ireland- Trip 11 Recap #3

Monday June 22nd
I got up early today and left Robin's to head to Gene's. I wasn't sure if I'd just drive straight there or take my time with it. Turns out I did a little bit of both, taking a couple of photos on my way, but also not stretching it out too much.

You see, my sleep gets all sorts of messed up when I come to this country. On top of doing crazy things like closing down the Thatch with Gene, it's bright here until nearly midnight and it'll only be dark for a few hours. So I just don't sleep as much as I should. Which explains why I fell into bed as soon as I got back to Gene's fully clothed and slept soundly for two hours until Gene poked his head into the room announcing that Percy, who was in the kitchen wanting to chat, was the one who told him I was back. 

I had every intention of making it an easy and relaxing day, but of course that didn't happen. Gene and I ended up going into town for lunch (followed by a long rest on the couch outside the restaurant to read the paper and talk about world affairs) and then ran a bunch of errands- the bank, the drink distributor/warehouse place, Drumsna for the boxed flowers, the tackle shop, the recycling center and then back home to clean the pub (I was in charge of polishing the tables and doing the flower arrangements) and do inventory. Once that was done, Gene wanted me to join him while he swept a road that's being used for a bonfire tomorrow night to celebrate the start of summer. Apparently people dress up like the 1920's and there's some good singing and dancing.

While it would have been a perfect opportunity for me to bow out and get back in bed, I of course instead hopped in Gene's car and accompanied him over there. He assured me we'd only need one broom because he would do all the sweeping while I sat in the car. We all know how that turned out. Gene and I took turns sweeping the road which took about an hour. I had to just shake my head and smile at one point when I took a moment to look around and consider what I was doing. 

Once done with our final chore of the evening, we had to rush home to open up the pub. It was supposed to be a quiet night. In fact, Gene mentioned a few times that the night before the pub was filled with people and it was a great night with "tons of craic." So we both thought tonight would have been a little quieter. And I suppose it was, but for the first time since I've been coming here, Gene's been suggesting we go to another pub for some drinks after he closes the Thatch. We did it last week with Molly and then tonight we got many of the other lads who I never see out of the Thatch to go with us to Brackens.

We showed up there around 12:30 a.m. and stayed for a couple more hours and too many pints. But it really was so fun and really funny to see these boys out of their element and in a new environment. And I was rewarded with some spectacular sights from a farm near Gene's. 

Tuesday June 23rd
Getting up after only five hours of sleep was hard this morning. Must get more sleep. (That will likely not happen until I get back home). I woke up to Gene popping his head into the room saying that I looked like the Queen of Sheba in the bed (I have no clue why, but he made me laugh nonetheless). Percy was in the kitchen again, so I went out to visit with him for a little while until Gene got himself pulled together. Getting pulled together takes a while for Gene because it typically involves taking a shower (which always involves singing), eating (often two breakfasts), reading the paper, fiddling around the pub, figuring out what needs to be done for the day, etc.

Once Gene was in a place to actually do something, he presented me with three options:

1)    Go to Standhill for a walk on the beach and lunch at Shells CafĂ©.
2)    Go to Lough Key for a walk and lunch.
3)    Go for a boat ride.

I quickly and easily chose option three since I’d been asking him to take me out on his boat for a while and I’ve never seen the country that way (Skellig Michael doesn’t count). After hitching the boat to his truck (Gene refers to his Volkswagen Golf as a truck which will never not make me laugh), we headed into town where we set the boat in the water and took off for Lough Key.

Being on the water was as peaceful as I suspected it’d be. And it was great to see the country from the boat. It was a beautiful day with sunshine and pretty clouds helping make it comfortable and not too hot on the water.

About 25 minutes into the ride to Lough Key, Gene motioned for me to come down to him. Wondering what he could possibly want with me at that side of the boat, and as gracefully as I could, I made my way to him where he proceeded to instruct me on how to work the motor as he wanted to take a nap. Slightly panicked as I’ve never driven a boat before and definitely didn't know where to go if presented with the option to choose a route, I sat down and drove the thing. I love Gene’s confidence in me. He often puts me in these positions where he just throws me in knowing I’ll figure it out. He does this every now and again late at night when he’s let all the bar staff go home and he’s entertaining the people at the pub. I’m just thrown in the deep end figuring out what to charge people on the cash register, make sure I give out the right change and, not to mention, get people’s drinks right!

At any rate, it was fine and I was only in charge for a little bit because we had to actually stop along the way to pay a fee- sort of like a toll booth, but for boats. Gene explained to me how this is common along the waterways in Ireland because a lot of people boat all throughout the country. 

UPDATED: Thanks to my friend Mick he filled in more information on this. Here's what he had to say:

here are numerous locks on the waterway system 
the ones in the 'south' are manually operated by a lock-keeper
this job normally remains in the lock-keepers family for years

the ones in the 'north' ----- erne waterway are self operated by the boat's crew
using a smart card

the purpose of a lock is to work the navigation around an obstacle ,e.g., a waterfall ---- the water in the lock chamber is lowered or lifted to suit the occasion ---- it is dreaded by inexperienced crew as it looks intimidating but always good for a bit of craic between skipper and crew (for craic read fight) --- I love them as it involves a good bit of maneuvering and Diana knows the drill off by heart now ----- toll booth????? --- oh dear --- are you american or what!!!!!!

From there it was a short ride to Lough Key where we had a quick bite to eat before getting back in the boat and heading on our way.

Maybe five minutes after leaving Lough Key, Gene had me come down to his end of the boat to take over again. He gave me a quick lesson in how to stop the boat and throw it in reverse, as well as reminding me that on the way back the green arrow needs to be on the boat’s left and the red arrow needs to be on the boat’s right. (This is super important because it’s basically like going down a one-way street if the arrows aren’t in the right direction.) Right before he handed over the boat to me again with all these instructions, he said “Just in case anything happens to me so you know what to do.” I was fairly certain nothing was going to happen to him, but I appreciated the learning opportunity all the same.

I was really happy and couldn’t stop smiling. It was a new adventure with one of my favorite people and it was peaceful and relaxing, and like most things I do in Ireland, such a stark contrast from how I live my every day life. The fact that Gene was passed out, just made it a funnier experience for me. Now I was slightly anxious about knowing exactly where to go. I wasn’t paying super close attention on the way to Lough Key because I never actually thought I was going to be in charge of getting us back. And there were some turns, which meant I’d need to make the right move or else…

I was feeling pretty proud of myself for remembering a couple of turns and that’s precisely when I got turned around. I had a choice of three different ways to go. The first way landed me in a dead end. So I turned the boat around hoping to not wake Gene in the process (I didn’t). I saw some of the green and red markers, so I headed in that direction. Unfortunately the red arrow was on the boat’s left and the green arrow was on the boat’s right. This meant I was going in the wrong direction. Who knows why, but I carried on anyway. I justified it by thinking that I’d eventually come to an option that would get me back in the right direction. After about five minutes of going in the wrong direction, Gene started to stir. He sat up and looked around and then popped up and said “You’re going the wrong way. Turn the boat around!” I very quickly tried to turn the boat around and nearly drove us into a bunch of tall grass in the process. Gene hurried on over in time to put the boat in reverse and prevent us from going into the embankment. It was a very funny few seconds and all I could do is shake my head and laugh. Gene, being the most good-natured person ever, just sat down beside me and said “That way would have brought us to Northern Ireland if you kept going.” He smiled with his usual mischief in his eyes and continued “Don’t worry Mol, I won’t tell anyone.” I just looked at him and said “I don’t care if you do tell anyone, I’ll happily tell them that you went to bed for nearly an hour and put someone in charge of the boat who’s never driven one before and lives in a different country.”

It was a fantastically funny experience, a perfectly predictable outcome as this is how most of my adventures with Gene go. This one will go down as one of my favorite memories of the trip for sure. 

After making it back to the house, we had a little bit of time to eat and get ready to go to Effrinagh for a night of dancing and music and a bonfire as a kickback to the 1920’s midsummer celebrations in Ireland. This was the road I was sweeping the night before with Gene. He had been talking this up since I got there saying it was unlike anything I’d ever see again and that it was such a wonderful experience last year that it brought tears to his eyes.

Gene’s girlfriend Pinny came down from Enniskellin to join us and she was a very good sport getting dressed up for the 1920’s. Dave and Oliver (they’re a father and son duo from Leeds with the most amazing Cockney English accents who come and stay at Gene’s 3 – 5 times a year to fish) came with us as well. Unfortunately it was a bit of a letdown. You couldn’t hear or see the music too well and there wasn’t as much of it as the previous year. I did get to see Mick and Diana though, so that was a highlight. We left after maybe an hour and a half and went back to Gene’s.

I was having a no drinking day after having had too much the night before. And I was really freaking tired. But I was having a great conversation with Pinny and so I stayed up and talked with her for nearly two hours inside the pub. Some of the people from the bonfire came to the pub and, as often happens at the Thatch, what seemed like a quiet night turned into a night of music, dancing, story and drinking (but none for me).

After a while, I put myself to bed and for the first time since I’ve been at Gene’s on this trip, I didn’t close down the pub or help him clean up. I needed sleep!

Wednesday June 24th
Today was as close to relaxing as I’ll get in Ireland. I woke up after getting nearly eight hours of sleep (thankfully!) and went onto the porch and wrote in my journal for nearly three hours. I had wanted to write in it every day, but when I looked, I hadn’t written in it since Friday. I had some serious catching up to do and luckily Gene was still sleeping and Dave and Oliver were out and about. 

I was sitting out on Gene’s back porch listening to the sheep and cows make noise, watching them graze and stare at me every now and again. And eventually, Gene got up and Dave and Oliver came back and so they were moving about in the background as I continued writing. Oliver was practicing fly-fishing in the field, surrounded by cows, with Gene looking on from the kitchen and giving pointers. At some point Gene did some yard work and I had to take a photo of him cause it made me laugh when he came in my sight. It was just a perfectly peaceful and relaxing start to my day.

A few hours later, Gene and I headed to Longford in his truck to get a few barrels of beer. About five minutes into the drive we started hearing a dinging noise and a notification that the tailgate was open. Gene assured me it wasn’t and just to ignore it. Unfortunately that wasn’t entirely possible because the dinging noise wouldn’t go away so Gene just put up the volume on the radio and tried to ignore it as much as he could. Once again I found myself just laughing and shaking my head. Just another adventure with Gene!

After our trip to Longford and back, Gene had a serious case of being hangry. He set about to make dinner and I had to take some time for myself and go for a run. I’m so glad that I did because it felt great. It was my first run on this trip, which bums me out a little as I had wanted to run at least three times a week. Not taking too much time to beat myself up about that, I just enjoyed the run I did have on Hillstreet. When I came back, Gene and the boys had already eaten dinner and dessert and luckily left me some even though Gene threatened to not save me any before I left on my run. (He was really hangry!)

I had a fair bit of downtime after that to get myself pulled together and clean the kitchen. Because it stays light out for so long in Ireland in the summer, the music doesn’t get started sometimes until nearly 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. And the music last night was on point- per usual- and the energy was really great. It’s always good to see the place busy and to get a taste of the talent, both locally and those who are visiting. 

Gene has created such a unique atmosphere and I feel so incredibly grateful to have met him 15 years (wow!) ago and to have gotten to know so many of the special people who fill this pub. There’s a happiness I feel down to my very core when I’m there and the music is going and the energy just takes you over.

Katie and I refer a lot to my Schwinn bicycle smile. (Quick side story when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, my mom threw my bike into a pile of stuff that was going to a yard sale at the fire station. When I got home and my bike wasn’t there I pretty much lost my mind- I was devastated to say the least. Luckily, we rushed down to the firehouse and got there before my bike was sold. The smile I had on my face as I was riding my bike around that firehouse was as if it had been painted on- just so wide and genuine and reaching my eyes.) And when I’m here, I feel like I have a permanent Schwinn bicycle smile. There were a couple of moments last night that had me tearing up as I was listening to the music. The Thatch is truly a magical place and I always feel like the luckiest person in the world that I get to experience it the way I do. 

After the music stopped and the pub mostly cleared out, Gene talked with some of the customers who were new to the pub and left me in charge of things. It’s kind of like that boat thing where Gene just drops me into the deep end and trusts that I’ll figure things out. While I love pulling pints and making drinks, I don’t entirely know what I’m doing on the cash register and with some of the inner working of the pub. But I figure it out and people are understanding anyway and patient with me. Plus it's just really fun to get to know the customers better and to be on that side of the bar.

It was a long night where we didn’t get out of the pub until nearly 4:00 a.m. We did most of the cleaning up before shutting the door. I was more than ready to get into my bed as I had to be up at 9:00 a.m. to take the train into Dublin. But of course there was a little more work to do- putting the trash bins out and making sure we had the right tags on there. Once that task was done, I was finally able to go to bed.

Thursday June 25th
I'm writing this blog from the train. I was originally planning on going into Dublin for my last two nights, but Gene talked me into staying at his place and just driving super early on Saturday. At first it sounded like a terrible idea, but there have been times on this trip where I've been up since 5:00 a.m., so I think I can swing it. And I'll save a boat load of money. The only kink in things was my plan to meet up with my friend Suzanne and her husband Kevin. We only have two days overlapping on our trip and in order to make it work I took the train into Dublin to have lunch with them.

It's wild really to have connected with them, but also so much fun! We had a delicious lunch of fish and chips at Matt the Thresher and then I joined them for their first pint of Guinness in Ireland! 

I love traveling by train and this has given me the time to catch up on my blog. It'll be about 5:00 p.m. by the time I make it back to Gene's. And I'm so glad that I have two more nights and one full day of adventures with him to look forward to before going home.


Unknown June 25, 2015 at 10:00 AM  

lovely molly ----- well written -_---- we lived on lough key and the shannon for about seven years on a barge -- I describe it as a privileged lifestyle ---- safe back to your native land and see you next time ------ much love from us m&d xx

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