In New York

In New York

Friday, 31 August 2012

Final notes from travel diary

20th August, Monday.

"Gerruup-ouravit'!"* Ah the dulcet tones of the Dublin pedestrian as he aims a passing kick at a car, whose driver has had the bad judgment to break the lights at the quays at O'Connell Bridge, finding himself suddenly surrounded by a menacing crowd. Dublin, in the rare 'oul times.  Roch and I are negotiating the still familiar city centre streets, having braved the Luas (tram line) to Abbey Street from the Gibson Hotel, where we are booked in for the remainder of our stay in Ireland, when we witness this scene, much to our private amusement.  I was worried about using the tram but it posed no problem - it's at pavement level so wheeling the chair on and off is easy and you're straight onto the street, no steps to negotiate.    

Roch at the Gibson
It's just the kind of hotel Roch likes, sleek, modern and with an understated luxury. I sound like a travel brochure! It's the ideal venue for us, as it's situated smack bang between Northside and Southside, making it convenient for visiting family and friends, from both sides of the Liffey. The idea is that they can come to see us here - which makes it far less stressful for both of us. Before we went to Kerry, we made sure the hotel facilities suited - we had to check the height of the bed, the bathroom/toilet etc. It checked out, and the hotel staff could not have been more helpful. We still have to use the trusty toilet raiser seat, but the bed is high enough and we don't need the toilet frame as the grab rails provided are sufficient. We do need the perching stool, as the shower seat is too low, but we expected that.
The bedroom is an oasis of quiet and calm and on our return to the room - even after a relatively short visit to the bar/terrrace for coffee and cigar - it has been transformed in our absence, bed made, bathroom spotless. Now that's luxury.

Many thanks to Fiona, who thought of the Gibson in the first place, Maura who accompanied her on the first reconaissance mission - and to my mother, who gave us our stay there for our 22nd Wedding Anniversary present.

*Translation from Dublinese = Get up out of it.

21st August, Tuesday

The Gathering of the Clan

I guess you could call this the gathering of the clan of cousins, as we had another Maher gathering for breakfast on Sunday, at Mairt's house. There sisters, brothers and various offspring came together before those lucky enough to have tickets to the All Ireland Hurling semi-final headed off to Croke Park for the match, Roch, Tom and Kate amongst them. Today Roch and his brothers and sisters travelled to meet their cousins - presiding over them all, the man who married us - Roch's uncle and namesake, Fr. Roch. It's becoming an annual tradition, this year kindly hosted by Anne and Chris.

Roch with Fr. Roch and Eoin


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A bracelet of days

I picked up a 'poetry postcard' in the Dingle Bookshop.  Written by a Dingle poet, it feels like it was written for me.

A bracelet of days

I am making a bracelet of days
or bits of days
to take out in the half light
and know those other times were real.

The first stone threaded on is blue:
A dusky drive
through low flat fields,
that held the promise of home.

The second one is the gold
of candlelight in a night-time
chapel where four musicians

The third is clear as water:
Words plucked
from a poet's mouth
to flow into my ear.

I am making a bracelet of days,
moments stolen, frozen,
threaded into a talisman
to scare away those half-light days.

Emer Fallon 2007

Notes from Travel Diary cont'd

17th August, Friday.  Dingle.

This week has passed quickly. The kids have been swimming most days. Roch is happy about that, he wants them to continue to do the things they have always enjoyed on our seaside holidays together. Through the years on our visits to the West of Ireland, an important feature of our family holidays there was the daily swim. Roch was the instigator and facilitator of this tradition. The last holiday in County Clare was August 2010 and that was the last time Roch went swimming in the sea. It's hard for him now, not to be a part of it. So yesterday I suggested that we spend a family day and do things together that Roch could enjoy, too. We drove to Ballyferriter, scene of many Maher outings in the past, and had lunch in one of the local pubs. It was a relaxed and enjoyable meal and we took our time about it.

Maura and Roch in Ballyferriter

 Next stop was out the road to the Louis Mulcahy pottery workshop and shop, where Roch and Tom soon lost patience with their womenfolk, as Maura, Kate and I took our time to decide between various very beautiful pieces. You can watch the potters at work there. This youtube video will give you an idea of the quality of the work and the beauty of the surroundings:

Decisions were eventually made and we loaded up our booty and headed off to Dunquin, to the educational stop on our tour, the Blasket Islands heritage centre. It's worth the visit, although I have to ask with regard to quite a lot of the great literature that came out of the Blaskets - does anyone else find those voices from the past ever so slightly whingey?

Good moment having watched the video which informed us of the tremendous community spirit amongst the islanders - only to spy a quote from one islander who complained that when building his house, he got no help - neither brick nor mortar was handed to him...

Roch's brother Mairt and his wife Sheila joined us in the evening and we headed out to a local amateur dramatics production of the comedy "Moll" penned by the well known Kerry playwright, John B. Keane. There was a step at the entrance to the venue and as we joined the queue for tickets outside, I shared Roch's anxiety about getting the wheelchair in. No ramp was available but having alerted the organisers to our dilemma, tickets were purchased and the wheelchair was basically lifted in over the step. Seats had been kindly reserved for us at the front, with a space for the wheelchair. The only thing to mar my enjoyment was the extraordinary cocophony of sounds which issued from my stomach - a legacy I believe of the rhubarb crumble I had so carelessly chosen at lunch time for dessert. Honestly, I swear that Moll was more than once put off her lines by the loud and embarrassing rumblings. Certainly the small child seated next to me cast some startled glances in my direction. At the interval I swapped seats with Kate, so that I was seated between Kate and Tom to spare my young companion further trauma, but I am happy to report that things settled down eventually!

We waited for a while afterwards for the crowds to disperse and as we waited, a young man approached me. I think he must have been despatched by the organiser to assist us with the wheelchair. I watched the care with which he carried out his part in the operation, and was touched by the gentleness with which this stranger lifted and placed the chair on the ground outside.

After the play we headed back to the cottage together, where we stayed chatting until the early hours with Mairt and Sheila - Sheila regaling us with tales of the filming of Ryan's Daughter (Dingle is Ryan's daughter country, after all) of which she has first hand knowledge - having been in Dingle as a mere slip of a girl around that time.

All in all, a good day, yesterday.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Notes from Travel Diary

Wednesday 14th August. Dingle.

Fifth full day here and after initial disappointment on arrival, it's all working out much better than expected. Roch, Tom and I got here on Saturday about 4.30pm. We had gorgeous sunny weather all the way from Dublin to Tralee, but hard rain followed us from Tralee to Dingle. As we stretched cramped limbs in pouring rain and surveyed the scene, Tom and I soon realised that the cottage was not as accessible as advertised. We faced a steep incline up from the parking area to a path which leads directly to the cottage door. The gradient is clearly unsuitable for wheelchair access. The next day we worked out a better place to park and a better way to get Roch in - although not ideal, as the pavement is not dropped at any point, and the path is still quite steep - it is much safer than the path which leads directly from the main car parking area. Anyway, our first impression was not good and after a rather hazardous push (Tom pushed the wheelchair, I pushed Tom!) up the hill, we made it into the cottage. We felt rather better having established Roch inside and braved the elements to return with mouth watering fish and chips from the village. It didn't stop us devouring Maura's delicious pasta dish later! Kate travelled with Maura and they arrived at the cottage a couple of hours after us.
Thank God for the ramp, supplied on loan from the Irish MND Association. Without it, there is no way Roch could have access to the patio area, as promised, for the ritual cigar. The riser recliner chair and toilet frame arrived on Monday and greatly add to Roch's comfort here.

The view from the cottage

Sunday saw us renewing acquaintance with Lerick A and his small daughter Angie - it will also live in my memory as the day of the endless ham, which took forever to cook - although we couldn't have managed at all without the pot supplied by Lerick's fear an ti*.  Lerick and Angie accompanied us on our hair raising 'spin' around Slea Head in the afternoon, as Roch was anxious to re-visit the old haunts from bygone Maher family holidays and we drove to the Winestrand, scene of countless swims in the pitiless cold seas - hardy youngsters - where a voice from the past hailed Roch - I ask you, first full day in the place and we meet someone who knows him! Great to see you again, Mairead! The first drive was to be a mere shadow of Roch's 'Memory Day' to come on Tuesday, when Paudie organised the tour proper for Roch, their sisters Mariannne and Laura, and his wife Ger. A real trip down memory lane and a great day out for them all. A hot, sunshiny day, with plenty of laughs mixed I think with a good deal of nostalgia.

Muireach - the old house
Lerick stands guard in the Dingle rain as Roch enjoys a cigar

Maura, Tom, Kate and I headed off on a boat trip to see the famous Dingle dolphin. Funghie did not disappoint and showed up on cue to entertain. Afterwards, we headed to the Winestrand where I surprised myself by braving the freezing waves. I don't think I really warmed up again until after the family meal at the Skellig Hotel - ten of us gathered together to celebrate the occasion while Maher memories were shared.

We were expecting hurricane weather today and it's been windy and showery, but no hurricane so far. We have a magnificent view of Dingle bay from here, right out on the patio. A quiet day. I think Roch is tired after all the activity yesterday. I took a walk into the town and enjoyed a bit of solitude, even the rain didn't bother me. But as I trundled round the damp streets I felt myself becoming heavy hearted and experienced that peculiar detached feeling I get sometimes when alone and not distracted by conversation or the company of others.  In Dingle bookshop as I stood at the counter, waiting to make my purchase, I was aware of the presence of other customers and watched their interaction with the bookseller as from a distance, although standing close to them. Like an actor in a play, or like watching somebody else play the part of me. Later, a meaningless conversation with  a heavily pregnant young woman in a Chemist shop - what product would be best for brittle nails, we pondered. I felt like a pretender, in fact, I was pretending - actually I couldn't have cared less. 

*fear/bean an ti = literally translated from the Irish it means 'man/woman of the house' but used in common parlance meaning the proprietor of a guest house.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

#The first time ever I saw your face

 Notes from travel diary

8 August, Wednesday

Well, I did it, I got them all from Rydal Gardens to Dublin, with the help of three sumatriptan  and a good deal of prayer. I drove all the way for the first time ever and managed it beautifully with the support of my two lovely children and Roch’s navigational expertise.  (There was one hairy moment outside Wrexham when my hay fever eyes began to water so much I had to pull in for eye drop treatment), but was soon recovered enough to drive on to the Premier Inn where we spent the night before completing our journey.

I am writing these notes from the guest bedroom in my brother’s house in Dublin, where I take a moment to breathe a prayer of thanks and close my eyes, settling into the fresh, crisp sheets with relief.  Dermot and Maura have done an excellent job raising the bed for Roch and he is settled comfortably downstairs with an extra mattress on the sofa bed. He can get in and out of bed by himself. If he needs me he will text. Last year we had no need for an extra mattress – but we knew there had been changes.  There would have been no getting him into Mammy’s house without the ramp – so many thanks to Tracy at the Irish MND Association. A ramp was waiting for us there on arrival. The gradient was a bit steep but we managed. Perfect for the step at Dermot’s house. It’s pretty heavy but it does the job. Hopefully all will be well in Kerry. I know he’s anxious about being out of his comfort zone. It’s hard for him. Thank God we brought the toilet raiser seat, as well as the toilet frame. What a piece of kit. The moment I fixed it to the toilet seat at the Premier Inn in Wrexham I breathed a sigh of relief. It would be okay, and that certainly dealt with one of Roch’s major anxieties. It will be an essential piece of equipment, wherever we go on this trip. It is so much harder for him to stand from a sitting position now. I wonder how far we are from hoist time?

I relax and put in my earphones.  Alison Moyet. At once a rush of memories threatens to overwhelm me. Dublin is the place of the young Roch, always on the move, sexy as hell, the Roch of the wink that made me go weak at the knees, he of the tinted glasses and the soft leather jacket – pulled into his strong young arms, held against his lean body sharing stolen kisses all those years ago. Oh the dizziness of that first kiss.

“The first time ever I saw your face…I thought the sun rose in your eyes… and the moon and the stars… were the gift you gave, to a dark… and empty sky.”