Episode 9 - Bobby, Abby, and the Jessies

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April 6, 2006

Spring may finally have arrived here in Bantry, and with it the start of a serious influx of American guests. Yesterday, Bobby and I bade a sad and sleepy farewell to my sister and our good friend Jessie, who had arrived in Bantry last Wednesday strung-out and exhausted after having unwillingly taken part in various psychological experiments at Heathrow Airport. We picked them up at the bus station in town in the mid-afternoon and gave them enough coffee to keep them awake till midnight, when finally the urge to lie down overcame them.

We awoke the next morning to pouring rain and hazy sunshine, a staple of the Irish weather forecast, and spent the day lazing around, eating and drinking coffee and just enjoying the good company. Malcolm showed up later that day on his way north from Dublin (or south, west, then north) and took us on the ride of our lives into Bantry, making it in half the time it usually takes Bobby. Exhilarated from the drive and drunk with our good fortune at still being alive, we polished off enormous portions of meat and potatoes at the Snug, followed it up with cool-whip pie and instant coffee, and headed over to Ma Murphy’s to check out the live music. We were hoping to show Abigail and Jessie some good old Irish music, but the session at Ma’s more closely resembled a college dorm room on a Friday night. There were about fifteen drunk men and women of various ages playing instruments or banging on tables and singing loudly (you might call it yelling) songs like Freebird and Bobby McGee. Luckily, Malcolm had brought his fiddle, and back at home we cracked a bottle of wine and sat around, four Americans listening to an American play the fiddle, and all feeling very Irish indeed.

We spent the second half of the week down in Schull, a little seaside village about 45 minutes south of here on the Mizen Head Peninsula. Jessie’s aunt, who lives in Zambia, happens to have a beautiful holiday home there and had offered it to us for the week. It was amazing—the house is up on a hilltop overlooking the bay, and gets glorious amounts of sunshine, which was out in full force.

The Mizen Head Peninsula is known for being one of the most beautiful spots in Ireland, but scarcely have I seen anything in the world so breathtaking. We drove along the southern tip of the peninsula to Brow Head, the most southerly point on mainland Ireland. There we got out and walked up a steep hill and then through rolling pastures to the very edge of the world. There were sheer cliffs, maybe 300 feet high, which descended sharply into a crashing bright-blue sea. The soft grass of the pastures reached right to the edge of the cliffs, so it was possible to lie down comfortably and peer over the edge. With the sun shining down and a warm breeze blowing, we quite literally felt that there, at the edge of the earth, we had found heaven.

Back at the house, we spent most of our time making delicious dinners of fresh seafood and drinking copious amounts of wine; none of us wanted this holiday to end. But alas it did, and we took off for Cork City, where we spent our last night. For our nightcap, we ended up at a little pub across the way from the hostel; it was one of those places full of middle-aged men that appear to have grown up together. As we were sitting near the door, we attracted a lot of attention, mostly in the form of “good night ladies, gentleman”. But one man was kind enough to offer Bobby assistance in the case that he started feeling overwhelmed by his company. “Just call, say Hey John, okay? And I’ll be there. I’ll even dye my hair”, and he pointed over his grey head at the wall behind him. Tempting tho that offer was, it was getting late, and Abigail and Jessie had an early flight. So we squeezed back into our room at the hostel and drifted off to sleep, wakened only by the fire alarm three hours later. It was nearly time to get up, anyway.