Wednesday, 19 May 2010

What we did on our holidays

"Have you remembered it's our wedding anniversary?" said Mrs Pig Farmer.

"Err. . . cannot tell a lie. . . no," I said. "But don't go getting all superior - it's 5.30 in the afternoon so you forgot too and the middle of traffic gridlock in Galway City Centre is no place to discuss this anyway."

"Good point. Happy anniversary."

"You too, now can we get the bloody hell out of here? It's like driving round Stoke."

It wasn't a holiday as such, we were in Ireland to meet up with Sal's brothers and say a final farewell to their parents at the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare.

As my brother-in-law Martin pointed out, his dad Ray was not one for the big romantic gestures - unless you count lifelong belief in the communist cause - so it had come as some surprise to find that his final wish was that his and Marion's ashes be scattered over the coastline of the west of Ireland.

I strongly suspect that the cliffs were a little different when they visited 20 years ago. The natural beauty and the spectacular seabird display remain, but the place is a tourist magnet with a whacking great car and coach park, underground restaurant and gift shop. Still lovely, but hard for someone used to solitude of Orkney to cope with. However, that wasn't the point - Ray and Marion's memories of the place are what mattered.

Sal and I scouted the location on Saturday and, at 2.30 in the afternoon, it was a heaving mass of humanity. Fearing the repercussions of a coachload of tourists from New Hampshire getting covered in communist remains, we got up there good and early the next day.

Sally, Martin, Alan and Steve went past the "Do not pass" sign, opened the end of the long cardboard box Mart had packed his mum and dad in and tipped them over the edge, wisely keeping their mouths shut as the onshore breeze ensured some ash, at least, was scattered inland.

"From here you can see the Atlantic, the Aran Islands and the Connemara mountains," said the fella, opening the patio door of the rented cottage with a flourish.

The pig farmer looked at the sea about three miles away and, shrugging off a moment of homesickness for Westray, made a valiantly polite attempt to appear impressed. He would have said something, but yer man was up and running. I'd completely forgotten how the Irish can talk - which is odd considering I have a Dublin-born mother who learned to talk some time in 1930 and has hardly paused for breath since.

We stayed in Doolin, a fine spot on the Clare coast with a couple of good pubs and boat trips out to Aran and the cliffs. But - and I never thought I'd say this about the west of Ireland - it was so busy. I reckon I've been spoiled.

We were in O'Connor's in Doolin. Outside the rain was hammering down and inside damp, unsmiling tourists were steaming nicely as they tried to decide whether or not they liked (a) Guinness and (b) traditional Irish music.

The pig farmer and friends were having no problem with (a), but (b) was leaving him a little cold. I like a little traditional music, the pipes especially, but you can't help but get the feeling in a lot of pubs that once the tourists have left, the locals breathe a sigh of relief, happily close the blinds and get out the karaoke machine.

"We have made very good progress," said the pilot, casually ignoring the fact that, thanks to the Icelandic volcano, we were the best part of a day late. "Such good progress that we have completed the journey in 45 minutes and Kirkwall airport isn't open yet."

Terrific. You finally arrive home and Orkney is shut.

Once the ground control team had finished their breakfast and we'd been on a sunshine tour of airspace above the islands, we landed to the most beautiful, warm day yet this year.

Later, kicking my heels around town, I noticed the Norwegian flag flying above the town hall. Things seem to have changed while I've been away.


Dave said...

Did you miss the news that the Scottish Islands had decided to be ruled by a parliament closer to them than Westmister?

Rog said...

Ashes to Ashes.

Loved the talking Monther line!

I, Like The View said...

snakker du norsk? jeg snakker det!

(glad you made it back home, safe and sound)

rachel said...

That's the Norwegians for you - a sneaky bloodless coup the moment you turn your back.

zIgGi said...

It's that boar, he's obviously a Viking.

Arabella said...

Glad that I never had to drive in Galway city. Walking to work in the summer was bad enough, tripping over didgeridoos.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I'm sure life won't be too bad under the Norwegians. However, when the soldiers arrive they are sure to confiscate your pigs as plans are made for the invasion of Scotland. You'd also be well-advised to keep Mrs Pig Farmer hidden from view. You know what invading armies are like when they run amok.

You will also need to learn the Norwegian national anthem. The first verse goes like this:-

Ja, vi elsker dette landet,
Som det stiger frem,
Furet, værbitt, over vannet,
Med de tusen hjem.
Elsker, elsker det og tenker
På vår far og mor
Og den saganatt som senker
Drømme på vår jord,
Og den saganatt som senker
Senker drømme på vår jord,

Translated =

Yes, we love this country
as it rises forth,
rugged, weathered, above the sea,
with those thousand homes.
Loving, loving it and thinking
about our father and mother
and the saga night that sends
dreams to our earth.
And the saga night that sends,
sends dreams to our earth.

smart said...

I hope your mother doesn't read your blog.

Malc said...


About time too!


We know Major Tom's a junkie.


Jeg forstar ikke


Sly old Scandinavians. I preferred the old, up-front, viking approach.


It really is like Stoke these days - such a disappointment.


To be sung while waving axes and setting the satnav for the nearest monastery, I presume.


1. She is determined to ignore any development after 1967, so no computers and
2. She's way too busy telling everyone how to run their lives.

As it happens it was the day after Norwegian Constitution Day which is celebrated with a visit from Norway speeches, the pipe band plays and there's a procession (the tog) through Kirkwall.