Were we mad? Whose idea was it, exactly, to rent a house in West Cork for six months? After one glorious, seductive, deceitful day of sunshine, the rain has been unrelenting. Sometimes it’s a fine mist and sometimes it’s a downpour. Sometimes it makes your hair curl into tendrils and sometimes it soaks you to the underwear. The bay below the house, teeming with aquatic life on that sunny day, is now blanketed in grey fog.
And yet…and yet…the green lawn is drooping with fuchsia; a tiny robin is peeping at me from the hydrangeas and there is the possibility that the fox will come back for a visit. We think he took the leftover pork from the edge of the lawn – although the friendly dog that dropped by today did seem to go straight to the place we left it.
We spent a happy hour today at Whyte’s Books in Schull. They serve coffee and delicious cakes and have collections of book reviews in large binders. Browsers and buyers come and go. The local priest is after Salman Rushdie’s latest: “Destined to be a classic, Father” the owner assures him. An elderly German drinks hot chocolate and reads quietly, two Englishmen chat in a back room, a woman is looking for Alice Munro stories. We inquire about the Writing Circle to take place Monday nights and we Google the name of the instructor. All we can find is one 60-page self-published paperback and a couple of references to ‘aromatherapy and crystal workshops’. Perhaps we’ll give this one a miss.
Besides, I am already signed up for fitness classes, thanks to information from the friendly post-mistress. The classes are run by M, who is English, and doing it for free. The postmistress has already told me this, but it is confirmed when I go to buy trainers at the sporting goods shop in Skibbereen. When I say I need them for a fitness class the salesman says, “That would be M’s class out in Ballydehob, would it?” It turns out that this is the only fitness class in the area, and M has been in to order steps and weights. The only other local offering is “the occasional bit of yoga” run above a restaurant by the proprietor but only “when herself isn’t too busy with the food, like.”
We have decided we need discipline. Our resolutions go like this:
· Get up early. Does 8:30 count?
· Music practice every day so that Robert can learn new tunes on his squeezeboxes and so I can become a bodhran genius. I am setting my sights high, convinced that the fact I am having trouble keeping the beat is a mere temporary beginner stage.
· Healthy activity every day. We envision long hikes over the rugged hills, strenuous climbs rewarded by sandwiches on a rock with sweeping vistas. So far we have walked down through the fields to the water (it was uphill all the way back), and along to lane to see what the neighbours’ houses looked like. Occasional houses, but little sign of neighbours.
· Writing every day. We have in mind, ultimately, a collaborative writing project – the kind of blog that garners a devoted readership and establishes itself as a staple among the literary/naturalist/outdoorsy/amateur historian or archaeological set. To date we have each managed one email, and this.
We tell ourselves that we haven’t been here a week yet. That we have a whole six months. That we are still getting over jetlag. That we are still discovering how to just be together. That we will eschew the scone with our coffee from tomorrow on. That spending an hour looking through the spotting scope is an important way to orient ourselves to our environment. That the fact that we included ‘come and visit’ invitations to everyone we know at the end of our emails just means we are friendly types. That tomorrow we will do a section of the Sheep’s Head Way. And that right now is a good time for bodhran practice.
But wait! Is it? Can that shaft of watery light be…YES, it’s the sun! Hold that bodhran – I’m off down to the water.