Another Irish Tale

March 20, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

It was a “soft day” as they call it in Ireland, which meant it was raining. It rains almost every day in Ireland and that means it is actually the greenest place in the world, even more than the jungles. Looking at Ireland from an airplane explains why it is called the Emerald Isle.

We had been riding that afternoon before the rain came in. It felt soft even then too, on board a couple of fine horses who enjoyed the outing as much as we did. A gentle canter through a sun striped woodland, beams playing games among the leaves we popped over a couple of logs as a our guide led us along the trail.

He took us at a trot up a bit of a hill and we paused to admire the view. The land was laid out in a patch work of fields, divided by dry-stone fences, bushes growing along them. The sun made the whole scene shimmer just as it had done on this same picture for hundreds of years.

Horses in Ireland, an inevitable pairing of thought and we had gone to Ireland for a few days specifically to go riding, travelling to Tipperary (the whole long way, yes) for the fun. My companion was Rosemary, a young woman from the south of London, whom I had met while I was working in the Canadian High Commission in Grosvenor Square. There was the kind of tension in general that there has existed socially between Canadians and Americans: we don’t like being called American when we’re away and Americans used to sew Canadian flags in their backpacks for a better reception among people abroad.

As we were on the train from Dublin to Tipperary, we – or rather she – soon learned that unlike in England where it is well understood that one keeps to oneself on trains, tucked in behind a newspaper, pretending not to listen to the conversation of people sitting together, it is pretty well impossible to dodge a chat with others on a train in Ireland.

Ireland. Anyway, it was Mick with his grizzled old beard and bushy eyebrows who after a very short time of watching us, interjected himself into our conversation by asking where we were from.

“Canada,” I told him and to his inquiry about my lineage, I reassured him that my maternal grandmother was born in Limerick.

“Ah,” said he with satisfaction, “that makes you half Irish.” Looking at Rosemary with some doubt, “What about your friend then?”

“She’s from South London,” I told him.

He sank back a bit. “Well, per’aps she’s nice person anyway,” he offered as a concession.

I promised him she was. 

We conducted a foolish discourse with him and he advised us to go to the tourist office in Tipperary for recommendations as to places to stay – “Tell them Mick sent you,” he instructed us.

A beautiful young man at the tourist information office took Mick’s recommendation in stride. He went over his list of B and B’s and came up with a reservation that he thought would suit us for the few nights of our intended stay. 

The place was a house on the edge of town with a couple of bedrooms, owned and run by a wild man named Cony. His wife had learned to mainly ignore everything he said and they seemed to get along very well together. She fixed us with a fine breakfast in the mornings but it was Cony who claimed his role as guide and corrupter in his own town.

I have a theory that no vehicle, at least in the countryside in Ireland can drive past a pub. That seemed to be the case with Cony’s car. For the evening after our ride, there was only the one option and that was to go to the pub for a Guinness. 

There were plenty of people there, all laughing or arguing, the place was awash in beer, in Guinness – that rich delicious stout coming from a well tended barrel and treated with the reverence others save for fine wine. 

That to one side, we watched as a chap arrived in his basic horse drawn Kerry cart. The horse knew the way for sure and strolled into the parking lot where a rail to tie him was convenient. The man came in to join the crowd and engage in the mad rhetoric that was the flavour of conversation. When he finally made his way out to go home, there was no problem about his ability or otherwise to steer his animal, for the horse was well used to the routine and knew the way for himself.

A couple of days later as Rosemary and I returned to London, it seemed stuffy and stale. I stopped into a pub the next day and ordered a Guinness to toast “the old sod.” It wasn’t the same, wasn’t as good.

Still, the green of Ireland stayed with me – a fresh memory of the greenest, funniest land on earth.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

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