My sweetest honeymoon.
TWILIGHT took away the last drops of sun. Darkness had me wanting. I left the Bulman a little uneasy.
The day had begun with grand battles over sovereign thirst and imperial right. Precariously positioned between the lions and tigers were the foot soldiers with their brutally bare lives laid out for the ambling wanderer. Charles Fort and its fatal flowers of history had filled me with more than I had accounted for. I left the fort to chew on the past in a sun-baked corner of Kinsale. By nightfall, the lives of others had begun to haunt me and I needed release.
Further up the hill, crowning the Scilly walk, stood The Spaniard. The elevated bar first opened in 1650 and has been warming hearts, clouding minds and filling sailors' stomachs ever since. It was named after the courageous Don Juan d'Aquila, who played a satisfactory role against the English in the Battle of Kinsale, 1601.
In the early 18th century, one could have sat on the wooden benches outside, getting merrily pissed while watching Alexander Selkirk leave from Kinsale Harbour for brighter shores. The trip didn't quite pan out for Mr Selkirk who ended up stranded on a desert island, inspiring one Daniel Defoe to pen "the first English novel" in 1719, titled "Robinson Crusoe". Rumour has it, many years later, your man Friday was spotted in the bar enjoying a quart of rum with two harlots before Robby took wind of his impudence and gave him a good hiding for not having supper ready. (I suppose a rumour can only become a rumour when it is shared. Otherwise it's just one of a billion sperm cells looking for an egg.)
So, there I was, sitting on an ancient mariner's bar stool, watching a Celtic-Rangers match while the locals sat in a cavernous corner lit by an old ship's lantern playing the fiddle and lark. Mulling over the day's history, I was delicately interrupted from behind by a warm hand on my generous right love handle. The hand was accompanied by a soft, loving voice that said: "Hey honey."
Honey certainly came to mind, as did milk, sweetness and light. I smiled, satisfied with the undiluted love I had received and continued eating my meal, without turning to identify the source of this unprompted affection. As the hand continued to linger on my side, at no point in the next 10 seconds did it occur to me that I had been in Ireland for almost a month and had yet to meet anyone who would stroke my sides and call me "honey". In fact, sitting alone on a bar stool eating fish cakes in The Spaniard, near Kinsale, County Cork, it did not even strike me as odd that an anonymous voice had greeted me with the kind of anticipatory familiarity reserved only for newly-weds.
Before I could turn to greet the new light in my life, a tall, sturdy young man wearing a blue fleece loomed in the corner of my eye. He looked a little perplexed, if not angry. The party was soon over when he addressed the loving voice behind me with the definitive words: "Mary, I'm over here."
At this point, I did start to wonder that perhaps all was not right in this public display of innominate affection. I finally turned to meet a horrified young lady, wearing a matching blue fleece to the towering man on my left. The roaming hand that had briefly warmed my waist was quickly joined by the other and raised to her face as she all but screamed in a twangy American accent: "OH MY GOD PETE, I'M NOT WEARING MY GLASSES!"
I subsequently grinned profusely and mumbled something foreign-sounding before returning with intense purpose to my fish cakes. The whole affair will probably go down as the shortest, most loving, stress-free honeymoon of my life.
The next morning I was up by the crack of dawn and on the road to County Kerry, once again, riding solo. From Killarney, I took a bus to Tralee where hundreds of American beauties with Irish ancestry descend every year for the annual Rose of Tralee contest. It was too early for pageant season so I spent the whole of three minutes in Tralee before catching a bus for the Dingle Peninsular on the south west coast.
Luckily, Dingle is not famous for its berries. It's claim to fame lies in the Hollywood film Ryan's Daughter, shot in 1970 in the tiny town of 2,000 people. The film tells the story of a young Irish girl who had an affair with a British soldier during World War One. According to folklore, the whole project brought untold scandal and dollars to the relatively quiet town. Robert Mitchum in true Hollywood style would grow his own marijuana, and when his wife wasn't visiting, entertain a number of young, nubile ladies in his temporary home.
It was in this decadent setting where I laid eyes upon Kirrary B&B. This lovely little house was named after the imaginary town in Ryan's Daughter. The owner of the house was a delightfully warm and welcoming Mrs Aileen who when I asked for a room, took a good, hard, assessing look at me before saying: "Well, alright then, I suppose you better come in."
Later that night, I met another guest at the house. He was an 84-year-old World War Two veteran from Massachusetts who still had his navy card to prove it. "I served my country back when it was a great country, not any more though," he told me.
His parents were originally from Ireland but moved to America after the famine. John had travelled to Ireland with his 61-year-old son, whom he described as "a talented young artist". We spoke about the world. "I don't care what ya wanna call it but war is failure," he argued. I really warmed to John. Apart from his strength, white pony tail, and the telling lines on his face, we shared the same birth date, with only 53 years difference.
The next day I borrowed Mrs Aileen's bicycle to visit the western most point of the island. I was desperate for the closest view of the Atlantic. Before setting off, I asked my host how long it would take to get to Dunquin from Dingle. "Ooh, I don't know now, not more than 20, 30 minutes."
Two and a half hours later, following 32 kilometres of up and down, windy village roads with the great force of the ocean battering my ill-prepared body, I made it to the cliffside cafe, Tigh Slea Head. They were serving home-made raspberry cheesecake and hot tea as Peter Mulvey's soothing voice traced the Atlantic coastline from hidden speakers.
"Where'd you come riding from then?" asked the waitress who spotted my lady's bike parked outside.
"Dingle," I replied, still out of breath.
"That's some ride. Here, the tea's on us. You've got a way to get back yet."
Of course, she was right. But the curving bays, settling hills and vast ocean made for good company. Later that evening, I informed Mrs Aileen of her miscalculation.
"Oh well, dear, you never can tell with these things. Now, tell me, what shall I pack for your breakfast tomorrow?"
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