Rural West Cork idyll has one drawback, and that’s no bull!

Being in the sticks with little or no contact with the outside world made me a little anxious, so says Colette Sheridan in her weekly column
Rural West Cork idyll has one drawback, and that’s no bull!

FLYING THE FLAG FOR COUNTRY LIVING: Market day in Skibbereen, with lots of fresh local produce close at hand

“WHAT, no wifi AND no telly?” I gasped when I got to the remote West Cork house belonging to my brother and his wife. I was staying there over the recent bank holiday weekend.

Now, it’s not as if I’m a total news junkie who has to be constantly fed a diet of what’s happening around the world and in Eire. But being in the sticks with little or no contact with the outside world made me a little anxious.

Which is a crying shame and can be blamed on this need to be always ‘on’. Slaves to our smart phones, they are pretty much redundant when you’re in the back of beyond. I can appreciate how frustrating the lack of broadband is in rural areas.

But the thing about West Cork is that it’s utterly beguiling and after the initial wrench from technology, you get into the rhythm of country life, shopping for fish from Union Hall in the market in Skibbereen. And listening to the locals, one of whom had us in stitches.

He was carrying a baby girl in a pouch and joked that she was a good ad for contraception. He then proceeded to regale everyone within earshot with a description of how to conceive a girl (he has four sons). Without going into the nitty gritty, some squeezing of a certain part of the male anatomy at a crucial moment apparently does the trick.

“Where did you find that out?” my brother asked.

“The post office,” said the dad.

My brother observed that post offices have a community function that go way beyond their official remit. Somehow, though, I don’t see urban post offices dispensing reproductive advice.

Later, while out walking, we encountered a man selling free range eggs from a shopping trolley. To say he wore a flat cap and had gapped teeth might sound like a clichéd description of a yokel type. But that description defined how he looked.

Quietly spoken, we tried to engage him in conversation. We learned that he had cattle and that the eggs were a sideline.

My brother bought half a dozen eggs from him for €3 and joked afterwards that he had been ripped off! I think he was talking in terms of the price of eggs at Tesco, which can sell them by the truckload.

Supermarkets and their fare are not always the best port of call for tasty food. Not when you can select your own vegetables and fruit, growing in your field or poly tunnel out the back.

A guy who lives ‘off grid’ came to dinner over the weekend. He brought wine. But I was more interested in the lettuce he also brought with him.

Often, salad is an afterthought, something to garnish a plate. But this guy’s salad leaves were the most piquant and intense tasting that I’ve ever experienced. It wasn’t just the dressing. The various different types of leaves were an ad for growing your own.

Living off grid is challenging but laudable in a polluted planet. The dinner guest built his family home himself. The house is solar-powered. There are no utility bills. Bliss!

And the family is vegetarian, although the dinner guest does eat fish. His wife works outside the home while he keeps the home fires burning and the field tilled. Sounds like a great arrangement.

Country life has a lot going for it but I couldn’t hack it on a full-time basis. An urban gal, I’d miss the cinema, the theatre, the supermarkets, the shopping in town for clothes and books, the cafés, the wifi connectivity — in other words, the ease and convenience of living in a city.

And there’s no fear of a bull running loose.

Yes, the bete noire of the West Cork weekend was the threat of the bull in a relatively nearby field coming at us.

My hosts’ house is near the land of a farm. There are ‘beware of the bull’ signs on gates. But the brother and his wife are cool enough about this animal. They bought the house for its views of Fastnet, Mount Gabriel and Roaring Water Bay. There is no view of the bull from inside the house.

I’m not cool about them. The prospect of the bull approaching made me cautious and fretful. The summer is the most dangerous time for bulls running with the herd. It’s the time of year when most of the mating occurs.

But why not eliminate the bull and use artificial insemination (AI) for mating instead?

If a fractious child is a good ad for contraception, a belligerent bull is an excellent ad for AI.

We have the technology.

“You’re not really into nature,” observed the brother.

Not when it’s dangerous, said I, a total city girl wimp.

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