She looked at me as if I had four heads and several other appurtenances growing from my shoulder blades.
“Are you for real or what, we can’t travel, we can’t go anywhere — holidays my eyebrow, ’tis far from holidays you were reared, will you go and bring in the cows?”
Well, I broached the subject again after the supper, “But,” says I, “Sure, in another month or two, when everyone’s got the thing in the arm, sure the hurling and football matches and GAA meetings’ll be on every night and I’ll have to go to all them games, especially when we had so few last year, do you know what I mean?”
Oh, she knew what I meant alright! I recalled then in the last century, granted we were a bit younger then, but that’s beside the point, sure age is only a number, aren’t I right?
Anyhow, back in the ’80s we used often go to the Harvest Racing Festival in Listowel for maybe two or three days every September. “Do you remember it?” says I. “Ah, them good old days.”
“Remember it,” says she, “will I ever forget?”
Now, we weren’t great horse or horse racing fans or betting people either but Listowel was always great. A bit like an end of the year gathering with craic and chat and mighty company — sure, you’d meet more locals in Listowel of a day than you’d meet in Mitchelstown or Fermoy in a week.
“Do you remember the way we used go to Listowel?” says I. “Through Newmarket, Mount Collins and Castleisland,” came the reply.
“Ah, that’s not what I meant, I mean the way we used come and go the one day.”
“And what about it?” she said. You see, back then in those years and in those leisurely times, we used leave the lads in care of grandparents. We’d have the jobs done, milking and all, before 9am and fine and aisy we’d head off for Listowel about 10.30. We might stop for a bite on the way, or not if we had a big breakfast that morning.
Crossing over the bridge in Listowel and the crowd below in the river, knee deep in water and they all chanting: “Throw me down something, throw me down something,” and in fairness people would fire down their spare change.
The first race might be at half one or two and at every hand’s turn you’d meet neighbours and friends.
“Do you remember,” says I, “the year I had the mighty chat with Bryan McMahon?”
Well lads, our minds were bent on rambling to pleasant days gone by as we recalled those golden days in the last century.
Oh yes, I meant to say, after the last race in Listowel we’d head for home, pick up the lads and line into milking the cows maybe about half eight and, wait for it... off we’d go again the next day, same procedure, and maybe for a third day! Away by day and home by night, those were the days alright.
I mean, we won’t go to Listowel and back a couple of days, but with travel all over Cork opening up for us all next week, we said we’d chance it. The cows are out by day and night and though there’s still a few to calve, we’ve arranged relations and neighbours to keep an eye on things during the daytime when we’re off on our early Summer Skite.
They say when it comes to holidays that ‘if you fail to plan you plan to fail’ so we’re not going to fall into that trap. ’Twas late Tuesday night when we finally said we’d head off next week, so we spent most of Wednesday looking at the logistics of the trips.
Now, in fairness to one neighbour, he said he’d milk the cows any evening we wanted if we decided to stay overnight. We mulled over this proposition but sure all the hotels and B&Bs are still shut. We thought about going ‘au naturel’ but it’s still a bit chilly and frosty by night for the blanket on the ground.
In the end, we agreed to go and come for three days and have the option of Friday if things were going well, so Monday and Tuesday, day off Wednesday, back on the road Thursday with Friday an optional extra.
You know the way when you’d be on holidays it’s great to be able to stay on in the bed ’til nine or half past and stay up late at night too? Well, we decided on the very opposite. Our plans are made and written down now at this stage.
In order to have a good run at the day, we’ll get up the mornings we are going on the road, at six. Cows milked, calves fed and other miscellaneous tasks done by half eight, we should be on the road by nine and avoid the worst of the traffic.
You should have seen the kitchen table on Wednesday, well you wouldn’t actually see it at all with a pile of maps, brochures, atlases, satnavs, walking tours and other vital pieces of the jigsaw to ensure a smooth, flawless few days.
So, we’re going to make sandwiches on Sunday night — we got two pigs killed a fortnight ago so there’s ham everywhere — and leave the car at the railway station in Midleton which is only 18 minutes and the same number of miles from us down the road. I’m very excited ’cause I never got the train from Midleton before. We have it planned with military-like precision. Train from Midleton, change in Carrigtwohill, onto to Cork, change there for Mallow. We should be in Mallow around 11.
Now, we haven’t the Free Travel yet, but all this experience will surely come in handy when we do. Anyway, we’ll have the lunch in Mallow, in the Town Park. I bought a mighty Thermos flask about 15 years ago, it’s a miracle as ’twill keep cold things cold and hot things hot so we’ll have boiled water for the tay and choc ices for afters.
Then we’ll get the train from Mallow at two, change in Cork and get the train to Cobh where we’ll see the cruiser-ship in the Maritime Museum. About 4.20, the train from Cobh to Cork and then the train back to Midleton, no changing in Carrig’ on the way down. Back in Midleton for half five and we should be home and milking before the Angelus!
Now, I know it’s not exactly the Trans Siberian Route but I’m fairly excited just thinking about it.
Now, I’m fierce for tradition and looking back at the way we were and as Dean Martin used to sing ‘thinking ’bout the things we used to do’ and when we used go long ago to the Dog Track in Youghal we‘d always go via Tallow. It’s a road I know so well- up by the Grotto, past Barnidges Pub and the Halfway bar, the Red Forge and down into Youghal.
That’s the way we hope to travel Tuesday but there’s a problem, several actually. Going that road we’ll be leaving County Cork on four occasions, going into Waterford and then back into Cork again. I know strictly speaking we should stay in our own county but I think, just for old time’s sake, we’ll chance it!
We’ll walk the beach from the town over as far as Redbarn, where love stories began and blossomed. For a culinary change we’ll cook the full Irish breakfast at home Tuesday morning, wrap it in tinfoil and reheat it on the primus stove and have our feast out of the boot of the car over near Knockadoon.
In order to see a different vista of East Cork, we might come home via Mount Uniacke, Dangan, Clonmult, Glengoura, Templevalley and Curraglass — they say a change is as good as a rest.
For Thursday, Bantry and Beara are pencilled in and Friday is earmarked for trying to trace my great, great, great grandfathers people around Ballymakeera and Macroom.
Lads, we’re going to have a whale of a week — wish ye were here with us! Bon Voyage to us!