It was Sunday, July 6th, and I was spending the night in Dublin before leaving by ferry the next day to Scotland. My tickets were booked, my friends north of Glasgow were ready to receive me, and I had just woken up from a very long and satisfying nap–the first real sleep I’d had following two days of music at Light Colour Sound Festival.
Almost everything we do in life takes us to a crossroads, and at about 11:30 PM I was presented with a choice: should I follow my drunken hostel roommates out for a few drinks or settle in for the night and do something responsible, like catch up on writing my blog?
persuadingpeer pressure I chose to be irresponsible and went out with Noelle, Brid (pronounced Breed), and Michael, along with two Czech boys who declined to wear shoes–that was more or less the most notable thing about them. Nothing out of the ordinary happened: it was a pretty slow Sunday night, so we hopped through mostly empty bars and got pretty drunk (except for Brid, a model of good behavior), but by the time 3 AM rolled around they had somehow proposed I follow them home the next day, and I acquiesced with little hesitation. Bus tickets be damned!
The next morning we crammed into Noelle’s blue Chevy and made for Ireland’s Riviera–I may have just coined that term, but the Southeast of this country actually does get quite a bit of sun, and so it was for most of the week that I was there.
I stayed with Noelle and her family on their farm, complete with sheep, grazing fields, and a tractor driven by Noelle’s dad Paddy, who had the gnarliest country accent I have ever heard.
Initially, I was a bit too dumbstruck by my new habitat to do anything other than exclaim how crazy it was that I was on a real-life farm. Like, whoa, so that’s what barley looks like!
I was similarly flabbergasted when they offered to take me for a drive down to the Hook Peninsula, which features one of the oldest continuously operating lighthouses in existence.
The powerlines which stretch for miles across vacant fields are stark reminders of the emptiness on this part of the island.
While the lighthouse has been completely redone–and therefore not so appealing from a historical perspective–the fields of barley and wheat that stretch to the cliffs are spectacular.
Silhouetted at sunset, even the prickly thistles merit being labeled beautiful.
Eventually, we drove back to town, stopping at a gas station to put just enough money in Noelle’s tank to get us home. I hadn’t been by a gas station in ages and had forgotten how expensive it can be!
The next day, Noelle prepared shepherd’s pie using ground lamb straight from the farm. Lamb really does taste better when it’s sourced directly from the field outside the kitchen where it’s being eaten.
After dinner, we drove out to the sea cliffs and went for a walk around the rim.
Wildflowers and tall grasses carpeting the cliffs were ruffled by a steady breeze.
After following the path for a mile or so, a staircase began and ended rather abruptly over the edge. Despite the peril at hand, the scenery was lovely!
At the bottom of the staircase–which continued down the face of the cliff–was a natural rock pool.
These kids had already convinced me once to come with them, so I guess I was pretty susceptible to peer pressure, and took a short dip–the water wasn’t as freezing as I expected it to be, but it still was uncomfortable!
The next day we went for a trip out to Tintern Abbey, a 13th century ruin with a rather moribund church but a beautiful bridge.
The abbey bridge made for an excellent portraiture backdrop; of the two that I shot, I think I prefer the latter.
Michael studies film-making, so I delegated him to get a shot of me looking appropriately woodsy in plaid.
After a few days of leisure I decided it was time to get my hands dirty, and I volunteered myself to whatever tasks the farm needed me for.
As it turned out, the lambs needed to be weighed and tagged before slaughter, so Paddy had me rustle them up onto the scales.
At first I spectated as Paddy caught them by the legs and urged them onto the scales, while Steph–Noelle’s sister–marked the lambs with paint depending on their weight and suitability for “processing.”
Eventually though, I decided to give it a try.
After two years of playing football in high school and another two of rugby in university, tackling a 50 kilo lamb wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.
I expected stubborn resistance, and one or two of them didn’t want anything to do with me.
Luckily, we came to an accord, and they managed to put on a good face for me.
On my last day on the farm, the gang took me up to the top of a mountain near a park dedicated to JFK.
The views were stunning–supposedly you can see five counties from the summit.
Noelle doesn’t like getting her picture taken, but I think this one does her justice.
In another month or so there’s a kite surfing festival happening down in Wexford, and I hope to see my friends again–I’m glad I let those bus tickets to Scotland go!
As you can probably imagine, this isn’t the first time I’ve taken a stranger’s offer to come home with them. And while I really loved the shepherd’s pie that Noelle made, nothing compares to the meal that changed everything. If this is your first time here, thanks for stopping by! You can subscribe for free updates every time I go somewhere new or meet cool people by clicking on the “follow!” button up there on the right.