Rathcoffey House, a photo by DavidSoanes on Flickr.
As I made coffee on Sunday morning I was vaguely aware of an itch on the index finger of my right hand. As my head cleared and I became more fully awake, the why of it came to me......the nettles!
Saturday had been a beautiful day and I wandered around in the garden, pulling weeds here and there. By the front door I bent to pull one weed, then drew my hand back in alarm, thinking it looked an awful lot like the nettles back home when we were young, just more compact.
Disappointed that we couldn't get a better look inside, we circled the square mass of the house. There was no way in, and my interest in finding one was making the Blister very uneasy. My family tell me I romanticize Ireland. They tell me the Ireland I remember is gone. But it's there in my head. It's there in old manor houses like this one. And every time they knock one down and pave it over, and build another housing development, they rip a page out of the area's history, bury the lives and stories of generations who lived there under the concrete. This kind of thinking makes the Blister slightly impatient with me. Soppy Yankified thinking. But I used to think like this when I still lived there. How many times, on drives around the country, did I go into a sulk because my mother wouldn't stop to let me traipse across the fields to have a closer look at some old ruined castle or falling down stately home? Piles of rocks, she called them. I'm glad that some, at least, of these "relics of auld dacency" have been restored to new life as Manor House Hotels.........
While we were alternately beating nettles and gasping with laughter, thinking only cows in neighbouring fields could hear us, we heard, between our gasps, the unmistakable murmur of human conversation. Hushing our noise, we stood on tiptoe and saw two heads bobbing along on the other side of the wall. We would be in full view when they reached the gate. It was pointless to duck or try to hide. So there we were, two middle aged women, trapped behind a wall of nettles, behind an iron gate, looking sheepish, when a man and his wife hove into view. . We couldn't just stand there, tapping our toes until they passed, before resuming our assault on the nettles.. We owed some kind of explanation, no matter how lame, to these two startled locals, out for their evening stroll. Reassured that we were somewhat normal and not a pair of looney bin escapees, they tried to be helpful, though obviously amused by our predicament. The man was carrying an umbrella, a prudent move on any walk in Ireland as one never can tell when the heavens will open. Against our protestations, he urged us to take the umbrella to assist in the battle. We assured them we would be fine now that we had such a stout weapon. They bid us good luck and good evening and continued on their walk. It's a well known fact that an Irishman can spin a good yarn out of the flimsiest of materials. We took comfort in knowing that, though he'd lost an umbrella, our benefactor gained the makings of a great story for the next time he stopped in at the local pub.
We did eventually beat enough of the nettles into submission to be able to reach the wall and climb over it, back into our humdrum, middle aged lives, unstung.