Do you remember tour lesson 2? No? That’s ok, here’s a reminder:
Tour Lesson 2: It’s never that easy.
It’s amazing really how fast we forget these life lessons. I thought May was hard. The hardest week I was going to have. I thought June would be easy in comparison. I forgot lesson 2.
Last Monday I set off on my second week of tour feeling very prepared. I had spent an entire day the week before sending emails to almost every town I was going to visit. People knew I was coming, some people were even going to be there to greet me. As I was travelling in and around Cork county, I could go home most nights so my pack was considerably lighter than it had been in May. I had a new umbrella.
My first stops were Fermoy, Mitchelstown and Mallow. Monday morning I got a bus to Fermoy and stepped out into the glorious June drizzle. This was going to be a bit of a theme for the week.
But the drizzle eased off and I made my way through Fermoy in good time. I did get a bit lost walking up the hill to find the old famine graveyard, but the view from the top was well worth the walk.
Next stop was Mitchelstown. I got a lift from a local lady and her mother who were more than happy to give me a potted history of the town. As we drove into Mitchelstown and rained speckled the windshield, she happily informed me that the mountains act as a cloudcatcher and Mitchelstown, as a result, tends to be a bit wet. She wasn’t wrong.
Thankfully it cleared up long enough for me to film myself playing in the town square. I did attract a bit of attention though and several very kind people came up to tell me I was in the wrong spot for busking. The concern was genuine and appreciated.
On my way out of town I passed by St. George’s Church and saw the door was open a crack. On a whim I stuck my head inside and that’s how I met Bill Power, a local historian who was more than happy to give me an extended history of the church, town and surrounding area. Thank you, Bill.
My last stop for the day was Mallow. Now, I went to college in Mallow for two years and mistakenly believed I knew the town reasonably well. Then my lift drove us into town on the other side and I realised I had only ever seen one half of the town. I hopped out of the car, over a fence, and went to take a look at the Spa House where I learned all about the history of the town and also about the tune “The Rakes of Mallow”. Fitting, considering that that was the tune I had picked out.
Tour Lesson 4: Just because you’ve been there, doesn’t mean you know a place.
On Tuesday I played at a wedding. What can I say, bills need paying.
Now, I’ll admit that my schedule for the rest of the week doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If you read this and think “Surely there was a better way to do this? A shorter way?” then not only is your geographical knowledge of Ireland better than mine but you are also 100% correct. On account of the wedding, I had to reorganize my schedule and I made a bit of a mess of it. But it makes for a good story, so it all works out in the end.
On Wednesday I travelled to Bantry, Schull and Ballydehob. I got a bus as far as Bantry and was met with great enthusiasm at the tourist office. I was plied with tea and requests for music. It was lovely.
I covered the town fairly quickly before heading up to Bantry House. Eileen from the tourist office had apparently called ahead and they were happy to let me run around getting my footage.
In the back garden of Bantry House there is a long flight of stairs leading up to a terrace that overlooks the house and bay. There are over a hundred steps. When the video comes out, I would like you all to pause it at that part and appreciate the effort of climbing a hundred steps with a harp on your back. I suffer for my art.
In all honesty though, Bantry was gorgeous and I was sorry to go. I walked out along the coast road and caught a lift to Skibbereen and from there on to Ballydehob and Schull.
The alert reader will already have noticed what was wrong with that last sentence. Allow me to illustrate:
Ladies and gentlemen, I am an idiot.
Tour Lesson 5: Check the map twice.
I stuck my head into the tourist office in Ballydehob to say hi and to tell them that I would be back soon, but had to film Schull first. I got offered a lift, which was great, then I forgot my umbrella in the boot of the car, which was less great. Then it rained.
People think I’m paranoid about the weather. I will carry an umbrella on the sunniest of days. What they don’t understand is that it’s a weather totem. If I don’t carry it, it will rain. Without fail.
Anyway, Schull. I filmed. I got rained on. I left. I did see some really cute cygnets though, that was nice.
In Ballydehob, Deborah Beale of the tourist office was waiting for me. She sat me down, let me rest my weary feet, and I told her about the tour. While I was talking she was bustling around, arranging chairs. I didn’t really think about it too much.
Then people started wandering into the building and sitting down.
Suddenly I was playing a mini-concert to a room full of people.
I’m still not quite sure how it happened. That Deborah is a wily woman I tell you. One minute she’s lulling you into a false sense of security with her talk of tea and local news, the suddenly you have an audience looking at you expectantly. I think I was the only person who didn’t know I was meant to be playing a concert.
All joking aside though, it was really lovely and I would like to thank Deborah for arranging it for me. She’s a gem.
So, where are we now? Oh yes, Thursday and Friday. We might need another map for this one.
On Thursday I got the bus out to Tralee with the intention of busking, but the weather was poor and it was cold so I cancelled busking and was on the road to Killarney by one in the afternoon. I got a bit lost going out of town and walked 3km around the ringroad looking for the Killarney turn off, but I found it eventually and got a lift from there.
Killarney was my last stop for the day; so I went into town and set up again to do some more busking before finishing up my filming for the day. It was odd, only doing two towns in one day and I was at my friends house having dinner by about 6pm. Early for me on a tour day.
This is where we’re going to need the map. On Friday I travelled, exclusively through hitching, from Killarney to Dingle, to Brosna, to Rathmore, to Cork.
Cue the map:
I do not recommend this to anyone. During the day I told lots of people what I was doing and where I was going and every single one of them, upon hearing my route, laughed. Most of them didn’t think it was even possible. By seven pm I was starting to wonder if they might be right.
I left Killarney at half past nine in the morning. It was raining. I lost my whiteboard marker, which I need to write place names on my hitching sign.
Lack of sign not-with-standing, I still managed to get a lift and with a stop in Killorglin, and then again in Castlemain, I eventually made it to Dingle just as the sun broke through the clouds. It was beautiful.
I wish I’d got to spend more than an hour there.
As I have pointed out, I am an idiot, and due to my poor scheduling I ran around Dingle like a mad woman for an hour and fifteen minutes getting my footage together, before I had to leave. On my way out of town, I was stopped by a young man who had seen me in three different places in town and wanted to make sure I wasn’t lost. I told him what I was doing. He also laughed, but wished me good luck as I headed for the main road.
It is at this point I would like to thank the two gentlemen who picked me up and gave me a lift to Tralee. Upon hearing what I was doing they turned the car around and drove me up through Conor’s Pass so I could get some beautiful mountain footage. They were late for a meeting because of me. Thank you.
From Dingle to Tralee, on to CastleIsland and from there to Brosna.
What can I say about Brosna?
I mean, it’s tiny.
I’m told it has a wonderful music festival which I had missed by about two weeks. In that case I suppose it’s very much like my home town, Feakle. It even has a little dog. If you grew up in a rural village in Ireland you know exactly which dog I mean. It’s of the terrier variety and only nominally belongs to a single person. It’s the towns dog.
I petted the terrier of Brosna and walked for two miles back towards CastleIsland before I got a lift. It rained.
From CastleIsland I got a lift with a lady called Clare. She was going to Killarney but detoured to take me to Rathmore. Did you know that the town of Rathmore is divided into two towns? We didn’t. Wikipedia has this to say:
Rathmore is divided into two parts. One being the main commercial centre and the other being the administrative centre where the schools and churches are located.Wikipedia
After some initial confusion, I was dropped in the second Rathmore. It didn’t have a church so I’ll assume it was the main commercial center. It also had a dog. You know the kind.
I got home at about half past nine having hitched 277km and essentially worked a twelve hour day. But I wasn’t done yet.
On Saturday I was booked to busk at Blarney Castle. This was the other reason my schedule looks a bit ridiculous, but again, bills need paying.
Sunday morning; I caught the first bus to Bandon for my last two towns.
I was in Bandon for five minutes before I broke my phone tripod. I would have bought a new one, but it was a Sunday morning so most of the shops were closed. Instead I bought a tube of superglue and set about reworking the tripod. I removed bits, snapped bits, stuck bits on upside-down. It held. I moved on.
Bandon has some beautiful buildings. I hope I did it justice in the video. You see there was a slight…. weather issue. Namely, it was raining.
I got a lift to Skibbereen. I don’t know why I thought Bandon and Skibbereen were near each other. Possibly because they are on the same bus route. More likely, because I am, as previously discussed, an idiot. The lovely lady who drove me had to stop at a shop for fresh dill (she was on her way to what sounded like the most amazing and extensive family barbecue ever) and bought me a snack bar. Possibly to apologize for describing the barbecue to me.
I won’t lie. By the time I got to Skibbereen I was ready to call it a day. I was cold, I was tired, I had blisters. I nearly asked if I could just come along to the barbecue and pretend to be some long lost cousin. Instead I got out and waved goodbye.
Tour Lesson 6: You are made of sterner stuff than you think.
This week of touring felt intensely different to my first week.
On the one hand I was much better prepared. People knew I was coming, I researched the towns I was going to, I knew my tunes much better.
On the other hand the weather was against me and coming home at the end of the day was a challenge in and of itself. It is hard to travel for a solid week, but once you’re in the zone you just put your head down and do it.
Getting up early every morning and leaving my own warm bed to head out into another day of cloudy skies and long distances was another story.
It seems to be that my last day is a test. In May, I climbed a mountain. In June, the mountain was in my own mind. I wanted to be lazy, to slack off and maybe do it another day. I wanted to turn around in Bandon after I broke my tripod. Then again when I got rained on. But I’m glad I didn’t.
It is easy to follow your dreams on a beautiful, sunny day in May.
It is an achievement to keep following them through a wet and windy Sunday in June.
That said, I was very glad to have a lie-in on Monday. And now, in order to end on a cheerful note, here are some fish puns from Killarney: