Monday, October 31, 2016

At The Turning of the Celtic Year

Would you believe it's Samhain already and more than high time we caught up on things here.  Can't believe it's June since the last posting, but things have been fairly busy chez Celtic Memory with the whole summer given over to chasing locations and pictures for De Nextest Book.

What the publishers needed urgently was a more or less complete chapter complete with images, so that they could start designing an overall look.  As you will perhaps know already, the theme of the new book is Finding The Old Road - that is, rediscovering the ways and means our ancestors used when they travelled.  Anything but the modern road in fact - from rivers to trackways, canals to railways, bog roads to butter roads, and how you can still find the traces of these old ways in the countryside if you take the trouble to go searching.

Canals were the chosen topic for the sample chapter and it took more than one trip up and around the country before DH was satisfied that he had nearly enough pictures (he'll never be completely satisfied, and I'd be worried if he were!)

Here is a peaceful moment on the Leinster Aqueduct where it crosses the River Liffey near Sallins.  Petroushka and Tamzin are exchanging pleasantries with another rambling dog.

And here are some tranquil barges not far away.  Doesn't it look like a wonderfully slow and relaxing way to travel?  We've got so used to the jet age that it would probably take quite an effort to slow our pulses down to the stage where we would actually enjoy being able to look at blades of grass while we journeyed along!

Now this is somewhere for which we'd been searching - Lock 13 on the Royal Canal.  It's not always a simple matter to find a particular lock because our road system has expanded somewhat since the late 18th century and what was once the watery main thoroughfare is now a backwater indeed.  But we got there - probably not as quickly as that cyclist who had come the sensible way, along the towpath.

Wanted to find the 13th lock because it is reputed to be haunted, and this being Samhain, one should mention it, don't you think?  A long long time ago, there was a dreadful accident here and many people were drowned.  To this day (or night, to be accurate) it is said that you can still hear the cries and groans of those who were lost, and boatmen will never willingly tie up near here during the darker hours.

This is the lock itself, and, as luck would have it, a train was passing at just the right moment.  When the railway came to Ireland, the Great Western decided it would make a lot of sense to buy up the entire Royal Canal route and thus save itself a lot of trouble by using the already laid-down towpath for its tracks.  And so train and canal run side by side from Dublin all the way to Mullingar.  What's that?  Is the railway haunted too?  Well, it has been whispered that a ghost train can be heard along this stretch by the 13th lock at certain times of the year.  Now I don't know if that's true or not, since I haven't heard it - the only one of which I know is the Loo Bridge ghost train which definitely can be heard whistling along the lonely valley to Kenmare on a track which fell into disuse some sixty years ago.  Maybe one of you should watch by this lock one night soon?

'Don't you do no such a thing!' shrieked this little kitten who suddenly and unexpectedly appeared by the side of the lock.  He must have come from one of the old tumbledown and heavily overgrown lockside buildings but did it very silently if that was the case.  He pattered up and down, being most civil but keeping a careful distance, and you could definitely hear the warning in his voice.

'Don't go next or nigh that lock, nor yet that railway line!  Strange things do happen here at night now that the year is changing.  I do tuck myself into my snug nest and put my paws over my ears I do when I hear the clanging of that bell and the whistle of that train where no train should be at midnight!  Steam and puffing and the like, it's no place for a sensible cat to be!'

Yes, of course I went rushing to the nearest house to enquire if the kitten had a good home.  'I don't know exactly who owns him,' said the friendly woman, 'but he's well fed, that I do know.'  And with that I had to be reassured. (In the interests of strict truth, it should be added that DH was much relieved.)  That's the trouble of being a cat lover, though.  You can't bear to think of one left out in the cold, can you?

No risk of that with Polliwog and Marigold.  They commandeer the most comfortable chair by the fire even before the curtains are drawn these darker evenings.

And Paudge Mogeely (seen here in summer mood) always curls up with his best friend Tamzin at night.

Speaking of Tamzin and indeed Petroushka, they have had some good gallops on deserted beaches during our roamings.

They circle and chase and generally run about three times the distance that I walk when we're down on the shore, and then collapse in the car to catch their breath before the next stop.

Troushka wuz 'ere!

Tamzin got so hot and tired on one run that she simply collapsed into a nice shallow pool and lay there cooling down pleasantly.

So woolly and untidy had 'Troushka become, though, during the summer that a Visit to the Groomer was indicated.  I was rather worried about her, but needn't have been.  She enjoyed herself thoroughly.

Will you look at that smug little smoothie, accepting cuddles from her groomer as if we didn't exist!

Oh and here is something we discovered only today on the outskirts of Bandon.

Well it's been there some time - since the early 19th century in fact - but its history is what is fascinating.  Just behind that bridge is the back gate or tradesmen's entrance to the old estate of Castle Bernard, erstwhile home of the Earls of Bandon.  Horses and carts, servants in search of a place, delivery men, anybody who wasn't anybody important, went in by the back gate.  When the railway came to Bandon, it emerged from the town on its way to Clonakilty Junction just across the road from this bridge - behind where DH stood to take the picture.  Now any lord of the manor traditionally had the right to request the train to stop at his estate if he so required, and the Earls of Bandon exercised this right, whether for themselves, their friends, or even their horses.  And so the elegant upper classes would be driven down to the back gate (you would hardly expect them to walk!) and board the train here, a servant having been sent to the main station in advance to advise of this request stop. Isn't that fun?

Enough.  It's Samhain.    A pot of spiced apple butter is simmering on the woodstove.  The apples this year were plentiful indeed - so much so that I began to wish they weren't quite so productive!

Every morning, we got into the habit of taking a basket down to the orchard to gather the windfalls. Too many, but you can't just leave them there, can you?

I celebrated the colours of autumn by making a rather nice tuck-stitch scarf for a friend on the knitting machine.

It's Zauberball as I recall - perfect fall shades.

The blackbirds have been busy on the rowans which protect our boundaries along with the apple trees.

And the Samhain wreath is on the front door, complete with crab apples and berries, and Julian, my pet bat, named for the little town up in the California mountains where I bought him years ago.

Close the old Celtic year with a glass of something spiced and warming, and make your plans for the year ahead.  Blessings of the season be with you all.