by cheri sabraw
Pack three siblings and their spouses into one VW Van with the express purpose of driving together–on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car–and you have the basics for a good story, complete with vivid characters, typical themes, and the tension necessary to keep your readers’ attention. The saga all started in Dublin, Ireland.
There, from my dry but chilly perch in a hop on-hop off (what a misnomer) bus, I spied my grandmother and grandfather reincarnated into the two well-dressed individuals I remember them to be.
We as a group of six people had at least one thing in common: we were searching first, for the best fish and chips in Ireland, and second, for the sun, the former of which was easy to find; the latter, not so easy.
We headed south to the small coastal village of Kinsale, where we had been told there was sun, fewer people, and Irish music. There we did find sun, Irish people playing American rock, and a funny couple from Bandon celebrating their 40th anniversary. Since we were clearly a group of noisy Californians, and judgements were being silently rendered, we sent dessert to their table and all was forgiven.
The next day in Kinsale at the harbor, I found the buoy, boat, and shadows for which I had been searching as a reference for future oil paintings. Please note: there has been no photo enhancement here.
That afternoon, we siblings separated so as to capture some “space,” two family members taking the VW van on their own little trip to Old Head, complete with wine, cheeses, and meats. The rest of us wandered aimlessly around by ourselves. Little did we know that not only had the van been side-swiped in the grocery store parking lot, without a note left, but on the way back from Old Head, my family member herself hit a parked car, thus equalizing the scrapes, now on both sides. Only the back and front of the van were left unscathed. Keep posted.
When they were unable to locate the owner of the dented parked car, they found the local police station in order to fess up and file a report. If you have watched the British comedy Doc Martin, you will remember the local police officer, PC Joe Penhale. He or his twin was there in the Kinsale Police Department.
When asked for the VW’s license plate number, my family member fished deep into her purse, finally so frustrated at not finding the keys, she begin to empty it out entirely. Perhaps it was jet lag or a lapse of focus, but she ended up pulling out the brown paper sack with 1/2 bottle of wine left in it and put it without hesitation on the counter. Office Penhale’s eyebrows raised into a kind Irish arch. Let’s leave it at that.
We scheduled a tour of Kinsale with the local tour guide, who reminded us that the Lusitania had been sunk by a German U-Boat just off the coast of Kinsale. Although I had read Erik Larson’s book “Dead Wake: The Last Voyage of the Lusitania,” and should have been listening to the guide’s story, I found myself distracted by the number of kegs emptied at the Grey Hound, waiting for pick-up.
We left Kinsale, heading for the Dingle Peninsula where we had heard through the Irish grapevine that sunshine had arrived.
But before any sunshine could be relished, we piled into the Fish Box, a restaurant we had heard about all the way across the pond in California from my friend Sharon. Fresh off the family’s trawler every morning, fresh haddock, hake, and sole arrive for the daily Dingle crush of visitors heading for the best Fish and Chips in Ireland.
The owner and I agreed that Brexit should happen. He told me that the EU sends other member states’ fishermen to fish in Irish waters. As might be expected, this does not go over well with Irish fisherman when Greek, French, and Belgian fisherman draw up nets of white fish.
Speaking of chips. one cannot be in an Irish cab without the cab driver somehow slipping into the conversation the resentment they still feel about how they were treated by the Ulster protestants, especially during the potato famine.
Look at this gorgeous scene and study the tops of the hills, where hedgerows still can be seen, surrounding brownish fields.
I learned that those abandoned plots were formerly potato fields. That is how high the farmers had to plant to try to eke out food for their families.
Several of us had read Leon Uris’s Trinity before our Ireland trip and doing so, helped me understand why the Irish people have not forgotten what happened to their ancestors.
But back to the story.
We stayed at a lovely B&B, whose canine emissary provided a welcome greeting.
We six travelers piled back in the van in order to drive a long loop but before doing so, we thought to buy some ice. It was at the local Dingle grocery store parking lot, full of very small hybrid cars, that the third insult to the paint job occurred. My brother feigned whiplash as his wife backed into a pole with conviction. Now, we only had to demolish the front (God forbid) and the cause would be complete.
I’m making a joke about this but before I left, I did leave a long thorough note to my son-in-law about what to do if all of the siblings were wiped out on the wrong side of the road in the wrong side of the car. Happily, the damage to the van was only a trifecta and we had purchased damage waiver insurance beforehand as if to foreshadow the insults to come.
We had only two days before we had to leave Ireland and about 4 hours of free time. Why not drive to the Cliffs of Moher, where the wind speeds must have been 40-60 mph?
Everyone agreed, so off we went, the van looking like a demolition derby car.
Maybe it was the GPS and its Irish brogue. Maybe it was that several members in the far back seat of the van had started nipping at last night’s left over wine and cheese. Maybe it was lack of concentration.
All I know is that before we knew it, we were on a single track road with one blind turn after another passing lovely Irish estates. No one seemed to be concerned but me. I politely suggested honking the horn around said blind curves but was ignored.
Suffice to say, we made it to the Cliffs of Moher. Aside from my 107-lb body almost being blown off a cliff, seeing these magnificent cliffs was worth the long drive. Please note the tiny people on the first big cliff to get a sense of scale. Such is the power of the Atlantic to erode.
We headed to Limerick, a stopping place to spend the night and ready ourselves for our flight to Scotland from Shannon Airport. One member of the family began making up limericks about two hours before our arrival and would not stop his merrymaking. (This is the same family member who was at the wine and cheese. He suggested that each of us create our own limerick to recite to the receptionist upon arrival.
At this point, you can imagine where that suggestion went.