My Father always instructed us ‘ If you see a lane with grass growing down the middle of it, follow it! you will not be disappointed!’
That was all very well for him.
He was a man who left plenty of time in his working day for exploring.
‘Tell them I am at a meeting’ He would mouth at which ever of us was silly enough to think it was one of our friends calling and had run to pick up the ringing phone.
He had taught us well in the art of telephone answering.
‘Who is asking for him? We would enquire in our best south Dublin accents as he shook his head and mimed frantic fishing gestures in front of us.
It might be worth mentioning here that my father was an architect who, although he designed schools and hospitals, preferred designing churches.
The irony of this should not be missed as we would reply ‘I’ll just see if he is available’ knowing that unless it was the bishop himself he was not.
Now, no parent,especially one who designs places of godly worship, should actively encourage their children to tell lies because even at a young age we instinctively knew it was wrong and ‘Yes he is at a meeting. please give me your name and number and he will get back to you’, did not trip lightly off our tongues .
We would emerge from the living room faces red with shame.
My mother would just throw her eyes up to heaven and continue packing his bread and cheese sandwiches while her brood would start to fight over which of us could go with him and row him around the lake, missing another school day.
Usually it was the phone answerer who was chosen thus rewarding the liar. (I’m sure modern day psychologists are itching to get their fingers on me).
He never liked to be tied down for time either, unless it was to do with fishing .
The Four O’clock rise is what it says it is.
At four O’clock the trout start rise to the lake surface and feed on what ever flies are landing on the water and My father would never be late for this occurrence.
The chosen child (or two) would row him in his seventeen foot wooden clinker built boat.
His instruction ‘a little to the left’ would be followed with accuracy as we pulled the left oar while he, leaning into the water would scoop up flies to see what the fish were ‘taking’ and examine them minutely.
Satisfied with his identification, he would open a little silver box, and removing a meticulously hand made fly, would tie this replica to the line of his beautiful hardy fishing rod.
With my father, the fish didn’t stand a chance, he spent hours creating these masterpieces. ‘the green peter and the bloody butcher’ are the names of two which come to mind.
He spent even more hours down lane ways with grass growing in the middle in search of small farms whose farmerwives he would charm into pursuing and catching the farmyard cockerel with its bright plumage (in those days every farmyard had such a bird with its harem of hens)whereupon he would quickly pluck a few hackle feathers to add to his fly tying
We all knew how to cast with a fly rod and of course row a boat and despite the fact that we hadn’t one life jacket between us he never lost any of his eight children to the water.
From a young age we were able to sit quietly in the boat. Any shuffling of feet on the boards or loud chat was not tolerated as it was thought to frighten the fish.
The sound of the swish of the rod, the lapping of the water against the prow, the creak of the oar on the row-lock, the noise of the moor hens and great crested grebes, the sigh of wind through the tree’s and the zipping sound of the line in full run as a fish took the fly and realizing its horrific mistake swam down into the debts of the lake are lasting memories.
I only have to stand on a lake shore anywhere and I can see my dad, complete with waders, oil skins, fishing creel and Hardy rod, striding down through the rushes to where his precious boat was moored while I scurried in his wake, with sandwiches and the precious kelly kettle.http://www.kellykettle.com/
As for the nuns in the school we attended, they soon grew to realise that none of the Peppard children were likely to sit an exam when the fishing was good but to expect instead some fresh brown trout.
Lough Mask. Lough Conn, Lough Corrib became our schools.
Small places with magical names like ‘inismacatreer’ and Lahardaun became our playgrounds.
And nature became our churches.
maybe that is why, when I left my daughters house following coffee and chat yesterday morning I turned right instead of left.
And then turned left again because( you guessed it) I saw grass growing in the middle of a lane.
As I made my way along this magical path with its ancient pebbled wall and prehistoric like ferns, it became too narrow to cycle.
But I was moving farther and father away from the sound of the traffic which pleased me.
Another wall, probably of an estate house, to my left, and a wider more cyclable path.
And beyond the wild garlic I could see a road .
I do not take gladly to following sign posts, always believing there are far more interesting things to be found in the direction one is NOT suppose to go. but in this case I’m glad I did.
A small stream with a most unusual looking bridge.
Beyond the bridge I could not resist squeezing through two dark pine tree’s. I could feel the ghost of my father egging me on.
Another bridge, diminutive and faery like.
I cross it nervously (who know what lies beneath) and am rewarded for my bravery with the magic beyond…..Long ago English Landowners brought back and planted in their estates what they deemed to be exotic plants, Mainly from the east and south america.
Unfortunately these plants loved the warm rainy climate of Ireland and grew so profusely that they became invasive aliens , smothering out our native species.
Large tracts of Connemara, Mayo and Kerry are particularly effected and the ongoing battle to curtail them continues.
The giant gunnera and the Rhododendron being the worst culprits. http://www.mayococo.ie/en/Services/Heritage/GunneratinctoriaGiantrhubarb/File,8428,en.pdf
I turned and went back the way I had come, but my eye was distracted by a sinister gateway
I went through of course.
No more the sound of children voices as they played upon the lawn. No more the gardener telling them not to climb the apple tree’s.
The children are grown and long gone and a dilapidated wheel barrow and rusty lawn mower is the only reminder of the gardener.
His cottage slowly being reclaimed by the plants he loved so well.
And the ‘big house’, as it would have been known to him, sinking slowly into the ground, still carrying the ghosts of those who danced in ball gowns till early morn only going to bed when he would be arising to weed and plant and keep the grounds in order .
I feel their ghostly sigh’s
And plucking a camellia bloom before the bindweed completely swamps it, retrace my steps.
Back over the bridge with its blood red petals strewn across the entrance.
I recognize the road ahead and see that I’m almost home.