When I make a list of things I miss most at home, once I get through the obvious friends and family, delving into a particularly good science problem and the like, I list my violin pretty quickly. I miss it. You will never find anything half as fun, beautiful, and sexy as a violin, except for maybe those lucky enough to play them!
This is Theresa. She runs a program called Fiddler’s Retreat from her home in a tiny village, Loughmore, where you can go a few days to learn how to play Irish fiddle and go out for a few trad sessions with the Irish musicians at night. Cost a fair bit, but one must always remember the importance of when to shell out money for a good experience. Like remember that trip around the world I did? Yeah, that totally sucked.
Anyway, Theresa is a lovely soul who taught me five Irish fiddling songs over the course of two mornings- three polkas, a jig, and a reel. The reel was my enemy, as it turns out they are very difficult. And I will never cease my amazement for the talent of the average Irish musician- yes I realize if I went every week to play them I would be good too, but how many places in the world do you know where you can go into a pub and have ten people show up who come and play along? Not outside Ireland I think.
The only problem with learning to Irish fiddle, of course, is it’s more about sound rather than images so this is going to be very sparse on the actual fiddling part (I have videos, but issues uploading them). So I will delegate all that to my secret project that starts with the letter “b” and instead talk about an afternoon walk I had around Theresa’s village-Clearly Loughmore is a happening place in the afternoons when the Irish music isn’t playing. But it turns out they have a few random ruins to check out-
Ooooh, an abandoned 12th century castle!
Ooooh, an old abbey from the same era! The interesting thing about Ireland is how you see random ruins like this everywhere- old forgotten castles just begging to be explored to the point where no one cares about them because they’re so numerous it would take a lifetime to visit them all. I had to settle with this set of ruins (there was a fairy fort, aka grassy oval overgrowing an old Celtic fort, but they’re not very photogenic). But not without company…
Ummm, okay. It turns out these cows were conditioned to associate “person” with “food” so they politely followed me around the field until I ducked under a wire fence. Fascinating as it is to have a cow cult of your own, I have to admit it’s a little intimidating to have a silent herd of cattle following you around even if you know they’re not exactly vicious because they’re bigger than you. Like what if they picked up a copy of The Birds and wanted to do a cow version starting right now?
As for the castle itself, here is the inside. Having just read enough Ken Follet to depress anyone (I read 1,200 pages in 4 days- I wasn’t over the English in bookstores yet) going around a period castle at my leisure was pretty neat. There were carved fireplaces still in place and you could see the old sticks used to insulate the walls where the lime had chipped away and such.
There were also the names of pretty much every kid in Loughmore carved into the walls. According to Theresa no one’s allowed to play in the castle as a child but that’s everyone’s playground anyway.The neatest thing about the castle, though, is the fact that there’s a spiral staircase that still goes all the way up to the upper floors. It’s probably beyond dangerous and such, but here’s the view from the fourth-floor-turned-roof! Yay!
And in that odd way, this is my description of what the average little place in Ireland is like. If you’re driving around and come across one of these, I highly recommend wandering around to see what gems you might find. Particularly if you can top it all off with a bit of Irish fiddle.