I said last week this is the time of anniversaries for us and here is another. We landed in Ireland a year ago. It is hard to believe sometimes, looking back. Firstly that a whole year has passed since we packed up and headed for an unknown future. Secondly that we have done so much in that short time. And thirdly that we made it at all, amidst changing rules, Covid and hopeless deadlines. Self-isolation, lock down and no crossing county lines when we arrived made it worse. Still, here we are in a new house in a new country – and making a new life.
It has been quite a transition in many ways. We were comfortably settled in Saltburn for many years. We left 2 days shy of our 31st year and had routines, friends and all the security of familiarity. Of course everything changes and we were slowly becoming less comfortable in our home. The town was always busy in the summer and for special days – markets, Christmas fairs and so on. Over the years the tourist season expanded but only in the final few years was it becoming suffocating.
Parking was always a bit dodgy but it became a battlefield with some very aggressive visitors in the streets. It was no longer possible to walk the dogs to the front and sit quietly for a while as bikes, e-bikes and large groups of people pushed and jostled. As one of our dogs is hyper-vigilant I was frequently shouted or sworn at by strangers when he barked. This, I’m sure you can imagine, did not help to calm him at all. We loved the house but longed for some outdoor space, especially in lockdown. And there was the “elephant in the room” – the approach of Brexit and all the misery that would bring us.
We miss a lot of things from Saltburn and from the UK. We had such good friends and neighbours. People knew who we were, some had read my books, we had local groups we supported in a casual way. We are very, very lucky. We sold the house, we were able to move the proceeds and buy a new home and much of our goods made the journey safely. The dogs travelled just fine. In fact they were positively phlegmatic about it all. I think we found it harder than they did overall.
Yet there is still a lingering sense of loss that comes on sometimes. Being so far from family is hard and there are friends we miss so much. It was wonderful to live by the sea for so many years and I miss the views, the wonderful icy air of winter and the solstice sunsets I watched when walking Saffron, our last Tibetan Terrier, late at night. There is not much of a tourist trade in Tipperary. Right in the middle of Ireland it is neither “The Ancient East” nor “The Wild Atlantic West”. It is lovely in a quiet, green sort of way and I don’t think I would want to go back to a popular tourist site again.
This week saw our first real storm this year, Storm Barra that swept in off the Atlantic on Tuesday. We were treated to torrential rain and wind speeds of up to 130 km an hour for 36 hours. That’s just over 80 miles an hour. We are in a strange anomaly – a sheltered dip on a hill, so escaped the worst of it. We were so glad the trees along the lane had been trimmed. I doubt we would have escaped with the Majestic intact without the sterling work of Fergus and his crew. He will be back next week as one tree on the edge of the wood is now tilting at a 45-degree angle and one more decent storm will have it down. It is now hovering over my precious young oaks so has to come down safely. Apart from that however we escaped relatively unscathed.
Last year we had a small but very determined Christmas, mainly as Jacqui was determined. Our wonderful friend Lynn had ensured the tree decorations and lights were in the last load. This meant they were among the few things we rescued before lock down. Patrick, the lovely manager of the cottages, provided a tree. Jacqui had packed one of the remaining puddings from the previous year and a cake. This year she is busy making new puddings from my mother’s special secret recipe and the house smells – like Christmas.
And last night we marked the passing of our first year with a chicken and special stuffing. Made from three herbs – sage, rosemary and winter savoury – they all came from our garden and combined beautifully. We have named it for the house, a small gesture to remind us that for all the old, lost routines and traditions we can make some new. They help us appreciate and celebrate our new life here.
There is much we miss but we have so much that is different to enjoy. What a year it has been.
We are very, very lucky people.