Ireland is as beautiful as they say. The Royal Canal, dug two hundred years ago, runs through our town, and we enjoy taking nature walks along it. My favourite inhabitants are the many birds, from herons to jackdaws. Axa’s must be the snails and slugs, of which we have found many different varieties, both land and aquatic. She christened dramatically black and yellow striped snails “tiger snails.”
Our friend Rory from Church has also taken us on some fascinating expeditions to ruined buildings in the area. Our first visit was to a lovely old abbey surrounded by breathtaking rural green. It was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell, whom Rory described as “the greatest villain that ever lived.” Next we saw a beautiful ruined country house, built around the same time that Jane Austen was revising Pride and Prejudice for print. I happened to be in the middle of re-reading the book, and was thrilled to step into the pages of history, although the total ruin and decay of the place depressed me a little. What a sad thought to picture one’s own house, mouldering in obscurity, abandoned and unloved. Still, it was easy to picture what the house must have looked like in happier times. We first saw the large walled garden and stables, vines peering out of every window and trees standing as huge pillars in the middle of every room. Next, we crossed a field of cows to reach the house, which though roofless and crumbling, retained a melancholy grandeur. The front door was impassable, so we were assisted in through a bottom-floor window by a helpfully placed tree. Walls rose three stories around us, punctuated by fireplaces showing where each room had been. The grand staircase had been destroyed to prevent access to the dangerous upper floors, so we contented ourselves with gazing upwards. A light green paint was still visible on some of the walls, and the intricate crown moulding hinted at the former loveliness of the rooms. Downstairs was a veritable underground maze of kitchens and servants’ quarters. Like a saltwater aquarium, the supporting organic underworkings were as large as the decorative upstairs, although hidden from view.
Yesterday we walked out to a lovely Lough (Lake) nearby. Two swans rocked gently on the surface, a little distance away. It is in one of these neighboring lakes where the children of Lir lived for one hundred years after having been changed into swan form by an evil stepmother. So yes, we kept a close eye on the children, preventing them not only from being turned into swans, but also from falling in the water.