We have been invited as artists in residence for the month of November in one of Cill Rialaig’s seven small cottages in Ballinskelligs, just off the ring of Kerry on the Iveragh Penisnsula. Our transition from Pietrasanta in Italy to Ireland took us by road through Torino in Italy and under the great mountain range and through the middle of France to Cherbourg, where we were to take the ferry to Rosslare in Ireland. It was a wonderful small journey of several days and I have taken one of Mike’s letters to family and friends to share on the blog.
We are here. They say Ireland has changed but it is still wet, still green and still dishes up the most spectacular skies.
We arrived on the ferry into Rosslare Port after a peaceful overnight voyage from Cherbourg. The day before we left, we were on the D Day coast of Normandy, it was quite a horrible feeling, everywhere was the reminder of war and pointless deaths and heroic acts by young men just trying to stay alive.
We stayed in the seaside village of Port-en-Bessin-Huppain and walked along its high cliffs with the zig zagging of the german trenches between us and the direct drop onto the spotless wide sandy beaches.
We have visited some amazing towns in France after leaving wonderful Billom. On our first day we drove to the little ancient hill town of Usson, all built of dreary black stone, a plaque on the wall reminding all of the mass slaughter of the Hugenots for not changing their religion.
There is always a dilemma when travelling through spectacular villages filled with amazing history; you want to stop and stay at each place for the day at least, to drink its local wine, taste their cheeses, sit and have a Pastis, but there is this boat to catch and we can’t miss it so we reluctantly push on. We found a little village squeezed into the crevasse of rocks, Saint-Floret, they were preparing one of the rooms of the old castle for a town meeting so the door was open, we went in, it was the old war room. Ancient fresco paintings depicting glorious kills on the battle fields. The colors amazingly fresh. Some hours later after a long drive we found a great little hotel, B&B really, run by a gorgeous friendly, and typically French lady. It was off the road and we found it by following the many signs through the ancient Roman Gallo village of Drevant and along the side of the Berry canal all with perfectly kept lawns and what seemed to be beautiful parklands.
After a long flat drive through the Central of France we arrived at Loches where there are ancient canal lochs and an amazing castle for the king of France all built in the white tufo stone, immaculate and precise. It is the town where Joan of Arc got the blessing of the king to go off and get an army at Chinon and start her own story of war and fighting.
We really had not got far and we were starting to wonder if we would miss the boat, we were now in the Loire valley with even more distraction of beauty and stories, so after seeing Chinon where Richard the Lion Heart had also visited and got an arrow in the neck for his efforts there, we got on the freeway and went to the D Day coast!
Ireland: We were told the drive from Rosslare Port to our art residency would be 3 hours, it took 5, we arrived at night, late and after an horrific bouncing drive over the never repaired road of the Ring of Kerry, frustrated, we got to Bail en Skeilig. Everything was shut down for the night so we did what any Irish would do, we went to the pub to get help. A crescent shape group of nuggety men were sitting around the bar. We ordered our pint of well earned guiness and asked if anyone knew who we were to meet for our stay here, of course they did and within 10 minutes it was arranged.
“You have been here before”, the voice on the phone said, ” ya know how it works!”
“But that was 15 years ago” I pleaded.
So with some persuasion he told me we were in cabin 5, which used to be cabin 2 and the key is under the stone. Well if you have ever been here you would know that there is nothing else but stones, so which stone! We settled down to our beer feeling a wee bit flat, and then we noticed the men all talking and laughing, but in what language? Is it Irish… and then we heard something that sounded like a word we may use, and then some minutes later another. They were speaking English! They were sitting back, arms crossed, not opening their mouths but speaking through stout sodden whiskers with a major accent and joining all the words together to make one great long mysterious sound. And then our ear tuned into this chaos of words and we realised they were talking about the merits of different religions, of course! And what is the difference between Catholics and Protestants, and one of them was happy to accept all religions, Muslims and all; ‘ and even those Jewish folk’. We looked at each and couldn’t stop laughing – we were here, we were in Ireland.
We are sitting on the edge of the Atlantic ocean, the night we arrived greeted us with a major storm so in the morning we put on our coats and went for a walk up the old road towards Bolus Head. The sea spray occasionally hitting us like rain, the wind so strong. We had just stopped to talk to another artist, Irish, also on the walk, when the wind gusted and blew us off the ground, I grabbed onto the wire fence next to me. Shona is in the the gutter with the other artist on top of her, we were all stunned, sprained and sore so we headed back to our little thatched roof home.
It is beautiful here, it peaceful and it is time to reconnect to our inner being, to the land and the universe (now believed to be a multiverse).