Michael had persuaded me to stay another night by promising to drive me (the ridiculously long way) back to Killavullen in the morning. If you have been following my writings over the past week, you will know that I really didn’t need much persuading at all and was delighted and touched that he and Pam should have made offer to disrupt their schedule by having me at their table and in their home for what was then a fourth night. Killavullen is definitely the furthest stretch that is (barely) sensible to attempt to drive from Millstreet for this sort of enterprise, so we knew that this was definitely going to be the last night. I left much as Ulysses must have done when he was about to leave Circe on Malta, an inner tug of war between wanting this magical, generous stay to continue indefinitely and the knowledge that it was time to move on. The highlight of the day came at breakfast, where our conversation started with a small debate on the definition of literature, before becoming a more specific discussion on the merits and demerits of Dickens and Trollope and ending up with my personal favourite poet of the late 19th C. Thomas Hardy. Hardly was Hardy out of my mouth than Michael sprang up, rushed into his well-stocked library and presented me with a tome of “The Mayor of Casterbridge”, my favourite of all Hardy’s novels, as Henchard, for all his tortured failings, is my favourite of all Hardy’s principal characters. I wasn’t sure why Michael had decided to show me this book, other than to prove that, even in Cork, a dairy farmer may be found to have literary treasures in his possession, until, I opened the cover and found to my surprise and delight, an inscription from the author himself. I have never been one for autographs and such and am usually unmoved by displays of idolatry, but the thought that TH had himself inscribed this volume with a dedication and a signature in the handwriting, that I knew so well from a number of folio versions of his poetry in my possession, was – I admit – really quite exciting. That and the introduction to Lady Gregory’s Complete Irish Mythology with a preface by WB Yeats were my literary highlights of the visit.
I was duly deposited at Killavullen at around 0845, determined not to be miserable and to look forward to whatever fate and my new hosts in Fermoy had in store for me at the end of the day and reasonably confident that we would make the 20 odd kms Fermoy in good time. Which we did.
The day, the route, the weather were all mixed. A lot of road, as in the previous days, quite a bit of rain, especially at the times that I had deemed for tea breaks and lunch, some good views especially in the last third and some tiring stretches which seemed to go on forever. I was sorry not to have been able to spend more time on the banks of the Blackwater, as the Trail only comes down from the higher ground very occassinally to kiss the banks of the river, only to disappear again into forest and fields in the lands above. The land along the Blackwater is mostly private, mostly prized for the excellent salmon and trout fishing there and consequently out of bounds for the great unwashed and general public. Sadly, no tow paths or river bank walks here.
Stella and I arrived, soaked through, tired and cold (well, I arrived wet tired and cold) and urgently in need of tea and warmth in Fermoy and more than slightly trepidous as to what sort of accommodation would be awaiting me. St Christopher was obviously still holding his protective hand over me as my new host, Donal, was on the street the moment I stopped in front of the address in St James Place, just on the north side of the bridge that connects the two halves of the old garrison town of Fermoy ready to lead me to the basement appartment underneath their Georgian house, that was to be our new home for the next two days.
The appartment – courtesy of AirBnB – is spacious, has comfortable beds and a huge shower with a vast plate sized shower head and most importantly, a ceramic firestove which I had up and running within ten minutes and which blazed away the whole evening, concurrently warming me and the appartment as well as drying my sodden boots, socks and dog. A well-functioning internet connection and an indian takeaway within 5 minutes walking distance on the south side of the river, were all that I needed to set us up for a mini-hibernation for the evening.
Given that we had made such good progress over the last week, with most days exceeding 25km stretches, I had already made good about two days, which I decided to invest in a day of rest on Sunday. The Christ Church, Church of Ireland, ministered as I discovered at the Morning Prayer Service this morning, by Rev. Eileen Cremin, a charming lady vicar from the East of London, is across the street from St.James Place and I decided to start the day with a visit there and let the rest of the day take its course, a decision that I have not regretted for an instance on this sunny cold spring day in Fermoy. The theme of the service was the Good Shepherd and Eileen had dug out an interpretation of Psalm 23 , by a japanese student, which I loved so much, that I will reproduce it here:
Psalm 23, remixed for a rushed society
The Lord is my pacesetter, I shall not rush.
He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.
He provides me with images of stillness,
which restore my serenity.
He leads me in ways of efficiency,
through calmness of mind,
and His guidance is peace.
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish this day,
I will not fret,
for His presence is here,
His all-importance will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal
in the midst of my activity
by anointing my head with the oil of tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be
the fruits of my hours,
for I shall walk in the place of my Lord
and dwell in His house forever.