I boarded the bus in Dublin and set off for the tiny village of Tulsk in County Roscommon. I’d be staying at Conor’s mother home before moving on to the West. The 100-mile journey provided my first glimpse of the Irish countryside. After a couple of hours, the driver announced our arrival. Exiting the bus I was greeted by… nothing really. The stop was a dirt lot in front of a private residence.
No, really, this is where we stopped
I waited, armed only with the knowledge of Conor’s mother’s name – no phone number or address. A car pulled up in front of me, a man in an olive green Irish Army sweater exited the vehicle.
“Stephen, is that you?”
It was Conor’s older brother, Adrian – he’d flown from London unannounced to greet me (and/or to make sure I wasn’t after more money). We’d only met a handful of times (he’d married one of my cousins a decade and a half before), but I recognized him instantly. We made the journey deeper into the countryside; houses became fewer and fewer, the fields larger and larger. Pulling into the driveway, Pauline happily welcomed us into her home. Almost instantly tea was a part of the conversation. I’d only tried it once before and, as the saying goes, it wasn’t my cup of something or other.
Tea in Ireland, it should be noted, is no minor production. Items needed for a proper cuppa:
- A teacup for each person, preferably with an intricate design
- A spoon for each person, intricate design optional
- A teapot
- A tea cozy for keeping the teapot warm
- A cloth napkin
- Sugar bowl, with sugar
- Milk served in a creamer
- Biscuits on a plate with matching intricate design
- A tray or cart to transport above items
Not wanting to be rude, I relented, starting with black tea. Too bitter. I added a spoonful of sugar and took another sip. Nope. In goes the milk. No again. I began shoveling sugar into the cup, diluting it with milk until it bore the same color. Not half bad.
“I see you take your tea like a Clare man,” Adrian quipped.
Powered by the mixture of milk, sugar, and a splash of tea , I decided to go for a walk, grabbing my camera on the way out the door. I wandered for a bit, taking pictures of cows and sheep and the gorgeous green landscape. Walking further I found a holy well dedicated to St. Patrick. Trinkets of devotion were left in memory of loved ones. Crosses, statues, and a building with glass walls surrounded the natural spring. Patrick, it’s alleged, baptized the pagan daughters of Ireland’s high king at this location.
After photographing the well, I moved on, deeper into the fields. I’d entered grazing areas and signs of human life became more and more scarce. As I walked, cows began following me, moving quite quickly towards me. Their primary human interaction was based around feeding and I’d created a bit of a frenzy. Despite being from a place with a fairly strong agricultural background, I was intimidated by the herds of half ton animals approaching me at a fast clip. I nervously scaled low rock walls to escape my pursuers, nervous of a zombie-like attack.
Walking more, the sky began to grow dark, sunset was approaching. I was lost. Even when I’d pass a road, there were no reference points for getting back. Most of the buildings in this area looked the same – stuccoed farm houses with modern barns off to the side, and a black and white dog standing guard. Green fields and rock walls were the only things I could see for miles. Not an unfamiliar notion in Ireland, the clouds thickened and a light rain began to fall. I hadn’t eaten for much by this point, and my stomach felt cavernous.
In the few days I’d been in Ireland, I’d made nothing but a mess of the trip.
I made the decision to look for another road in the hopes I could find someone. It took some time, but I could see a house sitting on a small hill in the distance. I felt a bit embarrassed by the situation and discovered I wasn’t able to walk up and knock on the door. I’d start the approach, then back away, repeating this act several times. As I built up the confidence to make my desperate introduction, Adrian pulled up in the car. He’d been driving around for an hour looking for me.
“Lost, are ya?”
Movie referenced: The Field