Monday, August 29, 2011

Aug 23rd - 29th, Part 1

The goat . . . IS BACK!!

I had to include that. It gave me the giggles. I’ve seriously come to hate that goat, though. Every time I muck the stalls it will inevitably find a way into one of them and start screwing things up. Once it actually climbed to the top of this built-in food stand that’s about four feet high and started smacking its head on the horses’ rump. No lie. Thankfully the horse didn’t move, because I was literally on the other side of it and it might have knocked me over. After that shenanigan I kept a watch out for that goat. Damned if it didn’t sneak in behind me once and take a piss RIGHT AFTER I had cleaned the stall. A goat nearly died that day.

Anyway, sorry I haven’t written in a while. My parents already gave me crap for it, so don’t worry. There was a mixture of no internet and extreme sightseeing going on. It was a fun week – and a better weekend. Also, this is a long post. You are forewarned.

For the first part of the week the weather couldn’t make up its mind. It alternated between raining for an hour, and then going very sunny and warm and then rainy again. This happened for a couple days in a row. I’ve learned to layer my clothing here because I’ll be cold one minute, warm and shedding layers the next, and then cold when the next cool breeze comes in. It’s a little annoying, but it’s way better than the Devil's armpit that is College Station, Texas.

Gross, I know, but it’s true. There are certain similarities that can’t be ignored.

So for the rainy bits of the week I was inside the tack room cleaning and oiling the tack. I did quite a bit of that this week. They have a radio in there, so the hours went by pretty smoothly. I would systematically take apart a bridle, clean it, rub oil into the leather, put it back together, and repeat. Every once in a while I’d switch and do a saddle. The leather smell kindles fond memories of my Pawpaw Rice, and the music and repetitious movements let my mind wander. I know that if I had to do it every day I’d go crazy (or “mad” as they say here) with boredom, but doing it for a few hours at a time is incredibly soothing, especially when it’s raining outside.

When it was sunny I would work the horses. However, Thursday Aoife gave me a huge job – weeding the arena. There are plants that grow along the edges. Some sprout yellow flowers that are poisonous to horses when the flowers die. The majority of the plants are these TERRIBLE nettles that make your skin burn like crazy for hours if they even barely brush you. I’ve had horrible itching welts on my hands and forearms each night where the nettles have caught me from when my shirt slipped or something. It’s crap, I tell you.

As if digging up these mile-long root plants isn’t bad enough, I was accosted while doing it. The Big O, by which I mean the turkey (one of the visiting children thought it was an ostrich) sneaked up beside me while I was pulling weeds. I didn’t really pay attention to him. You’d think I would learn to pay attention to the seemingly innocent, non-equine animals by now. The damn thing pecked my ear. It was probably going for my cartilage earring. It pecked me only once – I turned on that asshole so fast, he jumped back a foot. Then I beat the hell out of him. By which I mean I threw something in his general direction so he’d run away, and then shook my fist at him angrily while yelling that I’d see him on my plate at Christmas.

Damn turkey.

I have a new main character to introduce. Enter Donal Williamson, late 30s, everyone’s trusted neighbor, best friend, and knowledgeable horse breeder and construction worker. Great guy. Also has a ridiculously difficult to understand Cork accent, is redheaded, tells wild stories, smokes at least twenty “fags” a day, and is cruder and cusses worse than anyone I’ve ever been exposed to, which is saying something.

And yes, they constantly call cigarettes “fags” here. And yes, I smirk EVERY TIME anyone says “I’d like a fag right about now.” Especially when they say that right after talking about how gay people are weird.

So for the last week Donal has been my tour guide. He lives alone, so I think he’s been happy to have someone to show around. He is also a member of the Kilmacabea rowing club in Glandore, and while he was over visiting Teddy last Wednesday he mentioned going to practice the next day. After he learned that I had never rowed before, he invited me to come along and see what it’s all about. So I did. We drove down to the harbor after dinner with the O’Regans on Thursday evening.

The harbor was beautiful. Here are a few pictures to show you:

I walked around the harbor for a bit and took pictures while Donal visited with the club members. After a while I got bored and wandered down to see what was going on. I immediately felt kind of awkward. The club was very clannish. Everybody kind of stuck to their little groups. I walked up to Donal’s and he introduced me to the older members and included me in the conversation, so I felt better. However, when he went out to row everyone kind of ignored me. I didn’t really know what to do.

Donal’s team came back, and a few women got ready to go out. They invited me to join, so I decided to give it a try. Man, rowing is fun. It’s also a full-body workout. I tried a rowing machine at the gym once, but it’s nowhere near the real thing. There’s also something really exciting about moving in tandem with three other people at a fast pace through the water. It was pretty cool.

We went back the next day for practice because there was a regatta (a rowing competition) that they were getting ready for on Sunday. I rowed again, and people were a little more open in their conversation. I stood around being awkward for a while still, but I met a few new people and joined a group once or twice in conversation. After it was finished Donal took me to a pub in Rosscarbery, another nearby town. His niece and nephew were performing traditional Irish dances. The pub was packed. I was the only one wearing a cap, and it had the Freebirds symbol on it. I didn’t take it off. Represent, yo.

One thing I can say for the Irish: they definitely know how to treat a girl in a pub. We met up with Donal’s brother (forgot-his-name) and the brother’s wife (Grace, I think?). There were never any introductions, actually. Anyway, Donal bought me my first half-pint. Donal’s brother made sure I had another one waiting before I was finished with the first. THEN when I was only half way through the second, Donal dropped a third in front of me. I didn’t even have to ask. It was amazing.

No, I didn’t drink the entire third one, and no I didn’t get drunk.

Donal’s brother’s wife is from England. We had a few wonderful conversations about politics, same-sex relationships, the education system, London being sketchy, and the asshole Border Patrol people. I actually had a delightful time. Every once in a while the children would start dancing again and I would have to stand up on my chair to see them. Traditional Irish dancing is like river dancing. It was very fluid, swift, and beautiful, and it seemed like only their legs were moving. The music was very lively.

We didn’t stay out too late, and the next day I went with Teddy and his nephew Mikey to a horse fair in Rosscarbery. We took a couple of ponies, a foal, and an Irish cob (horse) to the fair to try and sell them. Mikey disappeared in a flash after we got there and tied the horses up, and Teddy told me to meet him in a few hours. I wandered around Ross and took pictures of the town. The fair wasn’t too great to look at. There were a lot of Indian vendors with clothing, Gypsy people with trinkets, and Irish farmers with crap horses for sale.

By the way, I’ve had at least four Irish people tell me to stay away from the “travelers”. Apparently they’ll steal the shoes off you while you’re standing in them if they can. They tell me the children are the worst. The “Pakis”, often referred to as “those bloody Pakis” will try to cheat you every time. Yes, all Middle Eastern people are from Pakistan. I had no idea. Irish people feel the need to warn me about all other suspicious groups of people every time I go out with them.

Anyway, I saw a little of the fair and then went down to the lake to read for a few hours. At the appointed time I went back to Teddy’s horses, but I didn’t see Teddy. I figured he might be making a deal or something, so I decided to wait. I stood between the Irish cob and the wall she was tied to, which was right next to this old man in a cart. This old man was your stereotypical old Irish grandfather. He was wearing the tweed jacket with slacks, and he had a thick accent and jaunty cap. There's a picture of the back of him to the left. He saw me next to him and asked if I wanted to buy Teddy’s horse. I explained that I was staying with Teddy’s family and was waiting for him to come back. At that he introduced himself as “Patty Flannigan” and sort of adopted me. Every time it looked like Gypsy (the Irish cob) was even thinking about moving closer to me and the wall, Paddy would poke her rump with this long stick he was holding and shout, “Don’t squish the girl!”

Other older people would approach him and say, “Are you buying or selling today, Patty?” and he’d kind of wave at them and reply, “Ehn. Leave me alone.” This was apparently perfectly normal, because nobody seemed offended at all. A drunk old man wobbled his way over and Patty talked to him for a while. I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying, except for at one point when the drunk guy looked over at me and mumbled something, and Patty replied, “She’s Teddy’s American. Leave her alone.” This was also perfectly acceptable, and they kept talking. I just sat there, amused.

It was about ten minutes after Teddy was supposed to meet me that I asked Patty if he had seen him. Patty replied, “At the pub. It’ll be a bit, girly.” I thought he might be exaggerating. But no, he wasn’t.

Thirty minutes went by before Mikey ran up with a bunch of foul-mouthed boys and said “Teddy told us to pack up the horses.”

I asked where Teddy was, and he said, “Pub. It’ll be a while.”

I’m totally not making this up.

I grabbed the more belligerent pony as Patty and I said our goodbyes. Rather, I said goodbye and he kind of grunted.

I then waited with the juveniles by the car and trailer after we packed in the horses. There was a 16 year old girl named Louise and her 11-year old brother named something-or-other that we had to take home. Mikey (who is also 16, by the way) beckoned his rowdy horde of friends over and they started strutting and asking around to see if anyone had “fags”. One of them ran up to Louise and started talking crap. She was giving it back, so I didn’t say anything to stop it. Then, I swear to God, he turned around, bent over, and dropped his pants to shove his bare ass in her face. Then he hikes his pants up and went running off down the street. Louise screamed, “that’s disgusting!” I just stared. That actually happened right in front of me. Oh My God.

A while later Teddy came down the road, perfectly fine. He grabbed a pony from the horse box and told me he had sold it. I guess dealing goes on in pubs now. When Teddy got back from delivering it, we piled into the car with the kids in the back. Then Teddy starts the car and puts it into first gear, proceeding forward. The most God-awful screeching noise starts coming out of the front of the car. Teddy keeps driving. The kids start going crazy in the back, and I look back and see that the horse box is practically parallel to the car. I tell Teddy to stop, and he slows down, looks out the back, and says it’ll be fine. The youngest kid actually opens the door and hops out to take a look, and Teddy starts moving forward again. Mind you, the god-awful noise is still going on. I tell Teddy to stop again, but he’s already accelerating, and the kid has to run to get in the back door and slam it closed before Teddy leaves him. I feel like the engine is going to explode, so I’m kind of squeezing myself as far back into the front seat as I can. After thirty more seconds of the kids going bonkers, the engine sounding like it’s about to crash and burn, and Teddy nonchalantly pressing on the accelerator, the noise stops. Everything goes quiet. I turned to Teddy and said, “I’m pretty sure your engine needs to be looked at.”

He replied, “Nah. It works fine.”

That was my horse fair experience.

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