This morning it was another early start for the trip from Belfast to Dublin via Gortin in Co Tyrone……. Maryanne had ancestors that lived and were buried in this little town and she wanted to visit the graveyard. The town was well off the main road, quite a number of miles along narrow winding roads with hedges very close to the road, no room for overtaking. On several stretches the road was narrower than our car. Luckily we only encountered 2 tractors on these tiny roads, one farmer managed to move over so we could pass but the other had no room which meant we had to follow him till he turned off. It seemed like we crawled behind him for an hour but it was probably only 10 minutes.
The scenery, valleys and hills, was a beautiful deep shade of green, dotted with sheep and cattle and a fabulous looking farm house or manor house sitting on the side of a hill or on top the hill. Just like a scene on a chocolate box. Every so often a field had been ploughed and now stood brown and bare in contrast with the lush green fields around them.
Whilst Maryanne wandered the cemetery looking for headstones, Darelle feed an apple to a cow and her calf in the field next door, Ty wandered the cemetery as well, whist I stayed in the car. Well, it was a very chilly morning!!
Maryanne came back to the car within a short time, I thought she mightn’t be able to find them. “How did you go?” “Did you find them” I asked. “Yes, I did”, Maryanne replied, “but my camera has run out of battery so I need my Tablet”. All sorted Maryanne went off to take the pics. The area was so quiet and peaceful, very relaxing just a shame it was so cold but what graveyard is ever sunny and welcoming???
As we left town Darelle had postcards to send and I thought I’d buy a couple of stamps as well. The little supermarket was also the post office. A funny little shop filled with all sorts of odds and sods. On the far aisle in a little office was the post office……naively we ignored the line of people (3 in total) at the register and headed to the post office window….’closed’ sign on the window. Oh well, it’s back to that line up at the front of the store. There were still 2 customers in front of us, we waited patiently for our turn. Finally, our turn came….”is it possible to get a couple of stamps please?” The lady behind the counter nodded as she closed the register, lifted a section of the counter and stepped out into the store. I thought they might hold stamps at the counter, not so. Our friendly assistant hurried to the post office door, unlocked it, turned the light on and asked “where are you sending the letters to?” “Australia” I replied. “Each stamp will be 88 pence” came the reply. As we took our money out she stood up, turned the light off, locked the door as she left the little office and returned to the counter. Darelle and I looked at each other as we followed her to the store counter where we paid for the stamps. By now there were another 2 customers in the store. We thanked her for the stamps and as we left she said, to no one in particular, “I’m rushed off my feet today”. We laughed as we both agreed that in a town that size 4 customers would amount to a busy morning!!
It was now time to find our way out of these country lanes, back to the main road and resume our drive to Dublin. However, it wasn’t long until food was on our mind. It’s been like that for most of this holiday…..breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and, not always last, dinner!!!! There was no morning tea break on this drive, Gortin had 2 businesses that had a cafe sign but we felt they might not know exactly what a latte or cappuccino was let alone serve one that suited our palate – we resolved to drive on and have lunch instead.
We arrived at Newry, on the border between Nth Ireland and Ireland and found a pub that looked interesting, looked more Italian than Irish. Bellini’s was the name of this establishment, not a common name for a pub in Nth Ireland that’s for sure!!
As we stepped inside you couldn’t help notice the intricate timber carvings on the walls and ceilings, the windows were framed by heavy brocade curtains in maroon and gold with large tasseled ties. We chose a table by a window…..not that we had a view but I like a view to the outdoors when I dine!! There was a table of 4 or 5 young people sitting in front of us…..they had lots of empty bottles on the table and food everywhere. I could only see the back of the girls seated at the table but noted they wore fancy hair clips in their 60’s style hairdos. The males would have been late teens, early twenties perhaps and one well dressed males would join the lunching party every 10 or minutes. They were a little noisy but so were we with our chatter and laughter.
The staff were extremely friendly and so were the locals……Darelle went to the powder room and was admiring the woodwork and decor when a woman sitting on a stool at a tall, round table, you know the be I mean, asked f she’d like a tour of the hotel. Darelle came back to our table “Come on, we’re getting a tour of the place while we wait for lunch”. “Who is giving this tour” I asked. “This lady here will give us a tour”. Maryanne and I wandered over but there was no woman there. “Where’s this woman?” I queried as I looked around and saw a half empty glass and a pack of cigarettes on the tall table. “She’s gone to the ladies and will show us around in a minute” replied Darelle. A bit strange, I thought, this customer is going to give us a tour. Next minute out we comes and says ‘follow me’ as the commentary starts….”This hotel was once a theatre and this s the original staircase” Ah that explains the ornateness of the place, Ok, lead on McDuff” I said in my mind. Perhaps it should have been Mrs McDuff……
We ambled through the upstairs, McDuff (for want of a better name, I’m sure she told us but my memory is slipping) tried a number of doors, “no, that ones locked” and then she was off and we followed once again like the mice followed the pied piper. Eventually McDuff led us to a beautiful ballroom all decked out for a wedding, blue and white was the theme (I know you need details – don’t want to leave you wondering what colour the bridesmaids were wearing). As we were leaving the ballroom for the cocktail lounge McDuffs mobile rang. “Hello”, pause whist she listens, “I’m just in town getting a wee something for lunch I’ll be home in 10 minutes” McDuff says into the mobile….imagine this in your best Northern Irish accent as I’m not much good on accents. We were hurried downstairs as she said ‘I hope you enjoyed your look at our wee pub”? “Yes, it was lovely thanks” we three mice said in unison.
We returned to our table and noticed that she was now chatting with our waitress. As McDuff turned to walk away, I assume to purchase lunch for the hungry person at home, our waitress said “Bye Ma”. We didn’t need to wonder who McDuff was any longer!!! She wasn’t just the ‘wee’ lady sitting on a very high barstool drinking ale and chattering to herself she actually belonged to someone and that was good news.
Our lunch duly arrived, I was having a hamburger minus the tomato, onion and cheese. Ty generally says to the waiter “she’ll have a burger with no bun, no meat, no lettuce etc etc”…..he’s such a rude person sometimes……poor waiters often aren’t sure what to say.
I must mention the faux par of my sister ….. the waitress cam to take our order and, as I previously mentioned, she was very friendly, very amiable so we were having a chat. As the waitress started to write down our orders Darelle looked up and said to the waitress “You have black ink on the tip of your nose, you must have accidentally touched your nose with the pen”. We slunk back in horror, (probably an exaggeration) as we could see what is was, and waited to see what would happen next. “It’s not ink it’s a wee mole” replied our waitress and with that she returned to the task at hand. After she walked away from our table we looked at Darelle and shook our heads. All she said was “What”?
Remember the young ones at the table in front of us? Well, one of the males called out “Woman, bring us the bill!” We thought how rude he was and continued eating. Suddenly they all got up and left the table, the mess was incredible, as if a group of pigs had rummaged around the table. Food was squished into the floor all around one side of the table, it looked like they’d hardly eaten any of the food just used it to make a mess.
Darelle watched them leave and said “they’ve left without paying their bill”…..”no, surely not” I said. I looked around and there were no staff anywhere so perhaps they had left without paying.
Suddenly the waitress appeared and looked towards the table then went to speak to another waitress. They had left without paying their bill, they were gypsies so that explained the mess, the way they spoke to the waitress and, of course, the fact they had scarpered when the staff were out of sight. Gypsies have a very bad name in UK and Ireland but are seemingly untouchable. Seemingly untouchable because if, for example, the bar staff had apprehended them they would return at another time and damage the premises. Yes, we’ve all probably been watching the shows My Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and it’s easy to forget the antisocial things this group can do if they perceive you’ve ‘upset’ them. But their story or antics don’t belong in this story…..perhaps they’ll be mentioned in another story on another day!!
We’re off to Dublin in the green, in the green …… Sorry I’ve forgotten the rest of the words you’ll just have to carry on singing without me!!!!!