The Quiet Park

Spring has really been taking its own sweet time in getting here this year, which is a pity, because if there’s one thing the east coast does better than Idaho, it’s being green.

In northern Idaho, you get exactly one month of green. The minute May hits, the hills are as lush and verdant as Ireland, and you wonder why in the world anyone would choose to live anywhere else.

And then June happens, and the moisture is sucked out of all vegetation, the undergrowth becomes particularly prickly, and the only thing that stays green are the pines with the tell-tale name.

So I was thrilled when I moved to the east coast and discovered that everything stays green until it goes golden. The trade-in, of course, is the feeling that you are living in an armpit.

All this aside, today was a lovely misty day that really highlighted the incoming greenery, so I hauled myself and my umbrella outside to see the colors.

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The nice thing about a park in the rain, on a weekday, at one in the afternoon, is that you truly have the place to yourself.

And there were indeed signs of spring, despite the slow-going. Perhaps wary of another sudden frost, the leaves were advancing at a snail’s pace, but they were there.

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One started to get the feeling that the leaves were only showing themselves grudgingly.

I didn’t expect to see any animals besides the usual assortment of birds and squirrels, seeing as my closest park is hardly larger than your average Wal-Mart, but I actually ran into a herd of deer that seemed disturbed at my passing.

I felt bad about it, really, because there wasn’t really anywhere for them to go. The park has a lake on one side and suburbs on the rest.

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The straggler who would have been picked off if I were a wolf.

It was very wet out, but I enjoy overcast days. They typically mean I only burn a little.

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I spent a little while trying to figure out how this tree had managed to split and fall so artfully.

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Fungi!

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And speaking of fungus, I don’t know what this stuff is but a poor baby pine was coated in the stuff. I’m always grateful humans can’t grow mushrooms on themselves.

There’s a part of the park with an odd low wall that extends into the lake; something to do with keeping the little bay of water from being disturbed, no doubt. People are always out on the wall; teenagers going to drink or smoke, children trying to look cool to their friends, fishermen who like a little risk. But thanks to the rain, it was empty.

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I didn’t go all the way out because I wasn’t willing to risk falling in to drink or smoke in a cool place.

Back in the park, one of the flowering trees was heavy with large pink blossoms. I figured by the time the leaves on other trees came in, most of the blossoms would be gone.

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There was absolutely no way to get a picture of this tree without also picking up the trashcan on the right. It couldn’t be done. Also, I was too lazy to crop it.

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Very pink. A well-established whatever-it-is.

While I was in the park I went looking for the fairy house I had built some time back, just to see if any part of it was still there, but there was no sign of it. I have no idea if some little girl found the tea set and kept it, or whether they were unceremoniously trashed some time later.

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But I did find some periwinkle in the vicinity. I always wanted to be a periwinkle fairy.

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It was nice to get out. In a month or so it will be unbearably sunny and humid and I won’t want to do anything but stay in my air-conditioned room and long for colder climates, but for now it’s pleasant.

And then, when it’s too hot and humid to function, my employers will take me and the three to six boys to Disney World again because “It’s the cheapest time of the year to go!”

A Trip to Terrain

The first thought I had today as I took the vacuum to my bathroom to deal with a spider approximately the size of Venezuela, was that being an adult sucks because you don’t have another more adultier adult to deal with spiders.

Possibly you do when you get married, but I wouldn’t want to take the time to track down my husband to deal with it. The chances are, the second you leave the room, the spider uses its powers of teleportation to hang out in your bed instead.

But my long and redundant is that I’m actually glad to be an adult, because my adult friends and I can go out and do adult things together. Like spend all day in a greenhouse, for example.

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One with a mushroom house, even.

I always thought I liked plants until I met my friends Katrina and Addison. It turns out, I’m a small fry in the world of liking plants. I may have twelve plants in my bedroom as we speak, but Katrina and Addison live in a house that is 85% plant life and 15% board games. Frankly, it’s ideal.

Katrina, previously mentioned as the person most like a fairy I’ve ever met (besides my father), is always dragging me off to strange and fascinating places, like fancy tea houses and the Mutter Museum. This time, it was a restaurant and greenhouse called Terrain.

Terrain is a nifty restaurant and greenhouse that is always teaming with people. And by people, I mean white thirty-something women. Katrina and Addison go there whenever they can justify spending the entirety of their paycheck on plants. They were very excited. I was excited by osmosis.

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The front entrance.

Terrain is several big barn-like structures full of plants, and things related to plants. And candles. And hats. And variously-shaped glass jars. Much like Renaissance Faires, it’s a magnet for a certain kind of people. Typically, people of the feminine persuasion who enjoy things like brunch and sunny hiking trips.

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The roof was always covered in plants and I could never tell how many were real.

If you like spending fifteen dollars on a pretty pink perfume-bottle plant mister, boy is Terrain the place for you.

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Just look at all these colored bottles!

I spent a considerable amount of time wandering the place and resisting the urge to grab everything I saw. Ferns were everywhere. Air-plants were everywhere. Containers to make your own terrarium; fourteen different sizes of terracotta pots; watering cans that looked cute but were, according to Addison, much more decorative than functional.

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I’m an instant killer of ferns, but I crave them like some kind of fern vampire.

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One day, my house will look like this.

We wandered around the place for an hour before our brunch lunch reservation was up. The attached restaurant serves, predictably, a lot of plant-based meals, and a number of fascinating teas. And, perhaps best of all, they server their appetizer bread in a flowerpot.

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And it was delicious.

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Anyone who ever goes to Terrain has to take a picture of the flower pot bread. It’s the Law. 

I always feel a degree of shame with taking pictures of my food at restaurants, but I was too drunk on Terrain’s “Iced Blueberry Pie Chai” to care. I had two.

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This was a fried cauliflower burger. I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was.

After lunch it was back out to the greenhouses to collect plants for purchase.

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And to stare at the massive ceiling kokedamas.

There was a book sale coming up the following Monday that I planned on splurging on, so I told myself I could only buy one item at Terrain. Accordingly, I bought two plants, two fancy pots, and a pretty plant spray bottle.

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Was it worth it? Absolutely.

If you live anywhere near Glen Mills, PA, I would recommend taking a day and going to explore Terrain- possibly in another month or so, when there’s more to see outside as with the inside. The downside, of course, being that you will begin your slow transformation into a middle-aged white woman who throws garden parties, but it’s a small price to pay.

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Well, that and that if you go to Terrain and then to a book sale the next day, you won’t have enough money leftover to purchase this gem.

A Spot of Fatigue

The other day, as we passed through the thin strip of privacy trees separating our house from the neighbor’s, one of my charges looked at me and asked, “Nanny, what’s the name of these woods?”

And I said, “Uh, I don’t think forests have names anymore after they become suburbs.”

And then I was sad.

It was one more drop in the bucket that made me realize, ultimately, that I can’t stay here on the east coast forever. For one thing, all my family is over on the west side of the country, and here it’s much more crowded and takes considerable effort to get out into any kind of nature.

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But I found a Little Free Library today, which doesn’t happen nearly as frequently in rural areas.

Also, my job is starting to look like this:

Mrs. Parent: “The kids aren’t picking up anymore! They’re leaving toys everywhere! We need to get them to clean up after themselves, I can’t walk without tripping over toys. This house is always a mess.”

Me: Well maybe we should, I don’t know, give away a few hundred of their toys so that we bring their number down to a reasonable thousand or so, it might be easier to make this place look clean. “I’ll work on that.”

Not to mention, in my free time, I find myself leaving the house to wander aimlessly through parks and malls because it’s better than staying in the house, which is very loud. Some combination of three to six boys and two X-Tra Loud parents yelling constantly from 6:00 to 9:00 every day is keeping me from relaxing, no matter how much I try with my Celtic zen music and my mug warmer supplying me with perpetually warm tea.

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Sometimes malls have things like puppies for adoption, though. So there’s that.

So I’ve decided now that in a year I’ll be moving away. I’m not sure where to yet, but it will be an adventure because I’m a well-off white twenty-something with an extensive support system and safety net.

Three years of full-time nanny for three to six boys will look fantastic on my nanny resume, because normal people can’t fathom having that many kids and usually look very alarmed when I mention it. If I wait it out, save up money, and leave somewhere in early 2019, things will go great.

Provided I can keep my mouth shut and sweat my way through another miserably humid east coast summer without driving my car off a bridge in search of cold relief.

One day at a time.

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This mug warmer is truly a life saver, I should say. Everyone likely to make a cup of tea and then set it aside and completely forget about it should have one.

Snowy Puppies

I recently hauled myself out of bed during one of the dark, cold hours of the morning so that I could be stuffed into an airplane with 900 other passengers on Christmas Eve and shipped over the course of nine hours to Idaho, and the only reason I did this was to see my parent’s new puppy.

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That’s him chewing a strand of carpet he pulled out all by himself.

Sure, I also saw my family and we did Christmas things, but the rest of the time I took the puppy- I called him Derpy in my head- out for walks through quiet, snowy solitude, something I have greatly missed.

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Never in New Jersey can you look this far and see nobody. There’s a whole mountain behind that wall of mist.

The thing about living on the east coast, as I may have said before, is that it’s crowded. It takes some effort to find a place where you can’t hear traffic. There’s no readily available fields for me to bound over or mountains for me to climb. In fact, where I live is as flat as the no I give the kids when they ask to bring worms inside.

So it was great to have the ability to take a young dog and just walk.

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He doesn’t need to be leashed, because he gets nervous if you’re not within easy nipping distance.

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You can almost hear his little brain deciding there might be dogs in there.

Every day on the east coast I feel a little itchy and restless, like I’m some kind of mouse living in an owl society. There’s nowhere to run that wouldn’t take a day or move of driving. I’m not sure how everyone here is comfortable living so close to everyone else.

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Beard.

So when I have the opportunity to come back to Idaho, it’s exciting just to have all the wide open spaces again. Also a puppy.

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Really, you ought to just go find yourself a puppy and a lot of countryside, I think. It does wonders for the soul.

Or, actually, you can stay in the city and I’ll live in the country and never see you, which is better.

The 2018 Reading Challenge

This really isn’t a book blog, because there are many book blogs out there run by people who a) are better writers than I am, and b) read more books in general. But I do like books, all kinds (except for you tragic grimdark novels, buzz off), and so I do like doing an occasional “52 Book Challenge.”

A 52 book challenge is an informal agreement to read 52 books in a year, or around one a week. Sometimes it’s a free-for-all, but my utter horror at making my own decisions prompts me to find guidelines for the challenge, such as this:

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The above was the challenge I attempted to do with my sister and my good friend Wendy, several years ago. Spoiler, we failed, but we attempted. Attempting was done.

The last time I did this challenge, I discovered some interesting new books- like Abhorsen– and some frankly terrible books, like Frankenstein.

Don’t try to tell me Frankenstein is good. It’s a million pages of story so dry you could sand a bench with it.

The point being, the challenge coaxes you into broadening your horizon, which is why I’m going to try again for 2018, with the list provided here. Will I give up? Oh, most definitely, probably around book 15. But it’s nice to feel like you’re trying something.

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Part of one of my bookshelves. Perhaps a fifth of these books are unread or only partially read because I collect books faster than I can motivate myself to go through them.

I encourage everyone to go out and try a challenge like this for a little while. Even if it’s twelve books a year. Or six. Or a half of a short story you’ve had on your shelf for the past eight years. Just give it a go.

Now I’ll reward myself by playing eight hours of Overwatch and thinking about what a bookworm I am.

Something Blue

About a month ago I decided to get a new car.

“New” here meaning “newer than my old car, but still not actually new”.

The reason for this was because my old car, dubbed La Petite Rouge because it was petite and rouge, started indicating that it needed a coolant change.

Well, in fact, it had needed one for many months, but I had ignored it, because I didn’t want to spend even more money on a little red bucket of compressed rust literally held together with duct tape.

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Literally.

So as much as I loved it, when I had finally scraped together enough money for a new car, I dumped the old one like a box of warning lights and uncomfortable seating.

I feel like my employers were grateful for its absence, because it really was the neighborhood eyesore. In a suburb where the smallest house is five bedrooms and only one pool, everyone gets uncomfortable when the help’s car is so prominently poor.

So with so very in-depth research consisting of Googling several times, I decided that my next car would be a Kia Optima. And I decided to get it from a rental car place.

Months ago, I watched an interview with actor Jack McBrayer on Conan, in which he explained that he got his car from Enterprise because they don’t haggle and he doesn’t like haggling.

I didn’t much like the idea of haggling either, and so I located a promising-looking car on the Hertz car sales website and scooted over to buy it, money in hand.

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And it was beautiful.

A Kia Optima 2016, with features like a heater that works immediately, windows that reliably roll all the way down, and no flashing engine lights upon entry. And it was blue.

Despite Hertz’s assurances that the car was flawless, I took it to a mechanic anyway. The mechanic also proclaimed it to be flawless.

I bought it.

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I dubbed it Yonder, as in “Into The Wild Blue-“, though it’s only a working title in case I come up with something better. And, when I had Yonder, it was time to say goodbye to La Petite Rouge.

I donated the old car to a charity, mostly out of the selfish reasoning that I didn’t want the hassle of trying to sell a dumpster on wheels. They came to pick it up late at night, and I watched my first ever car get towed away under the streetlights.

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And while I was a little bit sad, it wasn’t enough to out-weigh the joyful knowledge that I probably won’t have to spend $300 on my new car every time I bring it in for an oil change.

Live-in nannying’s not a bad gig, all things considered.

The Ireland Trip: Kilkenny and Dublin

It’s high time for me to finish procrastinating on the Ireland posts so I can start procrastinating on regular posts instead, but that’s not the reason the Kilkenny and Dublin are lumped together here. It’s actually because I have only one good picture of Dublin, which I will get to in a bit.

So on our second to last full day in Ireland, we drove from Killarney to Kilkenny, which was nice but mostly forgettable. Driving across southern Ireland can be easily summed up by two things: Green fields, and traffic circles.

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At one point we went through fifteen traffic circles in twenty miles. It’s not so great when you’re still not good at the low gears in a manual.

We arrived in Kilkenny around noon, and parked our stuff at the Kilkenny Hotel, which was big but quite nice.

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The bigger hotels in Ireland can best be described as: Impersonal, but with a better breakfast service than you will ever find in the States.

And then we popped out to explore the city, which at first, I didn’t like. That’s because Kilkenny was the first city that didn’t seem to cater exclusively to tourists. There were chain stores, busy streets with traffic jams, fast food restaurants, and all the cool bits of history had been impatiently built around because Irish people don’t have time for 300 year old buildings when they’re everywhere and blocking good building sites.

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This tower is inconvenient and blocking a perfectly good parking lot.

Wandering around, it was clear the place had charm, but more so the farther you went from the somewhat garish main street, which I didn’t think to take a picture of and which I now regret.

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Entirely by wandering, James and I stumbled across St. Canice’s Cathedral, which was absolutely beautiful but which we were too cheap to pay the fee to see the interior. The round tower was climbable, but also for a fee.

And we were still cheap.

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The graveyard was free to explore, though. Most of the graves were worn down and unreadable, like the books I’ve had since childhood.

And then, running low on ideas and eating lunch in a restaurant that was only mildly charming, I started Googling things to see. We settled on the Medieval Mile Museum.

Going purely from my entirely fallible memory, the Medieval Mile Museum was a very new construct, built in the bones of an old church. The place had been stripped down and the inside was spacious and largely unrecognizable as a church, but it showcased the artifacts and tombs found in and around the place very nicely.

IMG_20170630_165642110An example of the way they displayed the old tombs. There were a few of them scattered throughout the museum, and covered in glass so you could stand on top of them if you wished.

On the tour we took, our guide told us that the bones of the main street of Kilkenny had been around since approximately the 12th century, meaning all the McDonald’s we walked past had been built into ancient city structures. The ‘Medieval Mile’ aspect encouraged you to walk from St. Canice’s to… I don’t remember, some other historical destination, but we had inadvertently wandered all over the thing already, so we didn’t do it again.

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The museum had a nice view of the Kilkenny rooftops at the end of the tour.

The only thing we did go back and see was the Black Freren Gate, which we had missed. It’s the only part of the old Norman walls still standing.

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And it’s just another part of everyday life in Kilkenny.

At this point we headed back to the hotel, stopping briefly at another massive church along the way. I don’t even remember the name of this one, but the priest had stopped by briefly for some priestly business and greeted us with a cheery hello. We pretended we were there for spiritual reasons rather than to take pictures, but I don’t think anyone was fooled.

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And then we settled back into the hotel for the night. The next morning we were set to drive from Kilkenny to Dublin early so we could take in a portion of the city before our flight the day after.

We had a wonderful full Irish breakfast with more of their curiously fat bacon, loaded up our trunks and packed it all out to the car. As we popped the trunk, I noted that someone had smashed a bottle on the ground nearby, the blue-green shards lying between our car and the next.

And then James went to get in the driver’s seat, and it turned out the glass was from our window instead. Someone had broken the window and stolen the only thing of “value” from our rental car, the GPS.

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This was a terrible situation, you see, because it meant we would have to be adults. Adults who did things like called the car rental company and brought in the police and alerted the hotel. That’s what adults do. And at 21, I’m most certainly an adult, and my parents were in a different country, so I couldn’t call them for help.

So we notified the hotel, who were shocked because they had never had such a thing happen before, and the head of security was more of an adult than us and called the Gardaí while I reported it to the rental company.

The Gardaí came to take the report. Despite being Irish, it was like something out of a British comedy. There were two of them, a genial joke-a-minute older fellow and a younger no-nonsense woman. While she wrote up the report, the cheerful fellow noted that we couldn’t be Trump supporters because, you see, we knew how to drive a stick shift.

(The Irish people were not happy with Trump during the week we were there, because he had said something vaguely sexist to an Irish reporter a few days prior. It was all over the Irish news. I remember watching it and thinking ‘That’s all?’ which is a terrible thing to think.)

He also noted that the GPS was a ‘Never Lost’ GPS. “Well,” he said, with several elbow nudges, “It’s lost now, eh?” And then he turned to the lady Garda to repeat the joke. She made me sign some papers.

The hotel took over then, and had a housekeeper meticulously clean off the glass from the inside while they gave us complimentary hot drinks. They were very nice and very apologetic.

Kilkenny didn’t have a branch of our rental company, so we were fortunate it didn’t rain- much- when we finally got on our way and drove our windowless car for two hours to Dublin. We were about three hours behind schedule and the Dublin branch of the car company was closed by the time we arrived, so we cleaned it of all valuables and threw it into a parking garage overnight, where mercifully it came out all right, presumably because the resident criminals could already crawl inside to see what was in there.

Meanwhile, we discovered that Dublin reminded us an awful lot of Philadelphia.

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Except for the classic river shot.

It was very crowded, and we saw more diversity there than in the entire rest of the week combined. We had a few hours to kill before we had a reservation for an evening event at Dublin’s “oldest pub,” so we just wandered.

Right into the middle of a massive pro-life rally and the counter pro-choice protestors.

We went into a Supermac’s to hide for a while. Supermac’s is an Irish fast food place. We had done a great job of eating at small local joints all week, so we decided to try the fast food in Ireland. Supermac’s, it turns out, is remarkably like McDonald’s, just less salty.

I added salt to my food. I’m an American.

I didn’t take many pictures at all, which I regret, but we were exhausted and if we stopped to take a picture of something we were bowled over by aggressive pedestrians, rather like residents of New York City.

We headed then to “An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies” at The Brazen Head, which I would have taken pictures of were it not so crowded. It was Saturday night, and the pub was packed with bodies, lots of whom were already drunk. From what I could barely see, it was an agreeable place.

We were ushered to the quieter upstairs, where four large tables had been squeezed into a medium room. About half the people seated were Irish, mostly from places besides Dublin, and the rest were tourists from America, Germany, New Zealand. Our story-teller, Ollie, was captivating. He might have been a fairy, there’s really no knowing. He told us stories all throughout dinner, and then brought out a guitar and urged us to sing some traditional folk songs with him.

At the end of the night, an Irish lady who had been at our table pulled us aside. “My husband and I were curious,” she said, “what brings two young folks like yourself to a traditional Irish storytelling?”

I babbled for a bit about loving the culture and the music and the mythology, and she seemed bemused, but offered, “You were quite good earlier. You knew all the songs!”

I’ll be riding on that compliment for the rest of my life.

 

The next day, we packed up early so we could turn the car in and deal with the consequences. The consequences, it turned out, were to the tune of 300. If I ever go to Ireland again, I’m buying insurance for the rental car.

Then, tired and fatter, we returned home. There was a disappointing lack of stone fences everywhere, but at least everything wasn’t so claustrophobic.