Sunday, July 17, 2011

Part 5a, Waterford

In the morning we have just time for a van-load to hop over to Kells Priory for a look around, before heading to Waterford for the Tall Ships Festival and Hogeye’s gig at 6:30.

The place is huge, and fully accessible to humans and sheep alike. Well, except for the bits with scaffolding where they’re doing some restoration work. There’s no guide today, and no plaques explaining anything. They’ll probably put something up later, once the repair work is more advanced.

It’s a nice walk around, though. The sheep in the south meadow don’t mind visitors. To the north there’s an old cemetery. In a cared-for cemetery sometimes the tall tombstones seem very large. In this overgrown field the taller ones are barely visible, and I bark my shin against one leaning at a sharp angle, hidden by the nettles.

There are two mills along the stream, one right after the other. In this day of renewable energy, I wonder why they don’t use them still. In a modified version, of course, no need for the great wooden wheels and creaking gears. A smaller, streamlined version would do to keep the lights on.

After the mills, the little trail leads through the village of Kells to take us back to the priory parking lot. Here’s a big sign explaining the mills and the Priory with its monks. The Book of Kells was from here, though it now lives in Dublin, at Trinity College. Today Kells is a two-shop town. I buy a bottle of water from one. I have my choice, but it amuses me to go for the Volvic. I can hike to Volvic from where I live. Next to the shop is a pub. I don’t count how many pubs there are, but this one has a sign to tell you what’s in the mixed drinks, just in case A Pint isn’t your thing. I think I will skip the Black Russian : they take a regular black Russian and add whatever other black liquids are at hand - coke and Guinness. No thanks.

Now to Waterford for the Tall Ships. Half the country will be in Waterford for the Tall Ships, they say. Getting ready to go, milling around the vans as the Navvys trickled out of their cottages, we see our hosts also packing up to go. Their boy is admonished to get in the car already, and he asks, what, are they late ?
Very late.
Hundreds late ?
Hundreds and hundreds ! the response. The child runs to his place.

Finally the cats are herded into the vans and it’s off to Waterford. After much pausing for strawberries. And a peek at the livestock. And a pet for the dogs, Poppy and Bella. And a final pee. And a forgotten this or that.

Two vans go to the Red car park. The third has a pass to take the musicians and their instruments down close to the venue. Turns out the pass doesn’t get them anywhere due to street closures for a different event, and they end up parking on the far side of town and taking the Green shuttle in, which puts them on the wrong side of the river. That’s a mile to schlepp the instruments, while our Red shuttle lets us off just a block away. Go figure.

The Tall Ships making their stop in Waterford on their route around the British Isles, up toward Norway and down through the Baltic Sea, are Quite the Event. They don’t stop here every time (next race, Dublin gets the honor), so the town makes the most of it. Aside from being able to visit many of the ships, there’s a carnival and music and food and craft booths of every kind about, filling the quays up and down the river as well as the warren of pedestrian streets in the old town. Waterford town with its towers and old churches and cobbled streets is barely visible for all the tents and excited tourists.

Darrell wants to board ships. I want to score some local yarn. I visit one ship with him, the Maybe, before we part for the afternoon. Strolling down the quay to pick out our ship, he tests a kangaroo kabob from one of the food booths (excellent), a miniscule chocolate cake (excellent) and a Bulmer’s cider on tap. It’s the most popular cider on this part of the island ; every bar has it on tap. As far as we’re concerned, they can keep it.

As we spend 40 minutes in line waiting for our turn at the ships moored at the eastern part of the south quay, we hear Coming through ! Make way ! Coming through ! Three heaping shopping carts are parting the crowd to provision one of the ships. So that’s how they do it.

The music at the stages in this area isn’t at all the sort we’ve come for. It’s all terribly amplified and modern. Apparently different stages have different themes, and all the traditional Irish music is happening elsewhere. More interesting are some of the wandering minstrels - an old man playing a pipe near the Norwegian ship, a fiddler and bodhrain pair loitering near the noisy main stage, other fleeting sound sources unidentified in the crowd.

Walking about the town I don’t see much in the way of yarn, but there is one shop, at last, that I would never have found without asking, and they have a delightfully rich red merino I must have. Alas, they don’t have any of that wonderful mohair that so many of the blankets in the boutiques are made of.

I’m back at the venue for Hogeye’s show an hour before time, early enough to catch the group before them just setting up. It’s sea captains ! Eight old guys in matching captain’s garb and white hair sing chanteys for half an hour, including a few that I’ve heard our group do. The same songs, but different. Words are changed, the tunes have undergone little mutations. It’s strange sometimes to hear a familiar song a different way.

Here’s Darrell. He says he got on the French ship and had a great look around at their navigation gear without understanding a word of it. A go on the Irish drug-buster boat was a success. And the Columbians are partying up a storm. They are - you can hear them from here.

It’s unfortunate there’s no place to sit near the music stages. Hogeye Navvy is playing at a wide spot in the road leading to the carnival ride section and to the really big ships from Russia and Columbia. A lot of people pass by, but very few stick around for more than one song.

Carole and Ken dance one song in the space just in front of the stage, a real toe-tapping jig whipped out there by Deb on the fiddle. It’s a joy to see them dance, tiny Carole light as a bird carefully spun about the potholes by her attentive husband. This does make people stop and watch, those who don’t walk right through the ‘dance floor ‘ eyes glued to their feet on their way to the carnival.

The set continues, hopping from tunes I know to those I don’t. Garry the Shantyman is not with us this trip, but Deb’s voice rings out strongest of the group and carries the day. She could do opera, this woman. When Hogeye’s 30 minutes are up Mac gathers us up for the evening plans. One van is going back right away with those too knackered or young for an evening of pub revelry. The rest of us are to gather at the Wander Inn on the other side of town for a singalong. Music starts at 8, food will be provided at 9, shuttle buses run back to the vans at 10 :30 or 12 :30. Wander Inn at Johnson and Parnell, check. Be there. She waves in a general direction. Find it.

(gotta run - photos and the rest of part 5 tomorrow)

1 comment:

Bagman and Butler said...

This sounds like such a fun trip. I am looking forward to part five and photos -- although the sign at the beginning of this one was a hoot!