Monday, 26 August 2013

Let's head off to La la Land!

The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge
 Sometimes an ill wind blows bringing sad news, but then the clouds part and an opportunity to grasp life emerges.

Sometimes I grasp those opportunities just a little too firmly, which is why I’m now lying in a bath, laughing out loud to myself as I look over at a wall-length mirror covered with a million drops of water.

A couple of weeks ago the Snapper's parents called from England to say that they had to cancel their trip to Ireland, as her mum was not well. We were gutted, mostly because her mum was not well, but also because we’d been looking forward to their visit.

She has 8 days booked off work, and I’m ahead of my deadlines. What will we do? It’s the middle of August, the airports are crammed, southern Europe is way too hot and anyway, we haven’t the dosh for a trip abroad.

Time to return to La La Land: not so much a place as a state of mind. Over the years we’ve perfected the art of cramming the maximum relaxation into 3 days. Staying in luxurious country house hotels, we work together as a tight-knit team against the forces of sensible thinking, financial responsibility and any kind of moderation.

We’re not in denial. We know we can’t afford it, yet rather than worrying about the bills, we embrace two or three days with a mutual enthusiasm that allows us to enjoy every exquisite second.

From her glass of bubbles before dinner to the Remy Martin that eases yet another gargantuan dinner down my inner tubes, we go for it large.

Liberated from Ryanair baggage restrictions, we get completely carried away with the packing, laughing smugly as we look forward to the trip ahead. Much as it felt fun at the time, I later regret this packing madness, because I book hotel rooms on the top floor. 

You see, many years ago, I lived in a flat below a German woman who had an enthusiastic way with her kitchen knife. Sitting underneath her kitchen, I felt under bombardment as she chopped veggies for what felt like hours on end. Years later, I still dread noise from above.
So this bull-headed overweight scribbler is lugging ridiculously heavy suitcases up steep elegant staircases, designed long ago for gracious ladies to glide down.

But I don’t care. La La land is worth it. Usually we experience La La Land at Mark Foyle’s wonderful Rosleague Manor Hotel, near Letterfrack, but we decide to wait until her parents are able to join us there.

Instead, we head south to Echo Lodge in Co. Limerick. After Dan Mullane’s ‘Mustard Seed’ restaurant proved such a success in nearby Adare, he relocated down the road to this beautiful country house, where his love of growing vegetables and supreme chefly skills combine with his warmth, style and professionalism, in a small hotel that perfectly reflects his charming personality.

The Snapper says her concrete overcoat is starting to crack. I’m know I’m on holiday, as it’s becoming difficult to finish sentences. I start to say something and then trail off. Can't be bothered. Is it siesta time yet?

Two splendidly relaxing days later, we’re driving our over-indulged bellies off the Tarbert ferry, returning to the rolling hills of Co. Clare. Stopping in Milltown Malbay, I sate my need for a pub and a pint of Guinness. Much as I appreciate the fancy accoutrements of La La Land, I’ll always love most the simple pleasures.

All over Lisdoonvarna banners advertise their world-famous Matchmaking Festival, which this year is launched by what they’re calling ‘The Outing’, an LGBT Matchmaking Weekend, running from August 30th-September 1st. We both laugh at the morphed ‘Little Britain’ tagline:

‘You’ll Not Be The Only Gay In This Village!’

Fantastic! Never mind that they’re evidently unaware that ‘Outing’ has an aggressive inference within the Gay community. In a marriage of strong marketing and modern thinking that would have been impossible when I arrived in Ireland in 1992, these Clare people are trying to make a living by welcoming the Pink Economy. (Straight or Gay, enjoy Ireland’s longest-running Pride Festival in Galway this week. The parade starts on Saturday August 24th at 2.30 in Eyre Square.)

Checking into Sheedy’s Hotel in Lisdoonvarna is a delight. Martina and her staff are incredibly welcoming. Our relaxation levels have hit critical mass. Muscles no longer work. Brains gone bye-byes.The Snapper collapses onto the luxurious bed. I aim for a steaming hot bath.

Sheedy’s cover every detail with care. There are fluffy towels the size of small continents, two basins, posh soaps and oh blast and dammit! I’ve dropped my whole box of Q-tips all over the floor. Groaning and moaning like an old elephant, I lower my exhausted aching body to the floor, but in my ├╝ber-relaxed mental state, my fingers completely fail me. Fumbling like a useless eedjit, it takes me ages to grasp all the little buggers off the shiny surface. Struggling to my feet, I turn on the bathwater.

Unfortunately I’m unaware it’s switched to shower mode, and stumble backwards in horror as the shower hand-piece rises from its resting place like a demented cobra, dancing and swaying several feet in the air, delivering a high-powered soaking of hot water all over me, the bathroom floor and walls.

The bathroom at Sheedy's - scene of drenching behaviour....
Naked, crazed and bemused, I laugh out loud at my pathetic failure to simply have a bath.
After wiping down the mess, I finally slide into the hot water ... oooh luvverleee ... and am just about to doze off when I look over to the wall-length mirror.

It is a splattered mosaic; a drenched Jackson Pollock of water droplets. Clearly this scribbler is a disaster zone on legs right now, but who cares? On this last night of my tiny holiday, all I have to do is drink whiskey, wine and eat an absolutely spectacular dinner at Sheedy’s Hotel.

La La Land: it's not about feeling smug - just enjoying the absurdity of life. I start to giggle out loud to myself, and then find it hard to stop.  

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