Preparing to travel is stressful, I’ve discovered. Maybe not if you’re already well-travelled, already have the fine art of packing a bag or two down, but I’m not and I don’t. I’ve already moved house once, and in a couple of weeks I have to move again. This around things like working overtime, driving lessons, and of course taking my two remaining rats over to Ireland (sad to see them go, but they’ve an amazing home lined up). Despite clearing out probably half of my stuff and storing another quarter, I still have a lot to go through. I need to be ruthless. That jacket I can only wear on cool but cloudless days because the rain will ruin the velvet? Looks great but it has to go. And do I really need two dressing gowns? (I don’t have a firm answer for this one – it might be yes).
The good thing is, I don’t miss my old flat at all. There’ll be nostalgia there for it, for the weird corner of Bristol that I made my own, but I’m glad to be out. I’ll be even more glad when the prep stage is over and I’m on that long haul flight to the other side of the world. Because then it’ll be done. No going back.
Strangely, all this change is keeping me creative. I’ve got two little stories on the go and another one brewing in the back of my head. This is why it’s good to shake things up a little. Otherwise I fall into bad habits. Right now, I barely have time for bad habits. My empty hours are now filled with planning and clearing and learning. I’ve become that person who can’t make social plans until they’ve checked their diary. It’s stressful but I don’t hate it, in a weird way I actually kind of like it. I think that’s because I know this will be worth it. And then, for a little while at least, I’ll have all the time in the world and no plans whatsoever. I can’t wait.
I spent the morning sitting in the conservatory at my dad’s house, watching a red kite swoop over the pond. He couldn’t get anything out – this is why there’s a net covering it. I’ve only ever seen them from a distance before, black silhouettes with forked tails hovering over the hills, gliding on the updrafts. It’s easy to forget how huge these birds are. There are tales of them carrying off small dogs, but I think they prefer an easy meal, road kill or food that’s left out for them. This one didn’t seem to be going for any of the live fish, he was swooping for a dead one floating on the surface.
We then left for Devil’s Bridge, and had a good wander around the falls, testing my fear of heights with Jacob’s Ladder.
We stopped for a while by The Robber’s Cave, where the legendary Bat’s Children had their hiding place, and where I got the idea for my book of the same name. Being here makes me think a lot about that story, walking the same paths that my characters walked, seeing, more or less, the same landscapes. It’s nicer in the summer, but the dark dreariness is probably more the setting I envisaged as I was writing.
Outside of the falls, it’s a lovely, bright day, with the gorse in bloom and lambs darting around the fields. I’m a bit tempted to smuggle one home with me.
Today we’re having a chill out day. I’m sitting in my cousin’s house with a cat curled up on my lap, staring out the window at the countryside. It’s a nice day, breezy but the sun is shining and there’s more white cloud than grey in the sky.
We’ve packed a lot into these past couple of days. On Saturday we went for a walk along the cliffs of Courtmacsherry to see a raven’s nest. At first I thought there were six to eight raven chicks in there, but on a second look there were only two. They were huge. The mother raven was sitting a few feet away on a rock, while another was gliding in the air above. For a first raven experience, it was pretty great. After that we stumbled across a faerie hollow and picked some wild garlic for dinner before retiring to drink gin, cuddle squishy rats, and play Cards Against Humanity.
On Sunday we drove into Kerry, passing through West Cork, into the mountains of Killarney national park. We stopped for lunch in Kenmare, and I spent too much on fancy soap and mugs. Lunch was had at a little cafe called Mick and Jimmy’s, where a band were playing, and the staff were very sweet and provided us with lots of great vegan options. After, we made our way to the Gap of Dunloe, and saw another raven being attacked by a much smaller hooded crow, and a kestrel that was standing in the middle of the road and took flight as we approached.
Gap of Dunloe, Killarney
Killarney is crazy pretty. It’s incredibly dramatic, and you can’t not think about how it was created when there are giant boulders bigger than most houses, cracked in half either side of the road after being spewed out by some great volcano. It was the perfect weather for it too, with storm clouds lurking over the mountains. Though thankfully the rain held off until we were on our way home.
Later, we’ll go for a walk to look at baby goats, come back and watch some films. My cousin hasn’t seen What We Do in the Shadows, which is practically a tragedy.
I’m sitting in the port at Rosslare, drinking strong coffee after four hours on a coach and another four on the ferry, trying to sleep instead of throw up, trying not to swear at the teenage boys that kept running up and down the lounge and yelling at each other while everyone else was curled up on sofas with blankets or coats pulled over them.
There’s a strike on, the bus that would have taken me down to Cork is cancelled, so I’m waiting for my cousin to drive up to collect me. The train would take longer, seven hours to take me up to Dublin and back down again, for the price of €60.
I was hoping to see the sunrise over the ocean, but it was too cloudy for that. Still, the smell of sea air was nice, and there’s a childlike excitement that comes with travelling over water, watching the waves chop under you, salt on your palms and fingertips after holding onto the railings.
I’ve had maybe three hours of sleep, full of interruptions, but I’m here, in Ireland. This is my first time here, so I’m excited to see everything. I’m not sure what I’m expecting. Faeries gathering around ancient stones, maybe. Banshees wailing from the hilltops.
When it gets to 9, I’ll take a walk around Rosslare, although it seems a bit dreary from here. The main town is over the hill though, and I can’t see it from here. Perhaps it has more charm. Either way, at least it should have food.