Lisvernane 6th Class Boys (From Left: Aaron, Jack, Me, Patrick, Cormac!
What a crazily busy week ... not even a week ... more a few days! Last Friday, I was invited to dinner, which was prepared, cooked and served by 6th class of Lisvernane National School, nestled in the beautiful Glen of Aherlow. I had had the pleasure of working with the children of this wonderfully creative school, through drama, since last September. They were able to show off their very considerable talents and growing confidence to their parents and friends in a show in their local community hall two weeks ago. Driving to the school every Wednesday from the Bansha direction, enabled me to see the glory of the Glen of Aherlow and the majesty of the Galtee Mountains in their ever-changing light, and witness autumnal gold fade into wintry white, thawing into yellowness of spring, and cataplting into lime green of summer. It was one of the highlights of my week. Of course 6th class are moving on to secondary school now and I shall miss them, (particularly the 'brazen four' in the above photograph), when I return next September.
From dinner guest (and washer-upper!) in Lisvernane to gangster's moll, Kate (above: me as a brunette... does not suit you daaarling!), on Friday night in a murder mystery play in a pub in Holycross. What an absolute blast! Two rehearsals, then go for it. There was a script, but much of the dialogue and action was improvized. Getting paid to frisk guys in the pub for pieces was hilarious. The patrons erupted, rising to the occasion. I loved the whole thing of having to think on my feet! From Friday night to Saturday afternoon in Cork, (I had already driven to Adare in Co. Limerick, that morning, to meet a girl to discuss her wedding flowers) where I played the role of Rose in a piece called Days of Roses written by UCC MA student, Aoife McCarthy. This is a very moving piece about the onset of Rose's dementia and underlines the undying love that exists between Rose and her husband, Eddie. As it was introduced by one of my very favourite songs, Tom Waits singing Martha, I found it even more difficult to hold back the tears, that were to come later on in the piece. I then played a completely different role in the guise of the Stepmother in Snow Grey, another play written by UCC MA student, Niamh Quinlan. It was an absolute pleasure to be involved with such well-written, moving pieces. I had a genuine lump in my throat! I wish all the MA students, the very best of luck in their theses.
What Shoes Shall I wear?
From Cork, drove to Killarney (lovely drive through small picturesque villages) to attend the annual AIMS (Association of Irish Musical Societies) Awards Ball, which was being held in the Gleneagel Hotel, the same night. It has been held there for the last 7 or 8 years, chiefly, because its one of the few hotels in the country that can cater for 1000 upwards. The Ball is the focal point of this weekend, where award nominees, from all over Ireland, assemble with family and friends. Once the meal is over, the winners from the various categories are announced, midst nail-biting excitement. The ceremony resembles that of the Oscars, and indeed, it has grown from strength to strength over the years, and is executed in a highly professional manner.
My Partner for the Evening!
Both HMS Pinafore and Oklahoma, that I directed in Clonmel, received nominations. Unfortunately, we didn't win the final award, but hey, to get nominated in the company of two others, from the whole length and breadth of Ireland, is a great achievement and a wonderful recognition of all the talent in St. Mary's Choral Society. A night of cheoil agus craic was had by all. Meeting up with old friends from other societies, that I had perhaps first met 27 years ago, while pregnant with Katy, was quite scary! Left the Gleneagle after four in the morning. I love being up at that hour, watching the world wake up, bathed in that special first light, to listen to the first birdsong of the day. It makes me feel so happy to be a part of this 'magical spectacle' that happens every day, on our doorstep, imagine! Like a child ... I get so excited.
Ruins of McCarthy Mor Castle taken at 5 am
I had left booking a hotel until the last moment and wasn't able to get into any of the usual ones. How fortunate, was I! I eventually booked a room at the Lake Hotel on the road out of Killarney towards Muckross House. The room was extremely spacious and airy with spectacular views of Castlelough and McCarthy Mor Castle ruins from the bedroom balcony.
Brochure photograph of McCarthy Mor Castle at night
McCarthy Mor Castle was apparently the last castle in Ireland to fall to Cromwell's army. General Ludlow was responsible for the destruction of the castle at Castlelough and Muckross Abbey on the same day in 1635 AD. From this medieval castle, Donal McCarthy ruled the two Munsters as titular King of Desmond. It is said he had a passion for securing as many trophies from the plumed helmets of Elizabethan troops. He was known locally as 'Dan the Feathers'. He collected so many that women from the locality were employed in the making of beds. He is reputed to have been extravagant, with a fondness for a drop of the hard stuff, but nevertheless, a strong leader, who protected his territory with diplomacy rather than force. The English chivalry dubbed him, 'The Robin of Munster'.
Queen Victoria may have stood here!
The Lake Hotel was built in 1820 on the shoreline of Castle lough. Queen Victoria stayed there in 1861 during her visit to Ireland. In 1940 the hotel was acquired by the Huggards of Waterville and operated by the late Hilda Huggard. The Huggards were also presented with Ashford Castle in Cong, Co. Mayo by the Irish Government to restore the castle to a top quality hotel. Hilda's family are still involved in the hotel and continue the Huggard traditions of hospitality in the Irish tourism industry
I'm gonna reach out and grab ya!
When we arrived back to our room in the early hours, I made coffee and sat out on the balcony to soak up the early morning atmosphere. A deer wandered down to the edge of the lake. He waded there for some time looking for food, I presume. I took several photographs of him in the silence, but, unfortunately, failed to capture him or the moment on camera. Poetic justice perhaps! Well had to get a couple of hours sleep. Didn't really want to miss any of this magic, but knew I'd be wrecked later, if I didn't.
The Majesty and Mystery of both Lake and Trees
After three or four hours sleep and breakfast, we headed out to walk along the lakeshore. Mmmm....heavenly!
Like the Sun in all its Glory
I would have liked to have spent more time exploring, but as it was Father's Day, Emma, my eldest daughter, was flying home from London to surprise her father. So I made excuses about having to get home for something or other. The plan had been that Emma was coming home on Wednesday to sing at our friend's wedding on Thursday
A Blue Invitation
I am not, in general, a hotel person, but there was something incredibly relaxed and calming about the Lake Hotel in Killarney. I could have stayed there for a long week-end or perhaps even longer. I will go back there sometime during the Summer or Autumn, armed with food, coffee and cigarettes, to live, for the most part on the balcony, writing, reading, and watching the longest running spectacular production, of all time, 'From Day to Night and Back Again'.
From Killarney back to Tipperary on Sunday lunch-time. Barbecue in the garden Sunday evening ...Dad suitably surprised and happy. Everyone excited ... 'chat and catch up time!' From Tipperary to flower wholesalers in Limerick at 8am Monday morning to collect greenery and sundries. I was doing the wedding flowers for Nell, daughter of my very dear friends, Nancy and Jim, who was getting married in Bansha church on Thursday. Rehearsals in Tipperary town on Monday afternoon for my group 'Class Act', who were presenting our version of Hansel and Gretel on Tuesday for their parents and friends. Buckets washed, filled with water and conditioner for greenery and peonies (which require more time than most flowers to open.) Bowls and trays filled with oasis and taped. Thank God Emma had come home early! We were creating floral arrangements for both the Church ceremony and the wedding reception in Kilshane House. A mammoth task. Kilshane House and its sumptious grounds provide an absolutely wonderful setting for wedding celebrations.. Indeed, the weirdo of rock, Marilyn Manson, held his wedding party there, following his marriage to burlesque artiste, Dita Von Teese.
Tuesday morning, arrangements greened, costumes to be fixed for evening production, props etc. to be gathered. Twenty minutes before final rehearsal, text message to say Hansel could not make it. Great! Had to collar an unsuspecting victim to fill in, script in hand. All went well. Finished at 7.30pm. Parents and children happy ... I think! Back home again. Make bows for bay trees and walk-through aisle arrangements. Wednesday morning, on the road to Limerick at 6am to collect flowers. Loaded them into the van and back home by 8.45 am.
Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese - Wedding reception at Kilshane House
All flowers have to be cut and conditioned, but hydrangeas require a special treatment. I had to cut 100 blue hydrangeas, dip them into boiling hot water first, then put them into a cold bath, cutting the stems again under water, and leaving their heads submerged in the cold water for two hours, which required being weighted down. Anyway, it was flowers, fast and furious, all day and almost all night. The wedding was at 1.30 pm the following day, which meant I didn't get to bed until 5am Thursday morning. Up again at 7.30am to finish arrangements, bridal and bridesmaids bouquets, button holes for the gents etc. Arrangements had to be delivered and positioned etc. then, in Church and Kilshane. 189 pink rose buds to be placed in the fold of each napkin, floating candles and peony heads to decorate the pond in the conservatory, candle ring arrangements for the windows on the way to the orangerie, fireplaces, bouquets for the mums etc.etc.
There's always an adrenalin rush with wedding flowers, with the whole 'will I make it thing' going on. (Perhaps, that's just me!) But made it ...phew! Nell and her family were delighted with the flowers, Emma sang like an angel, and I had a ball. It had been two years since I had arranged flowers for a wedding and I'd forgotten how much I love it and how utterly enthralled I become in the process, and Wednesday night merging into Thursday morning, was just so ... so special. Just the moon, the flowers, and me!
My floral arrangements in Reception Hall of Kilshane House.
That night, as I walked from house to garden work station, under an arbour of honeysuckle and roses, I caught the moon smiling at me, and then a moment was born ... a moment of entropy. All that was in my mind and my heart floated out beyond the confines of flesh and bones, and as the spirits of the night entered me, we became one, the night and I.. It was so perfect, I thought I would die! Tried putting it into words.
A PERFECT MOMENT TO DIE
In a moment of fairy-lit stillness,
A moment of wide-eyed crystal,
On a heady wedding eve,
Draped in the navy before birdsong,
And watched by yellow-faced moon
Through vapour veil of fairy breath,
A hydrangea, painted with love in blue,
Kissed blushing peony, smiling in pink,
And like your hand on my arm, that day ...
A perfect moment to die.
Maureen Walsh © 2010
What a week. What a crazy, beautiful week!
Ciao for now!