23.07.2011 - 14.08.2011
The next three weeks were to be spent in the village of Carnew in the southern part of Co Wicklow.
We drove from New Ross on the Friday evening after work, and found the GP, his wife and 6 teenagers excitedly packing their surfboards for their annual holiday in Kerry. “The Shed” is a stylishly renovated cottage in their garden, fitted out by Ikea, and was to be ours for the next three weeks. It is situated in the countryside, about 2km from the village and surrounded by ripe wheatfields, grazing cattle and sheep.
The surgery hours are not onerous [on Thursdays and Fridays only starting at 1100], but no appointments are made, so up to 25 patients can “walk-in” during the 3 hours of opening! Gumboots covered in cow dung, smelly feet, halitosis and BO are order of the day! The private patients are generally very genteel and their accent understandable. The mumblings of many others are often undecipherable! As found in the rest of Ireland there is a lot of chronic disease, genetic problems and cancer. Very few seem to have joined the dots between healthy lifestyle, healthy eating and health. Obesity and smoking are the big issues that no-one appears to clamp down on. Everyone grumbles about the weather [it’s been the coldest July on record!] One sunny morning, with the temperature a lovely 22 degrees, conversation was overheard in the waiting room complaining about the heat!
We’ve settled into a relaxed routine after all the recent stresses. The weekly shopping trips usually involve visits to 3 or 4 supermarkets: Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Dunne’s stores, to get the best of the bargains.
In between her busy working schedule, Sandi cooks some wonderful dinners on a budget, and with no accommodation costs to pay, we are managing to live fairly economically. Working from "home" has its advantages and disadvantages, as Sandi experiences when she has to contend with the gardener who assiduously mows the large lawn every week for 2-3 hours, and the scores of country bees that fly in through the windows when left open.
Wednesday afternoons there is no surgery, so we drove up to Dublin the first week for an appointment with a prosthesis company. We were shown around the factory and given a personalised presentation about their products. We are looking at this as a possible business opportunity in SA.
The country lanes are lovely to explore on foot [as long as you don't get mown down by a combine harvester!]
On David's birthday Sandi prepared a delicious 3 course banquet-for-two: mixed seafood starter followed by roast lamb and veg, finishing off with a divine Pavlova-ish meringue concoction with freshly made lemon curd and thick cream!
On Saturday David had to drive down to Waterford for a long overnight shift. Sandi needed a homeopathic remedy which we did not have with us, so we Googled and phoned health shops, but they did not stock any either. We were given the name of a local homeopath in Thomastown, which was halfway to Waterford. We arranged to meet on Sunday to pick up the remedy. She told us about the local arts festival, so we decided to make a day of it, as David had managed to get a few hours sleep on his shift. We had a lovely chat with Breda and her English husband Jerry over a cup of tea, and found we had a lot of common interests. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the galleries and studios of Thomastown, looking at mosaics, ceramics, paintings, wood sculptures and crafts.
And to escape the squalls of rain we were obliged to stop in for a pint as well!
On the way home we made a round trip to drop in at Hillview farm, to visit Rosemary, The Poached Egg Queen, and her family. Her daughter took Sandi down to the glorious veggie patch to harvest some delicious home-grown veg for our dinners!
We were looking for an evening of Irish traditional music before we left this green isle, but heard instead about a weekly evening of storytelling and song. Armed with directions [which are invariably inaccurate!] we set off down narrow country lanes on Tuesday evening, to find the “House of Storytelling” tucked away in the woods, like Hansel and Gretel’s house.
There was a surprisingly large crowd, only half of whom had managed to squeeze into the cosy and warm, but tiny, cottage. Another group was started outside with a circle of chairs.
Paul, who comes down from Dublin every week, entertained us with guitar, songs and jokes.
This old man of 80 plus gave a long recitation, without missing a word. Then a three year old girl was keen to share her version of “I’m a little teapot”. Mugs of tea were passed around, and we helped ourselves to cakes and scones. Everyone was expected to buy raffle tickets, to help fund the evenings. Our ticket numbers were drawn, but on further examination, it was decided that the series was wrong, so we weren’t winners after all! At this point, it was becoming very chilly outside, and as some folks had left, those remaining managed to squeeze inside the cottage, for the remainder of the evening. A “talking stick” is passed around, and when it comes to you, you can entertain in any way you choose. Some kids played pennywhistle and violin, some ladies sang ballads, one old lady gave an endearing, long recitation [in rhyming couplets] about school days when she was young. Everyone rose at the end to sing the Irish anthem accompanied by the accordion. It was an enchanting evening and we felt very privileged to have been part of this preservation of tradition and culture.
Breda had also informed us about the arts festival in Kilkenny, so we made that our project for Wednesday afternoon. Again it was about an hour’s drive away, but the countryside is so beautiful to drive through. First stop was a lovely old pub called Kyteler’s Bar, for a hot pub lunch as it was raining and cold and we were starving. At last we found the renowned Kilkenny draught, which no-one else in Ireland seems to sell. There were lots of foreigners in town, but not a lot of art to see. Flowers everywhere made the streets very attractive.
Most of the shows were at times or dates that were not suitable for us, so after a few hours of trudging, and a severe case of “Disney foot”, we decided to call it a day.
On Thursday David opened the Health Centre to pick up the laptop to use at the clinic at nearby Shillelagh. The laptop was missing and the window broken! Crime makes its presence felt even here! Apparently, since the local Garda station has been relocated 2 years ago to Baltinglass [30km away], the crime rate has escalated here.
All too soon the three weeks came to an end and it was time for Sandi to catch her plane to Scotland. On Sunday David dropped her at Dublin airport and drove down to New Ross in time for the evening shift at Caredoc. Two memorable home visits were made on consecutive shifts to two patients that are so fat they cannot ever get out of bed - one was an elderly man and the other a woman in her thirties - incredible that people can get to that point!