Monday, September 29, 2008

The Auctioneers

Buying & selling houses in Ireland has its quirks and can be 'quaint' to put it mildly. When we came here a little over ten years ago, I recall all the house details we were given had hand written directions on them. The usefullness of these varied as some had such directions as, "Turn left where the old school was".

A typical encounter, and a true one, was the day we walked into 'Key Properties' in Bantry. In my hand I had another auctioneer's details of a house we had been looking at. The same property was listed in this auctioneers houses for sale. I compared the two descriptions. Both were very different, especially when it came to room sizes, distances from villages and the amount of land. "Excuse me", I asked, "How come the room sizes are different on this property from the description I have here from another auctioneer's?"
"Let me see" he said as he snatched the offending document out from my hand. He carefully studied the document through the glasses perched on the end of his nose and then looked up at me. "The same man wrote both".
"How was that possible?", I asked. He went on to tell me that the surveyor who did the description for him & Key Properties had written the description, then left and got a job with a rival auctioneers and that this new auctioneers had commissioned the said surveyer to measure up the same house. He recognised the handwriting! Indeed, on checking they were by the same hand.

On another visit to another auctioneer's we came away with two property details to view. Both had very different directions to follow. We arrived at the first house and met the owners. As we left and got into our car another couple pulled up also clutching an auctioneer's house details. "Do you know where this is?", they asked, flourishing the property details at me. I looked at the property details - it was the same property as the one we were due to see in half an hour. On closer inspection both sets of directions for the same property and from the same town were quiet different. Before I could work out whose were right a lady came out of a small lane and at the end a small white cottage could be seen. She announced cheerfully she was waiting for people who were coming to see her house. In return we asked for directions to the houses on our property details. "Why thats this house!" she exclaimed, looking at the details. The other couple offered their house description & hand drawn map. Why thats this house too!" The auctioneer had given us two completely different sets of very different directions for two houses which in effect were next door to each other!! Despite having two separate appointment times, the owner kindly invited to look round her house together. She looked up the road and quietly whispered to us. "Thats Ian Bailey's house -- Sophie Du Plantier!!!". Seeing our complete lack of understanding she explained that Ian Bailey was the only suspect in a brutal murder the previous year. We did not buy this house. But unbelievingly we did buy the house next door we had just looked at. And we bought it from Ian Bailey's partner, Jules Thomas!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Going Home

We're going home! After ten years of living here in Ireland, we're returning to Whitby and the North Yorkshire Moors. We should be leaving on the 23rd of October 2008. Trish and I have been asked many times why we want to leave our beautiful house and garden. (See it here)
There are many reasons. In no particular order:-
  • If you want to travel anywhere beyond europe you've got travel to the Uk first
  • If you want to get anything done properly don't count on getting done here
  • There's nothing to do when you've done everything else
  • They don't like dogs here. Or walkers. There's no public footpaths. Everywhere is private
  • I'm sick of Guinness & Murphy's
  • I miss the snow & the sound of church bells
  • It's too far from anywhere and too difficult to get to
  • Yorkshire is where we're from.
  • I want more excitement in life before I die.
  • The driving standards here are dangerous. Worse than Calcutta at rush hour.(see here)
However this being Ireland there are a few problems in the way. We''ve discovered there was no planning permission on the house when it was significantly altered in the 70's - the original solicitor didn't pick this up. But then he was the solicitor who tried to sell us the wrong house for several weeks until I pointed out his mistake, and he was also the solicitor that told me I was wrong about our boundaries ( I was right. We've lost some land!!!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hedgelaying Course - Ireland

The weekend before the Kerry Way Walking tour I ran a weekend hedgelaying course on the Manche Estate for the Irish Natural Forestry Foundation

I'm only one of six qualified hedgelayers in Ireland and a member of the Hedge Laying Association or Ireland. There were only four booked on the course which meant it was easier for me to make sure they all got some supervised training. As they introduced themselves I eyed up their clothing and boots making sure they were adequate for the purpose. Peter, a doctor from Dublin had the added protection of eye protectors, something a colleague of mine had discussed previously whether these should be made compulsory on training courses. We compare sharpness of our cutting tools. This is important as without very sharp axes & billhooks you will struggle. They get a quick lesson in sharpening. I quickly got to know the group and the weekend passed quickly. The best part for me was when i introduced them to a relatively easy hedge to lay and just about left them to themselves only interviening when asked or to offer some guidance. Here you can see the result of their efforts. They should be justifiably proud after just 12 hours of instruction. This will almost certainly be the last of my annual training workshops as we are returning to the UK.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tour guiding the Kerry Way.Co.Kerry

I meet the group of six in a Killarny Restaurant on Sunday evening having missed the first full day as I was running a hedgelaying course for the Irish Natural Forestry Foundation. The hand-over from the previous tour guide goes without hitch and I swat up on the notes for the trip in my room later.

The first day of walking for us takes us from Muckross House near Killarny to Gowlane cross roads just over 4km North of Kenmare following the old road. The weather which hasn't been good holds out until we reach the Windy Gap, the Irish name of which translates to, 'Arse to the wind'. It pours down. Luckily no one is too bothered and the weather is not too cold. we arrive at Gowlane and I attempt to call our pick up who is going to transport us to the Derrynane Hotel near Caherdaniel. This proves difficult. In the pouring rain I try to find my contact number, my mobile phone and my glasses. Everything gets wet and the ink runs in the wet. Luckily the group are sheltering in a barn and can't see me. After a few minutes I get myself organised. I make my call only to discover no signal. I pray the bus arrives and we've not been forgotten. On time I see a mini-bus approaching. I hope it is ours. It pulls up and we're soon inside We sit in the bus listening to 'Irish' music and a rather good joke about the Irish moon landings (on CD). A couple of the group doze. Its been a long day and we've covered about 15k in 6.5 hours.

After a pleasant evening getting to know the group better, the following day dawns wet and rainy. We're picked up at 9:30am and the driver takes us to Sneam some 18km away. The lady driving the taxi tells us the weather will clear as it appears bright in the SW where the weather is coming from. We endure a long day through soaking wet hills and wet paths. As we make a short detour to visit the Staigue Fort I realise that unlike the last time I did this route we're not going to be picked up here and have to walk another 7km to the hotel. It turns out to be a long day. Tracey from Canada asks me is it possible to cut short the route the following day by getting a taxi if its raining. Oh dear! I worry if the weather is dampening more than our waterproof clothing. In the hotel that evening I get a couple of taxi numbers just in case.
The hotel has a slightly heated outside swimming pool. I go for a swim and am joined by Liz a doctor from Boston USA and Anne-Marie from Luxemburg. Afterwards Anne-Marie and I sit in the hotel sauna. It's hot. Anne-Marie announces that we should jump back in the pool, which she does. I announce I'm a wimp and go back to my room for a quick (hot) shower and change.

The following morning it is still raining. We now walk around the coast in the rain. Veronique, from France whose only protection from the rain is a poncho accepts my offer of the loan of a spare anorak I have in my rucksac. I listen carefully to see whether the group are dispirited with Irish weather but all appears well. The steep walk up to the Ring of Kerry Road has the wind blowing on our back. A relief from blowing in our faces.The view is stunning. Thick fog, rain and mist. I watch in amusement as tour bus after tour bus off loads their occupants for lunch and to admire the view. Tourists gaze into the mist looking for 'Irelands best known view' as the rain pours down. Our group try to visit the shop. They are evicted as the shop is too full. How times change! We walk on the road for a dangerous short 200mtrs before leaving it to head across the Beenarouke pass. I pray that the bus drivers are not looking for the view! The wind is blowing gale force - luckily at our backs. Crossing a style at the highest part we are blasted by the wind. For me it was like being in a Scottish mountain in winter. It's a few years since I've experienced this kind of weather. Soon we loose height and the worst of the wind is gone. The view, which is normally stunning is reduced to watching mist go by. We gather round a wedge tomb in the wet and wind. The group gets a short description on tombs in the wet, wind and rain. We move on squelching along the wet path until we arrive at the minor road and quickly make our destination, the Charlie Chaplin statue in Waterville. I remind the group that they do funny things to the grass here to make it greener and tell them about a previous visit. (here). We all retire to a cafe and wait 20 minutes whilst the owner prepares our drinks!. Brenda, who went missing several minutes ago re-appears and I relax. Joe entertains the owner's children as they attempt to do their homework on one of the ajoining tables. On time were picked up and taken to our B&B for the night the San Antoine in Caherciveen. Once the group are settled in I go to the nearest supermarket for more food for our lunches the next day.
That evening we go for a walk in the town. A few minutes of window shopping later and we've walked the length of the main street. Tracy asks, "Is that it?, I've nothing to do tomorrow now." Waterville has all the atmosphere of a town in terminal decay. Later that evening over food I outline some choices for their day off the next day.

Our day off dawns clear and sunny. I take a walk the few kilometers to catch the ferry to Valentia Island. If it rains I won't be sheltering in the terminal building. (click here to read more) The road seems a long walk on my own and catch the ferry and pay my two euro return fare to the Polish ticket collector. Liz joins me on the next ferry and we have an enjoyable walk around Knights Town. Liz's camera runs out of power and we go to the shop for batteries. The old boy in the shop points out that they won't work in digital cameras. Liz insists they will and he looks at me as if he expects support. He gets none. Liz buys her new batteries despite his objections and the camera works again - but only for another day!! The walk back passes quickly as Liz and I talk.

The final day of walking dawns clear and we're taken to our drop off near the Kells Post office and enjoy & pleasant walk along still wet tracks until we gain the the old road which takes us without incident to our final destination 18km away at Ross Behy. We enjoy some fine views across the hills and down onto the Ring of Kerry road, watching the tour buses far below us. I don't envy them one bit! Sitting on the wall of the car park at Ross Behy a few hours later we relax and I bring out the bottle of wine I was given at the Derrynane Hotel. Ross Behy as a long area of fine beach and sand dunes. A newly built children's play ground dominates the scene. Clearly the visitors here cannot be bothered to play on the miles of beach!.
That evening over our final meal together I ask the group about the trip and we all share pleasant memories. Luckily I can't be blamed for the weather!

The following morning we all say our good-byes. Some are going on to Dingle and others returning home. I'm handed a generous tip in an envelope. With some embarrassment I mumble some thanks. I'm never too sure what to say or do. I later hope that I did not sound too ungrateful. Tips are a considerable part of a guides income as the basic pay is rather small. (OK you get to stay in nice hotels and eat excellent food for nothing as well, so I'm not really complaining!). For me this will probably be my last work as tour guide in Ireland as we are to move back to the UK in October. Its been good fun and I can honestly say I've enjoyed the company of every participant and have learned a lot from them.
This tour was planned and organised by South West Walks Ireland based in Tralee, Co.Kerry. Slainte!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Charlie Chaplin (The Statue)

Whilst most towns and cities erect statues to their famous born sons or daughters its clear that Waterville, in Co.Kerry Ireland is a bit short on this front. In fact, so short are they of anyone to note ever having come from the place, they have erected this life size statue to Charlie Chaplin. We all know he wasn't born here - but they needed a statue. Who to choose? Oh!, I know, Charlie Chaplin! According to the information board our Charlie came here on holidays. Yes its true! One famous person has been to Waterville - apart from me that is.
It does not suprise me that the poor folk of Waterville do this because they are also the people who have such a complex about the color of their golf course they did this to it.

Ferry Terminal - Irish style

One of the interesting things about tour guiding is the things you see. As you can see this carefully built and pristine terminal is designed for, erhhh??? Well, certainly not passengers and was clearly used by fisherman to store smelly wellingtons, dead fish, dirty waterproofs, nets and unidentified rusting objects.
This is the ferry to Valentia Island in Co.Kerry, Ireland.