Saturday 9 July 2011

So you think it's dark?

Sean has finished the seventh and last Harry Potter book this week. He looks rather bereft and has been re-reading parts of it and the first book, which Finn has been manfully inching through. (It's probably too much for him to read but, credit to him, he has stuck with it, a page or two at a time). We got a loan of the first six films on DVD and the big three have been watching those too, but only in the morning as they are rated higher than we would normally allow the boys to watch. Evening viewing would no doubt lead to over-active minds and nightmares and sleepwalking. As it is, the boys have been finding sticks to use as wands and quoting spells in an ongoing simulation of Harry Potter. Rowan, as ever, is a prime instigator of what he sees in films and other media - a real digital native.

The Nintendo DS and Wii have been sidelined recently with Moshi Monsters, an interactive internet-based game, the new in-thing with Sean and his friends and, thereby, with Finn and then Rowan as observer-in-chief. Finn has been miffed that the holiday house does not have an Internet conection. He's had to make do with playing solitaire on the laptop, even though we brought the DS and there is a Wii here. All three have grabbed others' phones at every opportunity to play any games they can find on there. My phone is so old it only does phone calls and text messages so they're on a loser there!

Thursday was wet and miserable, the first morning we've woken to mist-obscured hills and lashing rain. Joan whisked Sharon away to lunch in Gort and shopping in Loughrea while I oversaw the lads. After lunch I headed out with them in the car. Angus had already slept, Finn took a while to doze off but Sean and Rowan were soon asleep on the drive to Gort. Nothing doing there in the rain so I headed towards Galway via Claregalway. Nothing doing there either except horrendous traffic. Sean woke up and was sick in the car. Marvellous. I cleaned that out then drove (slowly) back to Kinvara. The others woke. No-one wanted to walk in the drizzle. Over two hours of driving (well done to Angus for his patience) and nothing to show for it.

Friday was a little better and we headed into Kinvara to a small farmers' market (it was the market that was small, rather than the farmers). There was some lovely produce on show. Shame it hadn't been at the beginning of the week. Angus was fascinated by the caged hens. Heavy rain returned so we lunched back at the house, put Angus down for a nap and had some quiet time reading (well, as quiet as you can manage when Finn and Rowan are bored and niggling each other). There was some good colouring going on.

Later we headed out on the winding N67, south through Ballyvaghan to Ailwee Cave. Strangely no sickness, despite the undulating road. A tractor "train" hauled us up from the car park to the cave entrance. We clambered a little way up the limestone crag, Rowan and Angus managing very well, then we embarked on the 30-minute cave tour. The story of the cave's discovery is quite remarkable. In 1940 or thereabouts, a farmer's dog chased a rabbit down a hole. The farmer followed and discovered a long narrow cave. When it got too dark he returned and brought back a candle to explore further. He kept his knowledge of the cave secret for 30 years until he told a group of Bristol cavers about it. They duly explored its length. Subsequently the land was bought and the cave opened up to the public.

There is a smooth roof to the cave from the underground river which originally forced its way through a fissure in the hillside and which occasionally still floods the cave. We saw bear hibernation pits and the 2000-year-old remains of a brown bear skeleton. There were stalactites and stalagmites, narrow passages and a waterfall. In the midst of the cave, the lights were extinguished. The darkness is absolute. We made sure we were holding the boys' hands. Sean often complains when his light goes off at night and I close over his door: this, I told him, was what "too dark" really meant. The guide put on a small light which was the equivalent of the candle the farmer used to explore the cave. It was feeble in the extreme. Sharon had visited here on a school trip years ago. On a Coen family trip, apparently Edel had freaked out when they switched off the lights. All in all it was an interesting tour.

We drove back to Kinvara, the boys kept awake by means of ice lollies. Joan arrived to babysit then Sharon and I met Michael and Marie in Gort at a restaurant in Queen St. There is a high incidence of coeliacs in the west of Ireland and so "we" are well catered for. I had an excellent mezze starter and a good rib-eye steak while Sharon had a green salad and a shellfish broth. The service was a bit patchy but there was definitely a deft hand in the kitchen. It was a good end to our week in Kinvara.

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