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26 May 2012


25th May. 
After a pleasant overnight with family in Dublin, we set off south to Wexford to visit Jeremy and Rosie Hill at Monksgrange.  The weather is wonderful and flowers and colour everywhere.  The gardens are beautiful.  We are surrounded by the colour of rhodendrons, azaleas, bluebells and primroses and listened to the delightful sound of a happily flowing stream between the rocky paths. The parklands around the house are dotted with new lambs and foals amongst the grand old trees.  At the stables we watched while a mare was being scanned for pregnancy and could see the tiny 16 day fetus inside her.  We had to wait on the driveway while a mother shooed her new baby lamb across in front of the car.  

sculpture garden 

Now we are in Mallow, after an uneventful journey from Monksgrange to Cork.  Great new bridge bypassing Waterford - what a difference that makes to time and comfort compared with the last time we were here!

Contemplating the River Lee in Cork - looking over towards Grenville Place
Cork was fine, we just parked in a car park and wandered around doing our bits of history research.  Visited St Finnbarres, and St Peters, but found no trace of the Lombard name anywhere.  A major problem was that it was practically impossible to read the weathered inscriptions on the old tombstones.  Also a new organ was being installed so the cathedral was very restricted inside. Interesting the connections with France, the Hugenots were in that area, and of course the gothic style of building inspired by the French gothic.  It reminded us of Chartres on a smaller scale.   However the stained glass a windows are a bit cheerier than the French Catholic - much softer in subect.  The French stained glass seem to be full of martyrs, torture, blood and guts hanging out, suffering of every description - just an observation. 
Had a very pleasant time watching an otter catching and eating fish in the river - it was very lively and looked up at the admiring crowd as if to say "watch this one!"

Summer seems to have come with us!  

Lombardstown and Kilshannig:

What a very successful and exciting day was coming up.  
We set off first for Lombardstown and called into the Post Office to make some enquiries about the history, also to ask where we could find Lombardstown House.  There we met the Post Mistress, Catherine Healy-Byrne, who was very taken with our story and delighted to help us. We were devastated to hear the news that Lombardstown House had burnt down only a couple of months ago.  The present owner who did not live locally, had rented the house out and a few months ago it was destroyed by fire.  No one knows what happened, and everyone was very sad to see such a magnificent house destroyed.  We tried to find access to the house but the gates were chained and padlocked, and we couldn’t see the building from the gates.

We asked for directions to Kilshannig church to visit the graveyard there.  The locals have that very complicated Irish way of giving directions:  we listen madly to the detailed directions only to be told, "no, don't go that way...  go on ahead..."The church has been deconsecrated, and now belongs to the Cork County Coucil.  The grounds and graves are very overgrown.  We waded through nettles and brambles and with great excitement John found the Lombard family tomb. The massive stone cover was carved with many generations of the names of the Lombard 

family who were buried there.  Names, dates of birth and dates of death, where they were from and their wives were from, were carved into the stone slab.  It was very hard to read as the carving was extremely weathered.  However, we felt a great sense of achievement having found it.

With difficulty we clambered unto a tomb near the side of the church so we could peer in the windows.  The inside has been painted and used for some gallery or some such thing, so nothing much there.   We decided not to bother looking for the key.

After that we needed a rest, and took ourselves to a small village pub at Gortroe.  A lovely pub, with a football theme, and car registrations from all over the world covering the walls, along with wisecrack sayings, such as: “Would you like to speak to the man in charge, or the woman who knows what happens?”  A chatty friendly host and locals at the bar, were delighted to discuss the history of the place and hear about our search.  We picked up some good information there.

Shortly afterwards we had a phone call from the kind Post Mistress telling us that her neighbour Tim Ring had the keys to the house gates.   We dashed back to Lombardstown and met not only Tim Ring, but another local historian Donie O’Sullivan.  They are all fascinated by our search, and we exchanged contacts and had a long chat. 

We proceeded up the road and picked up Tim Ring who took us to the house.  He unlocked the padlock on the massive iron gates and with difficulty we pushed them open.

The house appeared gaunt and ghostly. It is an ugly picture presently, the walls are still standing, with gaping holes where the windows had been and the ground around is covered in smashed fragments of grey slate from the roof. The structure is extremely fragile.   A smell of burnt wood and old ash still hangs about the air.

It was a strangely narrow house, four stories high, built of red brick imported from England, evidently because it was ‘cheap’. 
The remains of an ornate front door arch, and a window frame above it, copying the same shape are still there. Fireplaces hang out of the walls above.  But not one trace in the house of anything personal, I could not see any remains of wall paper, or beams, or any furniture.  The only thing that seems to have survived is a dog kennel out behind the kitchen.

We finished up the day by calling in to see a woman called Patricia Foot on Tim Ring’s advice.  However, she could not tell us anything more than we already knew.  Her family have lived in the area for 300 years and they also have a vault in the Kilshannig churchyard.   She was very kind and gave us a cup of tea and delicious orange cake!  A nice pick-me-up at the end of a long day.
We are now back in our room, uploading photographs and sipping a white wine before going out to dinner.


We have just had a delicious breakfast at the B&B, cereal, fruit and yoghurt, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.  Had dinner last night at a local Indian, hot vindaloo, pretty good. 
Off to Lombardstown again today!

22 May 2012

Rainy days!

I felt really trapped indoors yesterday, rain, rain and more rain, but managed to pass the day working at my computer and doing some carding of Maria's black fleece.   

We had dinner last night with some local friends who run a gite here, and had a great catch up on general local news.

Today, more rain and grey, and we leave for Lyon airport at midday to fly to Dublin.  We'll pick up a car and drive to Glencullen to my sisters house for an overnight there, tomorrow to friends in Wexford and then on to Cork for the big Lombard research project, where we will stay for three days in Mallow.   We will follow on to Galway, and call in to Monivea and perhaps visit the mausoleum.  Two nights with John's cousin in Galway, and a visit to the house at Ballyglunin - John's mother's old home.  
We watch the French news in the mornings, there is a good 24 hour news program which we like.  Reports of the Italian earthquake and recovery are broadcast each day, what a tragedy.

Then there are the G8 reports and analysis of the new French President and every move he makes, what he wears, who he speaks to, etc.
A significant time for the new President, his first encounter with other world leaders in an official role, it must be so very intimidating for a new boy on the block feeling his way.  Whatever he does, there will be someone saying he should have done something else…..

Sunday – a bit warmer at last.   Had a lovely walk this morning followed by a great Sunday lunch at a local bar/restaurant with a friend.  Sunday lunch in a restaurant is a great French tradition, not something we often participate in.   We had four courses - delicious food and great value and only 10 minutes drive from here. A good result, we will try it again during the week for a “working man’s lunch” (Euros 15!!)

The only problem is – the rest of the day is a write off -  all we can do afterwards is have a long siesta and then wander around doing light bits and pieces.

We are despairing of spring ever coming.  The blackbirds and robins are singing away as if the sun was shining and warm, but it is grey and damp and for us, very cold.

Irises are starting to come out - I feel reluctantly, and I look at my fig tree every day in the hope of seeing even one small bud.  At least the roses are great, all looking strong and healthy and the first rich red one is out. I should be able to guide them up the front of the house this year. I tried to do some weeding this morning, but my hands were too cold.

It means spending more time indoors than we would have wished, keeping the fire going and trying to keep warm.  But that means some activity for me.  I washed part of a black fleece this morning (from Maria) and hope to start felting again when we come back from Ireland on 31st. I have to wait for our trip to Brittany - probably around the middle of June - to collect my spinning wheel.

Two loads of gravel came last week, and Alain has been spreading it in the two smaller caves. When proper windows are put in, it should be so damp.   He also started spreading gravel in the courtyard, and that is already a great improvement - no more red sand traipsed into the house on shoes! 
Friend coming for an apero this evening – will make a quiche as suspect it will be a long session.

14 May 2012

another day

The temperature plunged, and Saturday and the start of Sunday were very cold.   Sun arrived on Sunday afternoon again and I did a great deal of planting. - Salad, tomatoes, 4 rows of beans, carrots, rocquet, and mixed salad seeds.  Had a lovely walk all around the valley, enjoying a cool breeze and admiring the carpet of golden buttercups amongst queen anne’s lace and the deep green of the fields around.  Later I will plant onions.
This morning I watched a host of tiny little birds feeding on the vine in front of our windows, finches and tits, redstarts and others.

This year most of the French population will only work 4 days a week for the month of May, as there are 4 religious holidays which fall on Mondays!  A good time to prepare their gardens for summer.

People in the village are hopeful that there will be some changes under their new President.  He is a relatively inexperienced man, and has been a functionnaire for most of his life with a comfortable job, which doesn’t augur well for the difficult tasks ahead.  Just hope he has a really good team around him and listens to advice!

First Week Back

The journey was as always, comfortable but long.  On arriving in Geneva, snow still on the tops of the mountains, but quite pleasant weather.   Everything is very green, and the fields swathed in gold with buttercups and rape flowers.   The poppies are just appearing.  Apparently the weather was very severe this winter, down to minus 15 c, and I can see some of our plants have suffered.  Our old large rosemary bush, I suspect is gone.  Out greatest anxiety is for our fig tree, now quite big, but not looking good.  No buds or leaves, but I don’t think its completely gone.  Just need to some warm sun to get it going perhaps!
Its Saturday morning, just listening to the gentle sound of the clip clop of a horse, passing by pulling a small trap, a pleasant sound in this old worldly place.   The blackbirds are singing too.
We are sorting ourselves out and gradually getting over jetlag.   It has been raining overnight, so I am really pleased that Monsieur Charmouton dug the veggie patch and cut the grass.  Everyone had warned us that the weather was dreadful, rain and more rain.   When we arrived on Wednesday evening, it was warm with a pale sun, and the next two days were just perfect - even hot in the afternoon.  
However, this morning is grey again and we don't mind, as we both have a great deal of work to do at our computers. Never mind the ironing basket which is sky high.... Lots of work to do in the garden which I find to be much more interesting and helps sort out the melatonin.  I have a few plants and seeds which must go in today and establish themselves before we leave for Ireland.  Tomatoes, salad, beans, etc etc.  My roses look strong and flourishing, and everything else looks fine except for the weeds!
It is lovely to be here, and enjoy the sounds and smells of our valley, of course more noticeable when we first arrive.  It's such a beautiful valley, birdsong so beautiful -  a contrast to our birdsong in Aus -  gentle and melodious.  We have been able to eat outside on the galerie ever since we arrived on Wednesday evening.   The warmth radiating from the old stones of the galerie in the long light of the evening still feels remarkable, these stones have stories to tell.  
It's so strange to have this really tiny kitchen again after my enormous kitchen in Tallong. I spent yesterday evening getting in my own way all the time, just have to learn all over again where everything is, and I suppose first rule of a small kitchen is to "be tidy" !
We are going to Ireland on 22nd, mostly to do research for John for his family memoirs.   This time we will go to Cork where the Lombards arrived in 1290 and surprisingly there are good records. In the 17th c, they founded Lombardstown and built Lombardstown house near Mallow.  We will stay in Mallow for three days, then go north to Galway, Connemara and of course Monivea again, before returning via Dublin on 31st May.  
I am chewing over a new book at the moment, mostly about this village, so look forward to discussing it with friends and locals.   This village goes back to Roman times, with a strong footprint here on our house site.   I found a wonderful book - a transcription of interviews from the Inquisition, early 1300s, translated from the Latin by a scholar.  It is extraordinarily revealing about intimate details of village life at the time. What a valuable resource official records can be when we can access them. So although I made a small start last year, I have not spent a moment on it in the past six months when we were in Australia, just didn't have the time. 
 In Tallong, everyone will be basking in the success of Apple Day I hope.