23 March – 9 April 2020
After a smooth crossing to Belfast we only left our cabin to return to our vehicles. Danny had the surreal experience of being the first off the boat – a good omen, we hope. Kate had the more normal experience of being one of the last and we drove down in convoy to our safe haven in the ancient Kingdom of Mourne.
We were greeted to our new temporary home by Anne, Martin and our nephew Neal and, most energetically, by the family member whose home we were to share – Bella, the cocker spaniel. We parked up and on the advice of Martin and Neal started to fortify our home against Bella. This may seem a bit extreme but Neal had once kept his bus in the compound and Bella had happily chewed away at anything she could reach underneath – it was never the same again! We have a few vulnerable bits underneath so we built our defences carefully – or so we thought. A mix of concrete, wood and chicken wire that Martin scavenged for us. She broke through them 4 times the first day and it took another week before she called a truce, although she keeps an eye (and nose) out for any change that would justify a renewal of attacks.
We ordered fencing materials that first day and are still waiting. There has been a huge surge in demand for DIY deliveries as people on Coronavirus shut-down start doing all those jobs they have been meaning to, and for some reason deliveries to Northern Ireland are proving problematic. The fence is much needed – we made the mistake of leaving our camping stools unattended for a couple of minutes outside the van and she removed a bite-sized chunk from one of the fabric seats.
Our safe haven is a hard-cored, fenced compound about 120ft x 60ft. We look out across a quiet country lane to fields and each morning we awake to the songs of wrens and blackbirds. Up the road are the Mourne mountains and half a mile down the road is a rocky beach, so plenty of scope for our daily exercise.
This consists of walking Bella whose efforts to pull arms from sockets are strongly resisted! Down on the beach there are seals who lie on rocks poking from the water and lazily watch us, and it is rare to see any other people on the beach. When we walk the lanes there are lots of new lambs and calves in the fields and the daffodils and gorse are still splashing the countryside with yellow. And of course there are miles of Mourne walls. Built with boulders reclaimed from the mountain slopes they are a very unique type of dry-stone walling – we have certainly never seen them anywhere else.
It feels very odd having to keep such a distance from our family, but we chat at a distance and have developed a routine. First thing we put the car outside the compound and let Bella, then empty waste and top up fresh water over the second coffee of the morning. Kate spends a bit of time trying to teach an old dog new tricks (Bella that is) and we take her for a long walk at random times of day. In the evening we put Bella to bed before bringing the car back in the compound. We shop every 5 or 6 days which allows us to enjoy the scenery with the roof of the car down, weather permitting which unusually for Ireland, it has. We feel secure and the lovely scenery, fresh air and walks with Bella are doing a good job of keeping us sane in lock-down.
We feel very lazy and really enjoy getting updates from friends and family, particularly some of the funnies that circulate on t’internet. We monitor what is happening elsewhere with full-timers but at the moment give no thought to future plans. Oh, and without any effort at all, we acquired another ‘great’ so congratulations to Becca & Ben on producing such a lovely little girl. We await our next ‘great’ – due in May – with a slight feeling of unreality as we don’t know when we will be back in England to see the new little ones, or even when we will be able to visit our family over here. Strange times.
Keep well everyone.