Stone Walls and Sheep Pastures

I bought a house in Ireland.

Three weeks is plenty of time. When I left for Galway on March 23, that’s what I thought, anyway. I was not, however, prepared for the crazy housing market.

My job, while my husband worked at the Galway branch of his company, was to find a place to live for when we return in June permanently. Initially, we intended to rent for a year or so, have a chance to adjust to our new country and then decide where to buy a house. It turns out that renting in Galway is very expensive. As a result, anything decent, that is also not outrageously priced, is snapped up quickly. So every time I called about a house or apartment to rent, it was already gone. Only places at the extremes –either very high end or absolutely wretched– were available. By the end of the first week of searching, I was beginning to get nervous.

Week two, with the advice of my husband’s coworkers, we warmed up to the idea of buying a house. We have, after all, been visiting the area for over 14 years and explored it thoroughly. Home buying does not work quite the same way as it does in the states, though. An estate agent (realtor) doesn’t take you around to see properties listed by other agents. Rather, you contact an agent who is listing a house you’re interested in and he or she will show you the place. I must have spoken to 10 or more agents while searching.

In the midst of all this, I visit our new bank in Ireland and speak to one of the customer service representatives. Of all the experiences I’ve had, the one with our bank is the best. Everyone was kind and super helpful. Unfortunately, they also informed me that without a record of Irish credit, we would not qualify for a mortgage. It would take 6 to 9 months of weekly salary deposits for us to even get a credit card. And it doesn’t matter at all how much money you have in the bank. This changes everything. Now I have to narrow my search to homes we can pay for with the proceeds of the sale of our Bucks County home. Stress level rising.

Finally, at the end of week two, we found a really great apartment for sale in a town about 15 minutes away. Orenmore is a coastal village, full of shops, pubs, restaurants, etc. and would have been walking distance to the beach. Perfect, right? Yeah, a lot of other people thought so too. We got into a bidding war over the place. Our final offer would have been accepted but the seller wanted to close sooner than our June date. Lost out again.

Now I’m really pushing the panic button. I am imagining us living in an Air BnB, bleeding money. I’m thinking how we might have to settle for a really crappy rental or a super long commute from an outlying town. I’m wondering if I’ll be able to walk places like I hoped to. We needed to expand our search.

We looked at a place in Tuam, a 40 minute drive from Galway. Priced right, the pictures online showed a modern, spacious, nicely fitted and well decorated town home. We visit it and discover it is in a ‘ghost estate’ –one of the developments the builders abandoned during the housing crash in 2008/2009. It backs up to a sports stadium. No joke, I could see the entire playing field from the upstairs windows. It faces half built homes surrounded by chain link fence. The neighborhood is grim. I need a drink.

We drive back to our hotel in worried silence. We spend the rest of the evening feverishly searching. And … we find it. The perfect place — only 20 minutes from Galway in a village called Headford. We call and it is still available. We go see it immediately and breath a sigh of relief. It’s also a townhome but in a quiet peaceful estate. It is an end unit in a row of three on a cul de sac. My front view is a sheep pasture surrounded by old stone walls. I can walk to the village, the supermarket and best of all, the pub! It feels like home.

We put down our deposit, hired a solicitor to handle the contracts, found an engineer to do our inspections. Just in the nick of time.

I bought a house in Ireland.

Oh Captain, My Captain…

If you’re an American child of the 1970’s, your memories must include the television variety show. Laugh-In, Hee-Haw, The Flip Wilson Show, Donny and Marie, The Carol Burnett Show, Sonny and Cher and … The Captain and Tennille.

Although their popularity was brief, “Captain” Daryl Dragon and his wife Tony Tenille were a huge hit in the ’70’s. And a big influence on style: Tony Tenille’s pageboy was as popular as Farrah Fawcett’s feathered waves and Dorothy Hamill’s wedge. At some point in my youth, I sported each of those hairstyles. Good thing I tossed all those photos…

I think the time is right for a Captain and Tenille resurgence. In fact, I have repeatedly tried to convince my husband that we should start a Captain and Tenille cover act. Tonight as we walked through the lobby of the Irish hotel where we are staying, what should come on the sound system but “Love Will Keep Us Together” – their biggest hit. It’s a sign. All we need is a captain’s hat, navy blue jacket and a white cravat for the hubs and for me? A fabulous Bob Mackie gown! What do you think? Isn’t that a great idea? You know… in case the whole writing, art thing doesn’t work out?

Hair Of the Dog

[Here’s a follow up to my story Cheeseburger In Paradise. And maybe the beginning of another Bucks County Novel… maybe?]

Kerry Donovan felt like someone had placed tiny little cotton socks on each of his teeth. He rolled over and his stomach rolled in the opposite direction. Steady, steady now… He opened an eye. It was light out. Very light, in fact. And the last thing he remembered was dancing (dancing?!?) in a dark corner of Martha’s Tavern with a gorgeous brunette. He cautiously picked his head up from the pillow and realized he was on his parents’ sofa. Apparently, Martha did have to call his daddy to come pick him up. Great. His first night in town and he’d gotten blind drunk. No doubt he’d made a fool of himself, too. “Way to go, dumb ass,” he muttered to himself.

He lay staring at the ceiling for a minute and listened. The house was quiet except for the whir of the ceiling fan. Both his parents were early risers so either it was very late and they were already up and about their business. Or —and he shuddered to think— he had kept them up way past their bedtime with his shenanigans and they were still sleeping.

He tried to remember the events of the previous night. He remembered bearing his soul to Martha, telling her the whole sordid tale of his failed engagement. And then Brianna calling…. She had called, hadn’t she? Kerry cringed. “She just sweet talk you into taking her sorry ass back. That’s what…” Yeah. That’s what Martha had said as she hung up on her. And then she’d introduced him to her baby sister…

Magdalena. He remembered her dark eyes, high cheekbones, her thick lustrous hair. The bee-stung lips he was sure that he’d kissed. He closed his eyes and imagined her scent, the press of her body close to his as they swayed to the soft music on the bar’s sound system. God, he hoped he hadn’t done anything too embarrassing. If he was sticking around, he sure would like to see her again.

He gingerly placed one foot on the floor and then the other. Slowly, steadily he pushed himself to a sitting position. He was still in last night’s clothes, minus his flip flops, and he smelled like beer. It made his stomach roll again. With one hand on his belly and another shading his eyes, he shuffled to the kitchen. The clock on the stove said 9:45. The coffee in the pot was long cold and neither of his parents’ cars were in the driveway. He breathed a tiny sigh of relief. At least that conversation was postponed.

He filled a glass with water, chugged it, filled it again and took it with him to the outside steps that led to the rooms above the garage. After trudging up to the tiny apartment, he searched the medicine cabinet for aspirin, hoped they weren’t expired and downed four of them with his glass of water. He found his toothbrush and scrubbed the ‘cotton socks’ from his teeth. After a shower, he felt nearly human again. He returned to his parents’ kitchen to forage for food. As he was about to pop two slices of bread in the toaster, the doorbell rang.

He peeked through the front window to see who it was. Tall, tanned, her black hair piled on her head and wearing a short, white sundress that showed off her long legs, Magdalena stood at the front door with carry out coffees and a bakery bag in her hand. She spotted him at the window and smiled. Kerry felt like his bones had just dissolved.

“Thought you could use a little hair of the dog, honey,” she said as she floated past him. “It’s Martha’s special hangover cure. Irish coffee and croque monsieur. Salt, sugar, fat and alcohol. If it don’t cure ya, it’ll put ya outta your misery.”

She handed him a cup and the bag. Their fingers touched and he imagined that a jolt of electricity passed between them. Ridiculous. He found his voice. “You want to sit outside?”

“Sure,” she said, giving him the bone melting smile again.

He led her through the house to the lanai overlooking the back yard. They settled in the shade of the ancient live oak, at the antique cafe table his mom had rescued from a second hand store. His stomach rumbled noisily as he unwrapped the melted ham and cheese sandwich. Magdalena laughed and raised her coffee cup in a salute. “Just what the doctor ordered.”

He bit into the sandwich and nearly groaned out loud. Magdalena sat back in her chair and kicked off her sandals. Then tangling her feet with his beneath the table, she made little circles on the inside of his ankle with her big toe. It was all Kerry could do to chew and swallow.

“You were a lot of fun last night, honey,” she said with a mischievous grin.

“Fun?” he repeated, his voice cracking. He cleared his throat. “In uh… what way do you mean? Fun?”

“You got some moves, sugar.”

“Moves?” He winced, realizing he was repeating everything she said.

Her foot moved higher up his leg to stroke his calf. “Oh yeah…” she said.

‘What the hell was that supposed to mean?’ he wondered. He put the remainder of the sandwich down on the foil wrapper and took a big gulp of the whisky laden coffee. He coughed and sucked in air. “Damn! Is there actually any coffee in there?”

She laughed again. “Mm hm. Just enough.”

He sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Look, Magdalena…”

“Maggie’s fine, sugar,” she said gently.

“Ok. Maggie. Listen, I have to be honest… I don’t exactly remember what happened last night. At least not after you sat next to me and we got to talking. So…” he looked at her hopefully.

“Aw, baby. Don’t you worry. We had a lovely evening. Dancing at the bar, walking on the beach, kissing under the moonlight… and…”

He swallowed hard. “Yeah. And?”

She leaned forward so their knees were touching and her face was inches from his. “And you were a perfect gentleman.” She smiled and leaned closer, taking his face between her hands and kissing him softly on the lips. “Much to my chagrin.” He could feel her smile against his mouth as she lingered. He brought his hands up to cover hers and kissed her back. She sighed softly as he deepened the kiss, running his hands down the smooth skin of her arms.

Neither of them were paying enough attention to notice the click of heels on the walkway leading to the lanai. The thud of a suitcase landing hard on the ground finally broke their embrace. Kerry turned and gasped. “Brianna!”