It's raining goats... er, men!
As the song says, "It's raining men!" What a weird day it's been. It started with the postman delivering a small package. "Mornin''" he greeted me whilst fending off the two enthusiastic labradors. "Hey, I've been meanin' to ask ye..."
"Yes!" I broke in, "I've been meaning to ask you... could I possibly take a photo of you for my friends back in America, please?"
"Oh!" he preened, "certainly." He posed beside his van with big grin on his face.
"Great, thanks. SAM!" I yelled at the dog and chased off after him. With a flurry I got both dogs back in the house, effectively causing the postman to forget what he wanted to ask me.
Then at Murlough I was driving up to the big iron gate and parked to unlock it. All the Dundrum residents have a key as it's kept locked to prevent gypsies from taking up residence in the reserve. A landrover waited to get in, the man behind the wheel on his cellphone. Upon my arrival he got out of his vehicle and bounded up to me. He seemed reasonably good-looking, aged somewhere in his early fifties I'd guess. "Hello," he said in an English accent. "My brother and I are renting the gate lodge for a few days and we can't get in to park." Something about him told me he was army.
"No problem. You can just close the gate after me." I got back in my car and drove on through to the reserve.
About two hours later I headed home. The gate lay open but the lane was blocked by a large tow-truck, the driver attaching the landrover from earlier. While I waited the Englishman came over. "I'm terribly sorry, our landrover has broken down."
"You're not having a lot of luck, are you?" I grinned sympathetically.
"No," he agreed and went on to tell me how he and his brother had planned this fishing trip for ages.
He kept apologizing for the delay until I assured him, "It's okay, really. It gives me an excuse to sit here in the sun and listen to the CD player."
With a great clang the landrover was finally attached and the tow truck edged its way toward the gate. The Englishman waved me forward, then held up a hand. At least five cars waiting on the other side started to flood through. The man looked at me and held his hands to his face, like the boy in the movie "Home Alone". I laughed. What a start to his vacation! When it was my turn to go, he came back over and apologized again. Then he asked, "Is there anywhere nice to go at night, here?"
I told him about a couple of my favorite restaurants, and warned him off the popular Slieve Donard Hotel. I once worked there and I know how appalling their idea of cleanliness is.
"What about somewhere to dance. Do you like to dance?" he asked, with a little-boy-lost look.
Then the penny dropped. For a moment I was tempted, for it's lonely here and a bit discouraging, having only a disapproving and rather ungrateful father for company. These Englishmen can be very, very charming when they want to be, but.... I laughed gaily and answered, "Can't dance to save my life!" - put the car in gear and drove on.
Yesterday I met three youths out walking. I'd been to a neighboring town, Ballynahinch, to run a few errands for Dad, so I had my purse (handbag) with me. I felt ridiculous taking it on the walk but I wasn't going to leave it in the car. As I crested the brow of a hill I saw the three males on the path ahead. Great, I thought. The one day I have something worth stealing I have to meet them. Well, they won't get it easily. I approached, forcing confidence into my walk.
The three lads backed up against the hedge. "Do they bite?" asked the eldest fearfully.
Obviously townies from Belfast on vacation, and not much of a threat if they were afraid of two silly labradors. "Only if I order them to," I assured him with a smile.
To my surprise all three boys took off at a run. "I was just kidding," I addressed their retreating backs, then turned to see Mr. Billy Goat Gruff had bounded up to see me. The fellows were terrified of him, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should have been afraid of him too. But like before he was happy to see me and came up for a pet. It was quite a sight to see though, three silly louts sent packing by a long-haired goat!
The last of the men-stories is about Joe and his Sausage. Joe owns the local butcher's shop, and a certificate hangs proudly in his window proclaiming that 'Joe won a commendation for his sausage'. That's how it's worded! I want to go in and demand to inspect his sausage at once. ;-)
There's a banner across Newcastle main street proclaiming that this weekend is the "Herring Gutters Festival". I can barely contain my excitement.
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode from Robin Hill...