Contrary to appearances, we have not yet embarked on this year’s Knumptytravels (although the trusty Knaus Sport Traveller will indeed shortly emerge from hibernation to have the moss and grime washed away in its annual cold-armed, wet-sleeved baptism.)
Instead, we here revisit snippets of a trip round Ireland (yes, along with a fridge, if you like) which was undertaken several notebooks ago and never ‘written up’. (I’m still not entirely comfortable with the slightly lavatorial-sounding ‘blogged’.)
It’s a bit of a pastiche too, so forgive any lack of continuity you might perceive – I’m just convening some of the more memorable elements of a wholly enjoyable visit to a pre-Brexit Emerald Isle (where many of the inhabitants we met were incredulous at our Cameron-induced national naivety and forthcoming lack of vision.)
There are so many wonderful backwaters to explore in Ireland – many of them unremarked and unnoticed – seemingly least of all by the people who actually live in them – and therein lies their charm. Unassailable hospitality at every turn, seasoned with a beguiling, enthusiastic and innocent inquisitiveness, (despite the fact our boxy off-white Knumptywagen has just stolen all the sunlight from the frontage of the village store outside of which we’ve just parked.) Friendly characters appear to rejoice in just making your acquaintance and passing the time of day – with stories of absolutely no relevance or import being told with such sparkle-eyed interest in both the tale and the listener’s reaction to it.
So having stopped to ask directions, where are we now? Drumshanbo, it seems. Just east of the southern tip of Lough Allen and in turn about 25 miles south of the border with Northern Ireland. We came in search of a reported angling centre, where we’d hoped to avail of local knowledge regarding fishing opportunities. Instead we found this small, unremarkable one-horse town rammed with many horses – along with cattle, sheep dogs, ponies, hens, geese and an overwhelming array of muddied tweed as we discovered the local livestock auction in full swing.
The large patch of rough ground on which the auction was taking place appeared to be a war-zone. Agricultural machinery and junk from across the ages rubbed wheel arches with an extensive array of battered horse-trailers haphazardly attached to equally battered pick-up trucks and 4x4s.
From a large, unhealthily smelly, tumbledown and defiantly rusting corrugated iron shack came the frenetic amplified drone of an Irish auctioneer, clearly doing his utmost to sell on small flocks of shocked-looking sheep and – judging by the anxious noises emanating from some of the larger trailers – a good few cows too.
The incongruously suburban streets around this melee were similarly clogged with randomly dumped pick-ups interspersed with yet more agricultural ephemera simply laid out along kerbs and pavements. Small impish children gambolled like spring lambs amongst huge, florid mothers brandishing forearms like hams as they offered their wares for sale or barter to anyone unwise enough to make eye-contact.
And absolutely no sign whatsoever of anything remotely piscatorial. No tackle shop, no tourist office in which to even enquire, nothing other than the melodic braying of the unseen auctioneer – against which even the huge church and adjoining convent appeared to have closed their doors to the hurly-burly of market day in this small, unassuming Irish town.