Not blessed with green fingers, I hike across my ginormous garden that is more akin to a small farm. Walking the land is a chore between the downpours. Marvelling at the lockdown work my wife and I managed with two rusty clippers last year my stomach churns when I notice little green shoots.
Have I done nothing more than prepare a place for the cursed briars to re-emerge stronger than ever, more invasive and without as much as a ‘by your leave’? Old Bill pops into mind, ‘It wearies me; you say it wearies you’. Being an anti-glyphosater I cringe, wondering if all the hard work was for nothing.
At least I still have time because we are in ‘rain stops play’ mode with a sodden, soggy, sinking garden. Getting out for a walk between the showers is one of the few remaining joys of the lockdown rainy season. Westport House and the Quay continue their magic of majesty with the river, lake, woodland and Pond.
Crossing the bridge behind Hotel Westport brings me back to St Mary’s Crescent days when Westport House was in our backyard. The scooped-out earth on each side of the entrance gate over the bridge was a deterrent to us young fellows not to jump from the wall to bypass the gate and fence.
Now it’s all style and stiles. Already, snowdropping new life has sprouted on long-forgotten graves. Memories of childhood crypt explorations emerge. We didn’t need Tutankhamen; we had our own Valley of the Kings. We were fearless then not disrespectful, underground minds wanting to get our hands dirty.
We repatriated fallen timber, daffodils and bluebells, and came back for chestnuts to play conkers. A chestnut that survived conkerland more than a few days was gold dust, even if we part-cooked it in a childish attempt to make it harder.
We ran up and down the choir stairs of the church ruins and inched our way up the aisle among the fallen debris. It was no sin for good Catholic boys to play in disused Protestant churches.
Down to the waterfall and the sluice gates, passing the nesting homes – wild duck, water hen and dipper. I would not jump across the sluice gates now! Age does not bear sense, only fear. If we had fallen in we would have been sucked into a torrential flood, but we never did. We knew no fear. It was the same crossing over to Bamboo Island. One wrong step and you disappeared, submerged in the water and mud. It never happened.
Today, just below the church ruins on the riverbank stands Jennifer’s memorial stone to Jeremy Browne, the selfless and genteel Lord of dignity. Missed but always saluted in heart memory when passing. He was ‘Lordie’ to us, but even then, he was always tender, in his honourable way.
Then swing down by the House to check the newts in the garden pond. Yes, they’re back! We dared to catch them with our little Hewetson fishing nets, constantly raising our heads like frightened feedings birds, in case Lordie or Penguin or anyone else came into view. Little did we know that Jeremy often observed us from the House!
Down through the lakeside woods and wander out to the Quay. The Idle Wall is bedecked with wise words from Sharon Duffy’s young pen on her beautifully painted stones. Keep it up woman! Water washes over one of the boats, too tired to bow to the rising tide.
Around the Pond we go, observing the six oystercatchers, pairing and daring, as they long beak their way into the grass. Within the Pond, Otto the otter shows her head as she dives and rises, feeding on small fish. Who ever would have thought! A foreign national egret, now a permanent resident, keeps a sharp eye in the shallows, looking resplendent in its white suit.
God rest you Michael Collins and your gallant crew. You knew, long before us all, that the Pond had a pulse. Round and round, half-kilometre laps, walking in thankful thought, day and night, like the Irish poem ‘Na Coisithe’. Treading softly, softly in the Garden of Eden… and there’s still the Point.