My aunt Chrissy has made it no secret that her favorite niece is my sister Mary. And for good reason. My sister’s probably the most wonderful person I know. She’s funny and smart and (in my opinion, this part is what makes her so delightful) she knows exactly who she is. Mary is loyal to a fault, generous without motive and unreasonably patient. It’s no wonder Chrissy singles her out to dote on and care for. And, since Mary and I tend to stay pretty close when we’re together, we are now known as “Mary” and “Mary’s sister.” This does pose one other teensy weensy problem on this trip because we also have an Aunt Mary traveling with us…along five of her sisters. SO, in order to cut down that confusion, Chrissy calls my sister Mary the “True Princess” and I’m “the other one.”
So this morning, the True Princess and I got up early to take a walking tour through Kinsale with the family. Our tour guide, Barry, was absolutely precious. He made a point at the beginning of the tour to greet each and every person by asking our names, shaking our hands and looking us directly in the eyes. The True Princess fell in love immediately. Barry really did do a wonderful job of keeping our minds off of the cold wind from the harbor by telling us about the historical importance of this small coastal town. As we stood their looking out into the water, Barry pointed to one of the ridges that jutted up from the sea and asked us to imagine a huge black ship sailing around it…followed by twenty others filling the harbor to unload three thousand Spanish sailors who would overtake the town and hold it ransom. He described how the geography of the surrounding hills hosted the English troops surrounding the town who, in turn, were surrounded by the Irish warring clans who wanted to team up with the Spanish to fight for their independence from the English. I’m not relaying the story very well, but Barry’s narrative was riveting.
Now, there was one woman on the tour who consistently hogged Barry’s attention and thought everything that he said was THE SINGLE funniest thing that had ever been uttered. She had a high, cackling laugh. It went like this, “Cackle cackle! Cackle.” Yes, just like that. AND, after nearly everything Barry said she would respond as though it were a conversation between just the two of them that she decided the rest of us could overhear. It went something like this:
Barry: “And when the sailors went out to sea, they had to bring enough drinking water for everyone. But they had to mix it with a splash of whiskey or rum so it wouldn’t go bad, creating a sailor’s grog.”
Annoying Lady: “Did they bottle the water?”
Barry: “No, they barreled it.”
A.L. : “They BARRELED it!!! Cackle cackle! Cackle.”
[Unbelieving stares passed between all members of my family at this point.]
Barry (ever patient and kind): “And do you know what this little lane between these two buildings was originally designed for?”
A.L. : “No! What!?”
Barry: “It was designed to be the width of a barrel so that they could be rolled from this street, down between the buildings and directly in to the ship yards.”
A.L. : “You. don’t. SAY! Cackle, snort!”
Yes. It was that bad. Mary did NOT like Annoying Cackling Lady taking all of Barry’s attention, so we stuck around after she left at the end of the tour to talk to Barry and ask him what it’s like to be a tour guide and how he got into it. I could see him being my brother in law. He seems patient enough that even our family wouldn’t phase him.
After lunch (and lots of wine) we sort of splintered off from the family and my Aunt Mary, her daughters Hannah, Sarah and the True Princess and I went off to find an old fort in the hills that Barry suggested we check out. We had to pay about 2 Euros to get in, but other than that, the place was pretty empty, so my cousins and Mary and I had free reign over the place while my Aunt Mary slept in the car. We climbed ALL OVER the place…probably got into some areas we shouldn’t have and had a fantastic time. Our generation is a little bit tamer than that of my Dad’s brothers and sisters. Thank goodness. But we’re still pretty feisty.
In the evening, everyone gathered for dinner in a restaurant that was way too fancy. It was the last night we were all going to be together, since Dawn, Bridgette and Rita were heading back to Shannon to catch a plane back. We went down to a pub after dinner that we were told would have traditional Irish music. I was tired and ready to go back to bed, but not before Shirley had an idea. She found someone with a sharpie marker and had each of us write our name under the staircase so we could come back in a few years and see our names there. Nothing like defacing public property in the name of posterity.