Thursday 15 August 2019

Teeth and Troubles

With thanks to Silversea for this cruise
Today's port was Bantry, on the southwest coast of Ireland. It's a little town on the edge of a big, deep harbour and, like everywhere in Europe, has seen plenty of action in the past. I took a free guided tour with Teddy, who has lived here for all of his 68 years, and he did his best to summarise the history - but his introduction still took half an hour before we started the actual walk.

The real action in Bantry started happening when the rich English arrived to exploit the pilchard fisheries for their oil, until they eventually petered out - funny, that. There was an abortive attempt by the strikingly-named Wolfe Tone to evict the English from Ireland with the help of the French, just one of a series of events through the centuries to achieve that end, as we all know. There was another sort of oil boom, with a crude oil depot on nearby Whiddy Island, until a tanker exploded. And now there's tourism, with increasing numbers of cruise ships calling - 14 this year. Oh, and mussel farming, using equipment supplied by a NZ company.
We wandered along the narrow and surprisingly busy streets, with Teddy getting greetings and banter from almost every local who passed by. He talked about the history, the churches and courthouse, the pubs and the pound - but, most fun, about his own youth here when, pre-pumpkin (!) they would carve out turnips at Halloween and put them on the wall beside a derelict church, howling from behind it to scare passers-by. And about how the weekly town visits of the dentist were eagerly awaited by the school kids, who would get the whole of Friday off after an extraction. Teddy reckoned that was a fair price to pay, even with a healthy tooth: "We hated school". Not surprisingly - he was once punished "for being a bit of a messer" by being told to stand on his own hands for 20 minutes. He's still bitter about that.
Then I went around the harbour to visit Bantry House, a lived-in stately home with a lovely garden, excellent views over the bay, and some pretty impressive furnishings inside its grand rooms - though the labels were printed too small for me to read these days, which was kind of a release, I admit. 
Then it was back to the ship, anchored in the middle of the bay and looking sparkling white and glamorous, to gird my loins for the predicted 6m swells ahead of us, that will cut short our stay in Galway tomorrow. And Trivial Pursuit was a disgrace today: we scored half marks and came bottom. My contribution was triumphantly remembering Lake Baikal as the world's biggest lake and forgetting that's by volume, not surface area (Lake Superior). Tch.

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