We’ve whinged about the difficulties collecting mail without an address, let’s just say, more than once. Today’s story starts as we wend our way down Northern Ireland for a long overdue visit with an old cruising friend who is also functioning as a dead drop for our international driver’s licenses winging their way from America. Now we’ve never been asked to produce our International Driver’s Permits for anything, ever, and the powers that be couldn’t have made it anymore difficult but, like a lot of things, the conventional wisdom says, “Don’t leave home without it.” We dutifully mailed the forms and photos to Marce’s sister, our other dead drop, who valiantly wrangled the IDPs from AAA and entrusted USPS and RM to get them to DD II in NI. The system worked.
Marce found a convenient park-up at a lough on the way down, disappointingly sloped but free, and with toilets. With EV up on ramps, we will abide.
In addition to the view, not far away we saw a small castle on an island with causeway access. A nice way to stretch one’s legs.
We even found a path that circumnavigated this charming island.
There is always something special about an island.
The following day by mid afternoon we pulled into a suspiciously rough looking farmhouse that Google insisted was the address where our friend Alan lives. Of course we hadn’t a clue of the name of the family he lives with but I can attest that this didn’t smell like what we expected. While I worked on the geometry of extricating EV from this tiny courtyard, Marce hopped out to try and find Alan. I got the bus turned around then went looking for Marce. I found her approaching the Royal Mail van just as it pulled in.
Marce was asking, “Does Alan Pridham live here?”
“Oh no, he lives at the top of the hill,” he said, and he pointed further up the road.
And before you know it we were in the kind of freewheeling conversation we’ve come to expect here in Northern Ireland. Marce told him we met Alan ten years ago while we were traveling by sailboat, and he knew all about Alan’s sailing adventures. We probably stood outside the stranger’s farm for 20 minutes before we got more detailed directions to the right house. Not only that, but the postman also told us that Alan was home.
Bear in mind that we could understand only about 10% of what he said. It went something like “just go up past those curious brown cows that’ll be wonderin’ what you’re all about in a contraption like that. Don’t pull into the modern house with the new macadam driveway. You’ll be wantin’ the two old white gate posts with trees all about.” Maybe.
We were past it before we realized that it was meant to be those old white gate posts but it was just as well because we’d have never shoehorned EV between the posts going up hill. Luckily there were no cars on the road but entry was a matter of millimeters.
It’s a quiet place and oh so lush and peaceful inside those walls. This must be the place but there was no one about and it wasn’t clear which door to approach. Suddenly Alan popped out of the lush vegetation as if to say, “Dr. Livingston I presume.” It has been a very long time yet almost like yesterday.
We met Alan at the very beginning of our sailing journey. He had just crossed the Atlantic single-handed in his boat Snow White and we spent months sailing in company along the US East Coast before parting ways when we sailed to the Caribbean.
We entered the home and met the absolutely charming family that Alan’s been living with for years. They welcomed us warmly, offered showers and laundry, a place to park overnight and invited us to dinner. It’s easy to see why it works so well when the whole crew got together for a wonderful barbecue.
I guess we’re still on sailors’ hours because we wandered back to EV early, tired beyond any explanation.
The following morning in alternating sunshine and rain Alan took us on a tour of the family’s ancestral estate where they all lived until 2013 when it was nearly destroyed by fire.
The estate has a long and storied past and if you’re interested you can read more about it here and here. It’s the stuff of fantasy, the kind you only read about . The sense of loss is palpable when you’re surrounded by the devastation. The feeling of what it must have been like and now its loss is hard to take.
We were invited to stay longer or park ourselves on the grounds of the old estate but we Escapees recognize a velvet trap when we see it. For now the open road calls and every traveler faces the same dilemma: wonderful friends and conversation vs. the next horizon. Sometimes it’s harder to leave than others.