Great Irish Escape by Monty Halls
“Hello Lorna,” I said, pacing the kitchen in the cottage with the phone pressed to my ear, “I was wondering if you might know someone who could look after a dog for a few days a week when I’m at sea.”
Lorna’s boundless appetite for life meant that she tended to engage all the verbal equipment at her disposal a fraction of a second before the information she was trying to pass on had been processed by her brain.
“Ah, right, yes, no, hold on, a dog you say? Right, not a problem. Wait a moment. A dog, aha, no, I’ve got just the……..ermmm…..hold on, sorry. Right, got it, my mum can do it!”
“Are you sure?” I asked, “He’s a big lad, and can be a bit of a handful.”
“Trust me, when it comes to get up and go my mum will put anyone to shame. She runs a B&B called the Anglers Return – I’ll see you there in an hour or so if you like?”
The Anglers Return was a beautiful, powder blue house about five minutes outside Roundstone. I remembered it vividly from when I drove past, a grand old building looking out over a dark, tidal lake that was bordered by whispering reeds. Behind the house was a wood leading up the hill, with carefully manicured gardens in the lee of the building itself. It looked timeless and tranquil, the perfect place for a quiet break. An hour later I pulled the Land Rover into the drive, tyres crunching on the gravel, and Reuben and I jumped out.
“Best behaviour young man,” I said, “you need to make an impression.”
This was a warning that – sadly – wasn’t really heeded. Even as I approached the gate a certain level of bedlam broke out, with a lean collie hurdling the fence and – much to Reuben’s delight – presenting him with a ball which he immediately tried to pinch. There was a brief punch up – more of a swift establishing of hierarchy than anything else – after which both dogs hurtled into the lush expanse of the garden chasing the ball and each other. As I glanced up to follow their progress, striding towards me was Lynn. She was smiling broadly, face framed by a flyaway curls, and was wiping her hands on a cloth having been working in the garden. I opened my mouth to speak but she beat me to it.
“Ah hello Monty! Lorna said you were coming, how nice to see you. The collie is called Bonnie and loves having a ball all the time, but does get a bit funny when other dogs try to steal it. Mind you, I suppose that’s not that unusual is it when you have your own ball, although it looks like Reuben likes balls too. Is he a German shepherd? Then I suppose he’s very good at penalties! Anyway, come on in and have some tea and some cake, you must be a bit frazzled after your trip.”
I remained rooted to the spot, slightly stunned, but Lynn was already heading into the house, the dogs now rolling and spinning round her legs. She looked back as I took in the scene, and then returned to usher me into the house, moving around the kitchen in a blur of motion to place delicious looking scones and cake before me, all the while chatting away merrily. Lorna joined us, crashing through the front door with a cheery hello, the two of them combining in a kind of perfect storm of chit-chat.
The Angler’s Return would become an absolute haven for both Rueben and myself. Lynn and Lorna were splendid company, with the hands of the old clock on the kitchen wall marching round un-noticed as yet another cake was pushed under my nose, or yet another cup of tea poured. Lynn’s zest for life was extraordinary, a dynamic force of nature that single handedly maintained a beautiful old house and a great expanse of garden.
I mentioned how impressed I was with the house and its’ surroundings. “Well, I must say it’s been a bit of a carry on, but I do enjoy it although it’s not something you ever get on top of is it? Do you garden? I suppose you do with your lovely little cottage on the island? Lorna tells me your looking at whales and dolphins here? That sounds really interesting I used to dive you know, long time ago though. Now, you must tell me everything about it.” I left over an hour later, piled high with teetering mounds of scones and cakes, Lynn sprinting out after me to present me with a pot of home-made jam in case I became weakened by lack of sugar during the five minute drive home. I could have quite happily spent the entire day in the warm fug of the kitchen, and in the months to come I frequently would, but today I was anxious to get to sea.”