Sauvignon blanc and cork-screw? Check, and double check, sir!
Published 25/08/2015 | 00:00
A relaxing break in County Kerry, that was the plan. And no better woman than Hermione when it comes to formulating a plan.
She put her thinking cap on, the one she borrowed from the general in charge of logistics at NATO. For a few weeks, dinner time at the Manor was not so much a family meal as a military briefing session. Tent and tent pegs? Check! Water barrel and tea-pot? Check! Sauvignon blanc and cork-screw? Check, and double check, sir!
Maps were pored over to calculate the best route out to the destination and the best drives to undertake once on site. The jalopy was serviced (at gigantic expense) and then fitted out with an elaborate bike carrier made in California. After all the investment, the aged vehicle would probably be fit to make it all the way to California, never mind Kerry.
Arrangements were made for care of The Pooch, with friends called in to do a spot of house sitting and dog minding. We now have apps for navigating, computer games for back seat teenagers and traditional packs of cards for family games of rummy.
So here we are in Killarney, on a camp-site just a short step away from the famous lakes. We have wet weather contingency fallback plans. We have high factor sun-screen for heatwaves. We have outdoor furniture and then reserve outdoor furniture. We are so sorted, we should be in the post office.
The build up to our relaxing break was, frankly, anything but relaxing. All that solving of problems which might or might not arise was not calculated to induce transcendental calm.
What if Persephone swallows a wasp? What if there's no room in the cool-box for the butter? What if we lose contact with sat-nav somewhere in the maze of roads between Mallow and Macroom?
None of the what-ifs has come to pass of course but, happy that she has all her bases covered, Hermione is now the very picture of relaxation,in her deckchair, sipping an aperitif while waiting for the barbecue to catch light.
We brought two types barbecue, by the way, one with long life fuel ideal for long slow ox roasting and the other labelled 'instant' - fit for singeing sausages without actually heating them through.
This evening we are in ox roast mode, so Hermy is enjoying her third glass of the sauvignon blanc, on an empty stomach, with no prospect of dinner being served this side of midnight.
Any more 'relaxed' and she will be inebriated.
Unfortunately, the male half of the partnership has not quite caught the holiday mood, frantically fanning charcoal in an effort to speed up the process of ignition.
We left the actual ox back at base in the freezer, settling for more orthodox vacation fare in the form of steak and burgers, but it will still be a mighty long time before the meat is on the grille.
As a distraction, I look for comforting thoughts to settle my mind while I juggle a flagon of lighter fluid with an enormous pair of tongs and a bottle of warm ale. Surely nothing could be better calculated to induce a mood of carefree peace than a mind's eye review of progress in the garden back home at Medders Manor.
Ah, the smell of ripening tomatoes. Oh, the joy of freshly picked broad beans. Mmm, the inimitable flavour of freshly dug spuds. Lovely.
But what if the spuds are exposed to blight, without me there to spray the plants? What if the beans are beset by slugs? What if the tomato plants wilt unwatered?
The couple who have moved in while we are away are decent folk but they cannot know how to tickle The Pooch behind his ears in the way he loves. Without his ear tickled, our dog has assuredly turned into a frenzied sheep worrier and torn the throats from all of the neighbour's flock of pedigree Texels.
Hermione looks at me quizzically over her wine glass and suggests that, if there is a sheep slaughtering problem, then our house sitters would have been in touch. Telephone technology is commonplace these days, after all, even in Kerry.
Personally, I find their failure to call deeply worrying…
A game of rummy anyone?