A trip to West Cork, with Grandad D as our guide, comes highly recommended
We have just returned from a family trip to Skibbereen where we were joined by both granddads and our most placid, diplomatic friends who happen to have a fondness for old people and children. The friends were invited deliberately to act as a buffer just in case things went a bit arseways at some stage during the proceedings.
Thankfully that didn't happen. We made it to Skibereen in one piece and made it home again two days later, slightly the worse for wear but all still talking which has to be viewed as a success. There may have been a few minor hiccups - The Youngest coming down to the bar at 11 p.m. in just her sweatshirt to inform us we hadn't packed any pajamas for her, a teenager who wasn't happy about having to share a room with his younger sister and one grandad getting a bit shirty because we wouldn't go to Mass with him, but we got over it.
The itinerary was jam packed because Grandad D wanted to show us his ancestral home. We visited Bandon, Union Hall, Glandore, Innishannon, Castletownsend and Sherkin Island. We knocked on the doors of cousins he hadn't seen in 20 years and they welcomed us with open arms, forcing tea, coffee, cakes and whiskey on us with wild abandon.
We dined in a magnificent converted Protestant church where we ate Clonakilty black pudding and locally sourced fish. We drank Murphy's and Jameson and Grandad D shouted at a crowd of women sitting beside us to be quiet only for one of them to come over and challenge him while the rest of us ducked for cover under the table cloth.
Turns out she didn't berate him at all. Instead she threw her arms around him and declared she was a second cousin twice removed or something along those lines. He also bumped into some other random woman as we were leaving who also maintained she was his cousin.
And Granddad D went to bed happy as Larry, the only fly in the ointment being we wouldn't get up to go to 11 o'clock mass with him. Heathens the whole lot of us!
We concluded the trip with a visit to Béal na mBláth where Michael Collins was assassinated by Anti-Treatyites in August 1922. We took vast numbers of photos at the monument erected to Collins at the side of the road before getting in the car to begin the long trip home.
'Here,' says Grandad D, shoving a newspaper into my hand. 'Read that. It might save your soul.' I looked down - a copy of the Catholic Times.
I wouldn't hold my breath!