Monday, 4 August 2014

Blessings in Disguise

The gulls were high in the sky this morning, shrieking with laughter; the sky blue from end to end, and the sun hot on the back of my neck as I walked round the garden with the dogs.
I often wonder what the seagulls find so funny, but I love to hear them, just as I love to hear the rooks shouting and arguing like souk stall-holders.

It was not thus yesterday.
We awoke to wind and rain, and the day had that settled look that doesn't bode well when it's wet.
It was Bank Holiday Sunday, and over our bacon, eggs and marmalade we relinquished our gardening and wall-mending plans and debated whether or not to give in to the weather and curl up beside a fire with books and movies.
But then I remembered that a friend had posted about a craft fair on Facebook.
We piled into the car and set off.
It was being held in the Museum of Country Life's hallowed precincts in Co Mayo.

I admit with shame that despite having lived here for the last two decades, I've not previously visited the Museum. I've driven past it on numerous occasions, but only en route to somewhere else.
It occupies an old country house, and the new building housing the bulk of the exhibits, has been beautifully designed to fit as minimally as possible into the grounds.

A stray grass stalk spoiling the view of The Museum of Country Life

We had a great afternoon.
The grounds contain a small lake, a lovely greenhouse, a garden with herbaceous planting alongside a second lovely greenhouse, some handsome trees and a few interesting sculptures.

My camera pretended to take some nice pictures of the rampant flowers in the greenhouse

I took lots of photos in the gardens, but unfortunately my camera battery was on its last legs and it turns out that it was just pretending to take pictures, something I only discovered when we got home and it was too late to take them all over again.  I must have spent a good hour clicking away in happy oblivion. Mercifully it did finally resort to the black screen of death.
Luckily the In-Charge had his camera too, but he'd disappeared soon after we'd arrived. He's better at museums than I am, and was doing the rounds - methodically.

#2 Son and I headed to the Craft Fair in a marquee behind the house, and had a great time chatting to the different stall holders. Two friends were there, Liz Courtie who makes jewellery and buttons and ceramics and Jane Dunn who is an artist and sells prints and cards of her work.

Liz Courtie's ceramics and Jane Dunn's paintings and prints

We admired some felting and bought some goat's milk soap from Carra's Garden, and spent a long time chatting to Ella, a potter from Poland who had a range of stuff glazed with blue glass that sang to us. Her pottery is called Mood Designs.

Gorgeous blues, birds, felt and soap from Mood Design and Carra's Garden

Afterwards we joined the In-Charge on his tour of the museum. At least, we tried to, but once again he proved to be so elusive that we started to wonder if he'd actually accompanied us after all.
The museum was full of people, and was interesting, but I get a bit claustrophobic in museums, so, although I did the full tour, mine was, well, on the quickish side.

Eventually we all met up in the cafe and ate large wodges of cake, and then I borrowed the In-Charge's camera and went off to take a few photos - alas, not of the gardens.

As we were driving away, we paused to admire the bird boxes amongst the trees along the drive - there were lots of them.

An array of bird boxes in the grounds

I am very into bird boxes, especially having read that 12 wrens saved their lives by huddling together inside a nesting box during the very cold winter a few years ago.
I'm not sure that birds would nest in the Museum's boxes - I've a feeling birds are very particular about front door size and things like that - but they looked very pretty, and you never know.

While I was admiring the bird boxes, I walked through the trees to the edge of a large hollow. It was very steel sided and deep, and at the bottom a few lines were strung between the branches, with towels hanging on them.
The Museum's washing? An Installation? Campers?

I'm still wondering what that was all about.

The Museum's washing? An Installation? Campers?

It was a great afternoon, and not at all what we'd expected, looking out on the dismal torrents at breakfast.
I guess every now and again the rain is just a blessing in disguise.

One of the sculptures in the grounds.



  1. I'd love to visit the Museum of Country Life -hopefully will some day as we will be 'discovering Ireland' for the foreseeable future once the teen starts art college in September. It certainly looks an interesting place with lovely grounds.

  2. As always, I ended up wondering why it had taken me so long, Mairead! It's well worth a visit. Which college has your teen opted for?

  3. We visited several times. A couple of times on our own as a trip out, another for a craft fair and finally to take baby girl number two. Well worth a visit as it is a lovely location and explains through exhibits the social history of our ancestors which is fascinating.......and the food is good in the cafe.

    1. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was, H - which sounds awful, but I'd somehow got it into my head that it would be a bit yawn-making. The food is great in the cafe - even yummy gluten-free treats!

  4. I enjoy museums, especially those which portray a bygone life-style. However there comes that point where I want out--don't know if its to do with aching feet or suddenly feeling too confined. Its good if there are gardens along with the parts under a roof.

  5. I think it's the confinement and too much information coming at me all at once that does it for me. And there's only so many artefacts I can look at in one go. Yes, it was a nice surprise to find the gardens - I can look at flowers all day and all night without feeling weary!

  6. Love the bird boxes, very des res. I was looking at an insect hotel (made by Arup, no less) in a churchyard the other day, it had a message on the side: two legs good, six legs better.
    Always good to find delights on one's doorstep.

  7. I took a picture of a rather marvellous insect hotel at Bloom (Ireland's Chelsea Flower Show) this year. I'm thinking of making one, or at least I was, but in truth I don't think they need one in our garden - every stone you move turned out to be a high rise dwelling for umpteen creatures.
    Bird boxes are wonderful. We have several we want to put up, when there's ever time....


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