I’m breaking this year’s Gormanston experience into a short series of readable blocks. I suppose you could call them ‘chapters’. An old pal of mine (he taught me to drive in his E-type Jag getting on for half a century ago!) picked me up from home on Thursday and took me to the airport at Exeter in plenty of time for the check in so there was lots of sitting around in the airport lounge. Better to be an hour early than a minute late!
I was wasting most of the day really as, when I had booked the flight take off was scheduled for 10.15am but Flybe changed their timetable, making it almost 5pm when we went aloft. The team of stewardesses went through their well-rehearsed routine with seat belts and life jackets very professionally, but I was the only one to applaud and call for an encore!
The flight was uneventful and I couldn’t see much because of the cloud. We arrived around 6 and then I had to hang around for a couple of hours for the X20 bus to Galway. When we stopped en route at Athlone I saw that the girl who had sat across the aisle from me and was getting off there had a live snake with her! There aren’t many of those in Ireland! My stop, Ballinasloe, was next, getting there at almost half past 10 in the gloaming. Thankfully my friend Tracy and her son, Charlie, were there to meet me. Last year, due to a communications failure I had to hitch my way from Ballinasloe to their new home near Williamstown.
I opened the packet of cigarettes I had brought back from there last year, having bought no more in the meantime. It was a long drive, over half an hour, to John and Tracy’s new home at Polyester (not quite spelt like that) outside Williamstown. Last year I was camping in a camper van and they were living in a mobile home as their house wasn’t habitable (except by swallows) at that time. They have done a tremendous job in making what was almost a ruin into a pleasant home.
Next day was spent mostly driving and shopping as we had to make a very wide diversion because of roadworks. It let me see more of the countryside. I noticed that there were many fewer swallows than last year, although there was still a reasonable amount. The weather has been as wet over there as over here. The turf hasn’t been footed, the grass isn’t growing and Tracy has been buying food for her horses despite having acres of land. I walked the lanes, including a visit to St Patrick’s Well, with 10 year old Lucy (who liked the big slab of honeycomb I had brought over for her) and, despite there being plenty of flowers, I saw no honeybee at all over the 2 days I was there, and only one bumble bee.
On the Saturday we went to the bog where about half an acre of turf had been laid out by the machine. The cutters hadn’t been working properly so we walked up and down the rows with spades marking every foot or so in order that if and when it has dried out a bit more it will break up into blocks for footing (stacking) to dry properly. I noticed, when driving around, that the turf in Galway is generally stacked in pyramids with the blocks sloping, whereas way down south in Kilkenny, the stacks are more rectangular with the blocks horizontal.
On the Sunday morning, Tracy drove me back to the bus stop in Ballinasloe. She suggests that, next year, it might be better if I can fly to Knock, which is nearer and might save long bus trips. I shall have to look into that. The bus was 25 minutes late. Usually it is only 20 minutes late, which is why I took that one rather than the later one which, if it ran to the timetable would get me to my destination on time but with the usual delay wouldn’t.
The bus got me to Dublin airport at around half past 2 so I had another long wait to catch the bus that was laid on to take the beekeepers to Gormanston at 5. After a wander I spotted a couple of beekeepers who obviously were meeters and greeters, so I snuck up and stood behind them until they noticed me. I sat strategically so that I could guard luggage and, at the same time, spot beekeepers coming through the door from the baggage area and turning right, while Sandra stood where the ones who turned left would see her standing by the rails holding a ‘BEEKEEPERS’ notice. Eventually the score or so of those on the list were accounted for and we headed for the bus and for Gormanston.
That’ll do for now. I have bees to attend to!