20 Seconds


I have been putting off my writing all morning. I’ve sent a few emails, I’ve made a few phone calls, I’ve brought wood in for the fire (I know, how rural!) and I’ve had many cups of tea. And now I must write.

I am staying in a cottage that is shared between my mother and her sisters. It’s very well stocked, sort of like a normal house with everything you might need, except that checking the use by date is more important than usual. For instance, my lunch comprised of delicious tinned tuna. So what if the best before date was 2006…

The thing is, I am in deepest, darkest County Fermanagh. About 10 miles from Enniskillen, I am in a small cottage, in a park that last year was determined to have the greatest biodiversity in the whole of Ireland. Not bad. I’ve not seen that much of it, mainly because looking at a bat flying over my head I can’t tell if it’s a common pipistrelle of something much rarer.

The weather here is … variable. For instance, I just took a photo of the “garden” bathed in sunlight. 20 seconds later, I was able to take another photo with the area just bathed. I do love it out here, it is generally wonderfully quiet, in a way that London can never be. You can hear a diversity of birds, and none of them are imitating car alarms. A gust of wind sends the leaves down in torrents, like enormous rotting snowflakes, and when was the last time you heard the growl of a tractor in London. Tractors, proper man kit that.

20 seconds later.

Of course, Nyxie, my puppy, is with me. But she is showing herself to be truly a town hound. She would like to be going for walks and meeting dozens of people and loads of other dogs. Out here, I can take her for walks, but there are no other dogs or people. For her, the countryside is boring!

The green out here is truly spectacular. When the weather is this wet, each and every plant gets to choose the shade it wants. The trees brood dark in the sunny shower (this is County Fermanagh, sunny showers are common); the yellow flecked green black of the moss prostates itself across tree trunks like over exposed Germans on Mediterranean sun loungers. Ivy, another shade, creating the caves for the magpie’s black and white to stand out against, the killer whale of the skies, in search of songbirds’ eggs. And all the while, the grass glowing like a remnant of Chernobyl, millions of sodden hairs in goose pimples on the lawn, sucking in the life of the world and reflecting their feast of sumptuousness. If only there were just one sheep, she’d believe she’d returned to Eden.

The cottage sleeps up to 8, so it’s mainly bedrooms, a couple of bathrooms, kitchen, living area, and a large space to offload wet kit. There is alcohol around the house, from the normal vodka, wine, pimms, to the more esoteric, ginger wine, homemade plum brandy, even some poteen. There is beer, but most of that is past its sell by date. I checked. There is a freezer full of food that last saw room temerature in the last millenium, and there is a brand new wood burning fire. A mix of old and new.

It is a comfortable place to spend time, the river is a short walk away, the lake is visible from here, and the farmer drives past looking after the sheep that have no access to this cottage’s lawn. I think I’m going to go down to the Cow Bridge with a fishing rod. If I catch a pike, I’ll let you know.


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