This is the sixth in a series of posts describing my recent trip to England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Wales, from writing course to school reunion and more.

As I’ve mentioned, I met several people on this trip for the first time, people I knew only online. Of those, there was only one I stayed with: David Rory O’Neill.

I’ve been proofreading and helping to edit David’s books, which he has self-published after being told by traditional publishers that his books don’t fit any genre. I don’t understand this need to straitjacket books. Why can’t one book have enough variety to fit more than one genre? Is it just so that booksellers know which shelf to put the book on?

I digress. David is a prolific writer. He has published 12 novels and 2 novellas so far, and it sounds as if he has plenty more to write. I agreed to work on one book at first, so the fact that I’m still doing this shows how much I enjoy David’s writing. Naturally, David and I have got to know each other quite well through emails. That didn’t stop me from being a little apprehensive about this four-day stay.

From Cork airport, David and B took me into the city, where I was treated to a very knowledgable tour, and to a sip of Guinness, Ireland’s national drink, and taught my only word of Irish: sláinte (pronounced slahn-CHA), which means cheers, or as we would say at home: lehayyim.

Afterwards, we visited the town of Cobh (pronounced Cove) and saw, amongst other things, a fascinating exhibition about the Titanic, situated where the last 123 passengers boarded the ship on its first and last voyage.

The next day, we had a tour of many of the places that appear in David’s novels, and here I felt rather embarrassed. Because, while I enjoyed reading about all of those places and loved the way they blended in to all the stories, I didn’t remember much about them. The real interest, for me is in the characters and their stories. The places are important, but they didn’t remain with me when I finished reading.

Picnicking in Black Valley, County Kerry

Picnicking in Black Valley, County Kerry

On the following day, B took me to Limerick University, where young people were taking part in a festival of traditional Irish music and dance. They sounded and looked very professional. We were even treated to a solo harp performance from a girl who was practising outside. Then we went for a walk along the River Shannon.

Timoleague Abbey, West Cork

Timoleague Abbey, West Cork
(smiling despite being scared of falling back)

Another day of touring the beautiful countryside and all too soon it was time to leave. On the way to the airport, David and B were going to show me the historical part of Mitchelstown, but that plan was hijacked by an interesting stranger.

As we stood beside Kingston College, a row of Georgian terraced houses, wondering who lived in these houses now, this stranger started talking to us. He told us how he and his wife had escaped Zimbabwe/Rhodesia amidst awful scenes and found refuge in one of these houses, along with several others from that country. Then he invited us into his house and showed us pictures of the place they’d had to leave.

So I missed my tour of Mitchelstown, but gained a fascinating first-hand insight into a very different part of the world.

What a lot was crammed into four days! I will remember the special time I spent in a beautiful country, hosted by two lovely people. Thank you, both!

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