Tuesday 23 January 2018

Rent a Reverser (?)

A first look for Tigger, at the soggy, puddle-strewn front lawn
At just a week old, newest lamb 'Tigger' is thriving. I have been getting him out of the Tígín (along with his Mum, Lily, of course) each day for a run around on the front lawn. He seems to love this, following his Mum around as she grazes but often charging away from her a few yards in a mad, bouncy 'pronking' tip-toes gait of a deer, and then zooming back to her side.

Staying close to Mum
I am 'doing' them alone on the front lawn for the moment because I am not 100% sure of the ram Pedro leaving him alone and because it makes the process of letting him out and getting him back in of an afternoon, a whole lot less complicated. Trying to extract them from the East Field while not letting the rest out to play is more risky a prospect than I need.

I am not sure about Pedro anyway - I have seen him chasing the big ewe Myfanwy about and butting her a bit too aggressively for my liking so, even though he has not had a go at me, we may part company soon one way or another. At the moment I have him up for sale on the Irish 'classified ads' website (DoneDeal.ie) but I have not even had a 'tickle' so he may end up in the freezer. We'll see. If his chasing of 'Myf' is due to her not being pregnant yet and now coming on heat, then that might see him forgiven, but nobody needs a ram trying to 'T-bone' their in-lamb ewes in the midriff.

A house favourite use for a sheet of belly-pork. Mini porchetta.
Talking of animals going to the butcher's, I was involved over the last 24 hours in our good friends Sue and Rob finally getting their 2017 pigs off to Webb's in Castlerea. Friends of the blog may recall that Sue and Rob came with us over to the breeder's place near Boyle on the day we went out to collect our own pigs, 10 week olds Pride and Empress. They chose much younger babies, maybe 6 weeks old, so they were already a month behind us on schedules.

Thanks very much 'Steak-Lady' for this framed print, latest
Paris-themed picture in our collection. 
Their pair came ready about a month after ours (end of October) but Sue and Rob had little space in their freezers, so decided to keep the pigs on till after Christmas. It was very wet and now the time came, they asked me for help extracting the pigs from their 'swamp' and getting them into their trailer. Also, Sue, by her own admission "cannot reverse the trailer for a toffee" (and Rob can't drive anyway) , so could I help out at the other end of the journey, reversing her 4x4 and the trailer into the tiny narrow 'slot' between buildings which is the butcher's answer to a "loading bay".

Paris scene
That all went swimmingly in the event. Rob had constructed a really good, pig-proof 'race' up from the swamp to the hard standing and those pigs had been kept hungry so that they would be suckers for the bribe of a rattled food bucket. Pigs never explore anywhere new fast - they just amble along with their noses to the ground, taking an occasional step. They will not be hurried and you are a fool if you try. If you did spook them and made them bolt, you are not going to stop 80 kg of charging pig, so the best bet is to let them amble along and just gently (but firmly) close the ground behind them by nudging up against their bums with a big board. By this method, Sue guided them up the 'race', and Rob and I nudged up behind them till they eventually went up the ramp and we could close the trailer on them.

Pig haulier's breakfast.
In the morning, I'd set the alarm for 7 so that I could meet Sue with the 'load' at the butcher's nice and early while there was not much traffic about for us to upset. It is a known bad manouvre - the narrow gap is at 90º to a narrow but busy main street in the town. The gap is only about 6 feet wide, so as you slot your trailer neatly and professionally in (ahh shucks!), don't go in past the kerb with the truck or you will not be able to open the doors and get out! We managed that OK with Sue seeing me back and then, with the pigs unloaded and safely into the lairage, Sue finished all the paperwork, I bought a pack of Webb's superb dry-cure rashers and we adjourned to local Deli, Benny's for a celebratory coffee. Job well done. I even grabbed some croissants and Danish pastries 'to go' so that Liz and I could have a nice breakfast back at the ranch.

My new favourite Irish author, currently filling the gap left in my
reading due to running out of Maeve Binchy books.
In other news, we have been quite deeply involved in a local funeral. No names, no pack drill for the usual reasons. I think if you ask any Brit who has moved over here, what is the biggest single difference in local village or community life that they noticed compared to the UK, it will be the Irish way of death. In 55 years in the UK I probably went to half a dozen funerals at most and all of them small, quiet affairs which involved you to attend for only a short time.

Comparatively, the Irish funeral is massive, especially in rural areas where everybody would know the family of the deceased especially if they have lived in the community for all their life. Hundreds of people will attend and the proceedings can easily take up the evening prior and all of the day of the actual burial. Family and friends who have long since left Ireland in search of work or what-ever will make the trip home to be part of it. The deceased may even be one of the 'diaspora' wishing to be laid to rest in the family plot back in the village of their birth.

I apologise hugely in advance if I have any of this wrong - please do comment and I will make corrections. The last thing I want to do is cause any offence to anyone involved in 'this' or any other funeral. The proceedings follow a sequence something like this, with every bit attended by a good many of the mourners. First is the 'reposing' where the deceased is laid in the coffin at the Funeral Parlour  - you queue outside for yards down the pavement to get in one door and you slowly process, shuffling forward to view the departed and then shake hands with the immediate family . It is good to have something to say to each - I have taken to using popular local expression "Sorry for your trouble". You then shuffle down the out-corridor to the exit, passing the book of condolences on the way. This stage takes a couple of hours to get everyone through. It is common for the coffin to be open at this stage, so that you see the deceased - I have not got used to that bit yet.

Next is the 'Removal', where the coffin is taken by hearse to the church, commonly followed by all those mourners in dozens of cars - an impressive cortege threading its way down the country lanes. The hearse may pause at the house where the deceased lived, or was born, letting the 'late' soul know that he is really home, I guess. This is followed by the Mass itself. Mass going is way more popular here than (taking Communion) in the UK and churches are packed every Sunday, so it is no surprise that all our mourners pack the church for this bit, likely to be the most familiar to mourners in the UK.

Next we move to the graveyard. Depending on distance this might be all back in the cars or walking. This is the 'Burial' and can involve, again, a big group of mourners gathered round while more prayers are said and the coffin lowered into the grave. Some of these graveyards can be on quite bleak, windy hilltops, so the wise mourner equips with a warm coat, hat and gloves. We then adjourn, if invited, to a suitable location for 'Refreshments' - in the case of my Father in Law (Theo), this was a nearby pub for drinks (obviously), welcome hot soup and bread, with sandwiches or even a full 3-course meal, maybe stew and veg and a dessert. This stage can go on as long as you want - there will often be live music and happy chatter as family members and friends who may not have seen each other since the last funeral catch up on gossip and each others lives.

You Brits can see that this all adds up to quite a day, an impressive event. More amazing (to us) is that this all happens generally within days of the passing away of the person, the whole 'machine' fires up and all the stages are organised and slotted into place. In the UK, that is normally the work of weeks - we hear that person X has died and maybe 3 weeks later we find out the arrangements for the funeral. They KNOW that this is all a bit special here and there have been some excellent (including funny in some cases) books written and TV programmes made explaining the process. I hesitate to compete with those, but thought my UK friends might like a small flavour of what it means when someone here says "There was a funeral".

Additional reading - Try the book "How to be Irish" by David Slattery


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