Shortly after we moved here, the LSH was relocated to the US for a period of four months. There was no question of myself and the girls accompanying him as the livery yard was just beginning to take off, so I endured a dark, wet winter here, alone with two small children. I usually bedded down the horses at about eight pm, skipping out and doling out their last ration of hay after the girls were in bed and returning to the house around nine. Many years later, I learned that our neighbour, Frank, had taken a stroll up our drive at ten every evening for those four months, whatever the weather, making sure the yard lights were out and that I wasn't stretched unconscious in a stable.
That's the kind of stuff I mean.
When my father died sixteen years ago, we all decamped to Co Clare and our neighbours rallied around to look after the horses and dogs. Similarly, when Frank was having bypass surgery a few years ago, one of my ex-helpers, all grown up now, and her Dad looked after his horses every morning before work.
It's just that sort of a place. We all help each other. When a concrete block fell on my head (ouch) did I go to Accident & Emergency? No, I went to a neighbour, who dressed it and decided that I just-about didn't need stitches (she was right). When a horse got her foot trapped in a piece of veterinary equipment while having her teeth rasped (long and complicated story which would require animated diagrams), I called a neighbour, who dropped everything and came over to be the extra pair of hands we needed to release the mare. When I heard of the sudden death of my young nephew, I just walked into to my nearest neighbours house, ashen faced and shaking, knowing she'd be there to listen to me.
There is constant traffic between all the houses in eggs, milk, flour, tins of tomatoes - all those little essentials that are easy to forget! For our part, the LSH willingly helped with computer troubles, I helped with horse troubles and the local horsey youngsters had access to our arena when the winter closed in and the nights were too dark to ride out.
Yeah, there were the usual neighbourly gripes about barking dogs, rowdy kids and roaming livestock, but that's just part of life, isn't it?
Now that we're about to leave, our neighbours rise to the occasion again. My plans for the horses' departure has changed - the original plan was that they would go to my friend Naomi, an hour's drive away, until George Mullins was ready to collect them. Now, we're going to leave them here in their own paddock. I asked Frank if he'd keep an eye on them for the few days and if he'd be there, when the time came, to help load them up.
"Glad to be asked," was the reply. "Don't you worry about them at all."
The cats, Fatty and Skinny, have been weighing on my mind. A good friend offered to take them, but it would mean relocating the cats - it would be much better for them if they could stay here. I've been hoping that whoever rents our house will be happy to keep them for their pest control abilities, but that might not work out - it's entirely possible that the house won't be rented before we leave, or our tenants might not be interested in the cats - and I'm sure as hell not going to mention rats!
I asked Dannielle, who grew up with our girls, if she'd feed the cats, if necessary.
"Think about it," I said " I don't want to put you on the spot."
"No, I'll do it, it's fine!"
"Are you sure?"
I shouldn't have expected anything less.
This small community is as close to family as you can get. We've grieved together and celebrated together, played together and worked together. That's what makes it special, I guess.
It's one of the things I'm going to miss the most.
|Kingsland, (c) Ordnance Survey Ireland|