Gosh, so much to tell you. Where to begin? At the beginning, I guess. Or at least at the start of the two weeks away.
We left New York a couple of weeks ago after a very busy time here. One of those times when you get spent onto the plane or into the car, having had no time to think about the holiday, or where you'll go or what to pack. We arrived at Heathrow early the next day and I flew straight to Ireland for a two day writing workshop hosted by Claire Keegan, an Irish short story writer. If you've never heard of her, then let me beg you to rush out and buy Walk the Blue Fields. The first story in the collection still haunts me.
Anyway, I arrived in Dublin and hired a car, arriving in Bunclody in Wexford feeling stupid with tiredness and jet lag. But it was all worth it for the next two days, spent with other women (there was only one man there), thinking and talking about writing. Claire Keegan is fierce and uncompromising and not a little intimidating, but she had much to say that is worth listening to.
Driving back to Dublin, I had lots of time to kill, so I took a detour off the motorway to Avoca. It's a little sleepy village in Wexford that wouldn't be much of a draw if it weren't or the fabulous woollen mill on the outskirts. I grew up with Avoca, and have a blanket somewhere that I bought twenty years ago, but I'd never actually been to the mill before. I'm so glad I did. First there was the delicious cafe. (I would show you the amazing home made goods, but I was so busy troughing that I forgot to take a photo...). But then there was this:
Who could resist such a sign? At first I thought it might be just a sort of living exhibition, done out to show how it used to be done.
And sure enough, there was a man weaving away on an old loom.
But as it turns out, that IS how it's still done, for at least some of the blankets. Which frankly amazes me. I wish I could show you the skill with which this man worked. And how quiet and unassuming he was about it all. He told me that all the bobbly bits on the wool get brushed out to make mohair blankets.
Not sure how the lambswool ones get make into these beauties.
Over the years, Avoca has branched out into homeware and clothing...
And cookbooks and the like. (they don't sell these letters - I asked...).
Maybe something like Ireland's answer to Cath Kidston and Anthropologie all rolled into one.
I had only intended to stop for tea, but when I saw the amount of effort that goes into these blankets I somehow came away with two. And I realised today that I have left them in the old lady house, in a cupboard away from the builders. So I'll have to show you those another time.
Stay tuned for (before) pictures of the house coming soon.