New Year’s Eve is normally an evening I enjoy. I like to spend it in pyjamas, setting goals for the coming year, recounting the success of the outgoing one and lamenting the cock ups that have inevitably happened. It’s a selfish night. Last year, I’d set my goals, called a pal in Cork for an aul chinwag, then watched a re-run of the Dublin Mayo 2017 All Ireland final. Watching the win again in the depths of a Winter night was just as good as it had been from the Hogan Stand in bright September. It was an evening to celebrate the year and welcome in the potential of the new one. However, this year my family decided, for one reason or another, to stay at home (and cramp my style) so while they partied like nuts downstairs, I had an early night. Is there such thing as a Grinch of New Year?
Waking up fresh as a daisy on the 1st of January was a joy. Checking Expedia and finding a great deal at the Mulranny Park Hotel in Mayo was even more joyous. I was already booked to stay for a few nights from 2nd January, courtesy of a gift voucher Mam had given me for Christmas, but heading a day earlier meant an extra night in beautiful Mulranny. I loaded the boot, brought ten books and the laptop and off with me across the Shannon to one of the loveliest hotels with its impossibly gorgeous views. So far, so good in 2019.
Orchestrated to the tune of morning walks and edits, sauna/steam room breaks and a dip in the hot tub before bedtime, so ensued the first week of January. I was given room 110 which is truly a big, spacious, beaut of a space. It boasts an enormous bed and a bay window area that soaks up the view across Clew Bay to the bulk of Croagh Patrick. On the first evening in my bay window enclave, I got through a Paris Review and Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends. By the second evening I was tearing through David Park’s The Healing and had blitzed a few chapters from Declan Kiberd’s Inventing Ireland. The reading splurge went on while edits spooled around in the back of my mind. I sat at the manuscript and shifted bits around, but in truth, more than writing, I read and read and read.
One of the days, I took myself off to Achill for what I’d consider to be my ultimate last supper meal – fish and chips from Gielty’s. I fall in love with the pub every time I visit. There’s always a blazing fire, the heartiest of welcomes, the view of Clare Island, the milkiest of pints and the most outrageously generous portions of fresh cod you will get in Ireland, or anywhere for that matter. It’s also the most westerly pub in Europe, but seeing as I’m not an American tourist, that fact doesn’t hold much sway with me. Following my fish feed, I ran up the side of Slievemore and took in the view from the top. Blacksod Bay looked well behaved below but the wind lacing up from it was angry, so I stayed up top for no more than ten or so photos before zigzagging back down towards the Deserted Village. The only souls I met on my travels were sheep. It was gloriously peaceful and a healthy way to purge the few hundred calories I’d debited in Gielty’s.
Another Sally Rooney and a sports book later and I found myself writing again. Partly inspired by the beauty of the place, partly fuelled by guilt at not having written as much as I had hoped over the course of my stay. It’s a story about the day Ireland played Italy in Croke Park in 2009. Watch this space… And so my stay in the west ticked to an end in the most laid back and relaxed of ways. Armed with lists of targets and plans for the year, a handful of savoured books and a bag of washing I left Mayo to tackle the New Year as refreshed as I can be. There is no such thing as a Grinch of New Year.