15 September 2011

Eolaí and his Painting Tour: Week Eleven

It's been a rough week in the Brother's Painting Tour of Ireland. With time fast running out, and him having to crack on if he's to get home in time to tend to the dog and make some money, nature has conspired such that what should have been a week of hard pedalling has seen him in the saddle for just four days.

As you'll remember, he cycled into a bunting-festooned Donegal town last Thursday evening, and on Friday he was treated to a drive up to Slieve League, site of Ireland's highest cliffs.

And not many taller in Europe, as it happens.

Yes, I know everyone thinks the Cliffs of Moher are the tallest in the land, but they're not; the cliffs at Slieve League are about three times as high, clocking in at a terrifying 601 metres. They're not quite as starkly vertical as the Cliffs of Moher, but they are taller. After the drive it was time to set off through the hills of Donegal...

Taking his time, unaware of the storms within and without due to play havoc with the trip, he cycled on the bog roads between Barnesmore Gap and Castelderg in Tyrone, his twenty-second county, revelling in such simple pleasures as the sight of a red corrugated roof. Weaving his way around the back roads, he made his way through Clady to Strabane, having started the day tweeting for a host there, and was very kindly offered one.

Saturday saw him being taken out to Sion Mills which he painted the weir at breakneck pace, and to great effect, before leaping back on the bike. To hear him describe the day, it sounds like a bizarre sporting event, like a triathlon for creative types. It's been a while since painting was an Olympic event, but maybe it's time to reintroduce the practice.

It baffles me how this could ever have been done at speed.

North then, hopping on the bike at four in the afternoon, chasing the sunset and battling the rain as he fought his way along the main Foyle road into Derry, his twenty-third county, pushing on to the coast before cutting inland just before Ballykelly. The weather having been at his back till this point, the last climb was a bit of a struggle, and things didn't quite got to plan when he reached his destination, as his Dunbrock hosts were out, but he was temporarily rescued by friends in Limavady, and drowned though he was, he was able to relax after having safely finished cycling for the day.

Problems started to rear their head on Sunday, as Hurricane Katia threatened to ravage Ulster.
-- I might not paint tomorrow, observed the Brother. I'm just thinking of eating. And drinking. And sitting down, thinking mostly, but sitting down.
-- I think after twenty-three counties you deserve a good sit, he was advised.
Unfortunately, it was about at this point, with the storm on its way, that the Brother's mifi decided to pack in, leaving him scarcely able to roam. Given that the trip's about social networking as much as anything else, this was a bodyblow. And the wind was rising.

He stayed put on Monday too, watching the wind from rural Derry, all too aware that it would have been suicidal to attempt pushing on to Antrim. This, surely, was the right decision, given how one of his followers more than a hundred miles south had commented on how there were 'human kites everywhere'.

(It's not been calm here either, nearly 250 miles south-east of where the Brother was; my housemates' parents' conservatory was destroyed by huge branches blown from trees.)

Unable to tweet to update us of his exploits, he ventured out again on Tuesday, cycling by a furious sea all the way to Portrush in Antrim, his twenty-fourth county. It hadn't been a pleasant journey, as -- struck by a bug -- he'd vomited his way past Magilligan, Coleraine, and Portstewart, all the way to Portrush, where he was beset by chills and unable to eat and could but vicariously enjoy the lovely meal his hosts had made for him.

If there was any consolation in how the day had gone, it lay in how Maman Poulet had let him know that Jean Byrne, meteorological icon of the Irish twitterati, had been named winner of the European Meteorological Society’s TV Weather Forecast Award for 2011. Given the way the weather had so ravaged the Brother's week, it was surely worth letting him know about one of the Irish climate's silver linings.
-- Oh my, said the Brother. Super.
She was due to be presented with her award in Berlin today. I can't wait to find out what she wore...

Things had improved internally by yesterday, but not enough for the Brother to chance another day in the saddle, so he slept and suffered and missed the first clear blue sky in weeks. In the evening he found the strength to go for a little walk, and so went down to the harbour, afterwards reflecting on how soon it'd be that he'd be home, as he stood outside his hosts' house watching the sun go down over Donegal.

As for today? He painted till lunchtime...

.. and then set off on the north Antrim coast, visiting Dunluce Castle, the Giant's Causeway, and Dunseverick Castle, as he chased the sunset again, this time aiming for hostless Cushendun, and climbing the hills to get there while the daylight lasted

The climbs slowed him down a bit, so he just a few kilometres north of Cushendun when he rescued by a lovely lady from south Antrim, armed with soup, tiger bread, and -- I can only presume -- a special fine-toothed saw to cut his bike into small pieces so it could be fitted into her car and taken to safety. Or something. 

There's only one more week to go in the Painting Tour, with the Brother hoping to make it to south Antrim tomorrow and then onward through Down, Armagh, Monaghan, Louth, and Meath before like a weary Odysseus, and after seeing and learning so much, he comes home. 29 Counties, so. 30 if he's very lucky and can squeeze Westmeath in too. Not quite the 32 he'd hoped for, but something to be very proud of for all that. The Midlands may have gotten a bit shortchanged, but given the route he's followed, it's easy to understand why. And I'm sure he'll be back.

Eleven weeks under a somewhat tighter belt...

If you think the Brother might be passing within twenty miles or so of where you live as he winds his counter-intuitive way home to Dublin, and if you have a bed to offer and fancy a painting, do get in touch with him. Or, you know, even if you have a whim to buy him lunch or tea and have a chat if he's passing through. Just let him know.

There's only a week left of the Painting Tour, and if you belatedly want to get onboard, you can follow it on the Brother's blog and above all on Twitter, where the hashtag's #paintingtour. The Brother's Facebook account's worth a shout too, but Twitter's where most of the real action is. 

Give Ireland's first digital nomad™ a shout -- the tour's about Irish social media as much as it is art and the Irish countryside, after all, and even if his equipment's misbehaving, I've no doubt there are people who'll pass on your messages.

Just tweet.

No comments: