25 August 2011

Eolaí and his Painting Tour: Week Eight

Years ago in UCD, when I was invigilating exams, I worked with a Polish girl who'd grown up in Berlin. In exasperation at the unpredictable nature of the Irish climate, she remarked that she often thought there should be an EU directive that'd insist on a common meteorological system throughout the Union.
-- And whose weather would we use?
-- A bit from everyone, she said.
-- But that'd be rubbish, I replied, sure there's nothing we have but rain.
-- No, she smiled. You have the most rainbows.
I thought of this today on seeing the Brother's photo of the glorious rainbow that greated him as he arrived this evening in Bangor Erris, in County Mayo. Gorgeous, isn't it? But I'm getting ahead of myself.

We left the Brother last week in County Galway, way out in Eyrephort at the end of the Sky Road west of Clifden, having completed a day that rivalled any he'd ever had in the saddle in his life -- and given that he's cycled to Istanbul and across America, that's saying a lot. The rain hammered down on Friday, and the setting was too gorgeous to flee from, so he stayed put and painted Toulouse, which in this case wasn't the French city but was in fact his hostess's dog, looking more than a little like the Brother's own DogDog, and a jovial companion for a walk along the beach.

He squeezed in a bit more sketching on Saturday before setting off, cycling along the coast and then cutting inland past Kylemore to Killary Harbour. On the way there, and in the most beautiful of surroundings, his gear cable broke, and to his twofold astonishment, he found that he had a replacement from when his American cycle kit of fifteen years earlier, and that he was able to fix it! The fjord being apparently devoid of Twitterati, he took the advice of one of his Twittering friends and stayed overnight at the Killary Adventure Centre, just west of Leenane, it being conveniently free of children who'd all headed off to Westport.

Sunday morning saw him bidding farewell to Leenane and cycling into Mayo, his fourteenth county; he had the roads rather to himself, with the county's attentions being on Croke Park, where Mayo was facing Kerry in an All-Ireland football semi-final. As Kerry's DatBeardyMan said after the Brother crossed over, 'ooh Mayo no less. Today you will be painting mostly misery'.  And indeed, despite a promising first half, the day was Kerry's, the Kingdom winning 1-20 to 1-11.

North the Brother cycled, through Delphi -- not, not that one -- and up to Louisburgh by Clew Bay, where he turned and cycled along the bay's southern shore, marvelling at the myriad islands and the Reek overlooking them all, as he made his way to the home of his Lecanvey hosts, there to shower and rest and refuel with tea, and to paint at Lecanvey Pier, listening to the sea while looking across the bay to Croagh Patrick.

As I've mentioned before, follow the links. This looks better in colour. Especially the sky.

Properly online again, as part of his apparent plan to acquire half the country's WPA keys, and following an online discussion about the value of cycling helmets -- after his American experience, the Brother's an ardent advocate for the things -- he posted a picture of the thrilling Connemara scenery in which he'd tended to his fourth puncture of the trip a couple of days earlier. This inspired a Twitter discussion in the dead of night about the merits of various kind of tyres, with one person singing the praises of 'bomb-proof' Schwalbe Marathons, saying he'd cycled 25,000km on one pair and suffered just ten punctures in total! 

Monday was a day for more painting, and one of the most beautiful sunsets one could imagine, and chicken pilaf, and Guinness. And, no doubt, tea. In the dead of night, with the bleakness of The Road on the telly, the tyre conversation of the previous evening was resumed, and in the course of all the chatter, a very kind person said she'd send over some new tyres from Dublin! It's nice to see such kindness in the real world with our screens filled with cannibalism and desolation and abandoned shopping trolleys. That's how it starts, you know.

On Tuesday the Brother was away again, making his way to Westport through just a few miles of scenery that he drily described as being 'a bit too nice', saying he was getting tired from looking and trying to take it all in. He took this as an opportunity to try some mounted commentary, as enabled by Bernie Goldbach's lapel microphone a couple of weeks back, describing his views as he pedalled towards the town. In Westport he stopped in the shadow of Saint Patrick -- no, not the one wielding swords on horseback -- to drink some tea and ponder a painting before heading out to stay with two of his Twitterati friends, and to smile fondly at seeing one of his paintings on display.

Wednesday saw him stationed a couple of miles south of Westport, sitting on a hill looking down at the town and painting a panorama for his hosts. It sounds as though there was a phenomenal amount to take in, but he made a valiantly vibrant attempt at a Moyhastin Panorama, painting almost till dark and then taking a trip to Boheh Stone to see the Rolling Sun, though getting there too late, arriving as it reached the bottom. Still, there was a second lovely Westport night, there to chat and have a pint in Moran's, to paint, and plot in the darkness.

That reminds me. Somebody online opined during the last week that the Brother sleeps while he cycles, so that he can paint through the night. It's a fine Chuck Norris style 'fact', and one worth repeating, even if it'd leaving you wondering how he manages to see the things he later paints. I wish I could remember who it was who said that, though as things stand all I can say with confidence is that it wasn't me, it wasn't the Brother, and it wasn't John Lee, who wrote a nice little piece about the Brother for Irish Central, beginning by contrasting the old-fashioned and radically modern aspects of my brother's exploits:
'So quaint -- itinerant artist pedaling through the Irish countryside, paying for a night’s lodging with a deftly done painting -- all so very analog. But it’s digital that drives this clockwise, one-man, two-to-three month, slo-mo, 32-county, social media cycling and painting tour of Ireland.'
It's worth a read, and not just for the lovely embedded video.

Anyway, that takes us today, and the Brother leaving beside a handprint or three as he said farewell to Westport, with his hosts wishing him and his knees well, and having to skip Newport for now -- he'll be back soon -- in order to get to Bangor Erris. Barring places he visited in week one, this'd be the part of the country he's visited that I know best. He set off via Mulranny, looking towards Corraun as he went, and then turned north.  On the way to Bangor he sheltered from the rain and admired the Paul Henry sky, and then carried on through the most magnificent scenery imaginable, stopping for tea at Ballycroy, and revelling in some of the most beautiful rain he'd ever seen with the setting sun of the golden hour backlighting the landscape. And then, as I said, there was that rainbow.

Tomorrow he should be staying in one of my favourite places in, well, the world, and then after that he'll be carrying on, one way or another*, to Sligo and beyond. I hope he's keeping track of how many kilometres of road and acres of canvas he's covered, not to mention how many mugs of tea he's downed. Those'd be figures to admire. Still, in the absence of hard numbers, it's worth keeping in mind just how far he's come, in the fourteen counties he'd graced to date with his pedalling presence.

As usual, this is the point where I say that if you think there's any chance at all he might be passing within twenty miles or so of where you live, and if you have a bed to offer and fancy a painting, and especially if you're in one of the spots he currently doesn't have a host, you should let him know. He doesn't require much: somewhere to lay his head, food to eat, limitless tea, and to know where you are. Just send a message to Ireland's first digital nomad™ -- the tour's about people and pixels as much as it's about painting and pedalling, after all.

You can follow the Painting Tour on the Brother's blog and especially on Twitter, using the hashtag  #paintingtour. His Facebook account's worth a shout too, but Twitter's where most of the real action is, even if it's sometimes reduced to musing on singing Cavanmen or undead action in the Middle East**. As I've said a few times now, I wouldn't bother following him on Google Latitude, though, given its habit of placing him at seemingly random locations in the past.

* As Debbie Harry would say.
** And I quote, 'While I'm at it, here's a crap undead joke: Where do zombies go on their holidays? Bahrainnnnnnn, of course. Urrrrrrrrr...'

Update: It seems the line '@eolai sleeps on the bike as he cycles. He stays in people’s houses to stay up all night painting,' was the brainchild of Galway's Allan Cavanagh. Thanks to Grannymar for having preserved it, and having alerted me to the fact.


Grannymar said...

It was a Tweet from @AllanCavanagh

@eolai sleeps on the bike as he cycles. He stays in people’s houses to stay up all night painting.

I reused it in a Nomadic Update here http://www.grannymar.com/blog/2011/08/23/nomadic-update/

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

Ah, the caricaturing Galway host. Thank you. I'll update the text.