Ooof. It's been another long, strange, difficult, odd year. Not without its high points and good times, but I'd really like some 'normal' right now. The last two years have been something of a re-calibration for us (well for everyone I think!). So many aspects of life we somewhat took for granted: shopping, flying, visiting friends, even just going to the beach, have been restricted, and I think it has made people generally more grateful and more appreciative of the ordinary everyday things in life. But having said all that, I'd like 2022 to have a lot more 'ordinary' and 'everyday' in it please!
January and February are tough months in the West of Ireland at the best of times with the short dark days and the long dark nights, and I think this year we were all suffering from some sort of pandemic-fatigue. We hunkered down, drew breath and concentrated on simple things like eating and sleeping well, getting outside when we could, especially enjoying the day or two of snow we got.
Spring did eventually start to show her face, in that special and peculiar way spring arrives in Ireland. It's basically: winter-winter-winter-dark-cold-dark and then suddenly you get a few beautiful mild sunny days and you're sort of stunned. It takes a while to stop hunching your shoulders against the wind and rain, to unclench your body and open up to soak in the sunshine. This, of course, is a mistake, because winter isn't done with you yet and the next day we're back to winter-winter-winter-dark-cold-dark . But the plants know and the trees know and there are beautiful new leaves, primroses in the woods and cowslips in the fields.
It felt quite surreal as the year continued. We had to make all the preparations for the coming season but we had no firm idea whether we would be able to open or not.
So we were cleaning and painting, Sarah was in the garden pruning and planting; our staff were busy in the soap room, creams room and perfume room making products but... there was no-one around. No customers that is. The Perfumery looked great, everything was ready, but no people. Walking across the courtyard was slightly disquieting, like being on the deck of the Mary Celeste maybe. Still, we enjoyed all Sarah's spring bulbs coming up, and we all sat outside the empty Tearooms for our morning coffee breaks, so there was someone to enjoy the sunny spells.
And then more-or-less all of a sudden, the government announced that retail stores could re-open. Great! From zero to full tilt in a week or two. There was a lot of frenzied scrabbling around; despite how organised we thought we were, there are always a million and one tiny details to attend to. But we got there, re-opened our doors, and... of course it started raining. That particularly Irish sort of rain that happens while the sun is still shining.
The rain came and went, and in the sunny bits in between, we got out and about. As did all 5 million other Irish people. It was great to see. Everyone took advantage of any bit of fine weather to get out into the countryside, go to the beach, walk, swim, chat, picnic.
One day we kayaked out to Mutton Island off the Clare coast, an island I'd never been to before and saw the most amazing carpet of sea pinks in full bloom. They filled the air with a wonderful honey scent. It made me think we should try to do a perfume based on this fragrance one day.
We bought a little sailing dinghy in August and managed to get out sailing a few times whenever the weather was suitable. As someone once said, sailing is often either: 'not exciting enough' or: 'way too exciting!'. It's hard to hit that sweet spot between enough wind to be fun and not so much wind that it is terrifying! Celeste took to it like a natural. And Lana insisted on joining the crew several times, though mostly she just wanted to sit in my lap and avoid getting her feet wet!
We had a Really Big Adventure in September when we got to go snorkeling in the company of a shoal of basking sharks.
These huge, gentle creatures congregate off the west coast of Ireland in autumn to mate. They are filter feeders and though they are the second largest fish in the world, there is no danger of being eaten. In fact, while they were clearly aware of the presence of humans in the water near them, they seem completely indifferent to us, busy with whatever thoughts fill the consciousness of huge sharks. It was an amazing experience.
October and November have been very busy with mail order for us. Fortunately we haven't seen the same chaos in the postal services and delivery times that was so prevalent last year. (Well, not yet anyway...). I think with shops being open again the pressure has been taken off a bit, and also post offices and sorting centres are probably back to normal staffing levels. I'm glad. It was pretty stressful last year trying to get tracking information for people's Christmas presents, hoping they'd make it on time, and so on.
That's really it for us from this year. We're still busy packing and shipping, but everyone is really looking forward to the slow down at the end of the year. I think we will take it easy in January and not be in too much of a hurry to start up again.
Wishing you and your families a safe, warm and happy holiday season.