"Is it Maurice Sheehan or Degsy Sheehan you're looking for?" the only customer at the Castlemore Arms asks. It seems that at I have outwitted Little Bunny Foo-Foo's attempts to give me directions, and am now within striking distance of the Sheehans of Lower Farran, without having to resort to the "Help! I'm lost!" phone call.
I answer readily "Maurice Sheehan. Lower Farran."
The drinker ponders for a second, "I dont know him. Who wants to know, anyways?".
Looking round the empty bar, I would have thought it obvious, but I play the game. Three years working with Bunny Foo Foo, and a lifetime of family experience have taught me that the Irish always answer a question with a question, and in this there is no trumping them.
"I'm going to be staying with them for a week. Maurice is a friend from Canada, and he's staying with his family. Lower Farran. Do you know where that is?"
"Canada, is it?" He looks at the barman "Would it be John Sheehan he's looking for?"
We're thirty kilometres west of Cork, deeply embedded in the maze of single track, unlit farm roads that constitute most of Ireland's transport system, having just left the N22, a relatively major road. The only clue LBFF has given to the whereabouts of his family farm is "If you reach Limerick, you've gone too far". Limerick is about 150 kilometres away.
The day has so far gone like clockwork, only not the Swiss type of clockwork, but the Irish type. RHB and I met up in Dublin Airport, having flown in from different airports in the UK, picked up our rental car in Dublin and have hightailed it across the country, including a swift diversion through Waterford, (which is where my family are from) and crossed the Knockmeadown Mountains via the famous "Vee", a hair-raising series of switchbacks just outside Clogheen. If you do not think it is possible to have hair-raising switchbacks in hills that rise just under 2000ft, then you have not driven on Irish roads, and you especially have'nt driven these roads just as dark is falling.
Navigation has been a little problematic, as there are translation difficulties, particularly for RHB. Irish pronunciation is more of an art than a science and zipping through towns like 'Cahir' (pronounced 'care'), 'Conna' (pronounced 'Kayna'), 'Lisronagh' (pronounced 'Leeshroon' or something) and asking for directions is just a good way to get lost.
Which is why I am not surprised when the barman at the remote Castlemore Arms, the only building with lights that we've encountered in twenty minutes of driving, points up the hill, in the opposite direction to the main highway and starts with:
"You go down to the highway..."
"The N22?" I ask, pointing down the hill across the deep dark of the countryside, to where the headlights of cars on the highway can be clearly seen about ten kilometres away. "That highway, down there?" I ask.
"Yes. Down to the highway", the barman now swings his arm round in the general direction of China "And go towards Cork City. But dont go to Cork itself" He pauses for a moment's thought, before continuing, "Are you in a car?"
Having established that we do'nt need a lift, the directions meander on. "Now, to go to Lower Farran, you go along the highway to Farrans Well. Then, you keep going on the highway to Farrans Church. When you've reached there, you go left off the highway, down to Upper Farran. There's some traffic lights there. Go past them a little bit, then go second left, and up the hill. To Lower Farran. But there's no signposts, and a few more roads inbetween. like, so you'll have to watch out. Then right there, past the well, there's a sort of vee in the road. The Sheehan's house is right there on the corner. "
I seek clarity. "If I get to Upper Farran, then I go up the hill to Lower Farran?"
"Yes. Up the hill. Or you could go the other way"
I thank the barman for his directions and head back to the car.
RHB wants to know what's up.
"Whats the situation?" she asks, brightly.
"We're so fucking lost" I tell her.
We do arrive in Lower Farran eventually, but only after giving in and getting LBFF to come and meet us on the main highway. A few days later, LBFF's sister, Liz, pops into her own house for a visit. Liz is visiting her own house because the Sheehan's accomodation consists of five detatched houses in what is effectively their own lane. For the duration of our visit, Liz has moved out, and is staying next door with her sister. Liz is a great laugh, and we've already discussed our difficulties in finding the place. She suddenly remembers something she has been told.
"Twas our second cousin gave you directions the other night" she says "I'm surprised you found the place, he's always smashed."