Saturday 15 December 2018

Lay of the Land: Life is short but (summer) love lasts forever

Jerpoint Abbey Photo: Getty
Jerpoint Abbey Photo: Getty

Fiona O'Connell

Summer means cemetery Masses and an abundance of artificial wreaths for sale in a supermarket on the outskirts of this country town. Though Theresa from the country market was at the real-deal fresh flowers stand outside, pondering plants to put on her Dad's grave.

For life is short, even if these summer days seem to last forever. A funeral procession passing over the bridge is a poignant sight, the sun shining down incongruously.

Fortunately, fair weather brings its frivolous flip-side, with June the traditional month for getting married. In the rather brilliant Bassett's Restaurant on Marsh Street, John Bassett was marking its first day by hosting a double brides wedding - the marquee offering spectacular views of the floodplain, grass blurred by a blizzard of golden buttercups.

"Can we test the sound system?" asked one of the two blushing brides-to-be. "Sure," John said, laughing. Another venue hosting a happily ever after was the Watergarden Cafe and Gardens, its little arched bridge symbolising the transition from single to married status. No doubt Scatman John, man about town and pivotal member of the Camphill Community behind this oasis, was on hand to offer his popular DJ services.

In the old days, everyone in the townland was expected to attend a wedding. One local pair of lovebirds tweaked this to fit 21st century Ireland by bringing their best man and his boyfriend with them on their honeymoon.

While a widower, whose terminally ill husband recently passed away, became the father figure who gave away '50 and fabulous', who had marked her mid century with a hooley that would put folk half her age to shame.

As often seems to happen, the British blow-in came to Ireland for a holiday and ended up making it her home - until politics threatened to destroy her Irish rural romance, that is, Brexit being the trigger for tying the knot. For though her partner is a Paddy at heart, he lacks his lover's hallmark of an Irish blood connection. So she did the decent thing and made an honest Irishman of him, showing that things come full circle. For back in 1366, the Statutes of Kilkenny declared that no monk of Irish race should be accepted in abbeys within the English Pale.

This included Jerpoint Abbey, just up the road, where the Abbot Thomas, an Irishman, had to pay 40 shillings to obtain the rights accruing to an English subject.

Surely you should never limit love to certain nationalities. Just as no one in this country need dare not speak whatever the nature of its name is any longer. Though whatever combination Cupid chooses a couple to be, an old Irish belief advises neither party to sing at their own wedding. Better leave that to the Song of Solomon, with its sublime lyrics: "Set me as a seal upon thine heart... for love is strong as death."

Which surely, like flowers, says it all.

Sunday Independent

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