Lay of the Land: Opportunity knocks again for lucky lovebirds
'Lay of the Land' by Fiona O'Connell is a collection of her 'Sunday Independent' columns, and is now in all good bookshops (Red Stag)
Love is in the air, with the annual Lisdoonvarna matchmaking festival just around Cupid's corner. Perhaps not surprisingly, given its focus on this most fundamental of feelings, it has been sweeping folk off their feet for over 160 years, nowadays attracting up to 60,000 romantics from around the world.
Because if music is the food of love, they flock here for the ceol, the dancing, and that somewhat corny cliche known as the craic, what with that term now a hackneyed part of brand Paddywhackery. Especially when it comes to amour for mature souls, when it might be less a case of craic as cracks, with hearts broken or bruised. Unlike young ones looking for the one who are often brimful of carefree confidence.
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Either way, they say the secret to finding love is to simply be open to the possibility while doing something you enjoy. It sounds like the philosophy behind 'Bobby Jackman's Annual Lisdoonvarna Trip', which I saw advertised on the noticeboard in this county town. Bobby is disarmingly down to earth about your chances of falling head over heels.
"People go for the fun, not to find love," he says. "Though well and good if you meet someone, like you might at any dance."
This is his ninth year running a three-day trip where he looks after everything, from providing the bus to the bops, bed and a bite to eat. "Everyone settles in on the first evening. Then they are dancing in no time, from 12 noon till 1am in the morning if you like, because there are five venues. Everyone mixes well and it's great fun, if we get halfway all right weather. It's a lovely place."
The group includes couples that go every year, though "there are always a few blow-ins. You get everyone from 18 to 80 at Lisdoonvarna. Age doesn't matter".
While sometimes you can be so lucky in love that opportunity knocks twice. Such is the case for local Pat, who was once a contestant on the popular TV talent show of that name, when he belted out I Gave You the Best Years of My Life by Kevin Johnson.
For the past three years have given this widower of over 10 years another taste of love me tender, after he hit the jackpot when he met a beautiful divorcee who remained pals with her ex till he passed away.
Cupid struck in classic Casablanca style over a cigarette. "It was love at first sight for Pat, of course," his new beau laughs. They have been an item ever since. "We row," she cheerfully admits. But time apart, ironically, keeps them together. "I love having my own place," Pat's new beloved says. "So do I," pipes up Pat, less convincingly.
This rural Romeo and his love like how combining their names produces the portmanteau of 'patchouli'.
Long may the intoxicating sweet scent linger wherever these lovebirds wander.