Month: May 2016

Islander [1/2] – wool, horns & langoustines

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The Corbett family are among the 2800 inhabitants on the Isle of Mull. Jim and Patience own large swathes of land on which sheep and cows have grazed for nearly a century. We spent a few days with their son Tom and his wife, Flora, who gave us a taste of their day-to-day life. The roads on Mull can be driven along in either direction, but most are only wide enough for one car. There is a recess every 300 metres to allow vehicles to pass one another. Like choreographed dancers, vehicles move to one side or the other of the road, the drivers greeting each other politely. The road grew even steeper as we neared Lochbuie. At the tip of the loch, we discovered a stunning bay surrounded by grass-covered mountains. Highland cows lapped up the sunshine along the shore. Pointed horns turned to face us as we passed, the cows’ eyes barely visible under the long red locks of hair that tickled their noses. We zigzagged between sheep, eventually arriving at Laggan, the home of …

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Tweedy Eddie D.

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Ardara is Ireland’s tweed capital. Tweed is a material made from wool. It is not knit by hand on needles but woven on a loom. Eddie Doherty invites us into his workroom and shop where he tells us about his ancestral craft. Eddie became a weaver in 1956. He is now 70 years old and is overwhelmed with orders from all over the world. He is Ireland’s last traditional weaver, and one of the few remaining worldwide. His colleagues have all switched to mechanical methods. Their output is higher than Eddie’s but that hardly fools anyone, the stitching is not the same, and the threads are not as tightly woven. Without interrupting his monologue, he climbs up on his gigantic loom and starts the machine up. It’s an instrument measuring 2 metres in width and almost as much in depth, capable of weaving up to 12,000 threads at once. A “Heath Robinson contraption of wood”, according to Eddie. The straps around the rollers start moving, the weft bobbin scoots from left to right, over and under, …

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Mairead’s scones

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Mairead lives in Bunberg with her three children and her Jack Russell cross, “Nibbles”. The family pet is aptly named, as our shoes soon find out. Mairead used to teach in a Montessori school, an alternative method of education. She explains her belief that it is essential to “allow children to live” without micro-managing them to excess, and to get them outside as much as possible so they don’t stay glued to a screen. This evening Mairead’s children are not at home but she has visitors: Elaine and her 13-year-old daughter Sarah. Women are taking over the kitchen tonight. INGREDIENTS 225g of selfraising flour ; 8oz (ounce) of selfraising flour 150ml of milk ; 1/4 pint of milk one pinch of salt 25g of caster sugar ; 1oz (ounce) of caster sugar 25g of butter ; 1oz (ounce) of butter 1 egg RECIPE Tip the flour into a bowl and add the sugar, butter and salt. Rub together gently with your fingers, not your palms, until the mixture looks like fine sand. Gradually add the …

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A breton in Ireland

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Erwan is a breton of 25 years. He’s also a Breton from Belle-île, and there aren’t very many of those! We met him on the ferry between Brittany and Ireland. We looked at the Irish map together whilst lying on the carpet between two bouts of insomnia. Erwan has several identities: to start, he’s Breton; a seasonal restaurant worker; international sound system examiner; plumber; future offshore welder; and more recently, a surf fanatic. He started surfing two years ago and hasn’t been able to stop since. He has taken 10 days of holiday, 4 days in Brittany and 6 in Ireland looking for the most coveted spots. He’s travelling in a little white 205 that is sparsely but efficiently equipped. The rear seat and passenger seat have been folded flat leaving just enough space to slide in two surfboards hidden under a white sheet. There is a foam mattress behind the passenger seat. When it’s time to go to bed, he lays his seat down flat, rolls out the mattress all the way to the …

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Patrick is Irish

Patrick is Irish

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Cead mile failte. Or, “a hundred thousand welcomes” in Gaelic. We arrived in Ireland on Sunday 8 May without really making our van’s nickname official. And yet, the decision was made on the day of our departure. Patrick. Since we didn’t find what we were looking for in your lovely and zany suggestions 😉 we started looking for a name that is both decidedly French and easy to pronounce for our European friends. Of course, but why Patrick, you ask? Well, it’s as easy as ABC: the van is a “California coast” model, to which surfboards were attached. Surf + California = Point Break. Point Break = Bodhi = Patrick Swayze. Patrick. It’s elementary! So we arrived in Ireland aboard Patrick on Sunday 8 May, with a respectful tribute to its patron saint… Saint Patrick! While we the French know him mostly for his saint’s day on 17 March, a day when we drink Guinness all dressed in green, he’s known across the Channel for having converted Ireland to Christianity in the 5th century. But …

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Bees & milk

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Pierrick has been milking cows since the age of 10. There are two people on his farm: him and his wife Aurélie. Aurélie was a professional beekeeper, but since 2013 she has been a “collaborating spouse” and helps Pierrick to take care of 50 dairy cows. This involves milking twice a day, for 5 to 10 minutes per cow. “No calves means no milk,” explains Pierrick. The cows need to calve in order to produce milk, so there are also calves on the farm and they look at us with bemusement. Depending on their sex, they will either be sold or will replace their mothers. The cows here are Breton, Jersey, Holstein and sometimes even “Kiwi” (a cross introduced by New Zealanders). The milk is collected in 3000 L tanks and will be sold to the processor/distributor “Biolait”. Today is a special day as Pierrick and Aurélie’s milk has become bio (organic)! It took two years to earn this precious label. Goodbye pesticides and fertilisers and hello quality milk! At Poulfang farm, the pursuit of …

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