‘You will be sent to Ballydehob Branch!’ was the bandied threat at a British branch of a well-known Irish Bank many years ago. The bank’s senior staff would ‘threaten’ their underlings with being sent to the small West Cork branch at the ‘back of beyond.’
Not that there’s any bank in Ballydehob these days, but anyone being sent to Ballydehob now might consider themselves extremely lucky. Ballydehob is a hive of entrepreneurship and social industry.
Joanne’s shop opened on Monday and we initially queued outside her closed doors and accepted drinks from the beautiful Susie. I noticed people were waiting, wine glasses in hand on the opposite side of the street and soon discovered why. There was a stiff chill breeze funnelling its way up the right side of the street so I decamped and joined those sensible people on the left hand side which was bathed in brilliant sunshine.
Plates of nibbles were handed around on the right hand side of the street so a quick dash across the road was required for those of us enjoying the sunny evening.
My friend had arranged to meet me, but despite the chill wind was swimming in a local bay with her dogs. She was delayed arriving for the opening having been stopped by the village photographer who was ferrying a beautiful dark haired Italian girl in his car. There was no space in the B&B the girl had booked so my friend agreed to accommodate Flora for the duration of the Jazz Festival.
Back to the shop opening which Joanne conducted with her usual decorum and her decision to invite Bridie, the postmistress, to cut the pink ribbon was warmly welcomed by all present.
The shop contains an interesting collection of gifts, jewellery, cards, games and even bicycle clips which I was sorely tempted to buy for the youngest son, but there were no prices on anything in the shop. People were writing lists of what they had ‘purchased’ and for which they would pay next time they were in the shop. Joanne has very good taste, as one can see from her Porcelain Room restaurant and her new business, The Copper Merchant, definitely has her stylish stamp on it.
My next visit to Ballydehob was Thursday night which was All Ireland Poetry Day and there were readings in The Bank building. It’s the first time I have been in this brightly painted former AIB Bank and progress on developing the premises for a variety of uses for the local community is ongoing. Huge tribute must be made to those in the community who had the foresight to purchase this building, the loan being paid off by the profit from local lottery tickets.
The poetry readings were in three languages, English, as Gaeilge and French. Readers were allocated a maximum of ten minutes each to read their work or the work of others.
The poetry reading theme was connections and one poem, the reader’s grandfather’s poem, had only been emailed over from the US shortly before the readings commenced. A Frenchman, who had only arrived in Ireland that day, read a favourite poem of his.
The poetry was as mixed as the variety of people packed into the front room of the bank. We were all shapes, sizes and ages, and even one tall chap who was barefoot but I didn’t have the courage to ask him why he did not have shoes on.
Writer and poet, and former teacher, Patrick Deeley, read from his own work and introduced Seamus Hogan, whom I had never heard of before. (I am such a Philistine.) Seamus read two brief poems and they were only a couple of lines, but such is his mastery of words that each word conveys what others would need a sentence to do so. ‘Grey Smoke against a Grey Sky’ is Seamus’s latest book and his words tell so much about the man himself. There’s all the care and love and passion there.
The official launch of Seamus’s book was further down the village and across the road so we all trooped into Ina Daly’s Bar. It’s small with a highly polished counter and I wondered how we would all manage to cram into this space. However a door opened off the bar to reveal a flight of stairs and we trooped down to what was essentially the cellar or basement of the house. The doors opened off to ground level at the rear with a garden and some of the Hogan fans were already outside. Too cold for me and most of us took advantage of the medley of seating arranged around the walls rather than stand outside. Food again was brought downstairs from the kitchen above, and soon we were munching sandwiches, pate on brown bread, and a variety of nibbles.
Patrick Deeley spoke about his long time friend, Seamus Hogan, with great affection and obviously there is great camaraderie between the pair. Brushing his blushes aside, Seamus read more from his new work and in some instances explained why or how a particular poem had evolved.
The Jazz Festival started yesterday and there is a mighty programme underway, something for everyone and all ages, including dance classes over the bank holiday weekend, as well as a street market on Sunday, weather permitting.