It was about 5 pm when I walked into Central B&B in Tipperary.
Graham’s first words were, ” Will you have a cup of tea?”
“I will.” And so began my stay in what I genuinely think of as the best B&B in Ireland.
I hadn’t planned to stop in Tipp, but it was 5 pm dark and the rain was sparkling on the windscreen from the lights of oncoming cars. I had what I thought was an hour’s drive ahead of me to the village of Cappoquin in Waterford. But I didn’t have anywhere to stay. I had called around all the places I could find in the village itself, and one reported that they were having a big funeral so everything was full. I think either I’m getting old or just getting meaner, but looking further abroad in nearby Dungarvin I was genuinely shocked to be quoted anywhere between 80-100 Euro a night for a room above pubs and cafes, some even announcing that breakfast wasn’t part of the deal.
I did the drive the next day from the B&B to the village and discovered that Google maps are not topographical so didn’t show the mountains between Tipperary and Waterford. Between me and my destination was the Knockmealdown range, and on the way back I came across Knockmealdown mountain itself through something called the Vee.
But back to Central B&B, although I didn’t know it at the time, staying there saved me a drive over the mountains on a dark wet night, not a bad start, and I didn’t fancy adding to the funeral arrangements in Coppoquin. Strange as this may sound, death features quite highly in this little story.
The B&B was run by a husband and wife couple, the wife ran the flower shop next door, she took my call in the shop, and I had to call in when I arrived as there was no answer in the B&B. But she quickly found her husband and so the offer of a cup of tea was made and accepted. One of the good things about my stay in Ireland was how easy it was to fall into conversation. Whether getting a pint, being served breakfast (in the friendly but less character full hotel in Dingle) or getting tea in a service station.
Over the supplied tea, that came in a pot, we found ourselves sharing family stories and even a few secrets. That strange freedom of conversation you can have with a stranger, where you would think twice with a neighbour or colleague. It involved family members in jail, lost sons, and much more when we were joined by Barry.
Barry, Lenni and Ally were all regulars in the B8B staying a few nights a week as they conducted their various enterprises; Ally a proper Cockney geezer was a mission to save people from addiction, Brian worked with traveller families, and Lenni a salesman long in the tooth and as wily as they come. Our conversations ranged far and wide geographically, historically and politically. About the horrific faction fights in pre-famine Ireland, and how Dan Breen a famous fighter in the war against the Black and Tans had been photographed outside this very building as he was marched through the town after being captured. It was all so enjoyable for me that I decided to stay another night even if meant a detour on my drive to look at properties in Ireland.
The next day I was due to view a house in Coppoquin, after trying the agent’s number a couple of times the evening before with no luck. I called his office, there was silence for a minute when I said I had been trying to reach Donal. When someone else came back on the phone they explained that Donal had unfortunately passed away the evening before. A little shocked, and after expressing my condolences, I hinted that I had come a long way and asked if would it not be possible for someone to show me the house.
Again the silence, “Well we don’t want to disturb Donal’s family.” Was the answer. ‘Of course.’ I said, ‘But it’s not Donal’s house is it? Why would you need to disturb his family?’
It seems Donal had the keys on him or in his car, and understandably the estate agent didn’t want to ask his family to go looking for them. I never did see inside the house, though I did drive over the mountain and get lost in the beautiful winding roads on the other side. My second night in the B&B was as good as the first as the assembled company sat in the breakfast room, the owner supplied a couple of glasses of wine and I told of my strange day. The breakfasts were great and it only cost me 50 Euro a night. The Literary Festival I took part in while in Ireland wasn’t bad either, and I might come back to that in a future post.
I have changed the names to protect the innocent 🙂