Will you buy my cottage in Ireland?
If you are of a nervous disposition and if you are extremely serene and settled wherever you are today, then GO AWAY FROM HERE NOW AND READ NO MORE because this is the piece I have been hinting about since the start of the year which is certain to torment and unsettle a handful of you and spoil the rest of your week.
I have been compassionate enough to issue this gentle warning and accordingly accept no further responsibility at all.
Okay then, since you are still here and feeling strong, the news is that the Dutch Nation (my Dutch-born wife, Annett) and I, being at a beautiful crossroads in our lives in Clare, are hereby offering our old and lovely Maisie's Cottage for sale exclusively to the family of readers of the Irish Voice and IrishCentral.
No Irish estate agents are involved in this project and will not be involved for a month after this publication. The For Sale notice applies solely to you, wherever you are.
There is no advert in The Clare Champion or The Clare People. Even our friends and neighbors in Newmarket on Fergus and Shannon do not know that this is happening.
And do ye know something else? If this is tormenting and tempting a few of you to read this it is also tormenting me too as I write.
I am going to coin a new word to catch my mood. It is "jorrow,” an amalgam of joy and sorrow.
Let me tell you about the two factors which have created this situation. The first is that my lovely Dutch Nation, after years of working as an art therapist and nurse in an Ennis hospital 20 minutes away, has been overjoyed to secure the job of her dreams as a day center manager and art therapist in Raheen Hospital near Killaloe on the Limerick border.
The only drawback is that there is a one-hour commute each way between Maisie's and Raheen and, especially during this stormy and difficult winter, that is far too long over generally poor roads in the Irish context. Frankly, especially during the recent appalling weather, I do worry about her until she arrives back home each evening.
The second factor, as I resolutely attack my seventh decade in the west – and in good fettle too I might add – is that the tumble I had out of Maisie's attic 18 months ago has left me with about 20 surgical pins in my left ankle and, though pain free thank God, I am left with a residual hop which inhibits me in controlling and improving the half-acre of garden attached to Maisie's cottage.
The far end of the garden is getting harder to control and, since I will never mount a ladder again because of my experience with the attic ladder, garden maintenance and exterior painting are off the agenda at least until the late spring.
Accordingly, with the aforementioned jorrow, it is in both of our best and easiest interests to relocate ourselves on the other side of the county in Brian Boru's town of Killaloe.
Annet will only be 10 minutes away from work each morning, and Cormac the Hop will see to it that the back garden of the little town house we would hope to acquire will be just roomy enough for two dogs and two cats and be low-maintenance.
It is for this reason that we are offering Maisie's 150-year-old heritage thatched cottage in Carhue exclusively to one of you. I am not going to go into estate agent speak but, truly, it is a very, very special space.
It is still infused with the gentle yet feisty spirituality which old Maisie Sheahen left behind her to capture us the minute we walked in the door 15 years ago now. The Dutch Nation has added her own garnish and style to that, and there have been hundreds of mighty musical nights under the thatch, and many's the yarn and session of craic too that charge the atmosphere further.
I don't have the words for it, but it is special. Furthermore, despite the totally traditional thatched exterior, we refurbished the cottage entirely before moving in. There are all the mod cons, including even a sauna, two solid fuel stoves which we prefer to the oil-fired central heating we rarely switch on, a modern kitchen and bathroom of course, some kind of PVC sheathing under the Turkish reed thatch (which will last for your lifetime and mine) to act as extra insulation if necessary and, lads and lassies, there is a loft bed in the attached former horse cabin which we converted to a studio, and even insomniacs who have entered that bed have slept around the clock.
Maisie left behind her, not just the goodwill of the warmest rural community in which I have ever dwelt, but also a mighty garden which boasts the sweetest Beauty of Bath apple tree you have ever tasted, a sister tree not too far behind, a million roses of all hues along the walls in spring and summer, plum trees and blackcurrant bushes and strawberries and blackberries in season and hedges of redolent honeysuckle, and I could go on forever on this one.