The road to the cottage travels through Heathrow, and rather more indirectly through the Ghanaian Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia. Way back in the beforetimes, Devon and I were headed to Ghana for some meetings at Ashesi, an absofreakinglutely amazing university that we’ve been involved with for a while. At Heathrow, checking in for our continuing flight, the agent handed Devon’s passport back to her, but studied mine as though there were some sort of problem. “Excuse me, sir,” she asked in the most polite and supportive voice possible, “But do you have a valid visa for Ghana?”
Well, I’d gotten mine at the same time as Devon got hers, but due to a typo, mine had been backdated to before my passport had even been issued. Hilarity ensued, and while Devon wisely went on ahead, I got an unexpected, brief and vaguely eventful little steeplechase in London.
None of this is news to longtime readers of this rambling little blog. What I haven’t related before is what happened the next day, while I was waiting in line to board again with my freshly-inked visa clutched tightly in my sweaty little hand.
“Are you Pablo Cohn?” The voice came from behind me in line; a woman’s voice with a rich and lyrical Irish lilt.
“I thought so – I saw your picture in the Ashesi trip notes.”
She introduced herself as…well, I’ll leave her name out of this, but she was also involved with Ashesi, and was headed to Ghana for the same meeting as Devon and I.
“You write,” she said, not so much as a question. “What are you working on now?”
I muttered that I mostly wrote short stories, but was trying to get back to a novel that had been moldering for close to a decade.
“But then you must come stay at the cottage!”
“The cottage,” she said. “We have a cottage out on Sheepshead. Lovely for writers. My friend Frances couldn’t finish her book, so we sent her off to the cottage for a month. Finished the book, came back and now she’s in all the stores. Yes, you must come stay at the cottage.”
It was all spoken, or lilted, as a single continuous thought, punctuated with a landing on certainty. And it was already clear from this brief introduction that my new acquaintance’s conclusions tended not toward questions or invitations, but simply statements of what was to be.
So six months later, on the cusp of May, I found myself negotiating my tin box rental car down a graveled offshoot of the appropriately-named Goat’s Path, peering into the dusk, wondering what I had gotten myself into.
I had gotten myself into something magnificent.
“The cottage” is her husband’s ancestral stone home out on the almost entirely unpopulated Sheepshead Peninsula. Glorious isolation, and fitted out all with glorious comforts you could ask for. Just happens to gaze out over Bantry Bay and the Beara Peninsula. Kind of ridiculous, I know.
I spent close to a month there, getting up early each morning, making myself a pot of tea and writing until mid-afternoon. Afternoons were spent tromping out amid the gorse and heather, trying not to get bogsucked and come home on one shoe. Almost three weeks of hiking, exploring every path along the Sheepshead Way, and I only once ever saw another person out there. (And that was all the way out by the lighthouse, coming over the rise to the Tea Shop at the End of the World, so I’m willing to take partial credit on that one.)
Some evenings, if I were feeling sociable, I’d walk over the ridge (Seefin – the seat of the giant Finn McCool) and down to Eileen’s for a pint. If I didn’t, I could go a couple of days without seeing another soul. I swore that, if I managed to wrangle the invitation, I would gladly spend May of each year in that same magical world.
Then, of course, COVID. Heh.
But this spring, as arms got boosted and numbers kept coming down, I reached out again. Might it be possible to…? “Of course!” she said, “Just let us know when you’d like, and we’ll make sure it’s all ready for you.”
So…here I am again. I’ll keep you posted.