I am a city person. I have spent all of my adult life in urban environments. I am comfortable having millions of strangers living around me. I enjoy the convenience of cities---all night markets, tons of culture, and fine restaurants.
Recently, Boyfriend Colm and I did a two-week whirlwind tour of Ireland. We traveled to the urban (Dublin and Galway), small town (Athlone, Kilkenny, Mullengar), rural and subrural (pretty much a lot of the Midlands). I was able to deal with the small town, rural, and subrural. I have the South Island of New Zealand on my travel resume, and there are a lot of great restaurants and great cooks all over Ireland.
However, one night, during a stay in Colm's sister's guest cottage, I was reminded just how much of a city person I am.
Colm's sister recently built a three bedroom guest cottage just across the road from her house. Her idea is to rent it out to tourists (it's completely wheelchair accessible). Since Colm and I were the first guests, we hung curtain rods and put together furniture. We literally made our beds.
Then, during our first night in the guest house, Colm pulled me out of bed at 2am.
"Come on, there's something I want you to see." He said.
Fine. Out of a nice warm bed. Open the front door. Get hit by the cool night air. Look out at road, fields, trees, sky, stars. Wow! Look at all the stars. So many stars. You can't see so many of them in the city. Awwww. He wanted to show me the stars. That's so romantic. The stars are like magical little lights blinking just at us.
While I was internally gushing and reaching for a better simile, Colm pointed toward his sister's house and her milking shed which had a light on.
"There's a light on in the milking shed, and I heard banging coming from that direction." He said.
"Maybe someone's working late. . .or early. Don't they get up early on farms?"
"No. The light shouldn't be on. I'm going to investigate." He said.
"Be careful." I said in my best Ingrid Bergman voice and kissed him goodbye. . .NOT!
Instead I said:
"I'm cold. I'm going back to bed. Do you have your key?"
Colm went off into the night, and I went back to bed. As I burrowed under the covers, I started to feel a little freaked out. Why were the lights on in the milking shed? Is there some basis in truth to all the fairy stories and Irish ghost stories I've heard? Did that show Twin Peaks (remember Twin Peaks?) have some truth to it when they talked about the evil lurking in the night? What if there is some masked monster like in the Scooby Doo cartoons but it's really Old Man Hatchet who would have gotten away with it if not for the meddling kids? But I'm not Daphne. What if Colm meets some teenage slasher on the road? Oh wait, Colm's not a teenager.
I chuckled to myself. There's probably a completely rational explanation which I will learn in the morning. . .if we make to the morning.
Colm came back.
"I went halfway down the road, but I didn't see anything." He said.
"Why don't you call your sister?"
"It's 2am. I don't want to wake her."
"Okay. Then go to sleep. We'll deal with it in the morning."
"Did you lock the door?"
"Good. Go to sleep."
But I couldn't go to sleep. It was too quiet. And would a simple door lock be able to hold back the fierce creatures that could be lurking outside the door? And once they came in, what then? Only my covers would hold them off. Maybe if I buried myself in them, I would seem invisible and. . .okay, I'm not five.
It was too quiet. I listened to cars on the road. I could hear them when they were miles away. They started as a low moan, then whisked past, then moaned again. Then, it was too quiet again.
I heard a strange low moo. A moo? Oh yeah. The cows. There are cows nearby. I went to sleep to the sound cows. I counted the moos.
The next day, we asked Colm's sister about the banging and the light in the milking shed.
"Oh we just got some new cows." She said matter-of-factly. She could have been a manager in the Gap talking about the new fall T-shirts. I laughed my ass off.
But wait. There's more. That night in the pub, when we told our story about thumps in the night, one of the neighbors had a different explanation.
Apparently, an old woman named Dolly and her husband lived in a house on the same lot as the guest house. After she died, her house was demolished, and the guest house was built. Probably some of the thumping was from Dolly's ghost.
Dolly and her husband were quite an eccentric pair. She wore socks around her neck like scarves and kept all her money in her make up bag. Every week her husband rode the tractor into the town to collect and cash the pension check. The shop in town was under strict orders to sell him only five woodbine (cigarettes). Most people thought this was cruel because there are seven days in the week.
After hearing about Dolly, I asked if there was anything I should do or say if I met her ghost. After the cow debacle, I wasn't taking any chances. Just give her your makeup bag, lay out five woodbine, and leave a slice of white bread was all the neighbor said.
That night, there were no phantom cows and no late appearances by ghosts with socks around their necks. I slept a deep sleep and woke up the next morning not quite sure where I was. But that only lasted a minute.