The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

Dear Wineport Lodge, We’re back now. In fact, we didn’t even go to you in the end – though I will con­cede that we did con­sider it. See, what hap­pened was this: I sud­denly, be­lat­edly, re­al­ized that The Sis­ter’s im­mi­nent de­par­ture for Aus­tralia – where she is to spend a whole, gi­ant, yawn­ing year – would mean that we would have no­body to mind the kids overnight un­til, well, this time next year ( by which time, oh happy day, they will be just old enough to mind them­selves overnight). And so, with in­de­cent haste, I set about book­ing an emer­gency, end-of-sum­mer night away for my­self and him­self, and yes – on the rec­om­men­da­tion of the same sis­ter, as it hap­pens – I found my­self on your web­site, look­ing lustily at Athlone in a way I never imag­ined Athlone could be looked at.

But on the only night that The Sis­ter was avail­able (Aus­tralian wakes be­ing many and var­ied), you were booked out. If it’s any con­so­la­tion, so were most places I tried. In the end, we found room at Dun­brody House – Kevin Dun­don’s place – and you’ll be re­lieved to hear that it didn’t dis­ap­point and that, at the risk of damn­ing a charm­ing, wel­com­ing place with faint praise, their sole me­u­nière was the best I’ve ever tasted any­where. In the morn­ing, after a won­der­ful break­fast, we me­an­dered our way back to Dublin, drop­ping into Kil­more Quay, where we haven’t been in years, for a brac­ing walk to ban­ish the last of the Pinot Gri­gio. We had a lovely time.

But the thing is, we’ve kind of moved on now. The chil­dren are back in school, the cal- en­dar is cov­ered in hi­ero­glyph­ics about Mer­chant of Venice re­hearsals, grinds and foot­ball train­ing, and for the sec­ond year run­ning, I am in the process of be­ing thor­oughly fleeced for somebody else’s Debs. It’s Septem­ber. To be hon­est, I can’t see my­self un­wind­ing at the Wine Lodge any time soon, if in­deed, ever.

Still, thanks for keep­ing in touch. In an odd way, your pop-up ads that ap­pear ev­ery time I ap­proach the in­ter­net re­mind me of those last, lazy sum­mer days when we went some­where else. Some days, when I am try­ing to wade

I quite like your ‘I know what you

didn’t do last sum­mer’ ap­proach, re­mind­ing me of can­celled con­certs

and bar­be­cues

through emails, your lit­tle re­minders that you’re still out there, beck­on­ing, present them­selves like a lit­tle vir­tual hol­i­day in them­selves. It’s a bit like those mo­ments on Bulls­eye when the win­ning con­tes­tant had just won a knife block, and chirpy Jim Bowen would re­mind them ‘here’s what you could have won’ as a bunch of burly men shoul­dered a shiny new car onto the set.

I ap­pre­ci­ate that other peo­ple might be an­noyed by the sheer ubiq­uity of your mes­sages. I can un­der­stand if peo­ple get ex­as­per­ated that click­ing on a web­site once can be the foun­da­tion for a life-long, though en­tirely un­re­quited re­la­tion­ship. I can imag­ine that if you put in a Google search for green high heeled shoes to com­ple­ment a Debs dress and your mes­sage still comes up in the mar­gin, that it might be a lit­tle an­noy­ing.

But I want you to know that I wel­come the dis­trac­tion. I quite like your ‘I know what you didn’t do last sum­mer’ ap­proach to on­line mar­ket­ing – it re­minds me of can­celled Garth Brooks con­certs and all the bar­be­cues we couldn’t have been both­ered hav­ing. The rather ex­cel­lent co­me­dian Michael Red­mond once had a line about Chubby Checker – ‘let’s twist again, like we did last sum­mer… what Chubby failed to re­alise was that peo­ple just want to get on with their lives.’ Well, when those lives seem to in­volve lurch­ing from re­hearsal to train­ing ses­sion and peel­ing off fifty euro notes at all points in be­tween, then there are days I thank God for Wineport Lodge. Maybe not ev­ery day, but still.

I look for­ward now to your Christ­mas menu, and after that, your Valen­tine’s spe­cials. If you are still in touch this time next year – and right now, I don’t doubt your tenac­ity – then we might even man­age to check out your pam­per­ing pack­age for our­selves. In fair­ness, The Sis­ter says that your spa is ab­so­lutely gor­geous and your out­door hot tubs are to die for. In fact, to re­mind my­self of just how lovely the whole place is, I’ve just vis­ited your web­site again and – oh.

I re­main, yours. For­ever, ap­par­ently.

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