An Irish sojourn for Jo Foster

I'm on a high after recently returning from a few days away in Ireland mixing work with pleasure. It feels like I've lived a lifetime since I was last over in the Emerald Isle, so much has happened in the last seven months.

The Yorkshire Post's Country Week columnist Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.

I landed at Dublin with a full list of people to visit so I hired a car, turned up the music and set off southwards to the beautiful Wicklow countryside. It was a warm clear morning; the country roads were virtually empty barring the odd tractor.

I wasn’t in a rush, it was good to be away. I stopped to breathe in the spectacular view. Spring had splashed the valley with every shade of green on her palate and scattered it with golden sunshine. I felt relaxed and truly happy for the first time in months.

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I love being on my own but sometimes the loneliness catches me off guard. Like opening the flood gates, memories pour out with all their pain and I am suddenly bent over double, unable to breath. It feels like I am swamped in a swirling pit of heartache.

Then moments later, like water evaporating in the sun, the feeling vanishes. I can breathe and be my happy self again. The mind has its own way of coping I guess.

I arrived at my friend Paddy’s yard mid-morning to find every-thing a hive of activity. We were all going to Punchestown races later in the day but there was time enough to watch a few ‘lots’ work, catch up with the lads, inspect some horses I had come to buy and visit the new foals before sitting down to enjoy breakfast at a local café. I grabbed a shower and we dashed off to Punchestown.

I last set foot on the course 21 years ago as a young, eager and naïve girl full of big dreams and driving determination. Little did I realise then what a crazy and exciting journey lay ahead.

At the races I bumped in to half of Yorkshire, most of whom were getting stuck in to the Guinness.

The festival, which draws to a close the Irish National Hunt season, is incredibly popular with the English who make up 70 per cent of the overall crowd. The day seemed to pass in a flash. I sat in the owners’ and trainers’ bar with a fresh glass of the dark stuff thrust in to my hand every few minutes by random strangers. I have a pocket full of telephone numbers offered with a “call in when yar passin” or “I’ve just da horse ya need…”

In the evening we ventured to a nearby restaurant with some of Paddy’s fun owners and his brother Rory, a mastermind at breeding show jumpers and telling an entertaining story with a cheeky glint in his eye. That evening my head barely hit the pillow before I fell sound asleep…