Thursday, September 16, 2010


Driving up in remote North Mayo at what seem like mortality-affirming speeds when in reality it's not all that fast it's just that the roads/lanes/tracks are so darn narrow, we sped by a ruined house which exhibited a certain blog-worthy quality, so I shouted out to P. to stop and turn around, and being the good man, he did just that. Situated so close to the road, it quite possibly was an inn of sorts at one time, or a gate-house, which, from the looks of a stack of bills in what was the kitchen, has been abandoned since around 1980. My first thought was, oh, that's not very long. But it is 30 years, which, at least in American terms, is a LONG time for a house to sit and wither into decay.

I climbed in through an absent window into the pantry
where stacks of blue cups and saucers teetered on the edge
of a filthy table --

I always want to know the back-story to abandonment --
the likely guess being death or debilitation -- but the question
that looms is how can a building sit for three decades
with the forks and spoons still in a drawer?

My only answer, again, stems from my American orientation
where few things remain untouched in the name of progress
and reinvention. Raze that ramshackle ruin! Plunder
the detritus, host an estate sale for god's sake!
There's always something someone is willing to pay for
on ebay. Even this kettle --

I poked around -- a bit spooked, I admit -- and ignored
P.'s entreaty to come see something, even when I heard him
get in the car, sound the horn, and drive off! I had important
work to do rummaging through thirty years of mold and merde.
(He was only turning the car around, I found out.)

There was still time to send a petition to Lourdes --

-- and photograph the stunningly colorful mold on the walls
which coordinated with and complimented the tones
of the overstuffed chair:

(Shades of Hurricane Katrina flood damage.)

Although the upstairs bedrooms beckoned, I didn't want
to risk putting my foot/leg/body through a dry-rotted stair,

so I contented myself with a prolonged prowl through
the extensive main floor, ducking under cobwebs thick
as quilt-batting, taking only shallow breaths. In one room
I discovered a disemboweled piano, most of its ivory
pried loose, the felt-guts spilling out: the end of song.
Boxes of books gave up no treasures to the thief that I was
soon to become, and I held a single, soiled Blue Willow plate
for a minute before putting it back to its long sleep
on a shelf. I finally snatched up a few copies of blank receipts
(it was the bakery connection that caught my eye) --

(And even this felt like theft, a violation amidst the state
of post-desecration in which I lingered.)

I hefted myself back up through the gap in the pantry wall
and performed my own small act of abandonment
of the Blue Willow Plate, the sugar tongs, the mildewed

And lastly, a humble list:



  1. What a wonderful place. No doubt someone from Vogue Magazine will be sending models out at once for a photo-shoot.

    I won't tell anyone, but I DO hope you managed to rescue a souvenir or two!!!

  2. What an exciting adventure you are on T. I'm with Cro...I wouldn't have been able to resist a knife or a spoon.

  3. Wow, what great pictures Therese. Yes, like Cro Magnon says, I can see this in an Anthropologie catalog.

    We have a book about a crumbling Irish manor called Bonnettstown with photos by Andrew Bush. It's inhabited by three old dodderers just about to leave for a seniors home. I think you'd really enjoy it.

  4. what a treasure trove...though the looks of that mold would've sent me scurrying out of there in a flash! (Highly allergic)

    The photos are is odd how something could be so utterly abandoned for so long. I am just imaging all the life that went on there.

    Let's see if the place visits you in your dreams.....

    Great Post!

  5. Jacqueline...I regret that I didn't rescue a spoon or plate, but it felt so much like stealing, in spite of the obvious state of disaffection.

    Tara, well, last night I dreamed about houses crumbling in an earthquake, which was most likely a result of my adventure!

  6. Hazel,thanks for the Bonnettstown link -- some mighty beautiful shots there! (But I win in the mold department.)

  7. The armchair reminds me of Father Jack's chair in Father Ted! (Google or YouTube if not familiar!) Fascinating to see a house frozen in time. We were in Mayo last weekend on the way back from Donegal - stayed in Westport and drove down to Leenane and Galway via Connemara - lovely country. Bad roads though, we're getting slowly used to motorways on the main routes now.
    All the best, Catherine.

  8. What an amazing find T. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. A house of so many unanswered questions.

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  10. Catherine -- yes, they're quite wretched/bumpy/pot-holed. Makes for a lot of bouncy driving.

    molly- thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  11. T-

    amazing photographs, just stunning. and your writing made me feel like I was right there, looking over your shoulder as you delved into the silence and decay.

    thanks for this one.



  12. brilliant photos, thanks for taking us along.