Tir na nOg is a fabled Celtic island whose position in time and space is not in keeping with the rest of this world. It is said that the people who live there never grow old or die. I found myself there last weekend, after my return to Scotland.
Having spent a fortnight watching my uncle fade away, I was in need of some form of personal rejuvenation. I found myself by coincidence at a health centre called Tir na nOg, tucked away among the hills. Bunty had spotted an advertisement several weeks ago, offering a 90-minute massage, a three-course vegetarian meal, and a £20 gift shop voucher, all for the price of £30. He decided that this was exactly the sort of thing his mother and I would enjoy, and two vouchers were promptly bought, to be redeemed last weekend.
Bunty’s mother, accompanied by Pipkin her ‘haggis hound’, collected me from the gatehouse and drove me through the wilderness to the old stone buildings of Tir na nOg. The three-course meal was tasty and fresh from their own garden. I spent my gift shop voucher on jars containing ‘trapped fairies’, as they appealed to the naturalist in me. “Or the sadist in you,” observed Bunty’s mother, who was very sensibly using her voucher to stock up on cereal bars. Bunty’s mother has fairies living in her garden, I have heard.
My massage took place in a warm attic room with a window looking up to branches and sky. I relaxed to the sound of birdsong amid the patter of rainfall. Places like this always have a CD of this sort playing in the background – but at Tir na nOg, the sounds were real, and came from outside.
While Bunty’s mother was having her massage, Pipkin and I explored the grounds. Tir na nOg stands in a grove of trees, from which a path leads past a teepee, across a footbridge, and along a burn. Pipkin enthusiastically collected sticks and branches for me to throw for her. She then ran off with them so as to prevent me from actually having a chance to throw them, and chomped them up into little splinters.
Pipkin was bred as a sheepdog, but kept running away from the sheep. She was thus adopted by Bunty’s mother, who, for reasons I cannot fathom, thinks she is the most intelligent dog in the world. Maybe she is. Maybe she hides her light under a bushel, and that is why she never responds to words like “fetch” or “give me the bloomin’ stick”. Either way, her slapstick approach to life makes it hard not to laugh when one is around her. Like the magical Tir na nOg, she is a tonic.