The bluebells were in full bloom, a field of electric blue against the deep green hues of the Irish countryside the first time I set eyes on Luggala. The imposing Gothic Revival Lodge that would become my second home sat just beyond them in the distance, but first the woods gave way to a small lake with a lonely little boat floating on it’s edge. With my marriage completely in tatters… it was the perfect backdrop for my despair.
Tatjana at Luggala
A “comedy of errors” was about to propel me into the magnificent world of The Honorable Garech Browne, a deliciously eccentric patron of the arts, founder of Claddagh Records, and often referred to as ” the pied piper of the artistic and bohemian glitterati of the day”. Now he happens to be one of my favorite people on the planet, but back then I just felt intimidated.
Julie Anne Rhodes, cover of Hello Magazine
Garech immediately struck me as a character straight from a Charles Dickens novel. His long grey hair swept back in a ponytail that cascaded over the collar of his crisp white shirt. He wore beautiful handmade shoes and a silk three-piece suit in pastel blue that evoked another era. I noticed his hands shook ever so slightly, and he had long fingernails… a hint that he was above conventionality’s. He speaks with a deep, commanding voice that although terribly aristocratic, has a warmth I suspect he does his best to hide. The glint in his baby blue eyes usually betrays his impish nature, but they were cold and grey on this particular afternoon.
He was not at all amused that I landed on his doorstep, a complete stranger with my five year old daughter in toe. I was under the misguided impression that I was arriving at the home of my friend Kim Kinderlsey, his nephew.
Julie Anne and Tatjana Rhodes
Tatjana and I were reluctantly led into a hexagonal shaped purple and gilt drawing room while the housekeeper rang around in search of a bed & breakfast for us. The walls of the room were filled with Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud paintings with the exception of a Magritte portrait of a beautiful woman that hung over the fireplace, and another painting by a lesser known artist. Acutely aware that we were unwelcome, I was mortified and on the verge of tears, but the words still spilled from my mouth before I could stop them “Is that an Anthony Pallisser?”
“Why…yes” Garech seemed shocked. “He’s a good friend. How did you know?”
“I sat for Anthony during my modeling days in Paris.” Suddenly the frosty reception melted away and that commonality paved the way to one of my most treasured friendships. Garech is the most gifted story teller I have ever met, and he always chases away my tears with his exquisitely dry sense of humor. I returned to London at the end of that weekend with my stomach literally aching from laughter at a time I might otherwise have drowned in tears.
Gareth Brown and Tatjana Rhodes at the Roundwood Inn 1992
Tatjana and I would spend nearly every weekend in that majestically beautiful corner of the world, cradled in the Wicklow Mountains. Feeling loved and protected, and surrounded by the most incredible creative energy I have ever known. Garech quickly became family to us.
I would soon learn that the beautiful woman in the Magritte was Garech’s mother, Oonagh Guinness. She was still ravishingly beautiful well into her eighties when I had the pleasure of meeting her one weekend. Together, Oonagh, Garech, Tatjana, and I planted a Meddler tree at Luggala which Garech assures me still flourishes today. I was also fortunate enough to meet Garech’s father, Lord Oranmore and Browne who held the unusual distinction of being the longest serving member of the House of Lords, even though he never uttered a single word in debate.
Gareth Brown and Tatjana today
On any given weekend Luggala was filled with the likes of Van Morrison or Marianne Faithful singing to us. Seamus Heaney reciting poetry while Edward Delaney sculpted in the gardens. There were long conversations over dinner with film director John Boorman and actor John Hurt.More often than not Ronan Browne (no relation) or Seamus Ennis would play the pipes while I was mesmerized by the footwork of the Irish folk dancers.
Sunday lunches were always at the Roundwood Inn, where owner Jurgen would serve up his famous Hungarian goulash in addition to traditional Irish Pub fare. Once president Kennedy’s sister Kathleen, who was then the American Ambassador to Ireland, joined us. Garech still delights in recalling the faux pas he made. Feeling rather jubilant from the wine consumed over lunch, he accidentally addressed her as President Kennedy instead of Ambassador Kennedy. She failed to see the humor in it, although it was not lost on us.
The Honorable Garech Browne, Tatjana, and Julie Anne Rhodes
There are endless tales to tell of my escapes to my Shamrock Paradise. Those weekends were heaven on earth to me…especially when my weekdays were filled with the bitter destruction of divorce. Luggala became my sanctuary away from a brutal world, and Garech my closest confidant. With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, I can’t help feeling a tinge of homesickness for County Wicklow and my dear friend.
Garech always seems to know instinctively when I am low. The phone will ring, and I’ll hear his deep gravelly voice bellow “Dear One… how are you?” Suddenly everything feels right with the world again, and he’ll have me giggling within seconds.
Slow Cooked Guinness Corned Beef Brisket
3 1/2 pound flat cut beef brisket (usually comes with spice packet which I use)
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 head of cabbage, cut into chunks
1 onion, quartered
1 cup brown sugar
1 12 ounce bottle of Guinness draught
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1). Add carrots, cabbage, and onion to the slow cooker, and top with flat cut brisket. Top with brown sugar, mustard, spices, bay leaf, and cloves. Pour in Guinness and water.
2). Cover and cook on high for 5 hours, or on low for 10 hours.
3). Slice corned beef across the grain, and serve with vegetables, and plenty of juice spooned over the top.
Serving Suggestions: You could easily add new potatoes in with the corned beef to cook, but I like mine served with white truffle mashed potatoes on the side. Of course, any leftover corned beef will make great sandwiches the next day!
Notes: Use a 4 quart (or larger) slow cooker. I like to use slow cooker liners for easy clean-up afterwards. If you do not have a slow cooker, cook in a large Dutch oven on the stovetop, simmering for 3 hours.