And so it ended.
A big meal, and party, for the end of term. The Kitchen 3 Dining room transformed by decorations, students dressed to impress, a small band playing, drinks flowing and a strange mixture of sadness and joy.
The meal coked by Rory and the teachers was wonderful, an amazing soup, more Lamb, the creamiest gratin dauphinoise and a dessert to die for.
The hard core students then moved on to the Blackbird to party the night away. Well, many did. Some, booked on early morning ferries, took early nights and some were due to leave at 2am for their new jobs working in ski chalets across the continent.
I returned to the house to complete my packing and prepare for departure.
Saturday morning meant final goodbyes to housemates, welcoming friends calling in on their way home and even the odd refugee who failed to make it home after a night at the Blackbird!!
The final act of the course was Coffee at 11am with Darina. Over fine coffee and cakes we received our valedictory words, said goodbyes and it was all over.
A sense of emptiness crept over me. Some students had referred to the Ballymaloe Bubble, a small area of the world exempt from reality in which our own realities and aims and ambitions were all that mattered. Bursting the bubble and emerging into the outside wall was strange.
Immediately things were different.
The familiar surroundings of kitchens and Demo seemed alien in their silence and emptiness, close friends from the course seemed different somehow, no longer bound by common experience but individuals with their own lives to re-commence. Many would keep in touch but some would leave for ever.
A final walk around the grounds and away.
Whatever was to come the three months at Ballymaloe was a life changing experience, my skills had improved exponentially, my understanding deepened, and my passion for food and cooking reinforced and focussed. I came a keen amateur, I left dedicated and enrichened by the Ballymaloe experience.
To everyone involved, students, teachers, Rory, Darina, Rachel, the support staff whether administrative or on the farm my heartfelt thanks, I met you as strangers, I left you as friends.
Now I have to use the knowledge and skills that I gained to further the future of food. Whatever happens I will always be part of the Ballymaloe family and will obey the command on the blackboard.