Coast Diary – March 26th

The Church of Fergus…probably.

What weather we are having this week; clear blue skies and deliciously warm sun, a treat after an extra long, extra wet and dreary winter. So what if there’s a razor of chill in the air and a haze that lingers, especially near the coast. It only adds a sharpness to the taste of spring and layers the landscape in misty blues. Even if you have been working in the city all week like I have, this weather is balm for the soul. I have caught the tail end of some of these days, racing out the road to see the blue sea fade to white, the metal man’s pillars glow warmly before their familiar shapes dwindle into the dusk and everything is still and pinky-purple. What days for swims too in water smooth and silky yet viciously icy enough to wake hibernating innards. So I imagine but my blasted ear and its lingering, occasional stabbing pain – someone with a voodoo doll perhaps?- prevents me from taking the plunge for now.

Last Sunday I walked out for an hour or so on the narrow road parallel to the coast. I have heard it said around here that Cromwell’s army marched this way, most likely to Waterford from Dunhill (where they took that castle after an unfortunate incident involving beer – a lack of it believe it or not) although I remember looking for evidence of the route before and not finding any. I stopped at the old church on top of the hill going down to Kilfarrasy. It is a ruin and is on private land but you can just about see it over the spring-time ditch. This is the townland of Islandikane – once O’Kane’s Island, though it is not an island rather a headland – and it may possibly have been a possession of the Templar Knights but I can’t be be bothered checking. Kilfarrasy means Church of Fergus so perhaps that is the name of the church.

Then yesterday, Friday, a day off, was spent mostly pottering and putting the house to rights, a house thats somehow seems to upend itself when I am not in it. Is it possible I have a raft of giant toddler poltergeists? Still, I got a good walk in the evening, down to the nearest little beach. The smell of fresh cut grass mingled with the occasional hint of a turf fire and the primroses are peeking out. The daffodils are still with us, nodding or stretching earnestly towards the light. The hedgerows squeak and chirp and rustle with the busy shapes within. On the beach the tide was low and as the sun set I poked around some of the rock pools for anenomes. To my delight I not only spotted a common Beadlet Anenome, those jelly-like reddish, brown ones but a small, chubby, pale lavender Jewel Anenome as well as another small one I have not seen before and have not yet found a name for. I also spotted a small, deliciously spotty, Strawberry Anenome. Except perhaps for the Beadlet Anenome, these anenomes are not immediately visible so if you want to see them you need to crouch and crawl around the rocks. It’s a surprisingly soothing past time, teetering on slippy rocks, staring into what, initially anyway, seem to be dank pools. Disregarding how nerdish this may seem or the funny looks you get, you find, as with life, the closer you look the more treasure you see.

Coast Diary – March 12th & 19th

Wonky seagulls over Bride Street..

Though I was away for work last week, I was going to post something – a sketch of my runners on the edge of the tide as I took a paddle the night before leaving perhaps. Or the seagulls hovering in the blue sky above Bride Street in Dublin along with a rumination about how you are never really that far from a sea gull in Ireland. But I didn’t bother. And now another week has rolled around and, having been wrung out by Dublin, I have nothing. This, I only realised when I was down in Fenor Bog at sunset fruitlessly looking for frogs, something I do for no reason at all. ‘Perhaps I will see a frog‘, I thought and will write about that. But of course I did not. Like sea potatoes, frogs are masters at avoiding me. I did see a gang of long-tailed tits, the cutest of the tit family – seriously, can we not, like the Americans, call them chickadees? – and also happily noted a new, shiny, bright NO DOGS sign, which is unfortunately needed in this little nature reserve. My happiness was quenched in about 30 seconds with the appearance of a gormless girl walking her dog around the bog. You have to make an effort to get to this bog to walk your dog, so kudos to her for that I suppose…

In an effort to circumvent my rant gene (another fruitless exercise), I hightailed it to Kilfarrasy Beach where the sun had just slipped behind the horizon, leaving behind a yellowy pink blush in the cloudless sky that reminded me of peardops. Mmm, peardrops…A camper van, parked lengthways, had claimed the space against the wall overlooking the beach but I went to have a look out at the sea anyway. As I did the camper van couple in their private sunset seats between camper and wall came into view to my left. Awkward. We tried to ignore eachother but when I did glance their way the fella gave me a look. Perhaps my ‘resting bitch face’ gave them a look too – I can never tell what it’s doing – because they soon packed their chairs up and retreated inside. It must be so annoying when the general public wander around the public space you have comandeered for yourself and your mid-life crisis purchases.

The light faded and it got colder and I gave up and came home. Maybe I’ll find something to write about next week….

Coast Diary – March 5th

Very little coasting this week and lots of computery stuff and deadlines. I went for a walk on the main beach earlier in the week. I was hoping to be inspired for this week’s post but all I got was my ear infection rebooted. Well not entirely true. I also saw a dead, thick-lipped grey mullet being pecked at by seagulls, a part of a sea potato and some crushed crabs. The insides of their shells are always such pretty colours. Hardly a consolation to them I suppose. What good is a pretty house when you’re dead?

I had been expecting some dolphins or porpoises to wash up up after all the storms we’ve had but happily I hadn’t heard of any, or not in these parts at least. A young fin whale washed up in east Cork in an emaciated condition. Perhaps, after possibly being seperated from its mother? I heard of it first through an organisation who have recently started competing with the IWDG (Irish Whale & Dolphin Group) for the public’s ceteacean reports. It emerged a few years back that the IWDG’s research, which they were sharing online for free, was being sold on – I suppose to companies who do surveys for developers. The IWDG do consultation work themselves, it is part of how they fund themselves in their mission to campaign to make Irish territorial waters a whale and dolphin sanctuary.

The IWDG’s more detailed information is now, as far as I can see, harder to access. Perhaps others still want in on the consultation business though because I can see no other reason for setting up companies to collect information on our wildlife. It makes me wonder if we will end up with developments getting green lit on the basis of incomplete environmental information? These are entirely my own thoughts but I, for one, will continue making my reports through the IWDG alone.

Typically enough a report of a dead dolphin came in the day after my walk, on exactly the part of the beach I had been poking at dead crabs on, but by then I was too busy to go back and take tissue samples. My new colleague, an old friend who has just volunteered to help with strandings, will hopefully get to it.

The rest of the week was writing and working in the city. I finally got the best of my biggest deadline yesterday. When I arrived back on the coast after what looked to have been a beautiful day by the sea, I sat and watched the pink clouds shading to purple then grey in the robin’s egg blue sky over an impossibly blue sea, its intensity deepening before brightening and fading into dusk. I thought then I would write about how the telegraph wires and poles – which I once appreciated for their sketchy, swooping lines – now, in their continuing profusion, are dissecting my sea and sky into ever smaller slivers. But I didn’t. Not really.

Coast Diary – February 26th

There were some beautiful days out after the storms at the weekend, though a bit chilly and there was still a big swell going. I walked my usual loopy route a couple of times, down to the sea and back, saw the neighbour, saw Buzz in his tree, and the heron laboriously flapping his way from the main beach overland to one of the coves to the west and wondered what I am going to keep writing about for the rest of the year…

I was distracted from my pondering when, as I walked towards the emergency access point I mentioned last week, the one that runs down through the woods to the cove, I came across a car parked up right between the gate that said NO PARKING EMERGENCY ACCESS POINT and the sign that said NO PARKING EMERGENCY ACCESS POINT. The rest of the road was empty. The registration suggested the owners were ‘inlanders’.

There’s something about NO PARKING signs that seem to draw certain motorists like a beacon. It’s a huge problem at the beaches during the summer, cars parking for hours at a time blocking all access to the water, risking lives and….but there are many, many idiots in the world and there was no point ruining my walk so I continued on down to the cove where there were some swimmers about. Scanning the sea with binoculars in the hope of seeing some dolphins or whales, I became lost in looking at the horizon, the wind on the water, the current as the tide dropped, the birds flying back and forth or bobbing on the waves, the sun slanting to catch the white caps or illuminating the water an electric green here and there. There’s something of eternity about the sea as it stretches to meet the sky so, as I wandered back up through the woods, I composed a piece on the serenity the sea inspires for this week’s blog post. But. The car was still there. My serenity, accelerating from 0-60, took off.

I thought about snitching to the Garda Síochána* but they would be more likely to put me through the mill for disturbing their serenity. Don’t think its our ‘síochána’ they’re keen on protecting. I didn’t even consider posting on one of the Facebook community groups because anyone who posts there about bad parking- in disabled spaces or at the supermarket door (who are those ‘special’ people?!) – gets piled on by lazy idiot skanger trolls who write things like…

“That was me and I’ll f****** park where I like lol”

But there was no need for me to outsource my ire because before I had gone much further the driver of the car returned. A couple and a kid. The woman had been swimming. I waited until they were driving towards me and I stepped out and flagged them down.

I calmly told them that they had parked in an emergency access point. I said our search and rescue need those access points. I asked them to please not do it again and I said I hoped that they would never need the search and rescue services. This last was a lie because I was simultaneously picturing them all being carried out to sea on a burning raft. I believe I spoke calmy and neutrally but with my ‘resting bitch face’ and my articulacy, I have unknowingly frightened the bejasus out of people in the past so who knows?And who cares.

The guy took what I said with equamanity. He may have been one of those men who just hears ‘blahblahblah’ when a woman speaks. A possible reason for this was in the seat beside him where his partner, newly out of the swelling sea, looked like she would have few things to say to me once she had spat out the mouth full of lemons that she habitually chewed on. The salt water didn’t seem to be doing her any good anyway so, as she slammed her body back against her seat in irritation – and as a possible prelude to spitting lemons at me – I walked away.

Maybe they were having a bad day.

LOL.

Further up the road I ran into another neighbour, one of the group of women I used to swim with. She’s a veteran of many years. I asked her had she been in this week

No no, the tide’s not right at our time, and anyway the water’s still unsettled. I wouldn’t chance it.

She knows that anyone of us could get into trouble and need help, even the veterans. So even if you might not mind a few inlanders being carried off, it’s still best if we…

DON’T PARK IN THE F******* ACCESS POINTS!

Thank you.

No LOLS.

*An Garda Síochána is our police force here in Ireland and it translates as The Guardian of the Peace.

Coast Diary – February 19th

In the woods

It was a stormy week this week, though earlier on we had some blue skies. Out strolling I met a neighbour who always stops to chat. Recently we have both been bemoaning the increase in traffic – both on foot and in cars – due to lockdown and a temporary one way system that saw cars barrelling along the narrow road. All in a mad hurry to get from their swims down in the nearby cove back to civilisation I suppose. This time he told me ‘they’ will be tearing down an old wall that runs alongside the small woods before the road turns down to cove, in order to put in a footpath. However when I checked online I didn’t see any such plans so hopefully it’s just a rumour. Its a nice old wall and I know a footpath will depress me. Next it will be street lighting. And disco bars…the car park down at the cove is now like one on a saturday anyway.

The woods, which line the small glen that cuts down to the cove, are lovely, if a bit ragged now in early spring. Despite it only covering few of acres, there are beech trees, oak and poplar trees and I think horse chestnut too. In May the ground is carpeted with bluebells, in autumn the yellow and russet leaves spiral down to trim the path. There are the usual blue tits and robins, rooks and pigeons all about. There are wee goldcrest in there as well as coal tits too, if you stop and look for long enough. I once heard long-eared owls there, late in summer, the creaky call of their young sounding like an unoiled gate – but have never seen them. My neighbour told me that they are there still and I might see them as dusk comes on. I’d better get looking before the streetlights appear.

There’s an emergency access for the cove where a wide footpath splits off from the road and runs down through the woods. Beside the path, a river rushes over a series of tiny falls down to the stony cove at the sea’s edge. Until recently there were two wooden bridges spanning the stream, but they have now been replaced by one metal one. Locally the new bridge was seen as an ‘eyesore’ but I think its OK, probably safer too. And it’s been painted green, which helps. But I worry about the woods. The trees are tall and spindly, and, beset by ivy, they sway dangerously in the wind. Year on year I imagine they are thinning, that there are less and less of these rag-bag survivors from another era, hiding from the encroaching red roofs that can now be seen through the thin trunks up the side of the tiny glen. Maybe it’s my imagination.

Walking carefully back home – (I’ve been dizzy all week with an ear infection, which is why I have only taken you as far as the woods) – I saw the ‘Local Buzzard’ (Buzz) on a tree by the cliffs, his white breast shining in the sun. It wasn’t his usual hawthorn but as I watched he took off and flew low across the field towards me and swooped up to land in his thorny throne. Within seconds he was dive-bombed by a pair of hooded crows. You will often see buzzards picked on by crows. Their response is usually to move on, wings flapping heavily, like the large, plain child in the schoolyard, stumbling and bemused by the taunts of the more socially agile. Buzz took off, but for once he hesitated long enough to make a lunge at one of the crows before continuing on. It was gratifying to see. You’ve got to fight back.

Old wall and Homer Simpson Tree

Coast Diary – February 12th

It’s thirty years this month since the Toulouse Experiment but you won’t have heard of it. It was the early ’90s when three of us, on another samey night out in Waterford, decided to buy one-way tickets to France. Plans for escape are not unusual on boozy Tuesdays in February but, to my continuing shock, we actually went ahead with it and within a week we were off. We went to Paris for a few days, slept on someone’s floor and had adventures – we had a gun pointed at us, one of us went missing – then planned to fly on to Toulouse (the missing one had turned up). My two flibberty-gibbet friends managed to miss the flight even though they were right beside me in the airport, so I landed in Toulouse alone, without a word of French. I survived and stayed on there for four months, mostly drinking wine. What has this to do with the coast? Not much except that one of those flibberty-gibbet gals turned up last Sunday on a visit home from Switzerland and suggested we go for a swim. Though Switzerland is land-locked, she’s a coastal gal and she has been dipping a few times a week in Lake Geneva. I would like to try that one day but I think I will always prefer the salt and the tumbly waves.

We went to Garrarus and, though it was windy, grey and rough, the tide was low enough that we could safely dip in Johnny’s Pool, a part of the beach which at certain times is protected from the worst waves. I don’t know exactly who Johnny was except that he was one of the numerous regular sea swimmers at Garrarus and he has since passed away. There have been all weather sea swimmers here for a long time.

I started year-round swimming with a group of women about 15 years ago. Back then, when most aspiring, upper-middle-class women declared proudly that they would only swim in the Seychelles in mid-summer in a hot tub, those sea-swimming women were practically thought of as witches. However, since lockdown, every Tom, Dick and Harriet is in the water. There’s a saying swimmers here use – ‘The sea is like soup!” – they’ll say, meaning its bloody baltic! Now its more like thick stew, full of people. I didn’t even bother going for the usual Christmas swim as I imagined it would be like the Ganges with dryrobes®and prosecco.

I have to admit here that I received a dryrobe®as a present a couple of years back and was over the moon. Up to then I had been using an elasticated towel (also very handy). However within a few weeks of receiving the dryrobe®, they had become a cultural byword for ‘idiot poseur’, with people wearing them around the town as they shopped, to indicate they had been swimming. So while it’s too practical not too use, I always don it with a slightly apologetic air that suggests that though I am not of the same vintage as the Johnny of Johnny’s Pool, I am definitely not one of those Johnny-come-latelys.

So last Sunday was my Christmas swim – finally! – with my flibberty-gibbet pal who I hadn’t seen in a long time, though she did manage to reach Toulouse that time, as did the other one, before they both headed straight back to the more interesting Paris. The slower south suited me better. She is still a flibberty-gibbet, as am I. We had tea and chocolate. And it was lovely.

Coast Diary – February 5th

Totally Tropical…

This week I was rushing around the country again, first to a weekend workshop in Clare, which was a great experience, but it was a few miles from the sea and we spent the whole weekend tucked away in the countryside, working. When I left I decided to hit the coast. But once again, I found myself as unimpressed by Clare’s coast as I am by the rest of the county. It quite bemuses me that people rate it as a destination. I suppose there are some good views from the Cliffs of Moher though there’s too much tourist, car park and interpretative centre for me – and if you’re a surfer, Aileens and other places are quite beautiful to surf, at least judging from Mickey Smith’s filmwork. But for land based stuff…meh. So I got as far as Spanish Point – so exotic sounding I actually thought I hadn’t been there before. I imagined standing like a lady pirate, windswept, on a high headland, weeping for my lover, a dashing survivor of the Armada, whom I had to kill as he was drawing attention to my piratey behaviour…but its just another scrubby beach that had slipped my mind. Sorry Clare – the only good thing about you is your name.

I headed north to Connemara then, because really, once you navigate the trauma of the N24 as far as Limerick, its best to get as many visits in as possible. Connemara beaches are my favourite , though the much vaunted Roundstone leaves me cold – alright, I’m picky, sue me – so I travelled through it in order to visit a coral beach I am fond of. The tide was in and the weather grey and blustery so the white sand and turquoise sea was not much in evidence but I went for a brief walk on it anyway and the magic struck again. I don’t know if its the tiny pieces of coral, washed in from far tropical places on the north atlantic current, the shells, or the pink, red and black rock, scored by time’s passing, all vibrant even in dull light but even the little bit of rubbish – two oranges lying in the sea weed some distance apart and further up two cartons of Tropicana orange juice – seemed to tell a story. What story it was I still haven’t imagined. I looked for signs of life or death, but the only other creature I saw was an unfortunate Portuguese man o’ war tangled in the seaweed. These beautifully blue/pink, gas filled, bladder like creatures are siphonophores – often mistakenly identified as jellyfish – travel at the mercy of the sea and wind, trailing their deadly, prussian blue tentacles. They can be lethal even to humans and better not touched even in death.

Later, I travelled on, deeper into Galway, towards other favourite beaches which will remain nameless. At the end of the line my artist friend, not seen for a number of years, had set up a bakery. Heaven is here.

Coast Diary – January 29th

I was wondering last week how I’d keep a coast diary going, I mean how often can you say

‘I saw the sea today. It was nice.”

But I forgot that things have a habit of…happening. There was the news that Russia is planning military manoeuvers off our southwest coast, which will likely be damaging to the ceteaceans, besides being politically – and in all other ways – dubious. Jokes abounded, mostly about the Healy-Raes luring Russian boats onto the rocks to loot the occupants but it is worrying and worth keeping an eye on.

Last week’s post was about how many dolphins are around and on Sunday a common dolphin washed up on Tramore Beach. I guess there was bound to be some casualties. On my way to the beach, our distinctive red and white SAR helicopter, Rescue 117 out of Waterford airport, passed over going at speed. It was heading out the coast where a body, a human one, had washed up. May they rest in peace. Some days after this, we were relieved to find out that Rescue 117 will remain at Waterford airport after it had appeared that base might be omitted from a new contract. It won’t be the last time the SAR will be threatened by penny-pinching civil servants but they’ll always have a fight on their hands. We revere our SAR, not only on our islands and the coast but inland, on the rivers, up the mountains and even in the cities.

Down on the beach, the unfortunate dolphin was a full grown female common dolphin and fairly fresh. Though I don’t normally notice that the animals differ much, she seemed to me to be especially pretty so I later tried a watercolour of her but it doesn’t quite capture her. It was very busy with walkers and I was dreading recording (taking tissue samples, photos and measurements) but I found to my surprise that, as I used to before Covid, I enjoyed talking to the people that asked about the dolphin. My innate misanthropy had flourished with lockdown. I found it hard to understand how many people couldn’t be bothered about social distancing or just having manners – in supermarkets and out and about, especially on the narrow roads. I literally twisted myself out of shape running around people. And I genuinely find it shocking how many couples (and families) can’t do things individually – like shop, or walk single file – are ye afraid your other half will get away if you can’t keep an eye on them? At least it has made me cherish my independence. Anyway it was nice to feel my mojo return. But it didn’t last long as family groups began crowding around. Some people are very blase about letting their kids pat dead animals and their dogs lick them. It was very cold waiting around for people to move on so I got out of there fairly fast with the result I didn’t take great photos.

The next day, Monday, the IWDG asked me for better pictures of certain marks that suggested by-catch i.e. when a dolphin dies because it is caught up in a net by a trawler, dumped on deck and then thrown back in the water. So I went back to the beach but the Council had already removed her the previous evening. They are usually pretty on the ball about this. They are also always very helpful when I need to record a body that has been removed. This time I was actually escorted a few miles inland to where she was lying next to an enormous seal that had also washed up at the weekend. Biggest seal I have ever seen at around six foot and hefty. Poor chap. I got my photos.

The upshot of all that is that I began an online course to become more familiar with marks resulting from by-catch. But without a post mortem, its hard to determine cause of death. It may be she wasn’t the victim of by-catch, but of other, larger dolphins for, besides the regular rake marks on her skin – common dolphins often have the teeth marks of other common dolphins on their flesh – there were wide-set rake marks, so it is possible she was attacked by the larger, more thuggish bottlenose dolphin.

The rest of the week was all about work: covering for sick people, rushing around installing artworks in various locations, writing an article for a deadline, beginning an online University module as well as the by-catch training. I finally got out on the cliff again one evening when the sun peeked out from under the cloud. There were birds and boats but no dolphins. I did see a couple of whale blows though, about 5km off, just briefly before they travelled further out towards the horizon. It was nice.

Coast Diary – January 22nd

On the cliffs

This week was a busy week mostly spent in the city which meant I did not get out to the sea much but still I saw more than I dreamed I would in a life time as child. Monday a single whale – a couple of tall, spiralling blows and a long, black, rolling back letting me know it was a fin whale. And all week there were dolphins nearly every time I took out the binoculars. When I was growing up beside the sea I never saw dolphins. We were not the most salty of seaside dwellers and I never knew how to look for them or that I was supposed to. I thought if they were around they’d be right in your face. Dolphins were totally technicolour and utterly exotic and as far away as you could get from dreary grey-brown Ireland. Most of my assumptions were of course influenced by the TV show Flipper

“Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning, ever so frightening, King of the Sea!!!!’ Maybe the frightening bit is just me because in fact bottlenose dolphins are thugs and would not think twice about beating you up.

But, as I have since found, there are dolphins galore off the Irish coast, predominantly common dolphins but quite a few bottlenose thugs too. I think January is my favourite time of year for whale and dolphin watching especially days like today which was grey, windless, dry and cool – though, not crisp. It was one of those days that had a muffled quality, the light diffused yet lingering, suggestive of all the light still to come so I went down to the cliffs again for a little bit as the light faded. Sure enough there were dolphins scattered about so I lay next to the cross for the boy who died in a fall here many years ago and watched for a while.

When I came back to the house I opened a parcel from my niece and godchild, the exceptional Charlie, who lives on the other side of the world. It was recently her 16th birthday and typically I have yet to send her a present. I usually get my act together by June. She has obviously decided to take matters into her own hands by sending me in a present instead (I like this development!). When I opened the packet out fell a beautiful charm bracelet and the first charm, cavorting among blue and crystal beads, a tiny silver dolphin.

If you see dolphins or whales be sure to report your sighting to the Irish Whale & Dolphin Group (IWDG) here.

Coast (to Coast) Diary – January 15th

The Island

I took a trip this week to the Donegal coast, about as far as you can get from here by road. My purpose was to attend a workshop but I added a couple of days to make a little break for myself, a rare chance in these times. I was first in Donegal over a quarter of a century ago with a pal who had access to a family holiday home on an island from which her forebears sprang. The house was small, and sat on top of a rock overlooking a wide beach. Back then I lived in the city and haunted its dark parts. I was permanently unhappy, struggling with it since my early teens. This trip into the northern light was a rare experience. Perhaps that’s why my friend invited me. That year the whole country was frozen over and the drive through the north was a wonderland of crystal trees and pristine white fields. Reaching Donegal town in early afternoon, a Garda crinkled his faded blue eyes at us and told us we’d not be going over the mountains that night. But we went anyway, creeping up the county and then skating the Toyota Starlet down the other side.

Island Beach

On arriving we were both overcome with the flu and with that and the freeze, our five days were spent doing jigsaws, taking short walks and drinking the whiskey we inviegled from the owner of the only pub we could reach on foot. Ireland was a small country back then. My friend had previously been banned from the house for taking a gang of pals out on a wealthy relative’s speed boat, inadvisedly kept unsecured. That night-time party trip up and down the coast with a boombox onboard, 80s pop music rising and falling, and rising and falling, as they zipped about, reached the ears of the cottages onshore, and was duly noted and reported back. So it was inevitable that the details of our alcoholic consumption would reach Dublin even before we dropped back the keys. It was just as well we were too much under the weather get into any trouble.

It helped that the weather itself was stunning despite the freeze. I remember one morning waking up, still smothering with the cold. I fetched myself a big mug of tea and a plate of toast and settled back, be-hatted, under my duvet. The blue sky outside the single glazed windows you could’ve cracked with a spoon and the freezing room was filled with light. And right there in that moment, so long ago now, everything was just right. I had everything I needed and it was enough.

It took longer than that to change my course but as I walked the beach this time I realised that visit was the start of something and I was grateful. Those moments have begun to accumulate.

Carrickfinn

Much of west Donegal looks like its been splattered with the vomit of a God who has ingested too many bungalows after a heap of pints of but I was pleased to see that the island still remains just about recognisable – its one narrow road still only has room for one car, the beach is still empty and even the tiny house we stayed in is unaltered, though it has since changed hands. I walked the wide beach and, when the rain moved in, as it does, I left, driving carefully on the narrow track. I stopped in a passing place to take a photo. A car coming towards me pulled in, nose to nose with my car, to allow another to pass. A man peered out at me. And I peered back. And I knew him from home. He was the first person I talked to when I was considering taking the leap back to college – another huge change for me – and he was my adviser on my final theses. I knew he had retired and moved to Donegal but to another part, far from this island. It was pure chance that he and his partner were out for a day trip, the first time in over a year. We chatted for a bit, both happy and stunned. Ireland is still small I suppose but though I try to rationalize the encounter it was hard not to think as I drove away that, yet again, everything was in its rightful place.

***

After I had finished my workshop, I went in search of an even more remote beach purely because it had the same name as the big beach at home. I found it at the end of a long winding track clinging to mountains and cliffs and bog. And it was unfamiliar and familiar too and I walked it and was happy. And then I turned the car around and came home for real.

Tramore Beach, Donegal