SO, here I am once again looking more like a cross between an ageing mermaid who snorted too much seaweed over the decades than that smiling person appended to my byline (see above). Well it is August on the wild west coast and I’ve just hit terra firma after a rocky and rolling voyage from Clare Island.
Those south-westerly gales may have abated and softened the seas around Clew Bay by midday last Tuesday (August 4) but the ocean was still ruffled enough to leave me sitting on the edge of my seat as we ducked and dived to Roonagh Pier.
Hard to believe it was a summer’s day even after this season of more rain and mists than would fill the chorus of any come-all-ye favoured by those banshees who roam our crags and cliffs.
To be fair to the wind and the rain there was little sign of it when I headed off from Westport to the island three days earlier. It was a balmy and breezy beginning to the Bank Holiday weekend and the fast ferry glided across the sea with the smooth power of a 747 taking off from a runway. It was an idyllic voyage watching a family of tourists with small children - two little girls with embroidered dresses and multi-coloured hats, a baby boy in a papoose and a smiling mammy and daddy – who were entranced by the tickles of spray and the wash spreading out like a whale’s tail to the stern.
Other than eating some fresh fish accompanied by chilled chardonnay, walking the green road was top of my list of pleasures for over the holiday weekend. Well, that and finishing a tome of a novel which was beginning to grow cobwebs, it was so long ago since I started reading it and, of course indulging in Anna’s chocolate cake on the deck of her coffee shop at the Mill.
Turned out by Saturday afternoon the deck was a bit wet for al fresco indulgences but the cake’s moistness and creamy chocolate icing was just the antidote to the insipid grey skies that decided to dominate the island as the weekend progressed.
Indeed, the belligerent bad weather got me thinking about a trip to Tory island in County Donegal, a group of us ventured on 20 years ago (I think) this month. Some of the memories have faded but I recall lots of late nights, 16-hand reels, box music, laughs and hilarity during our sojourn on this rocky outpost, which is so barren and exposed it makes Clare Island look like a Caribbean paradise.
Just like this bank holiday Monday, the ferries were cancelled due to high winds on the day we were due to leave. But we weren’t complaining since the craic was so good but boy were some of us sorry the following morning that we had enjoyed yet another dawn chorus of shenanigans.
The ocean may have calmed but there was a good roll for our nine mile pilgrimage that ensured delicate stomachs were teetering perilously close to spontaneous combustion.
There was one particularly funny scene on the deck of the ferry when our priest friend (a colourful character who shall remain nameless) could no longer quell his seasickness. His designated nurse (who shall also remain nameless) found a bucket for him to disgorge the contents of his hearty Irish breakfast. In respect to the man of the cloth, she covered his head and shoulders with a large towel. Every now and then, to the amusement of all the passengers, he would emerge from under the towel and say: “That’s the egg up.” “Now that was the sausage.”
I can tell you by the time we got to Magheroarty Pier he was the only one not looking more bedraggled than the above-mentioned banshees. In fact, we looked so bad and he looked so relieved, he was inclined to pray for us.
Which brings me back to stepping on to Roonagh Pier last Tuesday morning and that feeling of déjà vu. It gets you first every time in the stomach.