On The Edge
IT was such a relief on Saturday afternoon not to have to resort to 20 decades of the rosary; promises never to curse again even after dropping a kilogram of tea-tree gel on my big toe in the shower; resolutions to do voluntary work on the streets of Calcutta after I reach retirement age.
Well, the sea was calm at Roonagh, that little moody and anarchic harbour, beyond Louisburgh, which has been the bane of my life for the last 30-odd years. Indeed, other than the carpark being so full that vehicles lined the narrow roadway leading down to the pier – the gateway to Clare Island and Inishturk – the stresses of winter sailings had faded away in a most appropriate seasonal manner. I know, that is despite the fact that there were still hailstone showers battering the wild west last week and, as I write here in a creaking cliff-top conservatory on Sunday afternoon, the wind is getting up and the ocean beginning to churn like a February day. (But let’s not go there now.)
I could write a bestseller about my relationship with the Atlantic except any profits accrued would have to be written-off against the therapy sessions needed afterwards. I can’t remember what the term is called – see what I mean! – or who coined it. I think it is called ‘disassociative amnesia’ and Sigmund Freud may have been one of the early students of the disorder.
Interestingly, I haven’t yet managed to fully repress the last incident during which I managed to make a holy show of myself.
It was Christmas Eve 2015 and while the rest of the population of County Mayo was caught up in the festive frenzy of last-minute shopping, hot ports in tinseled teeming pubs, soot extraction from Santa chuting chimneys, I was driving towards the above-mentioned harbour in a state of catatonic terror. The weather was bad, very bad. In convoy with the Pirate Princesses, all our cars were laden with enough Christmas fare to feed the entire population of the island, as well as the busy elves and reindeer at the North Pole.
While the daughters drove ahead, I sneakily stopped at a shop in Louisburgh and purchased a flat bottle of most medicinal brandy. I confess it was a new low for me but I still wasn’t so desperate as to humiliate myself by tearing open the boat-proofed boxes of booze, stowed in the boot of my car and bought earlier in SuperValu. Even if the swell was thundering over the walls at Roonagh, swigging out of a litre bottle of brandy or whiskey was even a bridge too far for me.
Of course, arriving a half an hour early for a ferry which was thumping its way down from Inishturk – in clear sight when it was cresting the heaves in the ocean and then disappearing down into the troughs – was not exactly a smart move. So, being a sensible adult, I turned my car in a landward direction, took the cap off the brandy and, after the first swig, the burning sensation eased.
I also kept the engine of the car running and followed the breathing exercises on the mindfulness CD I was playing. (Well, actually, that may be a total fabrication, since I don’t have any mindfulness CDs. Best look again at ‘disassociative amnesia’ above.)
THE only clear memory I have is of me crying, perhaps, even wailing, the girls comforting me and then – suddenly, like an elixir from that wise old Celtic sea god, Manannán Mac Lir – the brandy began to work, coursing through my veins like a magic potion. Next thing I was floating onto the boat like a sea nymph on a Granuaile galley: prepared to take to the open ocean, circumnavigate the island of Ireland, sail up the Thames and take on Queen Elizabeth 1. (Fortunately, I learned Latin at school: the language of choice used by the Pirate Queen back in 1593 when telling Elizabeth, known as the Virgin Queen, what-was-what about the unpopular Governor of Connacht, Richard Bingham.)
But back to the present, being a bank holiday weekend, I think I should live in the moment, ignore the fact that there is a terrible forecast, and head off to the pub for a brandy or two. Weighing anchor is another day’s work.