COFFEE BREAK Cora Keating relaxes on Clare Island’s magical Green Road.
I HAVE always loved to travel to faraway places and islands, usually ones in sunny places like Thailand, Australia and Europe, and I have always thought I might end up on one of these. I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on an Irish island, which was not part of the plan! There was a handsome young man involved in the decision to sell up my business, pack up my life, and move from the bustling town of Kinsale to the western outpost of Clare Island. I have lived on Clare Island now for five years and took up the position of Community Development Coordinator last year.
At this time of year I usually wake up without an alarm at around 7am. I live right by the sea with a fabulous view of Croagh Patrick, the island’s Blue Flag beach and Granuaile’s castle. So this is what I wake up to each morning once I open the curtains. The scene is ever-changing as the light, the palette and the sea are constantly shifting. The sunrises can be spectacular and rival anywhere in the world, with the colours and scenery second to none.
Once up the first thing I like to do is hit the mat. I have been practicing yoga since I discovered it as a teenager through a book I happened upon. This was at a time before we had yoga classes in every village in Ireland or free classes on YouTube. For me yoga is a tool for life for all ages and it is never too late to start your own practice. I think yoga should be a part of the physical education curriculum at all schools and young people would have the physical and mental skills learned to fall back on for the rest of their lives.
After breakfast I walk the five-minute ‘commute’ to the Development Office, which is located in the Community Centre building. Sometimes I walk across the beach and take a few snaps for the Clare Island Facebook page or Instagram. Although there are only 160 people living full-time on the island, we have thousands of followers from all over the world, most of whom have a family connection with the place or have visited in the past.
I’m a big believer in lists for organising my mind and planning my day. So the first thing I do at my desk is open my diary, review the previous day’s list and start on a new one for the day ahead. It’s a great way to avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of hugely varied projects I can be working on at any one time. But the variety of the work is one of the things I like about my job. It is also a very rewarding job when you can help individuals and a community achieve desired outcomes that make a real and meaningful difference to their quality of life. And that is not to say that the work is without its challenges. As a community we all face the same challenges that surviving in extreme rural isolation during the winter months involves. From ferries cancelled for days on end resulting in us being physically cut off from the mainland to the mental challenges people face through social exclusion and isolation. The longer I stay the more I admire the mental strength and resilience of the islanders in this small community.
A working day in the office varies greatly from meeting islanders about local issues to setting up meetings with officials on the mainland. It is the beginning of our tourism season so there are many meetings to plan and promote the summer events islanders put on. I work on the island’s social media accounts and website www.clareisland.ie where all of our events are listed, from our outdoor adventure activities to Comhaltas sessions, to the annual regatta with beach games and currach racing.
I recently attended the Comhdháil Oileán na hÉireann/Irish Islands Federation AGM. Each year it is held on a different island and this year it was on Sherkin Island in Cork. The main issues facing islanders these days are access to education, employment opportunities, housing and transport to and from mainland.
I usually walk home for my lunch and clear my head. I love to eat outdoors and on days when the weather cooperates you will find me seated in the sunshine enjoying my lunch while looking out over the harbour.
If my working day involves meetings on the mainland I get the 8.45am ferry and drive to Westport or Castlebar. During the winter months I am out on the mainland until the evening ferry, as there are only two runs at that time of year. During the summer months it is much easier to come and go as the ferry schedule facilitates access at all times of the day.
I love the outdoors, so most evenings you’ll find me walking the highways and byways of Clare Island. On the weekends I get the hiking gear on and go for more challenging and adventurous hikes off road. Clare Island is a great place to live and I am grateful for the welcome I have received in this community.
In conversation with Áine Ryan
Name: Cora Keating
Living: Clare Island
Occupation: Community Development Worker
Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
I have sailed across the Atlantic.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
I am quite adventurous when it comes to food and on a recent trip to Iceland, I tried out a traditional dish of boiled sheep’s head, I mean the whole head with face, eyes, skin, so you had this head on a plate just looking up at you.
Is there anyone whose life you envy, and why?
The woman married to George Clooney, just because she is married to George Clooney obviously!
What’s the best advice you ever got?
If you fail to try something because of a fear of failure … then you have already failed so why not give it a go and you might succeed
Name three things that are always in your fridge?
Strong cheddar cheese, natural yoghurt and milk.
If money was no object, what would you do all day?
I would like to be somewhere warm, work on creative projects, read, and my biggest stress would be deciding what to have for dinner.
Where’s your favourite place in the world?
Kinsale in Co Cork
A recent read was ‘The Unseen’ by Roy Jacobsen. It’s set on a tiny island off the coast of Norway at the start of the 20th century.
Last time you cried?
I don’t have a problem with crying, I think it’s good to let your emotions be expressed. So I cry when I’m happy and sad.
Most prized possession?
Who’s the most famous person you have met?
The Dali Lama.