MUSINGS Fish supper


The good life, courtesy of Teach Una’s and Sharon’s Fish and Chips in Blacksod.
?The good life, courtesy of Teach Una’s and Sharon’s Fish and Chips in Blacksod.?Pic: John Cuffe

Fish supper

Many left the county to watch Mayo’s bid for Sam, but one migrant travelled home to his beloved Blacksod and savoured the atmosphere

John Cuffe

‘Home to Mayo’ goes the song. Home to Blacksod go I for my annual August break. Precious days in the autumn of life to be savoured. Passing the Giants entrance at Glencastle, I spy the first glimpse of the dark blue that announces Blacksod Bay; the heart gives its usual little flip.
Nearing Eachleam I see a sign ... ‘Sharon’s Fish and Chips in Blacksod’. Well holy God as Miley used to say. On closer inspection I noted that the Frites et Poisson were for sale on Tuesday nights only. No matter, in my youth it was bags of Tayto or Perries we dined on.
That Sunday afternoon I crossed the hill and took my stool in packed Teach Una’s. It was full, kids, coffee, beer and craic. Andrew planked my cold pint in front of me and all eyes were glued to our men battling the Blood and Bandage of Cork.
Early on it was our man who required the bandage for the blood. McLaughlin was the recipient of a nasty short-armed elbow to the temple. The b’eascainí as gaeilge were heard all over the pub.
Freed from the cursed Davin End, I was amid the non-green-and-red-tie combatants, and those Erris men know their football. Near the end, the lead up to each Cork goal brought a tremor in the pub. “Pull him down,” we beseeched twice as the Cork wave gathered around midfield. Pints and cups discarded as all eyes followed the solos that culminated with two in our net.
“Strategic foulers,” screamed the Cork management earlier that week about the Mayo players; innocent naïveté was the consensus in Teach Una’s that Sunday afternoon. Two things did stick in our craw before the cold beer and scented coffee washed away our thirst. How come Cadogan managed to finish the match unscathed? And why wasn’t there a single Mayo defender with the cojones to drive a shoulder into the Cork selector who spent the last five minutes in our defence line?
Before heading over the hill and into the dropping sun, all in the pub agreed that we whistled loudly past the graveyard on that sunny Sunday. Next time out we might get confronted by a ghost.
Monday and early Tuesday I ran or walked the guts of 18 miles each day, my eternal battle with time and a belly. So on Tuesday evening I was fit to eat an elephant between two slices of bread. Outside Teach Una was Sharon’s fish and chip truck, Nirvana at last.
I had a piece of cod about a foot long; beneath it was a bucket of beautiful chips, to its right stood a cold pint of beer. Settling on a table and bench, I looked across at the Barracks that I was raised in during the 1950s. Who stole the intervening years? I mused.
Depositing the wrapper, and digesting the epicurean feast I just devoured, it was time to go into the pub. Sitting around the tables and the bar were families, young, old, Irish, English, Catalan, Breton, Icelandic, German, Swedish all eating and chatting. My heart swelled with pride as my village was a den of simple delight.
Sitting with Hannah from Léim Siar, that fulcrum of craic and generosity in the village, I marvelled as she broke in her two latest Woofers. They had poor English, no Irish and had just arrived from France but within two hours after Sharon’s delights and a glass or two, they felt as much part of Blacksod as I myself.
I had two more fish supper days here in my old home before the urban East called. Then back to reality. Retired seven years now, I assumed I would have as many marathons under my belt and Mayo would have at least two All Irelands. Alas neither happened.
My excuse is simple. A rich man’s card game collapsed in 2007, but the working class picked up the tab for them all. Hit by property, water, UHC taxes, cost of energy, kids to be clothed, fed, educated and supported, I had to go back to work.
Try looking for a job and they see you aged 60 … kaput. Lucky though, I managed to get a weekend job covering 24 hours. It means no Mayo games for me, but it ensures the grease keeps the wheels turning.
I was at work as Kerry and Mayo went to war in a battle that stirred the dead from the early 1950s. I should have been there in Limerick where that damn Treaty didn’t even allow the ink to dry. Instead I was a victim of another foreign coup, debts of the mighty need paying by the unwashed. As the radio and Sean Bán ebbed and flowed, my mind was back in Blacksod, back in Teach Una, back listening to Micheal O Heiher and eternal warm summers of a long ago. Finally and unfortunately the Kingdom trumped the Yew Tree … for now.
Next summer I hope to venture west once more, through the gap at Glencastle, in along that isthmus leading to Belmullet, past MacDonald’s, over the bridge and down the peninsula where a pint and a fish-and-chip supper await me in Teach Una’s from those genial hosts Andrew and Mary. Then up to Hannah’s and Léim Siar to check on the chicken coop I helped build … but that’s a different tale.