Talking about the weather

The man Goode he was friendly enough but all he would ever talk about was the weather. Paddy there said he’d told him once he was worried about another topic of conversation for the sake of giving offence or the worry that what he said might get repeated. I think he may have lived too many years in Kenya and then India and he thought any locals must be the same and were a lazy bunch full of gossip and eager for the chance to exploit an outsider.

Well there might be some like that but there are others who would worry on the trouble he would cause with his talk of the weather. His trouble was that sometimes he would be right and sometimes he would be wrong.

There are plenty of those who will tell you that if you want to know about the weather then walk outside that door there and look up into the air and if its raining then your face will be wet and if the sun is out you will have to close your eyes against it and if the wind is blowing then you will feel that across your cheek. And if that isn’t enough and you are greedy and want to see what the weather will be doing then walk out to the end of the pier and look up to the top of the bay and you will see clear enough what the wind will be bringing down over the next half hour. Its all there if you want to look for it.

But the man Goode he had a radio he kept in the Cottage tuned to some station from England and that gave him the weather from the BBC. Well you’d have thought that that would be the best for the weather. But the BBC never made it down here with its weather and so he would have to drawn lines on a map to try and work up what the weather would be down here.

He’d be careful about it and I heard that somewhere he had an envelope full of the drawings he made but sometimes he’d be right and other times wrong no matter what those drawings of his told him.

He would come up here but once a week, maybe a Wednesday or Thursday about six in the evening and he would stand there at the bar and ask Mary for his pint. There would be a nervousness about him but he would hold himself there putting the small of his back against the bar and leaning his elbows down waiting to say his piece.

Those early evenings were not so different then. There would be a man or two stood here at the bar and a couple of others in the seat under the window.  All of them would have quietened as he came in waiting.

He would have his pint to hand and he would take a small take at it and allow it to settle.

‘Well how is the weather doing the next day or so?’

And there there would be a quick of voices all ready to say their bit. If it was warm and the sun had been out then that was it for the next few days but if the weather had been down and it was thick with rain the voices would lower and the men would complain about the summer and the incessant rain all waiting for the man Goode to say his bit.

Goode he would listened to the chat and the discourse and he would take some strength from his pint his back still against the bar.

Then he’d say ‘Boys’ addressing them all and they would quieten again ‘Boys the radio will have the weather and I have it for you’ and he would give out the forecast.

He had a smart tight voice that would not hold for an argument but carry on until it had said what needed saying. So the next days weather was set out in his clipped voice and the men in the corner would take notes for later.

Goode would finish his pint satisfied with the limit of his conversation and walk back down to his cottage and the men would be left in the pub with their note on his anticipation for the weather.

Eating from Bantry

As always lunch on Friday was from Bantry market.

At first it had felt warmer in the morning but then the wind had caught up and there was no sun to soften the chill. In the car on the way down to Durrus we were insulated from the cold and the sea was blue and looked almost inviting.

In Bantry the stalls were grouped up at the top end of Wolfe Tone Square but that did not spare them and the wind whipped at the canvas and the people curled their heads down to keep warm.

I panicked for a moment that the fish stall was not at its usual place but it was over the other side of the pavement and there were piles of whiting, cod, haddock and hake E5.00 a bag and monkfish tails and mussels. Three men worked the stall, one at the front with a set of scales and the raw fish and two at the back with sharp knives, pulling the fish from the ice in their crates and skinning and filleting them to go in the bags. They were all dressed against the cold and they went about their business quietly without chat in the raw wind.

Wally was on the olive stall and despite the bet we had made last summer he did not remember my name. The olive oil in the bottles was cloudy and stiff from the cold and it felt out of place buying from there in the cold. It needed some sun to bring out its colours.

At the Gubbeen stall I stocked up on bacon to take home with me, a combination of maple cure and smoked streaky and some smoked cheese to take back with me.

I also bought the ingredients for supper: two small monkfish tails and a bag of mussels, some smoked salmon and smoked sun dried tomatoes, all to be had with pasta.

Before the main course we had scallops with bacon. Five juicy scallops cut in half and a rasher of bacon. I cut the bacon into small strips and fried it until it started to give off its fat. I then added the scallops and cooked them on a high heat until they had just started to brown. I quickly seasoned them with salt and pepper and a drop of wine before serving them with some finely chopped parsley. Unfortunately Galen likes them now so there was less for me.

In the meantime I had cooked the mussels in white wine and garlic, drained them, reserving the juices and pulled each of them from its shell. In the same pan I had cooked the scallops I heated some olive oil, when hot I tipped in the monkfish tails which I had chopped so they were about an inch across, as they started to firm I added the mussels and their juices. Just before the pasta was cooked I added the smoked tomatoes and salmon which I had roughly chopped. As I stirred the sauce into the pasta I mixed in some chopped feta cheese.

It all got eaten.

Driving across Ireland and the morning

There is a raw feel to the place as if the wind and cold of the winter months have scoured the place clean. The pier has lost the smell of bad fish and looks clean and bright in the morning light.

We arrived in Dublin Port at just after midnight and got lost getting out of the city. I thought signs for the south would take us in the direction we needed to go but we managed to end up in Dun Lourgie, but from there we found the ring road and were then onto the N7 into the centre of Ireland. Ten years ago the journey would take 6 hours but now with the new dual carriageways and the by-passes that that miss out all of the towns on the way down to Cork it can be done in four.

There was snow in the air in Dublin but once we were out of the City the sky cleared and for the whole journey down the sky was clear and a full moon hung in the west leading us on. There was hardly any traffic on the rod until we got to Durrus when a car pulled out behind us from the Crookhaven Road. It followed us all the way to Ahakista even onto the pier. It was Joe, Tommy’s mate, so as we were arriving at 4.45 in the morning the fishermen were coming out to go do their work on the water.

We went straight to bed on arriving without even giving ourselves time to walk up the pier. Three hours water it was light. The tide was low and the sun was out and it has been brighter than the first day we were here last summer when we awoke to grey and wet. Down by the rocks two great black backed gulls looked out to sea owning the place.


On the ferry

I am conscious that it has been a quiet few days from here. We have had friends to stay and time has been taken up getting ready to go back to Ahakista for a few days over Easter.

There was one point this afternoon looking out of the window and watching the thick flakes of snow come down that I wondered if we would make it. But the snow did not stick and for a while the sun came out. On the drive along the A55 the snow was banked up at the side of the road. It would have been an interesting journey over last weekend.

We are now on the ferry and it is underway taking on a gentle roll as we move out of Holyhead. There are flurries of snow outside and my mind keeps going back to the last few words of James Joyce’s short story The Dead and the snow being general over the west of Ireland. Words to be read as my ashes are dumped in the wind over Dunmannus Bay.

We should be in Dublin just past midnight and then it is the 5 hour drive across country so that we arrive in Ahakista in the early morning as it starts to get light and the sun rises over the hills around Dunmannaway. Hopefully I won’t fall asleep.

Apart from Sunday linch in The Good Things Cafe we have nothing planned. there will no doubt be a few pints drunk at the bar in Arundel’s and at a push we may make it to Schull for lunch in Hackett’s and a BLT sandwich made with Gubbeen bacon. There will be more bacon for breakfast with black pudding and dollops of brown sauce.

On Friday we will go to Bantry Market and stock up on Gubbeen cheese to take home with us and fresh fish from the fish stall to cook in the evening. Hopefully Tommy will still be fishing for scallops and I will cook those with chorizo sausage and somewhere we will pick up some prawns.

The weather forecast is cold but dry. It should be a good few days.