At this time of year Tommy catches prawns. They are langoustines, Dublin Bay Prawns but Tommy just calls them prawns. He catches them in pots similar to a lobster pot but lighter and with a smaller hole. He keeps his catch in the water until he has enough to put in the back of his van for the drive to Inniswiddy where they are quickly shipped off to France.
Over the last few weeks he has lost some his catch to the fresh water coming down into the bay from the hills. The rest are packed into small individual containers so the don’t kill each other. The containers are about the size of a large cigar tin just under an inch square and five perhaps six inches long. Just big enough for a prawn. They are slipped in tail first claws uppermost and then stacked in small crates all held together with rubber bands.
The crates are a mix of colours and sizes. On the day I watched him come in it was a low tide. He put his boat Freedom at the head of the pier and Joe climbed the ladder and opened up the back of the van. Tommy stayed in the boat and had to stand on a crate so as to be be able to pass up the boxes of prawns to Joe.
‘Hardest work of the day,’ he said.
Once all the crates were loaded onto the pier Tommy climbed up the steel ladder and started to sort them in the back of his van.
‘They’ll die if they’re out of water too long,’ he said. There was a man watching and he suggested that Tommy could fill the back of his van with water. ‘Feckin’ hell,’ he said.’ I could try that but I don’t know it would hold all the way down to France.’
‘Will you be getting some more?’ I asked him.
‘Well I’ll be in on Monday or Tuesday about 5.00 and there should be a bag I can pass over.’
Then he was off backing his silver van down the pier to get his prawns to Inniswiddy so they could be shipped off to France still alive and good.
He wasn’t out on Monday but on Tuesday morning we could see his boat out in the middle of the Bay. He came in as I was walking up to the pub for a lunchtime pint and I wandered down to talk with him. We started on the weather.
‘Feckin’ hell its cold,’ he said. Although the sun was out the wind still whipped in from the East scouring the water and leaving it a pale bright blue.
‘It is getting better next week but you’ll be gone by then but it should be right for the summer. The weather it’s not been so bad this year and the fishing has been good but feck on a day like this it is cold on the hands out there. Here these are for you’ He reached into the front of his van and handed me a white plastic bag full of prawns. He took E10.00 for them and I carried them back to The Cottage. They were still alive and fresh from the sea a bright pink against the white of the bag.
Having put them in the fridge I carried on with my walk to the pub and picked up a pint to drink as I cooked them.
To do that I half filled the large steel pan with sea water and put it on to boil. Once it was at a rolling boil I took the prawns out of the fridge and tipped them into the pan. They were cooked in the time it took me to have another two sips at my pint.
Once they were done I drained them and arranged them neatly on a large plate.
We had them cold for lunch pulling apart the hard shells to prise out the nuggets of firm white meat within.
Later that afternoon the sun came out and it was almost not cold enough for me to write some of this outside looking over the bay.