Wet days

After a few days heavy rain the water around the pier loses its usual green lit clarity and turns a murky, brackish brown, discoloured by the thick peat run off from the hills brought down by the swollen streams. Mackerel in the bay retreat from the flush of fresh water and can be hard to catch for a few days. The weather will also bring an increase in seaweed, washed in soggy piles on the beach, slowly, the damp, cold entrails, rot into slush.

Gobs of rain coming down hard on a Sunday afternoon.  The fire is lit but the log basket is empty and soon I will have to go outside into the wet to fetch more wood  for the fire. The rain is coming down so hard it seems to flatten the water, smoothing out the wave crests. The stream next to The Butter House has swollen and its torrent flushes the pier with fresh water.

The water for The Cottage comes from a well the pump for which is kept under lock and key at the bottom the orchard. Sucked from deep in the ground there is a smell to the water, peaty and rain washed, it perfumes your body after a shower.

Sat in The Cottage at high tide looking out over the bay. Grey cloud has fallen so the other side is almost lost in the haze. The water is so high it seems to lap at the bottom of the garden, grey and unyielding above the line of the green lawn. As the tide starts to go down the rocks in the bay break the surface and at first could almost be mistaken for a small whale sitting quietly just under the surface.

An inventory of what can be found under a large flat rock at low tide. Go down among the seaweed and rocks at a low tide. Wear thick boots  and once you are amongst the seaweed draped lifeless over the rocks start to carefully lift stones to see what might be there. Sometimes it maybe necessary to turn over a few before uncovering some of the life that moves in and out of the tidal reach.

Pipe fish – black, like small eels, three four inches long, hardly there, looking a stray smooth twig amongst the seaweed.  The first sign of life comes as you pick it up, carefully between a finger and thumb, the body arches and twists in surprise. It has a puggish snout and back in a white bucket of water you can see its fluttering gills and fins.

Broad-clawed Porcelain crabs – almost indistinguishable against the sand, about half an inch across with one claw almost as big again covered with a soft brown down.

Shore crabs – scuttling from seaweed to rock so you have to chase by lifting another rock and then another until at last it as trapped and cannot squeeze away anymore. But then there is the delicate operation of picking it up with your fingers kept away  from the flailing claws. Best to do it getting the shell at its widest point. If you catch a couple of pounds of them then you have enough to make into a soup.

A walk around the north side down from Finn McColl’s Seat along the road that runs the against coast and then turning back  along the old Horseshoe Road back to the top of the mountain. We had a wet picnic huddled by Glanroon Pier, watching the swell pull and twirl the kelp around the rocks, getting munched on by midges. A couple exploring the back roads of the peninsula had driven their car too far down the track that leads to the pier. They were stuck in the wet mud and slick stones, smoke burning from the rubber as they tried to force the way back up the hill. The path was too narrow for us to pass and they could not open the doors to get out. I stood watching in the wet knowing that I was going to have to offer to push but not being sure if I could make a difference. But there were some other walkers and one of them offered to help as well. So we bent to it, the tyres squealed through the mud and after three good pushes we were able to help the blue car back up the hill. Having finished I looked down and there was a spray of brown thick mud up my trousers, coat and touching my hat. The driver offered us a lift but we were on the walk and it was raining which would help to clean off the mud.

On the way we fell into a short conversation with an old man, black boots tied with odd laces, and a clean white shirt. He lived in one of the yellow houses that cling to edge of the hills over that side. Talking of pubs and Murphy’s and comparing the prices of Kilcrohane potatoes. He had his pint on a Saturday night in Paddy Arundel’s and we agreed ‘The smaller the pub the better the pint.’


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