Ten years ago we had friends staying with us in the Cottage and some of us were celebrating our fortieth birthdays so we had at least two good long lunches at The Good Things Café.
Since then we have been back two or three times each year – normally for lunch with children and then a meal in the evening.
This year we had lunch there on Easter Sunday and we have just been back for another Sunday lunch.
It was a good day to go out for lunch; a squally wind bringing in thick wet rain that hadn’t stopped since we opened the curtains.
It was a day to spend another hour in bed reading, drinking cups of coffee and sitting around fires.
There were eleven of us eating for lunch and they had a table laid out for us by the door as we walked in. As we ate we could watch the weather outside, more wind and rain heavy enough to soak a person on the five-yard walk from the car park to the door of the café.
I had gazpacho to start, a bowl full of pale red cool soup the surface broken by a dash of olive oil – it tasted of garlic, tomatoes and the sun and was a stark contrast to the bluster and hell for leather of the weather outside. Others had the fish soup and it came to the table in two large white tureens, thick enough to stand a spoon in there were so many pieces of fish and other goodies from the sea swirling around in it.
Unfortunately there was only a limited amount of crab tart so I couldn’t have that, instead I went for an Egg Florentine with a thick slab of Gubbeen ham, layers of spinach, a poached egg and a silky slather of hollandaise sauce.
We were all stuffed but managed to find room for pudding and I had a small pot of St Emillion chocolate mousse, which is probably the same pudding I had on one of those lunches ten years ago.
It was just as good on Sunday as it would have been ten years ago.
As we drove back there was a break in the weather. It came at that part of the coast road where it turns back towards the sea and over a slight rise the whole of Dunmannus Bay is laid out open in front of you. The end of the Bay was filled with a great wall of grey cloud but over towards the hills of the Sheep’s Head the sun was trying to melt the clouds away and they were turned a bright white that then seemed to fill the air beneath them with luminous light that hung in the air in front of the grey cloud and the moutains.
Later that afternoon I watched the fleet returning from the mackerel competition. It had stopped raining around four o’clock so they had had a couple of hours fishing out of the wet. They still looked fairly bedraggled as they came in.
I had spoken about the competition the previous evening in the pub and was reassured that it was only a bit of fun. But they took it seriously enough to make sure that each box of fish was properly counted so there could be no doubt over who had one. The winning boat had caught more than 600 fish so that was a lot of counting to do under the eager eyes of the spectators and quick hands looking to dive in and secrete a couple of fish in a plastic bag to be taken home for tea.
Willem won the competition again and he filled the cup with whiskey and passed a sip on to every man on the team.
Down on the slip way a battery of grim faced men and women took to the mackerel with sharp knives, filleting them and throw the heads and bones to an eager and raucous audience of gulls. The gulls fought over the scraps tearing at the pieces of fish and each other. After twenty minutes the gulls quietened down as if they had filled themselves with the surplus of easy fish. An hour later they bobbed on the water too fat to fly ducking their heads under the surface to clean off their beaks.
Later we walked to The Tin Pub to see what music was on. Brian and Nicole were playing but around the bar there were a few familiar faces from last time we had seen good music in there. We got out pints and other drinks and settled down.
Brian and Nicole played a couple of sets but then they took a step back and over the rest of the evening the familiar faces moved behind the microphone to sing and play a song. Instruments were swapped and passed round; there was a penny whistle and an accordion as part of the mix.
At some point in the evening Hugh was able to establish that fifteen years previously he had seen one of the woman who was singing perform in Arundel’s Bar. On that occasioned she had sung a ribald version of the old Smokie Song ‘Alice’. She reprised it for the evening and the fifty or so people crammed into the bar singing along to the chorus ‘Alice, Alice? Who the feck is Alice?’
Then there was dancing and stamping of feet and more dancing until seemed there wasn’t anyone in the bar who wasn’t going to take their turn with a guitar and the microphone.
We staggered home at 2.30 in the morning the rain coming down like a gentle mist.