The leaving of Ahakista

It can be hard, very hard, leaving Ahakista on a Sunday morning to come back to Birkenhead.

This is what it looked like at about 8.00 am last Sunday.


And then the holiday draws to a close. The sun may still be shining but there will be the drive back to Dublin, the ferry to Holyhead and the long haul home. There will be the putting on of socks and a suit and the journey to a desk at work.

The mackerel will chase the sprats in on a falling tide. If the weather is calm you may see them boiling the water just off the rocks at the bottom of the garden, an unusual ruffling of the otherwise smooth surface and the occasional glimpse of a mackerels fin or tail caught for a second in the light.

As the tide goes down it creates small bays amongst the rocks and seaweed and there one day the sprats were driven in out of the deeper waters and became trapped amongst the dense tight floating brown of the seaweed that divides off the bay. A group of fifty or so seagulls gathered for the feast. Some stalked the rocks, heads darting down through the weeds, coming up with a small silver fish a couple of inches long which disappeared before they went looking for more. Two Great Black-backed gulls strutted imperiously bullying the other smaller birds aside to get top picking, the rest mostly herring and common gulls. Half a dozen terns flitted through the air, dropping their wings and diving into the water and then up again in a flurry of white and water, up into the air to swallow their catch and then back down until another opportunity was spotted and then in and up again. They were there for almost two hours as the tide went down, the water for the sprats diminished and in their panic the few survivors could be seen jumping out of the water only to be snatched away until the water had gone with the sprats and the black weed hung wet and heavy against the rocks.

The gulls took their leave noisily pulling away back to Owen Island calling complaint to each other onwards again looking for more food.

The following day was the end of that year’s holiday and we were facing the long drive back to Dublin. It had taken longer than expected to clean up and pack and we were running late. There would be no time to stop for lunch and we would have to do the 5-hour drive in one go. At last the car was packed and we were ready to go. There was no time for a last cup of coffee. We had to be off.

Galen had been ill that year and as we chided him to move towards the car he talked of being ill and how this had impinged on his enjoyment of the holiday. I suggested a final walk on the pier

Reluctantly Galen came holding my hand. Cora skipped behind. It was a cloudy grey morning. The sun still waiting to breakthrough although there was blue sky over Rosskerrig. After we had gone the pied wagtails would continue to strut their corner of the lawn and the empty Cottage would still held in the thrall of the gulls calls from Owen Island.

We did not get far down the pier before we saw that the water was sparkling. The sprats had been pushed in up to where the water lapped halfway up the slipway. They milled just under the surface in their thousands. At first I thought that the sparkle was the light catching the water as they broke the surface but then I saw that it was the brilliance of their colours just under the surface. We could see them as they swarmed. Some of them appeared translucent and others carried hints of the pinks, blues and green that move over the belly of a mackerel just after it has been caught. The colours changed as they moved through the light. It seemed a small miracle in the rush to be off, the tempers lost and frayed with the thought of the journey and the drudge back to work next day. They appeared as distant stars do in a black night sky merging back into the dark but out of the corner of my eye they kept coming back another faint prick of light lost with all the others. We turned and walked quietly back to the car.


With the rising of the moon from November Dark the mackerel made their way to deep water.





Good to think that this year we will be back in the pub this Friday to celebrate a party!

2 thoughts on “The leaving of Ahakista

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