Shaking off the doom and gloom - blasting into springtime with music and County Clare
By: Cormac MacConnell | Published Wednesday, August 24, 2011, 2:48 PM | Updated Friday, September 9, 2011, 10:30 PM
Winking and shimmering in the morning sunlight, a powerful symbol of an Irish kind of spring, there is a great blob of frog spawn in the garden pond beside the bud of a lily!
To blazes (I say) with the chill of winter and the recession and all matters economic and political, and to hell with the darkish kind of stories I have been sending over to you for the last month.
No more of that. Enough of doom and gloom. Spring has sprung and so will I.
I had collected a much younger old Mercedes Benz saloon (only a decade old) the previous evening and I decided I would go across the Burren to the ocean wide and show her the surf and the beauty of it all. The best days often spring from instant decisions like that.
Off I went and the sun followed me. I kept the radio mute because I did not want to hear any more politics from either Dublin or Tripoli or anywhere else.
I listened to a Pavarotti CD instead, his mighty voice as sweet as heather honey. If I lowered the car window and smoked a cigarette or two on the journey then that is my business.
Rooks were already building their nests in the treetops outside Ennis. The day was beautiful as a bride after her wedding Mass.
After a while, somewhere on the edge of the great rocks of the Burren, I exchanged Leonard Cohen for Luciano and gloried again in the superb wordage that weaves "Closing Time" together.
A lively young black and white sheepdog chased me out of Corofin and out the road to Lemanah Castle. I was in the best form for months.
And dammit if there was not a big roadside poster near Carron which told me that there was a Mardi Gras festival running in the small port of Kinvara across the mountain. "Come and Enjoy!" said the poster.
And sure that was all I needed. The old car was purring with the pleasure of it all, and so was I.
At Carron, which is the birthplace of GAA founder Michael Cusack, I knew a scenic route to Kinvara, and I followed that. It is a serpentine little road with a green mane of grass down the center, and there is glorious scenery around every corner.
And there was more on this day. Was there not a herd of the elusive Burren goats right in the middle of the road? You can drive that way a thousand times and only see them in the distance.
They grudgingly gave me the right of way and flowed over the stone wall led by a huge curve-horned black puck with a beard longer than mine.
I stopped and got out to view them. They had halted in a semi-circle just inside the wall, the patriarch in the center, and they observed me as I observed them. There was no rush to flee.
They do say that the Burren is the place where the last of the ancient Stone Age people were bred. That is historically true as far as I am aware.
The Stone Age men and women may be long gone, but their eyes and spirit still flare out through the fiery eyes of the goats of the screes and crags.
Amazing eyes. They nearly burnt my skin. I almost felt the fire of them.
The big puck actually took one step towards me, front hooves braced, and he uttered a hoarse "Whicka!
Whicka!" sound. He was clearly ready to defend the 24 others.
"Whicka!" I uttered in reply, on a non-aggressive frequency.
Satisfied there was no threat, he turned around with great dignity and led his harem and followers slowly out of sight among the rocks. I've never seen wild goats' fierce eyes at such close quarters before. I will not forget them.
All the resilience of the Celtic ancients was in there somewhere, slitted and unafraid. We need sights like that nowadays. Know what I mean?
I reach Kinvara, normally quiet at this time of year, and there is hardly room to park the car or walk the pavements. It is a Mardi Gras festival, there is a buzz, I hear music, folks are sitting drinking at pavement bars and cafes, the old pier where the Connemara hookers once landed their cargoes of stone turf for the port's hearths was bobbing with sundrenched boats.
I met old friends, casually and fleetingly, handshakes in the sun. I had a light meal in a good cafe near the Pier, and it was in there I met former colleague Mark Dunphy.
I know Mark is now a PR man, and we have crossed sabers once or twice in recent years over the cost of visiting the Cliffs of Moher.
But on this day, again about the stately Cliffs, he silenced me. He told me that on the first two days of September, in a world first, there will be open air performances of Lord of the Dance, the awesome Michael Flatley vehicle, on the edge of the Cliffs. There will be 40 or 50 dancers, magnificent musicians like my friend “Blackie" O'Connell, Hugh Healy, the Kilfenora Ceili Band and the unique Finbar Furey, and the event should fortify Moher's drive to be listed among the New Wonders of the World being announced a few weeks later.
Tickets, he said, were selling like hot cakes already, especially in America and Canada. Even when he told me they were costing about 75 euros each I was still highly impressed.
There was a christening party at the next table. Fine-looking mothers were cooing over small babies in pink or blue.
The menfolk were playing a lively game of cards at the next table. The granny was just the slightest degree merry -- as you should be at Mardi Gras -- and she kept the whole bar merry and bright.
Recession? What recession?
I drove home through the velvet dusk, happy as a cricket. Again I kept the radio mute to preserve the magic.
The CD I picked was a compilation, and I especially enjoyed the nasal Paul Brady singing his own song "This World Is What You Make It.”