AS I roved out for the last of my summer meanderings I came to the Craggy Shore near New Quay outside Ballyvaughan, and the afternoon was beautifully gentle but already with just that tiny sting of the ember days when you stopped in the shades under the blazing fuchsia bushes that line the roadeen along the shore of the bay.
Overhead in these dying days of summer, the swallows are feeding voraciously in preparation for their long flight any of these days back to the sunlands, wildfowl dapple the shallows with the silver concentricities of their living, the eternal tides move the slippery seaweeds lazily and somehow sensually like a young woman running her fingers through long flowing auburn hair.
It is very peaceful, and Anika the retriever and the Dutch Nation are along with me.
I meet on the shore, as you always do, an old friend by the name of James Joyce from the Clare side of Galway City up the road. Recently retired James taught my children in Barna and they were very fond of him, especially Ciara and Dara, because he created a special atmosphere in their classroom which bonded those boys and girls so closely together in a healthy and wholesome way.
Almost 20 years later all of them are still friends and companions in a nearly unique fashion. I tell him that, as the tides whisper behind us, and say he always received the ultimate praise from schoolchildren for a good teacher -- "He was fair!" I think he is pleased at that.
He tells me that he met my wild Dara last year and Dara said to him, "Mr. Joyce, I have a confession to make to you. I bought a suit." We laugh at that.
I know the man when he was wearing a different hat. I meet him often at the Writers Week in Listowel.
He is a splendid short story writer, an award winner, and he tells me that he is about to have a collection of his short stories published. I look forward to reading that book, and I told James Joyce that he had a great name to live up to for sure and I would tell ye about the book when it eventually hits the shelves and stores. I will too.
It is not every day you meet a writer called Joyce on the Craggy Shore, even though it has been famed already by a golden poem from Seamus Heaney.
And later, back at home, I remembered that promise and another I made to you a few weeks ago about a series of special concerts on your side of the water this week from another old friend, the singer-songsmith Briege Murphy from South Armagh.
Remember I spoke of meeting her in Clonakilty earlier in the summer? I only got word that her shows in the U.S. took place last week. Maybe you saw her.
I rarely mention musical offerings from Ireland (I think the first was the Sawdoctors), and then only because I think they are special. Briege, who was born and raised and still lives in the borderlands of South Armagh, is very special indeed.
Her own songs might have a British Army chopper hanging in the air as a social reality, or a watchtower, but, as befits a Keeper of the Tradition award winner from the Tommy Makem committee, it is all the heritage of her area that is captured in real good songs well sung.
She has a lovely thing called “Old Houses” and a gentle pastoral song, for example, called “The Swan and Me” which came from a walk along the local McArdle's Lake near home in Forkhill, and if you catch up with her along her short tour you will thank me for mentioning this.
And as I roved out down towards the Honk late that evening, what do I not see and hear outside that venerable pub but the skirling of a triplet of pipers! That's unusual even for the Honk.
It transpires they are members of a pipe band from a township in New Jersey that is twinned with Shannon Town (the name escapes me now) and part of a lovely lively crowd of men and women celebrating the twinship with a will. They actually parade into the delighted pub and skirl away to their hearts' content with, among other offerings, a splendid version of “Amazing Grace.”
They have the Mayor of Shannon Sean McLaughlin and several councilors in their party, and a good time is had by all. A rousing singsong at the beginning of which I meet their township's PRO Jim Lowney, a former photo-journalist. And dammit, one word led to another and I remembered meeting his father Jim Lowney Senior and his beautiful Mayo mother in Ennis about a decade ago.
Young Jim and I share a drink and a chat, during which he asks me where I met the famous Dutch Nation, and I answer truthfully it was in a pub. And he
responds that he proposed to his wife Jennifer in a gay bar! They entered as friends and companions only and emerged as fiancé and fianceé. A nice story and a good night.
And as I roved out this evening I met my friends Brian and Sean on the road near Carrygerry Chapel. Two of us smoked a cigarette each, and by the time we parted it was agreed we would go a-roving again next week.
One trip would be across Lough Derg to Garykennedy in Brian's new boat on Sunday evening. The second roving out will be to Lisdoonvarna's Matchmaking Festival because it is there, of course, that the calendar summer lives on as an amazingly enjoyable Indian Summer well into the month of October.
And tonight there are still swallows in our skies.
Summer is not gone yet!