Suddenly the summer is gone, but I'm still meandering. Suddenly the garden under the apple trees is red-cheeked with windfalls -- the blackbirds tipsy from the juices -- and there is a different kind of twilight coming earlier in the evenings.

Suddenly the swallows are beginning to cluster together more tightly on the wires overhead in preparation for their long trip back to the sun. Suddenly it is just one degree colder in the mornings.

But still, very serenely beautiful and so I'm still meandering through my world. But where do the summers go when they flee so fast?

I'm for the North again. I've just dropped in to an Internet cafe in Ennis to send this message before hitting the long road up to the great Fleadh Cheoil in Cavan.

I would have gone there anyway but I was asked to do a CD launch there by my friend Peter Smith from Tyrone. That gave me the excuse I needed! And it is a perfect one too.

The CD involved is actually two CDs and a handbook, and together they create an infinitely moving, cultural and poignant musical experience.

Peter and his friends went out a decade ago to the homes of the best old ballad singers in the Sperrin territory of Tyrone and they recorded them singing the real old songs by their own firesides. The twangy Tyrone voices, male and female, deliver their songs with great love and passion where necessary.

I will tell ye more about them later, but the poig nancy comes from the fact the singers were all in their seventies or eighties when they were recorded, and all of them have since gone to Heaven. One listens to the voices of gentle old ghosts.

They have been husked and sweetened somehow by their years, are so fragile, so touching I've had tears in my eyes listening. I'll come back to them later, but for the moment simply say the launch gives me the excuse to take the long road North once again. And the weather is still good and the craic high.

The leaving cert results came out yesterday. Most of ye will know the Irish importance of what is always just called The Leaving here. It is the final state examination at second level, and if kids do well enough they qualify for the universities and third level education and more job opportunities.

Given the recession, the competition for third level places was never so fierce as this year. The places are allocated on a points basis, and the whole situation is complicated this year by the fact that so many unemployed folk have exercised their freedom to apply to go back to college for a second crack at a degree. There is gridlock at the college gates!

But still, because of the way we are, the day the results come out is the night for celebration one way or the other -- the celebration of being freed at last from the waiting and all those studies.
All the night clubs and pubs will be jammed for the rest of this week by the students. Often enough they celebrate very well, but not too wisely!

These are not nights for older generations to voluntarily wander abroad among them, except to collect them at the end of the night to bring them home. But sure, God love them, they are young and this is truly leaving time in every sense of the word.

I wrote a song about it some years ago and am given to singing it at this time of the year. I will surely sing it in Cavan at the fleadh. The first verse gives the sense of that leaving I think:

"From a city bus at noon one summer afternoon,
Through a classroom windowpane I saw them all,
Young heads oer papers bent as the pens a-racing went,
On an honors paper chase in that exam hall,
They looked so fair and young that it seemed very wrong,
To have them captured there out of the sun,
For those that teach the youth don't teach them all the truth,
When the leaving is over, the leaving is just begun
For they were doing their leaving,
And still were grieving,
Not quite believing their childhood's gone,
Though they may fail or pass,
Time comes to every class,
When the leaving is over the leaving is just begun."

It is too. Because of the high unemployment levels it is certain that many of them will be emigrating, not just from their homes but from Ireland, inside the next couple of months. The harder times are back again. Let's not dwell on that.

When I get to Cavan there will be no hint of recession or depression up there. All worries, as always, will be submerged beneath the great tide of music and song and dance and craic that will last long after the stipulated organized program.

I'm supposed to come back again on Sunday evening (son Cormac Og is traveling with me), but clocks get stopped in their clockwork tracks by wild enough blasts of reels, and it could well take longer than that. A lot longer.

By the time I get back home to Clare the swallows might have departed...