Posts Tagged With: Spanish Point

The Last Day of Summer?

Today is 31st August.  The last day of Summer. Well is it? The Irish Met says Summer is June, July and August, but the Irish Calendar says it is May, June and July. Anyway putting that aside, I decided to attempt to cure the PFB’s (post-Fleadh blues) with some natation at Spanish Point. After all three days ago the beach was crowded and it was 20 degrees and this summer I had already swum on Achill Island and at Lahinch.

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Spanish Point August 28th 2016

It couldn’t be that bad, could it?  So rain hail or shine I decided to do it.

Well I woke up this morning and it was neither rain hail nor shine. But it was cool and windy. Just normal West Clare wind. I headed down about 11 am. Pretty different.  Today the beach was nearly empty and the lifesaving flags were having a hard time standing up.

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Spanish Point Beach August 31st 2016

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But I could feel the love.  Well, subliminal messages written in worm excrement and weed.

I tested the water but was still wearing my newly acquired Fleadh zippie, so you can guess that my heart wasn’t really in it.  After a wade, a shiver and a nice walk I headed back. Defeated.  Selfie time.

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But feck it. I’ve made the effort. Why don’t I just do it. After all the water temperature is probably warmer than the air (well it actually wasn’t!).  So this was my little Everest and for the last time this year I braved the Wild Atlantic. No selfie of me actually in the water. So you’ll have to believe me. But with that one act the SADS disappeared and I was invigorated. Mind you I didn’t stay in that long. There is a limit to bravery or stupidity.

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I can’t believe this is my third summer in Ireland and my first in the water. After all I grew up on the northern beaches of Sydney.  I have an Aussie friend in Galway and she swims every day of the year. I don’t think I’ll go that far but hey, you never know.

Can’t wait for next summer.

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ireland – The Next Chapter

I’ll start this blog with some good news. Those of you who follow me on Facebook will already know that my application to remain in Ireland has been accepted and I can stay another 12 months.  The wait has been interminable. Over four months without a word and without any response to enquiries.  Everyone I spoke to about it seemed to think that was pretty normal and that I just had to wait.  Meanwhile my visa had expired and my life was on hold.  My inability to prove residency and obtain an Irish driving licence led to refusal to re-insure my car and so for three months I have been unable to drive.  It will still be a couple of months before that is rectified.

I wonder why some countries make it so difficult for people to come and live.  I am sure Australia is just as bad with people wanting to reside there.  I just don’t get it though.  I am self-sufficient, I have met all the requirements, I accept that I can’t work or run a business but still I have to go through all these hoops and am met with a wall of silence when I try to find out what’s going on.  In Ireland, the hundreds of millions of people in the Eurozone can come and go as they please but the few thousand Aussies who want to make Ireland home (even for a short while)  find that to stay longer than 90 days is laced with any number of difficulties.   A country looking to recover from an economic catastrophe should be welcoming anyone who wants to come here and spend money.

Anyway I am undaunted because I am not ready to go home.  Over the next year I will explore ways of obtaining longer terms of residency to continue on my musical journey.  But Ireland has become much more than that to me.  It has etched its way into my being.  With a few exceptions, which I won’t dwell on, I have been welcomed here with open arms and open hearts.  It is such a contrast to the anonymity of Australian suburbia where you can live for years and never be recognised by your neighbours. Here I live in a small community and people take you as you are.  I am often greeted by strangers “with a warm and kind hello” as in the lyrics of the song “The Clogher Road”.  I have had many offers of lifts to do my shopping or get coal as people became aware of my predicament.  And in my cycles around West Clare I am often tooted with recognition or waved at by people who obviously know me even if I don’t recognise them.

And I feel part of the wider community also, throughout Clare and beyond.  Facebook and this blog have allowed me to keep in contact with the hundreds of people I have met through music in Ireland and around the world.  And to share my experiences and images.  I have received a terrific response to my posts and it seems to me that the Irish and followers of Irish music around the world love to read about and see what’s happening around the country.   Many of my overseas friends tell me they live a little vicariously through my blogs until they can actually get here themselves.

So I will continue to write and photograph.  I will of course play music.  Both in sessions and at home.  I can feel myself improving and want that to continue.  Perhaps I won’t go to sessions every night – I will speak about that in another blog.  I want to explore more of this country and as soon as I can drive I want to revisit some of my favourite places (such as Connemara, Aran Islands and Donegal,) and to find new favourite places, especially in the remotest parts of Ireland to discover the people and music there.

So please stay with me on my blog and follow me on the next stage of my journey…

Here are some of my favourite pictures from the past year or so, which may help you understand why I don’t want to go home.

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A stormy day near Spanish Point, Co Clare

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The last day at the old Brogan’s Pub in Ennis.

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Sunset at Caherush, Co Clare

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A peek into a session at Pepper’s Pub, Feakle, Co Clare

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My cottage in Clare

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Near Mullaghmore, Co Sligo

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The Burren bathed in golden light

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The magical Mount Errigal, Co Donegal.

Categories: My Journey, Real Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Willie Clancy Summer School – Monday.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The sun was shining, not too much wind – I’ll ride to Miltown! It’s only five kilometres. Great. No problem with traffic or parking. What was I thinking!  I rode home in the driving rain at 1am buffeted by squally winds in the pitch black being overtaken at breakneck speed by an endless stream of Willie-ites heading back to their cottages, caravans or campsites. The Bellbridge was a safe haven about halfway so the obvious solution was to sit there, soaked through, in the warm pub and play tunes with complete strangers. A silk purse from a sow’s ear?

In between though I experienced just a little of the magic of Willie Week. I played with Sean Moloney from East Galway in the sun at the back of the Blondes, I saw Frankie Gavin and Noel Hill at Michael A’s (no chance of a seat there!) , then there was Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Eileen O’Brien at Friels and Jacky Daly and Matt Cranitch at the Yard and…….

In the evening we were treated to a smorgasbord of fiddling styles from some of the best in the country and beyond. It is so good to hear all these fiddles back to back. I know it’s unfair but highlights for me were Tara Breen and the wonderful sweet fluid playing of Yvonne Casey and then Claire Egan. Perhaps I’ve been in Clare too long.

Then I finished the night with a session at the Bellbridge; but I’ve already mentioned that.

And this is only Monday.

Just a handful of photos.  I will wait until the end to sort them all.

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Categories: Concerts, Festivals, The Fiddle, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christy Moore at Spanish Point

When I shop in Miltown Malbay I always go to SuperValu. Yesterday for some inexplicable reason I went to Londis.  So what, you ask. Well normally it would be of no particular consequence but in the car park there I met Anne Rynne, Christy Moore’s sister.  She mentioned she was heading to Christy’s concert that night at Spanish Point. You could have knocked me over with a feather.  Christy was coming to my home town and I didn’t even know about it! How did I not know this was on?

Anyway fate had intervened and 8:00 pm found me sitting in the third row of the function room in the Armada Hotel expectantly waiting for the master to appear.

Christy has been an idol of mine since I bought his Prosperous album in 1973 and in particular in his Planxty and Moving Hearts days.  I had seen Christy three times before. All in Australia. The first time was over thirty years ago in the opulent State Theatre in Sydney.

And now here he was on stage with the extraordinary musicians that make up the Maírtín O’Connor Band (Maírtín O’Connor, Cathal Hayden, Seamie O’Dowd and Jimmy Higgins) and I was a bit concerned that good as they are they would compete with rather than enhance THAT voice. I needn’t have worried.

Christy opened the show with one of my favourite songs; Richard Thompson’s Beeswing. From the first chord there was a reverent hush. This made for an instant connection between Christy and the audience and we knew we were in for a good night. Christy recognised this saying “Well you’re great listeners now let’s here you sing” as he launched into Missing You. The audience didn’t need another invitation and joined in at any opportunity through the night.

This was a happy Christy. Although a native of Kildare much of his family lives in Clare so he is a regular visitor and many of his songs reflect this.  This was a Christy sharing his songs with his mates.  Every time Miltown Malbay was mentioned there was a little cheer. And there were plenty of mentions as many of Christy’s songs echo this love of Clare. Even as a ‘blow-in’ I felt chuffed to be part of this. Indeed that line in Lisdoonvarna where he extols all those looking for music to “come to Clare” could well have been the theme for the night.

Some of the best moments however were when he veered off the programme and responded to requests from the audience. In particular a rousing rendition of St Brendan’s Voyage got the biggest applause of the night and the beautiful Butterfly was a treat. There was even an internet request for Don’t Forget Your Shovel (from a man who said he was travelling to the concert all the way from Quilty) with which Christy was happy to comply!

The sensitive and often exquisite accordion of Maírtín O’Connor and Cathal Hayden’s fiddle provided a tasteful backing. The superb sound on the night (well done to the anonymous sound guy) allowed every note and every nuance to be clearly heard without detracting in the slightest from Christy’s magic voice. Delicate guitar and mandolin work was a feature of Seamie O’Dowd’s playing – just filling the odd space here and there, never distracting. I particularly liked his use of harmonics on one song.  Jimmy Higgins’ percussion was also wonderfully restrained. Indeed the balance of all four musicians was so perfectly constructed as to let Christy’s voice shine.  But both Maírtín and Cathal had their moments in the sun. Cathal, putting his own stamp on Mountains of Pomeroy and Maírtín paying homage to Joe Cooley.

We had plenty of old favourites including Ride On, Lisdoonvarna and Delirium Tremors and even an homage to Planxty with Raggle Taggle Gypsy. It was also great to hear him acknowledge the song writing talents of his brother Luka Bloom with City of Chicago and the Bog Man and the wonderful Shane McGowan song A Pair of Brown Eyes. There were humorous songs such as Little Honda 50 and also sentimental favourites such as Cliffs of Dooneen.

Called back for an encore he did, appropriately the song from Smoke and Strong Whiskey, If I Get an Encore, with some slight modifications, somehow working in references to Mullagh, Quilty and Coore. It was very well received.

The audience went home completely satisfied and they were treated to Christy at his very best with one of the best trad bands in the country thrown in for good measure. I was amazed that he is still performing at the highest level after nearly fifty years. A truly fabulous night. I am so glad I went shopping at Londis!

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Categories: Concerts, Trad Irish Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Winter in Ireland !

They said I wouldn’t survive the winter.

Well it’s approaching the end of January and I am still here. But I have to say that these last few weeks I have really felt what it is that everyone has warned me about. The realisation hit as I stood on the cliffs of Sleave League in southwest Donegal trying to stand up straight enough to take a photograph, wrapped in multiple layers but still feeling that wind cut through to the bone. It was a brisk 4˚C at midday but with the wind chill it was sub-zero. It was numbingly cold but the photos I took that day look deceptively pretty, with blue skies and gorgeous colours reflecting the sun off the cliffs. The camera never lies but it doesn’t always tell the full story.

And then the other day the maximum on the mercury back home in Clare was 1˚C. It was snowing across the county, indeed all over the west, but not here at Caherush on the sea.

I stand outside my front door. The wind here is relentless and constant. This day you can hardly stand up as it whips the usually calm waters of the bay into a seething boiling maelstrom and further out past Mutton Island, massive waves roll in through a sea of foam and whipped up spray I can see the spray drive high over Mutton Island covering its castle as waves crash in from the west. Some intrepid gulls fight the elements to carry on with their continuous search for sustenance seemingly just hanging in the air almost enjoying the challenge as they feast on the abundant feed whipped up by the furious waters. And a handful of ducks continue to forage on the shoreline despite being buffeted hither and thither. And on the land, cattle turn their backs to the wind to provide some protection. There is no rain at the moment, in fact patches of blue appear through the clouds to tantalise and at least give an impression of warmth soon dispelled by the reality closer to the ground. I don’t stay out there long. Valdo, the farmer’s border collie runs up, stone in mouth, inviting me to play, seemingly oblivious to the unfriendliness of the elements. No walk along the shore today Valdo, that’s just a distant memory. Back inside though the house is cosy, the fire goes all day and if I’m not warm enough I sometimes turn the central heating on also. I play music. I write. I read. I watch the odd movie. And when I get bored I play some more music. My day really begins at 9pm when I head out to look for tunes, an increasingly difficult challenge.

So I am still here. My adopted countrymen can’t understand this. They see the endless blue skies of a Summer Bay Utopia and a bikini-barbecue lifestyle to match and wonder why I would want to come here. They all have relatives in Perth who will never come home. And they all want to join them there in the warmth. So why don’t I feel the same way. Don’t get me wrong I love Australia (well when it is not being stuffed up by uncaring governments!) but I have had decades of it and the Australian summer holds no attraction for me anymore. Yes, day after day of blue skies, but it comes with often unbearable heat (depending where you are, and I spent a lot of my time there in 40 plus temperatures in the desert), the threat of fires, not sleeping at night, hot westerly winds. It all makes you actually crave some ‘weather’. That craving for weather is certainly satisfied here. In recent days I have seen it at its rawest – driven through a snow storm, been pelted by hailstorms, 130kph winds and 30m waves. But seriously this wild winter is a small price to pay to live in this glorious country and be surrounded by music every day. I feel blessed.

So if I go home it definitely won’t be because of the weather.

Here are some photos that say winter and Ireland to me…….

the wild Atlantic.  Spanish Point Co Clare

the wild Atlantic. Spanish Point Co Clare

Spanish Point

Spanish Point

Stating the obvious.  White Strand near Spanish Point, Co Clare

Stating the obvious. White Strand near Spanish Point, Co Clare

Cattle turn their backs to the wind.  Spanish Point, Co Clare

Cattle turn their backs to the wind. Spanish Point, Co Clare

Caherush, Co Clare

Caherush, Co Clare

wind blown foam,  Spanish Point Beach.  Co Clare

wind blown foam, Spanish Point Beach. Co Clare

Spanish Point Beach.  Covered in foam.

Spanish Point Beach. Covered in foam.

Wild Atlantic.  Spanish Point.  Co Clare

Wild Atlantic. Spanish Point. Co Clare

Sleave League, Co Donegal

Sleave League, Co Donegal

Ice.  Gweedore, Co Donegal

Ice. Gweedore, Co Donegal

Fanore Beach, Co Clare

Fanore Beach, Co Clare

Caherush Bay during a gale.

Caherush Bay during a gale.

Caherush Bay. Co Clare.

Caherush Bay. Co Clare.

Ice crystals on the windscreen.  Sixmilebridge. Co Clare

Ice crystals on the windscreen. Sixmilebridge. Co Clare

Ice on the road.  Mount Callan, Co Clare.

Ice on the road. Mount Callan, Co Clare.

Categories: Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Home

Well it has been a month since I have posted and a lot has happened. I have kept telling myself I will catch up when winter arrives but it never did. We have had an amazing warm September and the first couple of weeks of October with more blue skies.  That all camne to an end last week and we have had our first taste of winter.  I am ready for it!

Those of you following me on Facebook will know that I have found a house to rent. I can’t believe where I have ended up. A magic place on the water between Spanish Point and Quilty near Miltown Malbay in west Clare.

My cottage is at the end of a row of houses that stretches along the Clogher Road to Point Caherush. It is situated on the edge of the land where it meets the rocky shore. Surrounded by gravel and a high wall there is no softening green garden but the starkness somehow seems appropriate. Adjacent is an old whitewashed stone shed with a slate roof and behind that are large domed sheds that constitute the operations base for my landlord’s extensive farmland, which stretches beyond in all directions to the sea. Everyone here talks about nothing but the storms last January and the damage done by the high tides, but I am assured by the owner that the new seawall will keep the ocean out.

The house looks directly south across a shallow bay and to the treeless plains and hills that are so characteristic of this part of West Clare. In the distance I can see Quilty and the round tower of its church poking above the horizon. And out beyond the now calm ocean is the uninhabited Mutton Island only accessible by boat. I have a table and benches, like those provided at picnic sites, outside my front door and from here I can see the sun rise over the hills to my left and watch it all the way to where it disappears into the Atlantic Ocean on the right. The last month has provided glorious clear blue skies and amazing sunrises and sunsets. For most of the day the sun streams invitingly into the house filling it with light.

The bay is forever changing moods. At low tide the ocean floor is exposed across its entire width. Rocks and seaweed predominate with pools of water left behind temporarily. It is not what is conventionally regarded as appealing. At high tide the rocks are completely covered and though there is no pristine white sandy beach, just boulders and kelp and various flotsam bordering the calm waters, the scene has a raw beauty that is captivating. There are very few people. Occasionally I will see someone collecting periwinkles or the landlord’s brother collecting and drying seaweed for his business or the occasional walker or a mother pushing a pram but for the most part there are just the sea birds, which provide plenty of movement and interest and there is Valdo, the neighbour’s border collie who spends all day chasing them.

Just a handful of steps and I am on a rock platform that stretches along the northern side of the bay to the end of the point. The rocks dip largely to the south at about 20 degrees and the sandstone and shale layers provide a series of steps which one seems to be forever climbing. At low tide you can walk all the way around the point. At the end of the point the calmness of the bay gives way to breakers which hint at the power that the Atlantic can unleash. For now though it is has been mostly peaceful but I have had a little taste of its power last weekend. There are some spectacular folds in the rock layers and the dip changes from the south to the north and back to the south providing plenty of geological interest. If I walk the other way I walk across the boulders and weed best negotiated at high tide. There is an exposed layer of peat just above the high tide mark. It provides a fascinating insight into the formation of this unique part of the Irish landscape as abundant, partially decomposed trees, branches and roots protrude from the ground. Further round the point towards Quilty is a cliff face formed of jagged, loosely consolidated boulders that appears to be a glacial moraine and the weathering of this cliff contributes to the mix of irregular and rounded boulders seen on the shore.

I am seeing it at its absolute best but I already love this place. It is not the Ireland I expected to live in but I finally have a sense of place and I am so looking forward to spending the next year here.

To cap all this off the house has a rich musical heritage. It was the home of JC Talty, who played pipes and flute with the Tulla Ceili Band for 35 years, until his death in 2006. He was mates with Willie Clancy, Paddy Canny and Leo Rowsome among others. It is inspiring to think that these guys may well have played music in this house. It was also a favourite place for his niece Brid O’Donoghue the well-known Miltown whistler who came here after school regularly to learn her craft from her uncle.

As I said the place has many moods. I have tried to capture this with some of these photos from my first month here.

I will soon get to posting some of my thoughts and adventures from a truly wonderful summer.

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Categories: My Journey, Wild Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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