Festivals, Stations and Jellyfish Swarms

Mackerel skies and horses tails

Moor your boats and lower your sails

These portent-filled skies haven’t been a problem but the mist has, so the boat has been firmly tethered to the pier for the most of June/July. We’ve had a few fishing trips but the shrimp pots are still waiting to be shot and the mackerel has been as scarce as the sea jaunts. However, jellyfish are in abundance, filling the lobster pots and driving the locals mad with their promise of a warm summer that hasn’t yet arrived.

Jellyfish on the shore

On one of our sailing trips it looked like the surface of the sea was bubbling in the distance; on closer inspection, it was a vast swarm of white and purple common jellyfish. In thick layers, they filled a chunk of sea (about 20 square metres) right down to the sea bed – something I’ve only ever seen once during a lagoon visit in Montego Bay many years ago.

As for the mist, it’s slowed the vegetables right down and has left a depressing air over the land. It’s amazing how much you feel the weather here. In a city, you can still go to an art gallery or the cinema, and you can cut through or alongside buildings which offer some shelter from the elements. Here, you’re constantly open to nature’s whims. It’s wellies and woolly hats one minute, sunscreen and caps the next.

A friend of mine has decamped to the village from Dublin for a few months and is amazed at how differently the weather affects her day – and she’s right in the main street. We’re only two miles out but planning is almost impossible; if the weather is fine, you need to get out and tend to the crops or go fishing while you can. It makes life very unpredictable, unsettling at times. And winter when it’s meant to be summer leaves a bizarre taste all round.

Luckily, I decided to take a break from novel writing this month, donating some TLC to my garden and (theoretically) myself. As the cuckoo moved her morning song to 5am, I tried lowering my sails, filling the month with festival cheer and short term projects.

Perfect spot for a live writing event!

At the beginning of June I was at Writers’ Week in Listowel, shaking hands with Michael D. Higgins and chatting to the likes of Patrick deWitt and Germaine Greer. At the end of June, I was writing live stories with two other writers in Kent train station as part of the Midsummer Festival in Cork City. Somewhere in between I was weeding, pruning, side shooting, plant feeding and earthing up drills in an attempt to keep blight away and growth encouraged.

Working on the Ciudades Paralelas installation called Station meant trips to the city every weekend for rehearsals and then two further weekends of performances – a pleasant change during the muddle that is an unpredictable rural summer.

This area is usually known for better weather, but last year’s summer was non existent and this summer is seemingly following suit. Not that I’m complaining. Since visiting my father as a young girl and helping with his garden, living like this is all I’ve ever wanted to do. The visits were during school holidays and nothing extraordinary, but coming from Middlesbrough, an industrial town, they were a slice of heaven in my adolescent life.

I feel lucky every day to live in my own version of paradise, but feeling restless without a big project to grapple, I was pleased to get the chance to be away. They say a change is as good as a rest, but in truth, it’s been tiring. Since February, I’ve stayed in either Galway, Cork, Kerry or Dublin (a day’s travel in most cases) a total of 11 times for work and writing related events. And I’ve somehow written a new book in between as well.

Big (but still green) tomatoes

People think you take it easy when you live in the countryside but I’m finding the opposite to be true. It’s not the stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily do in a city that makes you busier (e.g. chopping firewood, fixing ditches, finding lost cattle, helping elderly bachelors with their farms), it’s the everyday basics. You have to work harder to socialise, to establish yourself in the community, to find work and then maintain a work/life balance.

It was difficult to let go of the novel-writing for the month and in many ways it was more stressful trying to do less. But I guess this is just conditioning. I’ve realised it takes longer than we think to allow ourselves to just be. I’m slowly getting better but I’ve a long way to go.

As we head further into July, the cuckoo has spread her wings and migrated to Africa. Like her, I’m ready to get going again. The sails need to be hoisted so I can focus on my next big project: editing two books simultaneously. I hope the sun arrives, bringing with it an abundant crop and a much-needed surge of energy. And a few mackerel (of the fish, not cloud variety) would be nice!

(Please note, this is a cross post with Krank.ie: an Irish news and current events magazine website.)

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