Two day’s holiday sounds like an oxymoron – how can you call it a holiday when it’s only a couple of days?
So, really it was a two day break that felt like a holiday.
It felt like a holiday to me.
The previous few weeks consisted of endless ferrying of the girls to their exams (Leaving and Junior Certificates), of having to provide a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere with a constant supply of snacks and cooked meals whilst being on hand to dish out counselling and make the odd calming circle.
We all needed a break; a change of scenery, so I booked a budget bed and breakfast (continental breakfast instead of our much loved full Irish) in a quiet village in County Clare near the sea.
Charlie, the youngest had been banging on about buying a surfboard for a few years, had finally saved up and so I organised lessons at Ben’s Surf Clinic in Lahinch. All we needed to do was figure out how to transport said board on a car without a roof rack or proper rails. In a stroke of genius, I ordered a soft rack (temporary padded blocks that attach to the car with straps) and strong straps for tying the board down and signed up for the free month trial to Amazon Prime ensuring that we received our products in record time (the day before we left) and for no postage. (Note to self, remember to cancel Prime membership forthwith)
For luck and happy chance, the moonsoon weather we had come to accept as our summer decided to transform itself into a mini heatwave especially for us. I checked my ancient tank-like car for oil and water, made sure the tyres were pumped and we were ready for the off.
The journey was straightforward and after around two hours of travel we arrived at our first destination, The Rock Shop in Liscannor. A mecca for lovers of all things shiny and chrystalline in nature. Having stocked up on essential handmade soap, bracelets and marble eggs we drove to Milton Malbay, a pretty town famous for hosting the annual Willy Clancy trad music festival. Using Google Maps we only got lost once.
Our AirBnB hosts were the loveliest old couple and we fell quite happily into an early 90s time warp; rooms with gloss walls and decorated strips of patterned wall paper that traversed the room at mid level, a bathroom suite in beige (everything spotless with frilled wicker baskets full of helpful things such as earbuds, face wipes, mini soaps and shampoo). The living room with the table set for our breakfast played RTE 1 on a big radio/cd/stereo combo in the corner of the room and darkwood cabinets displayed Waterford Crystal and Belleek china, family photographs and anniversary statuary. It was comforting and familiar and the beds (we had two rooms) guaranteed a good night’s sleep.
After offloading our luggage we headed straight to Spanish Point, a stretch of golden sand surrounded by cliff-face and large boulders. The tide was out and we hastily changed into our swimming suits and made our way in true Irish fashion into the sea.
‘Aah! It’s fucking freezing.’
‘OH MY GOD!’
‘Jesus Christ! I can’t feel my legs!’
[I was delighted to find that my aged spotted 50s style swimsuit, (always a little snug) now seemed very loose. This was a novel feeling. I knew this was going to be a last outing for said article of clothing and it was with great joy that I swam in the sea that day, telling myself that all the exercise of the last year had paid off and while I still had a way to go, at least I was getting more toned. The swimsuit didn’t lie. However, after a few times in the ocean I came to the sad conclusion that it wasn’t me that had changed, it was just that the elastic was knackered. The bottom part of the suit hung down between my legs like a baggy nappy.
Once home, the first thing I did was fire that spotty bastard into the bin.]
Once we had made it into the sea and are limbs were suitably numb, we floated and swam and just let the ever so clear turquoise water flow over and around us as the sun shone hot upon our faces. It felt like coming home, to be back in the sea where all thoughts of the ordinary were happily washed clean with the tide.
Dinner on the first evening, was in a guest house facing the sea, painted a brilliant sky-blue where the sixties ballads on the soundsystem conflicted slightly with the sounds coming from the front of the house where a bearded musician strummed away outside the window. The fish was fresh and delicious only slightly marred by the fact that for some odd reason there seemed to be quite a lot of turmeric in the batter mix.
We stopped at another beach before calling it a night and watched the sun dip behind the shoreline, sitting on the rocks at White Stand while a family group paddled their boards into the horizon.
The hot weather, while extremely welcome to the populace of Ireland tends to play havoc with the tides and our surfing lesson as a result was cancelled. Needless to say we were disappointed (apart from Polly who we had been trying to guilt into going but who didn’t relish the thought of two hours strenuous sea activity) but we accepted it and after another swim in Spanish Point we left for ice cream and coffee.
Charlie bought her board in the surf shop at Ben’s on the promenade at Lahinch. It looked scarily tall – a 9 foot second hand foam board leaning against the wall. I watched her eyes widen and then wander across to the smaller hard boards for the more seasoned surfer. Her cognitive dissonance diminuished later, after she awkwardly it carried across the car park and down the steps to the strand. I had difficulty getting her out of the sea that evening. Herself and Polly , both in full length wetsuits paddled, admired and sat up on the board as I, after my initial dip, people watched and read my book in complete happiness sitting on a bamboo mat against the rocks.
Our last meal was take-out and the best kebabs I had ever tasted, devoured in the car with the surf board tied on top. The sauce dripped through out salty, wrinkled fingers. Already we looked like beach bums with our dishevelled clothes, skin that had browned and was multi-freckled. With hair that was still wet we headed back to the beach for one last swim and for Charlie; more board love.
Around 10 a.m. on our final morning we pulled into a mostly empty car park at Spanish Point. Apart from a couple of strollers and a dog walker, we had the beach to ourselves. I was more than content to sit and watch Charlie riding the little waves at the edge of the sea, Polly began to get changed and started to work on me.
Polly: Wouldn’t you like a last dip, Mum?
Me: No, I’ve made my peace with the sea and am happy to just read for a bit.
Polly: But you always get in!
Me: I know but not this time, you go on out to Charlie.
Polly: You know you’ll regret it if you don’t. I know you.
Cut to me getting up and stomping off dramatically to the car to retrieve the baggy swimsuit and a towel.
While at the car I began to tighten the straps of the roof rack and noticed in passing that the front passenger tyre had a bulge. Of course, I couldn’t get the WiFi on my phone to work so I was unable to check the reason and prognosis of the tyre. Thoughts ran through my mind – Would it bring us home safely? Could I drive with it? Would it blow? ( I had a tyre blowout in the past and crashed into a wall, it still haunts me)
In the end I decided not to tell the girls and just forget about it. As I lay in the Atlantic Ocean looking up at the perfect azure blue sky, dotted with the tiniest fluffy puffs of clouds, my anxiety calmed. I let the worry go, the tyre had been alright driving us around Clare, it would hold for another day until I could make it to a tyre fitters. There was nothing I could do and I would be driving slowly because of the surfboard attached to the roof of my ancient car. It wasn’t worth stressing about further.
Polly and I left the sea before Charlie, who was determined to squeeze the last little bit of sea time with her board out of our visit. As we were performing the amazing age-old feat of trying to get changed under a towel, a tour bus of American pensioners descended on the beach which turned our drying and pulling up of underwear into that much more of a struggle. Everywhere we turned there were cameras clicking. I could only hope that my saggy bottomed exit from the sea hadn’t made it onto someone’s home video.
The journey home was torturous, imagine a 14 year old car minus air conditioning, the temperature at 28 degrees and nothing but warmed, recycled air circulating. It was like driving in an oven. Now add two disgruntled teenagers and strange sounds coming from the roof as the straps of the ties whistled and thumped the roof of the car. I had a crick in my neck from looking up at the protruding end of the surf board which seemed to pop up and down in an alarming manner as we drove the hilly motorway from Limerick to Laois. I tried not to focus on the bulging tyre.
We made it back home, finally, to a lonely cat looking for affection and the chance to stretch out on couch for the first time in days. Exhausted, we all hydrated, lay about the place until one by one, we quietly disappeared to our respective rooms to snooze away the heat.