Author Archives: Alastair

Bere Island Ferry


We visited Castletownbere, a 19th Century port built for the Allihais copper mines across the peninsular. There were large fishing boats on the wharf being prepared for their next voyage, and a ferry to Bere Island. We caught the ferry at 1:30. A dozen or so people touring on bikes, and pedestrians, got on first. Many of the pedestrians had loads of shopping from the nearby Supervalu supermarket. Their cars were waiting on the other side. Next a man drove up with a fork lift to unload a large empty rectangular cage. He then maneuvered a cherry picker off the ferry. That gave enough room for 4 cars to reverse onto the ferry. It was a tight squeeze with passengers directing the cars.

Cliffs of Moher

We were welcomed to the Cliffs of Moher by a small building with a door at the side. Inside there was a large bowl full of pebbles with a trickling fountain of water. You are encouraged to use this space to meditate. It is provided by the Samaritans.

Further on are shops, and a visitor centre built into the hillside. The visitor centre was state of art with interactive displays and an exciting animated film of life on the cliff face.

The cliffs round the visitor centre are well protected so you cannot easily get too close to the edge of the cliffs.

Further up there are more signs by the Samaritans, and then a gap in the fence. ‘Need to Talk? Samaritans‘.

Beyond this point a lot of tourists were taking daring photographs on a zig zag rocky ledge. It has to be said that portions of the rock face can collapse without warning. According to one local we spoke with, the life boat comes this way two or three times a week to search the bottom of the cliffs.

Visit Father Ted’s House

Father Ted is a much loved TV character in the UK and Ireland. By chance we found ourselves on Craggy Island and visited his house.

We were not only offered cups and cups of tea but we were plied with sandwiches. Try to refuse and Mrs Doyle, the housekeeper, would insist ‘Go on Go on Go on’.

Lisdoonvana – too late for the Folk Festival and too early for Matchmaking

We got here a few decades too late for the Lisdoonvana Folk Festival where many of our old favourites performed: Van Morrison, John Martin, Loudon Wainright III… Back in the late 70s and early 80s festivals were free and easy. But after a group of young people died swimming in the sea this particular festival came to an end.

There is still a big festival in Lisdoonvana in September. It is where traditionally people would come to be matched by a professional matchmaker. Today, the only true Matchmaker left is Willie Daly, who writes details of hopeful couples in a book, and gets the passion going by getting couples dancing together. There is a lot of dancing at the Matchmaking Festival. We just got here too early for the dancing as it starts in September.

Reigate Heath Windmill chapel

Inside the roundhouse is a sanctuary.
Bible stories frescoed on whitewashed walls.
Heavy cross beams above – functional not symbolic.

A sacrament table beneath and a half  circle of chairs,
The priest breaking the bread says
‘in this moment past and present become one’.

Now I hear the wind in the trees.
The fan tail steers the sails to face the wind,
Mill stones trundle, flour crushed for bread.

Creation Rhythm

When God first gave a rhythm to the world
it was simple: day and night, night and day –
called it circadian rhythm.

God sent another world a spinning.
Its empty face came and went, came and went –
called it lunar rhythm.

God laid on this a slower beat,
growing hot, growing cold –
called it annual rhythm.

What came at first as the patter of rain
rose again through the stems of plants –
called it precipitation.

Then came creatures small and great
with wings and beaks and songs to sing.
It was God’s creation.

Then came man with stick and drums
counterpointing – changing beat –
a shifting, surging, syncopation.

New Sandpit

I sat and cried.
Mummy wouldn’t play.
She was cooking tea
and the new sandpit
was a desert now
where I cried and cried.

Then from out of the sand
I created a man
and with him three friends.
The damp sand shifting
beneath my bare toes.
I talked with them in turns.

Then I created an elephant
that made great marks.
It took all the men to hold it
with big ropes and that
was not enough really
for the elephant got free.

It trampled one man.
The other men carried him
away with a great gash
where his leg was hanging off
and the sand grew red
as dark clouds came over.

When mummy came out
the elephant and the men
went away again
and we made the surface smooth
and created a pool of water
where I washed my hands and feet

Her life is become marble

Her life is become marble – serene and alone –
Worn as a gown among cool shadowed walls
Where time conscious visitors meet.

In a blur of coats, dresses, and hats
Visitors swirl beneath her unblinking eyes
Replete in the folds of her dress.

The visitors go to where the sun is still shining
Taking away their chatter and cares.
She can hear sea-shell voices

As a childhood dream’s hollow ebb
Distance grows, shadows grow.
Falls the hush of late afternoon.

There is a sudden movement. Someone cries.
Swishing white coats, clacking heels
Bring again those looming eyes.

Just a handful of skirt shows her anger.
She swallows the syrup as offered.
‘Largactyl’ its burning.

Montreal

Just a few of the things we saw passing through Montreal

A fun train near the St Lawrence River

A tattoed Mannequin at the same time

Then in town at night: fountains

and a free fashion show.

The Brick store – New Hampshire

The Brick Store in Bath, New Hampshire, is one of the oldest general store in the United States, and serves lots of interesting foods.

It is like a time machine almost, except the baby boomers and records from the 1950s and 1960s are vintage now.

Just behind it a historic covered bridge crosses the Ammonoosuc River.