Fanore DiaryPosted: 05/02/2013
I lived in Fanore for most of November, keeping the house warm for some friends of mine who were away. It was a really relaxing month (not that I was stressed out beforehand), watching the weather go by on the west coast. I love living in the country, even if “amenities” like shops and banks and cinemas aren’t close at hand. Who needs that kind of thing when you can look out your bedroom window and see the sea, or be on the edge of the shore after a short walk along the wild hedgerows? Not me anyway. It sounds like a silly thing but where I am matters to me greatly and my current location (a Cork suburb) makes me miss my time in Mayo and Clare last year. Though the weather was abysmal for a lot of last November it didn’t really matter. There were still starlit trips to the beach, sunny days out on the coast and wild and windy hours walking through the elemental landscape. I tried keeping a diary while I was there but only made three entries. Sometimes it’s just nicer to be out in it than be inside trying to describe it. That’s my excuse anyway!
First day of winter and there was snow on the mountains across Galway Bay. None here – the Burren’s hills are much lower than the Maumturks – though there were a few hail showers during the day. It’s my third day here and I’m settling into a new way of life. I’ve had no job to go to before but always at home, always in the city. This is new and exciting, though I wonder if the wonder will last as time goes on. I hope so.
Massive veils of rain have continuously sailed in from somewhere beyond Aran for the past few days. I can watch them, steady and unstoppable, filling Galway Bay. Some seem to skirt around the Clare coast, others don’t. Either way it’s been raining a lot since I arrived and the forecast for the next while is more of the same. I love the drama of big winds and monstrous, spectre-like showers connecting cloud and ground and sea and sky. It’d be nice to get some cool, clear settled weather too.
I’ve walked the past two days; the Caher Valley loop yesterday and the Black Heap loop (via summits) today. I think because most of my recent Burren trips have been climbing orientated some of my attention to landscape was diverted to what routes to do and how to prepare for them. While walking up towards Murroughkilly today I was astounded by the ancient and wild atmosphere of the place. Rock is everywhere in all shapes – pavement, boulder, stone wall, cliffs. Maybe it’s because I’m a climber but I find myself diverting to some stone slab or boulder to feel the features; the smooth edges and sharp pockets. One overhung erratic I passed was polished at the edges where animals had taken shelter from the rain. Yesterday I hid under the cover of a hawthorn choked with ivy, glad of the evergreen while the shower swept by.
There are plenty of distractions while walking. The wildlife here is plentiful; lots of passerines, a fox, a sparrowhawk and a dipper are all much harder to see in the city. Four times in two days I’ve startled herons. The stone walls are everywhere but never yet dull. Even in the wilder places the human patchwork can be seen and you could write a book on the variety and uniqueness in each mile. I’m sure somebody already has. So plenty to distract me, which is fine as I’ve nothing to do. It’s nice so long as I can adjust to the slow way of doing things. I hope I can take this month to develop in some way.
In places like this it’s easy to be ruled by the weather. Which I find refreshing as it brings me closer to what’s happening around me, not the man-made world of ‘current affairs’ but the real world passage of the sun and moon, shifting seasons and changing weather. Ultimately we’re all connected to and dependant on these basic natural laws. With minimal contact with the news stories in the rest of the world I can focus on what’s happening outside. For whatever reason I prefer it that way for awhile.
I’m here almost a week now. Today I felt the first signs of old habits creeping back into the days. I say old like they were gone for long whereas it was only the freshness of new surroundings that made everything feel more positive and exciting. Today I overate, spent too much time on the computer and failed to get up for some sunrise photography like I’d planned. There was a bit of a lazy feel about the day.
There’s little doubt I had some naive notions about such a beautiful place bettering me but I would have known that was rubbish if I’d thought about it enough. But it’s all good nonetheless. It’s nice to be in a nice place and watch the weather change, even if the free time this month affords me doesn’t lead to any positively life changing revelations about my place in the world. And I can hardly expect such things less than a week into this month of time to myself.
I went to Ailladie a few days ago and soloed a few routes. The first three were sketchy and unconfident, the fourth was a pleasure and I promised would be the last of the day but I did two more routes after, both of which felt good. I’m running out of things to learn from soloing except that the more I do it the more I stack the odds against myself. It’s a realisation I’m not enjoying but it teaches me a little about myself.
Can’t sleep. The weather is frightful, wind and rain in the blackness of the night. It’s not the noise outside that’s keeping me up (I don’t know what is) but lying in bed and listening to it keeps me from forgetting how’s it ruling how I live my life at the moment. I’m freely at the mercy of the sea and sky; is it raining? If so how heavily? Is it little enough to go walking? Is it dry? Does it look like rain’s coming? Will it hold off long enough to go climbing? How big is the swell? Is it affecting the crags? Is it worth going out with the camera or is the greyness in for the evening? And so on…
Looking obliquely out the bedroom window I can see Aran, mostly Inis Oírr. On mornings of sunshine they are the first to feel the light, while the house, on the west side of Sliabh Elva, stays in shadow til quarter to 9. At this time of year the sun doesn’t swing round very far before night catches up with it again. It sinks to the east of Aran, as I look south, yesterday revealing itself just before dusk and reflecting on the limestone slabs just wet from the shower that convinced me photography was out for the day only moments before.
I look out to Aran every day and think about its lure, romanticised for people like me who like notions of timelessness despite all their impossibility. It’s not hard to want to connect with the place while reading Tim Robinson’s vivid descriptions of Árainn. At night I can see the twinkling villages in the distance but the darkness before them reminds me of the unwelcoming sea. One nights like this one I shudder at the thought of the sea between me and the islands right now. I’m glad to be indoors, under the comfort of a modern roof and the skylights that show me the misery they’re protecting me from.
That’s as much as I managed. It’s probably just as well before I started on some highly introspective meaning-of-life kind of scrap that I couldn’t do very well. Below are some photos (and there’s more here).