Sunday, July 17, 2011

Donegal Daydreams 2

Donegal is like one of those boys your mother always warned you about.. moody and unreliable, glorious one moment, dumping on you the next, but always, irrisistable.

It's the same as it always was. I came here every year as a child, so many memories merged into one mish mash of feeling and nostaligia. I can close my eyes and see the rugged mountains and coastline, taste the chicken maryland we had as a treat every holiday in the Nesbit Arms Hotel, smell the turf, hear the silly names my brother and I gave all the funny sounding Irish places. But mostly I remember my mum's white tupperware box, always full of her fudge squares and caramel squares she had made the night before we left. The glorious days on the beaches, the long walks as my dad dragged us over 'just one more hill', the interminable days inside the smokey cottage as the rain lashed outside.

Donegal has a personality complex. When the weather is clear, the horizon is further than anywhere I've ever been in the world. The sky seems endless, life is limitless. But when the dark clouds brood and close in, spewing torrents of 'wet rain' like sheets of water, the sea mist creeps around until there is nothing in your vision at all - just you, your house and if you're lucky, the end of your path. No sky. No mountains. No road. Donegal can make you feel tall and small in one day.

The smell of turf burning takes me back 30 years in an instant to my family sitting round the fire, life at it's most basic, the rain thrashing the windows as the clump of the tupperware lid opened and our family hands tangled in desperation as we grasped mum's chocolate treats.

And so here I am again. I am the mum now. The schizophrenic weather has us changing clothes three times a day. Last week I burned in the sun, the beach so vast, skies so wide it felt unwordly. And today, rain is so dense, the weather so close, we can't see past the wall. My mum and dad were meant to be with us this week, and I know without a doubt, that if she had been able to come, the tupperware box would have been on her knee as the car drove up. So, with a heavy heart, and a happy memory, I opened up her recipes, and I made her fudge squares. My girls now love them as I once did, and so it continues. My mum will never share a holiday with us again, but we sit in the turf-smoked room, the rain dancing furiously outside, and the clip of my new tin opens, and our family hands tangle as we reach for my mum's chocolate treats. Like Donegal weather, life is unpredictable. You never know what's around the corner. But like Donegal, it is the things that stay the same that keep life going. I miss you mum. But I'm creating new memories in your shadow. Memories I hope my girls will take through their lives as mine still take me.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Donegal Daydreams

Aghh. That first deep breath. The suck in of freedom. The exhale of space and landscape and horizon. Booked a year in advance. Months of planning. Weeks of lists. Days of shopping, packing, sorting. Hours of driving - screaming baby, disgruntled daughters. Late arrival, sleepless night. But then. The first early morning walk on a vast deserted beach as the sun says hello to the sky and the water laps the shore like a child licking ice-cream off her lips. The horizon so wide, so distant, it feels unworldly. A different world certainly from the cement claustraphobia of the city. I feel like I'm in the Great Escape - albeit without the motorbike. And Steve McQueen.... more's the pity.

I have travelled the world, and nothing, and nowhere compares to the wonderful wild, ravishingly rugged, energetic expanse of Donegal on the west coast of Ireland.

We've been here 4 days and explored 5 beaches, catching crabs, fish, shrimpy like creatures, and some rather unidentifyable jelly monstrousity. The girls have run, jumped, rolled along beaches, down sand dunes, clamberd over rocks, swum naked in the sea (yes! In Donegal. At 8.30 in the morning!). I've always maintained the sign of a good day is a bruised knee and dirty clothes. The girls are obviously having a ball. They have fallen so many times they look blue, drawn blood and we've even had a resident tick lodge itself in Daisy's hip. She refused to have it removed, called it Tessa Tick and talked to it for a day and a half until it eventually fell off satiated with blood. Fortunately the next pet - a curly caterpillar lasted a bit longer and slept on Daisy's pillow for a night.

I'm here for a month with the girls, and hubby is up at weekends. Despite the fact it feels like I brought the entire contents of the house - the change mat, the apple slicer (don't ask, Daisy eats about 5 apples a day so this is essential equipment for my sanity), the food mixer, and 25 packets of gluten-free pasta (only to discover the local shop stocks more gluten-free food than our supermarket in Dublin!). But my 13 lists and near mental breakdown did not compute 'wellies'. In Donegal. That's like a fish & chip shop not having salt. That's like somebody not liking chocolate. It's just not right. I'm surprised they let us over the border, wellies being part of the national dress up here. Still, in line with my new attitute to life - the wronger it is - the better it is - who cares? Wet feet can dry.

Ruby has experienced her first taste of sand - literally. She's at that irritating, sorry - delightful, 9 month old stage of crawling everywhere, eating everything and listening to no-one. She's eating sand like no tomorrow, but hey. Isn't that every child's rite of passage? So I'm going to be all wrong again and not worry about it. I'm going to suck in that freedom and exhale that space and landscape and horisons. I'm going to feel the sun and the rain on my face in equal measure - it is Donegal after all. That's the plan. Once hubby goes and I'm on my own with 2 girls and a baby on a wet and windy beach for a month I may be back to tell a different story. We'll have to wait and see.....