Yesterday, quite out of the blue, a bunch of photos came my way from Mark McCann as attachments to an email. Mark is an old fishing buddy and, along with my brother Sean, we are veterans of many fishing campaigns. Coincidentally Sean came across some photos as well and, while not currently in digital form, I am hoping that these may be coming my way soon. The photos Mark sent recorded a fishing trip we went on about 10 years ago. It was significant because my son Leo who was then 12 was invited along.

Those photos brought it back and for me it was a very fine trip. Of course it pissed rain and we all got flooded but this is no less than we have come to expect.

I wrote about this experience in Dry River and will now shamelessly plagiarise my own words and present the photos that came my way yesterday:

“When Leo joined our camping adventure we made an error, once again, in site selection. We remembered the lesson of the previous summer and avoided the jaunts favoured by the cattle and settled, in the end, on some promising patches of soft grass free of the limestone bedrock which punctures the soils of this bleak country. What we didn’t know, as we pushed the tent pegs into the yielding earth, was that these oases of lush grass became pools of standing water following heavy rain.

On the first night, the night of the camp fire, the rain stayed off, but on the second the heavens opened. The rain drummed incessantly on the nylon fly sheets of our tents as we tried to sleep and we ventured out at first light to discover that we had inadvertently pitched tents on water rather than the land and that the three dome tents had become, in the night, a flotilla of colourful yachts on their own private sea.

Around us, fine extensions of the clouds reached to the ground as though the fabric of the sky itself had become torn, or the low clouds, curious about the world beneath them, were lowering tendrils to explore the texture of grass and the trees and the stone walls that partition the fields. The blurring of boundaries is a feature of the landscape of Connemara. The water and the air and the land here have disputed borders and each of these seems to merge, over time, into the others.

At our feet giant black slugs luxuriated in the damp air and inched along their forests of wet grass. I noticed that these slugs avoided the deep grooves and recesses where rainwater collects and it was not a pleasing thought that these simple molluscs, whose brains add up to little more than a tangled web of neurones, should exhibit far more intelligence than all of us put together.

Camping for us, bears no relation to the mass participation activity that draws millions away each summer to replace a brick-built suburbia with temporary, canvas one and brush teeth each evening alongside new neighbours. There are no communal showers, kids clubs, swimming pools, games rooms, on site shops or bars. There are just three blokes, three tents, a Kelly kettle and few bottles of wine. We don’t pack much more than that, apart from our fishing gear. There are other things too that we can’t fit into our cars, that we forget, or that we are unable to pack. There is the sky, for one thing. And then there are the stooping trees that have turned their backs on the prevailing westerlies, and there are grazing clouds and the intricately weathered limestone rocks piercing the grass. All these things we find, on our arrival, waiting for us. And the cows, too, are nearly always there. They do not need to be booked in advance.”  

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Leo avec truite