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KilkPhotograph by John Kelly.

Kilkee, a winter experience

“Kilkee and all that lies about it offers only ordinary happiness, a most precious thing that any child can enjoy or any old man. But on the right day in West Clare, under the right light, that ordinary happiness takes on an immaculacy, an innocent radiance which lifts it near to what we mean by heavenly delight.” (Kate O’Brien)

One searches in vain to aptly describe Kilkee in winter; the best I can come up with is ‘an experience with a difference’. The month of February usually spells the beginning of, or at least the onset of, spring. However, Sunday last, February 5, certainly defied that assumption.

I awoke to the sound of John Bowman on radio followed by Sunday Miscellany, which has remained an enduring part of my Sunday morning line-up for almost 40 years now, together with that all-important, Sunday morning fry. When I woke, I had promised myself a walk over towards the Diamond Rocks prior to watching that all-important rugby match between Ireland and Wales.

And so, a little past 2pm, and despite the inclemency of the elements, I donned my coat, woolly cap and warm fur-lined mittens and, oh yes, I set out equipped with the all-important umbrella. Well, to say that in winter our beloved Kilkee is people-pauperised must be the truest statement I have ever made.

Apart from my reliable contact when in the environs of that wee town, one is apt not to encounter a single sinner soul in a day’s walk. And so it was for me on that particular day.

My endeavour to walk briskly along the Strand Line was cruelly interrupted by the harshness of hostile, spiteful elements as the sky above reigned supreme, spitting out its aquatic substance with a flourish and seeming delight.

Akin to the sound and strength of hailstones, the pelting rain bounced incessantly off my black umbrella. This, coupled with a fierce wind, caused that same umbrella to yield to its will and despite my very best efforts to save it, I was finally put upon to pitch it. Yes, reluctantly I pitched it.

With no human being in sight, one could mentally relate to the dashing, crashing waves, the vacant seats that bedeck the Strand Line and barring either of those two options, converse with oneself! Not ideally recommended but one thinks to oneself, so there goes.

Glancing across the vast aquatic domain, I see the waves quite easily reach the height of George’s Head, the tail end spilling over and splaying its residue down that famous incline, which is a pure delight to climb in summertime and the spot where one is apt to find an amount of mushrooms towards the end of the season and particularly following a night of rain.

Quite a number of cars whizz by me, no doubt heading for the Diamond Rocks Café. I see there are easily 15 cars or so parked in that area, where just beyond the waves have reached six feet or more above the cliff by the Amphitheatre.

Having reached my appointed destination, thus fulfilling a promise to myself, I quickly make an about-turn when suddenly the rain ceased and as if a miracle had occurred, a bright watery sun beamed out for a period of five or 10 minutes. I even experienced a certain welcome blast of heat.

Then, just as suddenly, a change arrived yet again with a cloud-burst emerging on the scene with an accompanying nasty wind blowing its worst. Skirting by O’Curry Street, or Albert Road, as my late mother insisted on calling it, I notice that the only bar open is O’Meara’s, with the Greyhound, Scott’s and Naughton’s firmly shut.

Inserting the key in the door upon my return, I was never so glad to take safe refuge from the vicious elements. Then, at that point, a brightness appeared once again but all too briefly.

Switching on the TV, I learn that Ireland has scored three points, to be quickly followed by three more.

Dinner is swiftly prepared to the sound of the commentary and with firelight emitting the pervading delicious aroma of burning turf, things begin to settle as did I, while looked forward to The Voice and Fair City later on and who knows, if I am lucky, a little welcome libation.

By Maureen Sparling

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