It does no harm to reflect that things change. Perspectives alter. These are the islands in December. In a heatwave our Mediterranean ancestry comes to the fore. We cannot imagine winter. The doomsayers tell us that the jet-streams will desert us. The Gulf Stream will move south. Polar bears will prowl the ice floes of the Irish Sea. The Sun is misbehaving. The universe will implode in 499,999, million years. (They said 500 million last year, or was it ‘billion’. There was some difference of opinion. maybe it was 50 million. I blame the maths teachers. What’s a few billion one way or the other in our current situation?) It all leads to global warming/climate change.
I remember global cooling during the seventies. I think they used the same charts with different captions. Futurologists predicted a scenario not unlike the Winter War around Stalingrad. I particularly remember the prediction that we would all have wheelbarrows and would range a mile or two from home, gathering firewood and foraging for food in the hedgerows. We would carry ‘perhaps bags,’ like babushkas in the snow.
Then the miners’ strike ended. The television no longer closed down at ten-twenty. The oil crisis eased and shops put up Christmas lights again. We began to worry about fossil fuels and the ozone layer. We were doomed again.
For the moment we enjoy the sunshine. We disport ourselves in the sea. We declare that the futurologists got it all wrong. I confidently predict that they will all go out of business at some time in the future. My six year old grandson worked it out that there is no such thing as the future. “When we get to the future we just call it ‘now’. The past is over. There is only ‘now’.” A wise child.
That island beyond Shennick is Saint Patrick’s Island. Tradition says that he landed there on his mission to convert the barbarous Irish to Christianity. A monastic settlement grew up on the island. A ruin still bears witness to his extraordinary courage and confidence in the future. This was an important place in its time. Today the shags and cormorants rule the roost (no pun intended but unavoidable.) The monastery was abandoned. The Vikings probably checked it out. The east wind, coming straight from Siberia dealt the coup de grace. A nice place to visit, as they say. Wouldn’t want to live there.
I had intended to mark sixty years of competing in open-sea swimming races, yesterday. The swimming hasn’t improved since about 1964 but the pleasure remains. There is a fascination in seeing everything from zero sea level. Perspectives change Familiar landmarks engage in a slow waltz. The swimmer is in the centre of a personal orrery. Houses , poles, the lighthouse, the islands, the rocks, swap places. The tide and its currents play games. Inquisitive seals rise up to mock our puny efforts. They sniff derisively. Aha! but have they ever enjoyed a gaelic coffee after a swim?
I had intended, but the jellyfish, those obscene, bastard offspring of heatwaves and an easterly swell, decreed otherwise. Can anyone say a good word for jelliers? Perspective studies must wait. Still, like Patrick on his island, we must remain buoyant. We must take the long view. Beidh lá eile.
“The crack of the unfurled mains’l carried to them over the water. Auspicious fell back from her mooring. The orange-brown jib bellied out, swinging her round to port and the mains’l became taut. A white wave formed at her bow as she headed for the open sea. She began to rise and fall rhythmically as she breasted the incoming swell of the darker water beyond the harbour.”
The Kybe Hugh Fitzgerald Ryan. Wolfhound press 1983.