Mist brings summer compensation

THIS may come to be known as the sunless summer.

We still devoutly hope for a bright end to August, a sizzling September, a glorious October and the teenagers swimming in the sea in November as I can recall them doing some years ago.

Meanwhile, this summer has been unseasonably dreary and I pity the folk on holiday, holed up in chalets, caravans or mobile homes with the rain hopping off the roof and the children fractious. However, there are compensations for some. Even sunless summers have their moments.

One evening last week a blue mist hung over the pretty seaside resort of Courtmacsherry, in west Cork, punctuated by the hazy lights of houses along the shore and the bright lights on the pier where I sat in my car. I had swung onto the pier simply to turn for home but, entranced by the view, I stopped, opened the window, and just sat.

It wasn’t cold and a great stillness enveloped everything. The village street had been empty as I drove along it and even the pubs — so crowded, vibrant and loud with talk, laughter and music on the nights of the festival the week before — had no come-and-go.

Under the spell, the village had disappeared, but for the orbs of lights suspended here and there in the gloom. A soft rain fell. I left the car in my jacket and cap, telling myself that, for all that it was unseasonable and unexpected, this strange, ghostly world was Ireland, too, a heritage to be enjoyed — for we are Celts, and to the mists inured. It might be late autumn or early spring before we’d have such weather again and such beauty. To walk abroad was painless, so I set forth.

The air wasn’t cold; sea-fogs in August could do one no harm. Here we have the dulcet air from the Gulf Stream and I was happy to absorb it in all its invigorating dampness — they say it’s good for the complexion, and every little helps.

I walked down the pier, the boats moored below me on either side, the wind coming down the bay and the pennants on the moored yachts fluttering. The tide was going out; the boats in the channel had swung their prows on their moorings to face upstream into it.

On the net-strewn pier, there was much to admire in the near view, the boats tied three abreast, old boats in the main, the work-horses of fishermen, and two sleek fillies with tall masts and shining riggings, incongruous on this night of mist and rain, a poor berth for yachties.

But in such August weather, inclement as it may be, there are compensations not only for the incurably romantic (or mentally deficient?) but for sea-anglers too. I hear in the pub that Dutch fishermen are having halcyon days at sea, their every expedition with Courtmacsherry Sea Angling rewarded with an exceptional variety of fish — 14 species on single outings and many of specimen size.

The still water and overcast skies make ideal conditions, no glare of the sun to pierce the lightless depths where the specimen fish roam. When they are caught, they are quickly weighed and returned to the freedom of deep.

As I return to the car, the mist clears, the blue lifts. The radio says that tomorrow there may be sunlight and balmy breezes.

Yesterday, I heard that hailstones had fallen in the Czech Republic, where my son lives, and dented the roofs of cars. My half-Czech grandson — he who heaved a wire tongs at our household heron two weeks ago — has been asking after the bird. I hardly dare to tell him but the other morning I saw it snaffle an unfortunate butterfly, a meadow brown.

The butterfly lay on a paving slab outside my workroom window, Herr Heron picking at it. I noticed that it was still alive. The heron stood back as I approached to establish if the butterfly could still rise and fly. Too late; this stimulated the bird into action. With a dart of its head and a snap of its beak it lifted it and swallowed it. Butterflies for breakfast — how could I tell the child?

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