The Wild Atlantic Way.

My computer tells me it’s 15.42, though the clock on the wall says 2.16.
I haven’t been in the attic since the clocks went back, which makes no never mind since the batteries in the wall clock are flat anyway.
Turning the clock back, though, would be preferable sometimes wouldn’t it?
Not that looking backwards is my way, but just sometimes when that pang of nostalgia hits the solar plexus, wouldn’t it be nice to re-live the summer of 1966 when the Beach Boys were the soundtrack to clumsy teenage groping.
When the gut somersaults as it yearns for those lost years when we were sitting on the dock of the bay dreaming of California in the Creamy sunshine of love.
Fifty years on my daughter now makes videos with the daughter of Jack Bruce, I’ve filmed in California more times than I can count and the docks have been bought up by residential development consortiums, where even the river rats have to pay up front for their accommodation.
It’s exactly fifty years when I first met Mrs. C. Although she wasn’t a Mrs. then She was a singular beauty with shiny copper hair and a penchant for singing the ‘Mamas and Papas’ in three part harmony. We met in the summer of 1968, spent all night talking in the Wimpy bar in Golders Green and parted for the summer vacation. She, back to the Wirral, and me to Boredom Wood.
In the autumn of the summer of love we rented a flat in Frognal, near Hampstead. Me, her, a cool blonde and a Playboy Bunny. I was the smallest, roundest, member of the quartet. We shared a dorm, a party-line telephone with the neighbours downstairs, and our thoughts. There was much laughter, as we mapped out our futures in front of the four-bar-gas-fire in the NW3 lounge.
In the beginning of the Seventies she continued to expand her already enormous brain, by going to Manchester University where she studied how to teach the deaf, and setting up discos for the hearing impaired.
She met a man who wore a Donkey Jacket, looked like Adonis and was training to be an Architect. They were quite the most exquisite couple. I missed their wedding as I was too busy touring the country in the back of a 42 seater coach, crammed with instruments and props, and driven by Harry Vaux who ate raw liver and never missed a deadline.
And then they moved to Galway, where the Architect husband designed their house and built it brick by brick. Three babies later, all reared in a caravan, the home took shape, and then finally the last tile, last brick, last nail was hammered in and the family of five moved into their beautiful home.
Meals round the kitchen table, peat fires, Bodhrans beating, flutes piping, fiddles fiddling and the family thrived. The Architect and Mrs. C grew them kids and we visited to drink at Hughe’s Bar, eat oysters in Galway and sit on the dock of the bay peering into the future in Spiddal Harbour.
Then that woman gave up teaching and healing autistic children and started to write. Poetry, if you don’t mind.
‘Words are my thing.’ she said.
And she was right. Words had always been her thing, thats what got us talking in the Wimpy back in ’68. And so she started writing down those words, wonderful words, always putting them in the right order and painting pictures with dexterity and wit. And blow me if she didn’t get published, and win prizes, and that burnished gold creature, who had never thought of becoming a writer, had blossomed into a grandmother and a compiler of anthologies.
We shared photos of the kids, stories of their development, recipes of soda bread and phone calls on birthdays from March to November.
And then ten years ago she got breast cancer. She never told her mother as they were losing her brother to Leukaemia. Mrs. C. had reconstructive surgery, she’s written a beautiful poem about it which is in an anthology called BOSOM PALS. And she got better. Her glorious hair shining as she took up the Tango and puffed on girly cigars. We talked, they visited, the kids grew up then last October she got breathless.
A visit to the doctor, who was bemused. It was not a return of the cancer in her breast instead she had cancer in her lungs. The shock was numbing. She was given but weeks to live. She was put on chemo and a cocktail of drugs. That was just over a year ago. We visited last Monday. She’s hanging in with cocoa butter and Cannabis suppositories.
‘Cancer doesn’t like Cannabis’ she told us.
She has a timetable of drugs, which she writes down in her little book to remind her when to pop the pills, and an oxygen machine which she, and the retired Architect call the Dragon. The smaller portable version is called Puff. She wakes at 9.00 and uses her Nebuliser, reads her emails, organises her poetry readings, slowly walks to her kitchen and lays out lunch, sits in front of the peat fire and strokes Miaow the cat who chats noisily.
The husband plays his flute in ‘Tigh Giblin’, where we ate ferociously good fish last Monday, in sessions with violin wielding Nuclear Physicists who fly in from Santa Fey and Las Vegas, fiddlers from New York and a bundle of local musicians who squeeze and strum and swell the room with authentic music whilst the cold, perfectly headed Guinness gets served and lovingly drunk.
Whilst Mrs. C, starts her morning routine and puts up her hair, which is slightly less glorious, but only a bit, the Architect goes to the Hotel, opposite Giblin’s, to his coffee club. We joined him on Tuesday, as a group of musicians and wives, and local widows, talked about life after Trump. We left the hotel and walked back past the Wild Atlantic Water, over the iron bridge and furious rapids that crowded out the noise of the Galway road. We were bundled into the back of their car and driven to a graveyard on the edge of the world. Puff was wheeled to Noel Browne’s gravestone where Mrs. C. sat and told us of Noel’s campaigning work, as we walked through the graves of still borns and poets. The sun setting on the Wild Atlantic Waters.
Tonight the musicians are playing through the night in the house of the Giblin brothers, whilst Mrs. C is joined by her eldest daughter and two grandsons. She’ll take to her bed at 9.00 and control her breathing with the Dragon her trusty friend.
We left at 7.00 on Thursday morning, she insisted we said goodbye before we drove off to Shannon. Our cheeks touched as we held onto each other, hers cool and smooth. I controlled the rush of tears.
‘It’s alright’ she said.
‘It’s all okay’, she said, comforting me.
The Architect turned over and bad us farewell, as I held onto her for longer.
She is deteriorating, and I don’t know if I will ever see her again, but I have her poetry on disc, her reading her own words with her beautiful voice.
I have her memories. I have her stories. I have her hand written recipe for her Soda Bread. And I have her photos in my attic, at the Galway festival 25-years-ago when the children were small, and the ‘Water Boys’ were big, and we thought nothing of getting drunk on the Water of Life whilst toasting the future.

3 thoughts on “The Wild Atlantic Way.”

  1. In my living room there is a picture of a sunset on the Mediterranean – you can barely see the horizon, it is just a suggestion of rosy pink against the black of the sea and the darkest blue of the sky. It is both an opening and a closing and the touch of cheeks will linger longer …

  2. 0h Jeni the last goodbye is always so painful. Now there seem to be so many of them. That ‘never again” feeling.
    Thinking of you darling girl.
    Much love
    June xx

  3. Jeni – what a beautiful story you share – I am sending much love and a big soft squeeze – xxxxxx

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