With all but the twinny still in hospital the trip north was much simplified. No agonising over which boards to jam into the little car or strap to the roof. Should I bring a log, or both, if I’m catching up with…? No. Twinny in, suits in a bucket and away. En-route the call from G came through with a recommendation.
A working week like pulled taffy… focus and functionality progressively drawn out, twisted and distorted. The colours and shapes, though still there, now some filamentous vagueness. Only there at that Friday evening terminus can one attempt to gather the unspooled self and make a pile from which, possibilities for the following days can be considered. Outside the atmosphere is seething… the wind inciting unrest.
At this point, some of us smile knowingly at the simplicity of what would seem the most appropriate, even rational, response. Rebirth yourself into the weekend at full speed to meet a berzerking sea, itself thrashing with disconsolate fury into the faces of some sullen West-coast headlands.
The car’s thermometer bottomed out finally at -0.5 degrees. Amidst another squall, walloping gusts makes us shudder sideways again over the median strip. No need to start so early but there’s little solace; the dour weather has brooded the gloom of the past dark hours onward into the mid-morning. On first inspection, the tide seems to be shirking its responsibilities and the swell plays coy, reclusive ’till tickled deep down where it wants before stirring.
But eventually it comes and we disrobe.
Despite the low-digit degrees making the sleety rain prick like pins, the appropriate accoutrements are wrestled on with fetishistic zeal of the masochist. The wind whips savagely at our boards, shrieking its threats to tear them from our clawed fingers and obliterate them down the long boulder-strewn point. Falling finally, bodily exhausted into the sea, the foam presses hard at the chest and the ordeal of paddling out into the gale begins for the first of many, many repetitions.
Sixty-something kilometer-an-hour, and then some, winds lift sheets of foam spray on any shift of chop foolish enough to rear too tall from the sea’s surface. Another squall shrieks in and with it, bitter beads of hail blast at the only skin exposed – full facial dermal abrasion. Little respite is possible for without the incessant stroking back into the wraith-like lee of the headland, one would be lost out into the bay and beyond.
And yet we were the wealthiest creatures alive for our wages were paid in diamonds…
The wind drops and there may be just enough, from the right direction, at the right tide for… going hunting. Choosing to pass on the en-mass patronage of those days of thunder in favour of a search for silence and small sliders. The incredible diversity of the coastline out here is highly conducive to such pursuits.
While Herculean monsters heave-ho on the outer banks, the deep pulses probe further in vibrating headlands as they swing inward, bending and distorting as they shuck out scything embayments, warping about a myriad of little islets before laughing out loud over bewildered bombies and quiet sand or pebbled strands of the inner reaches whose experience is oft limited to burbling tidal chuckles or wind-blown sniggers.
A single fin and that way-back swing that only a big log provides is the only sensible way to slide these things. Strange occasions are these to find waves pushing in this deep but here is true solace. With a tiny window for opportunism, the search is frantic and furtive but it’s hard to appear discreet tipping along with racks stacked with nine-plus planks and foreign car reg.
We’re scrambling about the tatty roads out there ‘somewhere’ (I’m often lost and gleeful of it) with, at best, scraps of doodles on maps for guidance but mostly tickling hunches. The car swerves again back onto the pot-holed and frosty black top after drifting from the distractions of the wildly gesticulating passenger to yet another spurt of foam from behind a crumbling stone wall or salt-buckled hedge of blackberry and furze.
Sure it cold, sure we drove two hours and more to get there and then some and sure it’s dark soon after 4pm. It sure was empty though and You can be sure I’m heading for the boonies again just as soon as I get the chance.
“Annual leave doesn’t roll-over so you’d better take it.”
Yes boss. This the inevitable mid-winter gluttony – get what you can, when you can. Fun size with a good period and no wind. Leave at dark and get back at dark. Now, at this stage of the evening I’m in bits; involuntarily twitching from the bends and buckles composited after several hours of attrition in the Atlantic.
One lone ranger had this to themselves. Waist-high and ruler-edged the whole way through; 100m? So much serenity…
Shallow, square and empty. Despite this however, 15 or so others were happy enough to hustle and thrash about for shifty peaks only 50-or-so metres away without giving it a sideways glance.
The inevitable. Any suggestions as to the nearest rhinoplasty specialist on the West coast?
The choicest of chunks saved for last. Sums up the above really. Visions of the molars on this beast will devour me in my nightmares for weeks to come. I am always more than happy to volunteer my meat whenever it awakes hungry and disgruntled.
Working full-time has brought odd changes in lifestyle. Endless hours seep away as eyeballs turn to jelly and adhere to microscope eyepieces searching for specific shapes on the tips of hairs sprouting from the eyebrows of tiny worms; passing time in transit trying to force down the food-like substances sold at exorbitant prices whilst en-route to week-long conferences or workshops in weird and wonderful locations. Weekends are now approached like annual holidays – most of them ‘the best xmas ever’.
One of the joys of my life is the little car. Pack it well and hit the roads in darkness. It’s not thirsty and loves the miles.
It has never said a word about sitting on headlands, at the ends of mucky farmer’s tracks or in sea-side car-parks in frigid temperatures getting blasted by salt spray.
It is the benign, smiling Yoda of surf exploration, “heavy you are not, shoulder your burden I will.” The West coast is full of treasures.
Heading north tomorrow. Catch up with a few good heads to go sliding with. It might not be the only place, but the West coast of Ireland in mid-November is a sure bet to score some offshore slip-sliders with no-one but you and your mates. You never know just what you’re going to find at the end of those frosty little bóithríns. Bring everything.