JJ made six for this one and he was sticking a bottle of Laphroaig into one of two heaving vans when a man drove up out of nowhere, told us “You drink that with one ice cube. No more,” and was gone again.
Oughterrard’s an encouraging wink when you’re heading for the furthest fingers of the West of Ireland, in autumn colours even at Easter. The light hangs in the air longer in the tough grace of Connemara.
Couldn’t get across on the Monday so we waited by Cleggan Pier, in Oliver’s with tea, pints and crab claws. One lad saw the cut of us and greeted us with ‘How are the queers?’. Rounds later his girlfriend challenged Adam to arm-wrestle her fella. She picked the wrong queer out of us and Adam put him down. He asked again and Adam did it again, faster. Dioralyte and more waiting, but Martin Lacey said we’d get onto Inis Shark and if anyone would know he would. The last man born on the island. Nothing would or should have happened without his blessing. 150 people lived here once. A weight and history for somewhere else but one you should read. Then the van was on the cargo ship and it was a sharp, fine day with the winking shine of sun on waves and down went the gangway. Directions? No secret for this one, you’ve enough on your plate getting there. The lads who run the Bofin ferry will take you over. ‘Don’t sleep in the graveyard’ one of the men on the ship told us, case ‘the walking dead show up’. Humped everything up the hill, 24 hours to stick a gallery in the old school house. 5 metres by 5 metres. Waves exploding surf onto little islands in the clear around us. The curve and fold of walls claimed back and the stubborn shells of houses. A farmer the only other visitor that day, searching for two of his lambs. Watched him get back into his boat cradling them and felt lucky I saw it.
This far out no-one in Europe got a longer day. Dark and nowhere near done. Midnight flasks, spirit levels, meat juice, head lamps, a love of ratchet straps in the whipping wind. Baiting things into place as the night crawled deep in the true dark, hours on ladders, drills, pag it out. ‘I’m flush enough’ Luke replied to one of us as a roof panel went in. ‘You won’t be by the end of this’ got a laugh. He went to bed just shy of ten the next day. Not Adam who told Mike he’d slept – he meant he sat down for four minutes. Guttering with him in the weird bright. A race against the fact of fatigue, had to get it done before the dinghy came for us, a storm due. Saw Lacey carved into a wall. Lying on the sunny pier like knackered seals, then on the boat as the red window disappeared past the surf with only sheep for caretakers.
It’s on the island now when I’m writing this and it’s on the island now when you’re reading this. Go see what’s showing.