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It is morning. The last morning of winter, and its raining heavily.

large fat drops tapping on the window keep in time with my tapping on the keyboard.

I watch the cars swishing by in the wet.

A family on their bikes, heading to school or work or shopping or all three, sensibly muffled in rain gear. The children lift their feet off the pedals as they swoosh through the puddles. The Mom or is it the Dad (its hard to tell male from female in this weather)checking back anxiously and keeping them all together. Ah!, There is the mom now(or the dad) bringing up the rear…ducks in the rain.

Tomorrow it will be my turn. Cycling through the puddles to catch the train to work.. No sitting cozily at my table writing (this blog) with a homemade cappuccino at my elbow.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining! Since my illness I’m grateful for what ever weather the day brings and am happy to be alive and kicking BUT forgive me if sometimes I begin to dream of summer camping .

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When spring starts tomorrow (st Brigid’s day IS the first day of spring). Our talk will turn to summer and ‘Hollows’.

The conversation might go like this…

‘What Hollow are you hoping to get into this year? are you going for the same one again?’

And the answer might be..

‘No I didn’t find that Hollow great last year, so I might go for the Hollow nearest the well’

The reply to that might be..

‘But Tom(or Susan or Mary, I’m not giving away family names here)was in that Hollow last year and might want it again!’

‘well first come first served I say’

‘I know, but be fair, they have kids and need to be able to watch them’.

‘But I need to be sheltered from the prevailing wind’.

Another might pipe up, ‘But the horses come up through that hollow you know ‘

Or even, ‘ I don’t want to be in a Hollow too near/too far from everyone’.

Or ‘

‘There is a downside to having the hollow nearest the well! you end up making coffee for everyone that comes for water’

A swift inward breath of disapproval from us all and the speaker hangs her head.

‘I’m just joking’ she mutters sheepishly.

But she is right. Its counted as good ‘hollow’ manners to offer all passersby a coffee which, when not having a sink and running water, entails more work than you would imagine.

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The conversation continues, backwards and forwards through the spring days , in the pub and at the dinner table, by phone and by email and you would forgive anyone listening for thinking they were eavesdropping on a bunch of hobbits.

And we are sort of ‘hobbity’ when summer comes.

For when you wild camp in the same place for forty odd years ‘Hollows’ become a thing of major importance.

There are no tree’s or other forms of shelter there. Just grass and rocks , sea and sky .

And Hollows.

Scooped out sheltered places for our tents especially at night.

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‘I must get a new windbreak. Mine blew down in the storm last summer’ One of my sister’s announces as casually as another woman might announce the need for a new handbag.

Yes! windbreaks can be handy, the first line of defense in a battle with the wind. Making the tying down of tents a bit easier as the wild Atlantic storms blow in from the west. whipping up white horses.

And still we cling on, hammering in storm pegs, leaning against the wind, our hair in mad tangles ,whipping across our cheeks.

And if the hollow you are in shelters you from the west, you may be sure it’ll soon swing easterly and get you from that side instead.

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No one escapes, but we are all dab hands at surviving it.

And we love it and we cling on veraciously to the hope that we will always be doing it.

We swim every morning without fail, running down across the beach through rain or sunshine and fling ourselves shrieking as the cold water enfolds us…with cries of ‘ooooh its soooo delicious’!!

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We wash our hair in bowls of freezing well water.

we collect buckets of mussels at low tide ,our fingers turning numb as we pries the shiny dark blue jewels off the rocks

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At mealtimes it is not unusual to see little groups of children running across from the different Hollows,each one carrying a plate and spoon and gathering at an encampment, an adult bringing up the rear, carrying a steaming pot of mussels, hurrying in bare feet because the heat of the handles is beginning to make its way through the tea towel. We all gather and share our food sitting in a large circle on the smooth grass in someone or others Hollow.

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But Although I may be wild camping, there is a routine to my day.

First a swim.

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Then I make my morning coffee in my little coffee percolator and I heat the milk and foam it by hand and make a perfect cappuccino.

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I sit in front of my tent and sip and write and watch my sarongs dry after the swim…that done, I take the bike and go from hollow to hollow to see if anyone needs the basic’s ..milk , butter, bread.

Of course that means fending off invitations for more coffee and I may well sit and chat for a while but eventually head off to the village.

Which brings to mind my favorite shopping trip story……

A (known to us) seasoned ‘Hollower’ (I shall name him Tom) came instead one year by sailing boat and moored it in the natural harbor just down the beach from us.

When the tide was in, his boat was moored with an anchor, but as the tide receded he lowered two long poles which propped the boat up on the sand.

As was the custom of picking up requests for the shop and the tide being on the turn I was able to cycle across the sand to get his order (A litre of milk).

I headed off again along the grassy track and then the boreen, stopping now and then to take photo’s .

The weather was fine , the sun warm on my back as I cycled and when I reached the shop I had (another) coffee and sat outside with it in the sun, watching the tourists pass by.

Needless to say, by the time I got back to the harbor, the tide was in and the boat fully afloat.

I called across the water but no sign of movement from on board. I knew Tom must be there as his little dingy was dancing gaily on its rope attached to the back of the boat.

Leaving down my bike I stripped to my swimming togs and swam to the boat holding the litre of milk out of the water. The water was crystal clear and warmer than it had been for my earlier swim. and as kicked my legs and pulled with one arm it occurred to me that this was one of the nicest and oddest moments in my life and I didn’t want it to end.

As I swam on I imagined I was turning into a mermaid, I would stay forever in this clear water, maybe even hook up with Neptune.

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But toms laughing face, appearing over the side, pulled me from my day dream. I climbed the ladder(not too elegantly) and delivered the milk. I gratefully stayed for a cup of tea, and refusing the offer of being rowed across,  dived in and swam back to the shore and by the time I reached my hollow, I had dried out and pulled my dress over my togs again and smoothed it over my legs.

And when I had delivered milk and bread to one and all, I took  my camera and lay and watched, through harebells, the color of the summer sky

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And so it will be next summer and hopefully the summer after but at the present moment, while I am winter dreaming of summer coming, I will push away my laptop and pull a large sheet of paper towards me and paint the blue’s and browns and creams and whites of my dream time summer picture.

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