Morning coffee at my favourite place. Note my sisters encampment below and down wind from mine.
Damned good coffee and HOT!
So says my brother in law on his morning visit to my encampment.
Sometimes I curse the fact that my coffee is so damned good.
It draws lovers of the stuff to my tent.
My tent is well hidden (from most individuals)
To the north, a large outcrop of rock keeps it out of sight from the odd walker.
To the east and south, sloping hillocks hide it well.
To the west,unless a wanderer carelessly takes their eyes off the uneven rocky path that leads to the sea and cranes their neck, they wouldn’t spot it.
In fact if it wasn’t for my love of a good cup of Italian coffee made freshly in my little Bialetti pot on a small camping stove outside my little tent I could remain unnoticed here for weeks.
But in a place unpolluted by modern smells (the strongest ones here are seaweed and wild flowers) it’s powerful aroma cannot be disguised.
Too late I realise I should have camped downwind of the crowd.
More than one other camp at Áit an Giorrai constitutes a crowd.
(You can read how I gave this place its name here) Slow Swimming at Áit an giorria (the place of the hare)
We have been coming here to camp every summer for almost 50 years now, initially as eight unruly youngsters with our parents, then as young adults, then with our children and now with our grandchildren.
From the start a few unwritten rules were made.
The majority of these rules, by my mother who, though loathe to curtail us, planned to return to Dublin at the end of the summer with all children in tow and were as follows;
Don’t swim out too far.
Pull the boat up above the tide line when you are finished with it.
keep an eye on the little ones.
Come promptly at meal times (those were the days of a cooked lunch even if camping with the minimal equipment).
Wash your dish down at the sea.
No sand in the bedding.
But the one that remains foremost in my mind was made by my father.
DO NOT IMPINGE!
I have a clear memory of my father marching down across the sand to his small boat where, yanking it crossly into the water, he proceeded to row it furiously into the middle of the bay at which point he pulled in it’s oars, donned a snorkel and mask and leaning over the bow of the boat causing the stern to lift clear of the water, plunged his face into the sea.
To the watcher on the shore this was a rather bizarre act but to my dad, a lover of nature who no longer swam, it was a good way of observing the underwater world (and of leaving the real world behind).
The cause of his upset? A very swanky caravan parking too near to his encampment (too near being probably 200 metres away)
Out of this caravan stepped a blond woman whom later (after learning that her name was Barbara)we nicknamed ‘Barbie doll’ and her equally perfect husband.
To add to my fathers fury at their nearness, when he finally came ashore again my mother and the woman were chatting away gaily .
‘What a lovely woman’ my mother said later ‘It will be nice to have another female to chat to’
‘I just don’t get it’ my father blustered ‘They had miles of space to park! why the need to impinge on us?’
‘They are not THAT close’ my mother patted his arm soothingly ‘Maybe they are new to caravanning and feel more secure near other people’
My Mother was correct. They were new to caravanning and as the days wore on and we became accustomed to their close proximity, we realized just how new.
We also watched in amazement as Barbie doll charmed my grumpy father.
‘Dear Louie, could you just show us how to… (let down the legs? fix the gas cylinder?)
And my father, not a tall man, in his wellington boots and tweed jacket no matter what the weather , would amble off totally under the spell of the tanned legged, shorts clad Barbara, to where her husband dressed in chinos and a golfing shirt, was uselessly waving a spanner or some other implement as he tried in vain to figure out the intricacies of setting up a caravan. (a thing we could do it with our eyes shut)
I must add here that it was not only my father she charmed but my mother too and they continued their friendship over many years, visiting each other regularly when back in Dublin even when it all got too much for Barbie doll and her ken-like husband and they stopped caravanning altogether.
I don’t know if they ever told Barbara the nick name we had given her.
But back to my story.
Two other encampments lie below mine
I am familiar with their owners.
One belongs to my older sister and my brother in law.
The other to my youngest sister with her two children.
My youngest sister is married to an Italian who has NOT accompanied her and even though I do not wish to hear the dramatic loud outbursts that seem to accompany an Italian style marriage (I can never tell if they are having a row or just discussing what to make for lunch) it would have been helpful to me if he had.
You see, his coffee making skills outshine even mine and thus he could have drawn the coffee lovers over to his camp instead.
THE DAMNED GOOD COFFEE.
For me, one of the pleasures of being single (I was married for twenty years) are those pure magical morning moments when I don’t have to commune with anyone.
Those moments when I can slide from sleep to my morning swim without even seeing let alone speaking to another human.
Those moments when, with hair still wet hair from my dip, I bring my coffee to my favourite spot on the outcrop of rocks above my tent and there, with a good view of the sea below, sit on the highest rock and sip it slowly.
Gazing out to sea……(sip)
letting my thoughts flow and ebb much like the tide below……(sip)
Enjoying my solitude….(sip).
Two figures have come stealthily up over the rocks and are standing before me.
A man and a woman.
Arty types (I can tell by their clothes).
Despite the fact that it promises to be a warm day he is wearing a superb hand woven jacket and red trousers. His greying curly hair is covered by a black fedora-type hat which he wears low over his eyes
She on the other hand, in black leggings over which is donned a brightly coloured jersey frock. (I can tell the frock is made by Gudrun Sjoden without looking at the label) is hatless.
They seem a little uneasy, their eyes not quite meeting mine, but sliding to my right.
I follow their gaze.
It lands on the half finished cup of coffee I am lowering from my lips.
‘Would you like one?’ I enquire.
They nod in unison
So I stand and leaving my solitude on the rock, make my way barefoot across the hare-belled carpeted grass, through the misty morning to my tent, the pair following closely.
My Bialetti coffee pot is where I left it on the low camping table.
It is still hot so I grab a tea towel to protect my hands and unscrew the top .
I empty the middle section of used coffee grains onto the grass and without bothering to rinse the contraption, I fill the bottom section of the pot with fresh water, put a few spoons of illy coffee into the middle section, before screwing on the top again and putting the pot on my small stove in my small tent.
‘Take a seat’ I say.
They do as bid, the man hunkering down on the damp grass, the woman perching on a camping stool.
‘We can share a cup’ She mutters
‘You will not’ I say (I’m already pouring the hot dark aromatic fluid into one of two cups).
‘Help yourself, I’ll have a second one made in a jiffy’.
As I empty out the grains onto the grass and start the procedure again the woman leans forward, takes the filled cup and hands it to her husband.
‘Damn good coffee’ My brother in law takes a sips ‘and hot!’.