Welcome back to my heart West Cork — all is forgiven. After a winter of floods and wind, flu and vomiting bugs; after months of bad news and death, Brexit and Trump, we woke one morning to find the bluest sky, the brightest sun and a balmy 25C waiting outside our door. Glory be! It’s summer. Last summer was a non- starter. We never once lit the fire pit outside and the BBQ stayed put in the back of the garage. I can’t remember the summer before that (I have the memory of a goldfish), but it feels as if it’s been an eternity since we’ve enjoyed truly hot, sunny weather. So, throw off the woolly jumpers, throw on some reggae and enjoy it.
The end of July was a double whammy of joy, as summer landed just as the West Cork Literary Festival kicked off. The festival is mighty even if it rains, but few places in the world are as spectacular as Bantry Bay at 30C. (Actually, this year was a quadruple whammy of joy as I launched my new book in the back of Ma Murphy’s, and Gloria Stenheim was being interviewed by my daughter. It doesn’t get much better…).
I’ve been a part of the festival since the early days when we were delira if we got 20 people at a library reading. This year Gloria Steinham spoke to a packed room of over four hundred. In the last decade the West Cork lit fest has grown into one of the best events in a very crowded calendar of Irish literary festivals. Somehow the festival has managed to grow, both in prestige and popularity, without losing the charm and mighty craic of its early years. I blame it on geography. Though the big names may be what initially attracts many to the festival, it is the magic of Bantry and its people that makes the week so memorable. There is a visible lightness to people’s step after day one. By day two they are whistling down the street. By the end of the week they are completely under the magic spell that is West Cork.
“Ah, now!” I hear you say. “What about all the hard work that goes into the festival?”
I hear you, and so want to take this opportunity to give a big shout out to all the many people who give their time and efforts to organising festivals all over West Cork. They are the unsung heroes of art and culture, music and craic. They are the soul of their communities. They feed our hearts and our minds, and our bodies. They give us great music and reasons to dress up in costumes. They charm the tourists and make us locals proud. If they didn’t exist we’d still have the landscape, but we’d have less of the magic craic which so defines life here.
I’ve been so buoyed by the good weather and great festivals that I’m going to believe that we still have four weeks of glorious weather left. After months of doom and gloom in the world, I’ve decided to whistle my way through August. I’m having a staycation. I foresee sunny days in the garden, pints by the seaside, BBQs and playing with my dog (and reading — I came home from Bantry with a ton of books). Even if it rains, we still have plenty to look forward to. To paraphrase a Sinatra song: There may be trouble ahead, but while there’s moonlight and music, and West Cork and craic…before you know it, it will be time for the Guitar Festival.
My new book Sunrise Sunset and other fictions (Fish 2016) will be launched in Clonakilty on Friday, August 19 at 7pm, at the Clonakilty Community Arts Centre on Astna Square, followed by ‘This is my constitution’, a short play by Kathy Darcy, craic agus ceol. All welcome.