The Runaway Summer

Posted on: 6th August, 2014

Category: A West Cork Life

Contributor: Tina Pisco

Some summers flow easy and slow. Last summer, with its wonderful weather was easy and slow. We had the occasional visitor to break up the glorious monotony, but overall we had the summer to ourselves and managed to make the most of it. Back in March/April, I was looking forward to another such summer with loads of time to enjoy the long days. We made plans for house renovations, day trips and weekends away and a peaceful season when I would get a lot of writing done. John Lennon said  “Life is what happens while you’re making plans” and how right he was. As April turned to May, the list of family and friends who said they were coming to visit grew. I accepted each and every one with delight. Offers of freelance gigs, hosting foreign students, and my new foray into Airbnb were similarly welcomed. Sure we’d juggle it all. It’s a big house. The more the merrier!

Some summers race along like a runaway horse. May morphed into June as the visitors/guests/students started to arrive. By the solstice I was making lists in my calendar to try and coordinate their arrivals, departures and sleeping arrangements. By mid-July we had eleven people staying with us. There were at least double that number over at the house at any time to visit with the visitors, which is great fun, but somewhat exhausting. The problem is that all these people have their own schedules and agendas, needs and sleeping patterns. One day last week, four sets of breakfast were served between 8.30am and 2pm. Thankfully, I don’t have to do all the cooking, cleaning etc, but as the self-appointed Head of the House, it still behooves me to make sure that all are happy and fed, have directions to scenic routes around West Cork, get to wherever they are going on time, and celebrate whatever birthdays happen to fall in July (four so far and counting). I have memorised the Bus Eireann timetables and discovered that no bus/train goes directly to Millstreet, where some of our visitors were planning to attend the European Juggling Convention. At any time of the night or day there are people sleeping, people playing music, and someone making toast. I have given up on keeping track of who is vegetarian, gluten-free or lactose intolerant. I just make sure that lots of different food is on the table and tell everyone to dig in. Any vegan is pointed in the direction of the vegetable garden and told to forage.

I am a great believer in delegating. It’s the only way to stay sane. However, one needs the steely-eyed, cool-headed fortitude of a military strategist to assign all the tasks necessary to make the household work. We’ve had some fails, mainly around dinner time. Our French students will be going home thinking that the Irish keep similar dinner times as the Spanish, as we’ve rarely managed to get dinner together before 9pm. Overall, however, everything was going splendidly, with the only casualty being my hours of sleeptime (Students get up early. Daughters and musicians stay up late.). Little did I know that sitting in the corner, were the ghosts of Mr Murphy and Mr MacGillicuddy. They must have been having the craic as they watched their predictions unfold.

Edward Aloysius Murphy, Jr is credited with coining ‘Murphy’s Law’: ‘If something can go wrong, it will.’ Fellow Irishman MacGillicuddy added a corollary: “at the most inopportune time.” How right they were: My car died last week (just before taking the group to Millstreet). The downstairs toilet is blocked (Despite warning not to use it for ‘number 2’). The washing machine is leaking (not too bad…yet). I find myself worrying that our only bathroom will go on strike, or that the water pump will decide to take a break…

In fairness every crisis has been met with goodwill and humour. Neighbours, friends and our local garage (Bless you, Ger. You’re going directly to heaven!) have all rowed in and helped us and we’ve managed regardless. I know that when we look back on the summer of 2014, we’ll only remember the good times we had: the BBQs, the nights around the fire, the incredible music sessions, the fire poi and juggling and all the many birthday parties. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that when all is quiet and we have the house to ourselves again next September, I’ll miss this year’s runaway summer.

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Lecture by Aileen Crean O’Brien & Bill Sheppard

In May 2016, Kerry man Tom Crean, along with Ernest Shackleton and four other crew members, landed the James Caird lifeboat on the rocky isle of South Georgia. The navigation of that small boat, across 1500 km through icy winds and towering seas, is regarded as the greatest ever feat of navigation. They then trekked across the forbidding and inhospitable mountains and glaciers of South Georgia to seek help for the rest of their crew, who were left behind on Elephant Island after their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the Antarctic ice.

One hundred years later, Crean’s grandaughter, Aileen Crean O’Brien, set off with her sons and partner to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. Join Aileen and Bill to hear of their adventures (and misadventures) on the Southern Ocean and the island of South Georgia.
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