Sand Shadow play


My gift to myseIf this Summer was to be in the moment.

I armed myself with my son’s camera.

I found that the camera made me stop and look and be.  And for all the photos I snapped, this one, of a little girl’s shadow in the sand, kind of stopped me in my tracks.

She is  8 years old and lost in a moment….

It transports me back to Ballymacaw c.1975.

Picked up on a Friday by my Aunty Moyra¸ cardboard box at the ready; packed with ham, tins of peaches, sliced bread, packets of oxtail soup, to spend the Summer running wild with the cousins in Coolum, Ballymacaw. Oh and a pound note tucked into my Adidas Rom runners to spend in Rita Dower’s shop or from the tuck shop under the bed; an orangey brown suitcase run by my enterprising older cousin (stocked with Juicy fruits and chocolate éclairs and liquorice pipes and Cadet orange Cadet).

group cove crop

“maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)”

Ballymacaw cove and sand in the sandwiches, building sand dams and fortresses clad with stones and shells to keep the tide out.  Swimming for hours in an ill fitting trés stylish bikini that came in a parcel from America.  Jumping off the Boat Rock; terrified, but going for it.  Fishing off The Point at Coolum with the Atlantic bashing us.

Swimming in the rain, the red rocks dappling purple, watching the raindrops bounce off the surface of the sea and feeling the ping on our skin and tasting the fresh of the rain.

“and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and..”

Taking the short cut home through the fields for the chase from the bullocks, scrambling under electric fences, stopping off to play dares and spin the bottle in the tall barley.

balesRiding high on the baling trailer; holding on tight and singing our heads off.  Eight roundy bales high with a well in the centre to keep us all safe.  Health and safety dept. on holidays clearly. Best treat ever was to get a call to work/play at Halley’s farm on Brownstown head.  The feed at sunset at the biggest sharing table I had ever known still feeds my soul – laden down with full hams, real butter, doorstep bread slices and the rest…

Coolum – in the dead of night weeing in the bucket inside – anything more serious meant a trip to the jax outside – toilet across the lane with damp newspaper and a torch.

We had chores too but had ways to escape the boring ones.

There were other options like collecting the water for the day in big plastic containers from a tap across the lane, a heavy start but lighter as you trip and spill all the way back.


Fighting for a chance to get the glass bottles filled with warm milk from  Mick Whelan’s farm,  no spillage just drinkage – the warm hairy cream on the top was always worth scrapping for.


(Warriors need only apply for this one) Emptying the bucket! The wee bucket – nasty but still not as bad as hanging out the wet togs and towels.

ballymacaw collage fin.jpg‘Chez Nous’  was our posh den hideout where we played out the soap operas of the day. Mick Whelan’s car graveyard where abandoned volkswagons became a metropolis, a beetle junk city where we got up to allsorts of no good – the very best of adventuring.

New potatoes in the pot, fresh mackerel spitting, giant crabs screaming in boiling water, me running outside with fingers stuffed in my ears – poor crab.

“and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and”

Shooting and skinning rabbits, once the boys slit one open and the babies were inside, none of us felt like eating it. So we buried it and picked daisies.  We babysat a pig for a day too,  little wonder I became a vegetarian.

And at the weekends my Mam and Dad would come out from town to visit; cards and darts with Sean O Toole and Willie Halley in Whites pub til late and a large bottle of Big Brother red lemonade and Tayto crisps for sharing, my dad telling me  “you’re as brown as a berry”.

Lying down in the grass and watching August’s star showers, walking across the wet fields in the moonlight with the smell of mushrooms under ground.  Indoors to the gassy SuperSer that kept us warm when the summer nights were drawing in…all in together boys, never mind the weather boys…we head counted 21 one night.

Or that year when we walked all the way back in to town on the Sunday just to make the holidays last a bit longer, our blackberry inked fingernails lasting for days along with the sea salty taste on strands of my hair.

That same feeling is in the air these days, ditches heavy with blackberries signalling that school is just around the corner.

I dunno… something about that little shadow brought it all back to me… threw some light on the past and gave me the gift of time travelling….

So much for me being in the moment.

“For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea”


The song in my head – Hotter Colder by This is the Kit. (“it was your own shadow moving through the water….”).

Bits of poem – maggie and milly and molly and may – E. E. Cummings1894 – 1962


Today’s blackberry haul..yummy.


  1. Lovely. I’v similar memories. Bails of hay and it in your hair. Some in your socks and picking of peas, mind the nettles. Swing right up high and don’t jump off. Apple dumpling sometimes for tea.


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