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Waves and and a seaweed whip - what more does a boy need?

Here is a boy who, even after a winter of taking private swimming lessons to prepare for his summer in Kilkee, still didn’t like to get his face wet, let alone put his head under water!

Now he spends hours in the sea playing in the waves and riding them with his boogie board; looking for, and even picking up, marine life at the Pollock Holes; using seaweed as a toy; exploring the rocky ridge called Tucker; observing the changing tides, crashing waves, rock formations and wildlife around the cliffs; and in general enjoying a life near the sea. Now I am even hearing enthusiastic talk about his plans to surf one day… a prospect I am not as enthusiastic about!

Much of the new Eoin, I credit to his time spent this summer at Nevsail Watersports Summer Camp . Thanks to Nevsail, Eoin is now willing to spend hours in the wild and cold Atlantic Ocean, both at the camp and on his own, afterwards. In the camp, he has had the opportunity to try his hand at such watersports as kayaking, canoeing, boogie boarding, snorkeling and more – and has even spent some time building a raft! The enthusiastic young instructors at the camp have been great about encouraging this shy, hesitant boy to try activities that he would never have attempted otherwise and their kindness and sensitivity have made him feel welcome and comfortable in the camp.

Eoin’s daily explorations around the bay of Kilkee and his experience within the camp, have made him, not only more confident and comfortable with the sea, but more confident in his own skin. This makes every minute I’ve spent squeezing him into, and prying him out of, his wetsuit – and then properly cleaning it after each use – well worth the effort!


Door of Reconciliation, wikipedia

If you have the opportunity to tour St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin you will see an old wooden door with a hole cut into it. The “Door of Reconcilliation” is said to be the place where the phrase, “chance your arm” was coined. This phrase may be used here in the States, but I only first heard it spoken when I was in Ireland. It refers to a person ‘taking a risk’ as in, “I may chance my arm and ask for a raise” or, “Life is full of exciting surprises if you chance your arm.”

The story behind this door and the phrase attached to it is that, in 1492 there was an ongoing bloody, feud between two prominant Irish families, the Ormonds and the Kildares. During a confrontation in Dublin, the Earl of Ormond, James Butler, along with several of his men, took refuge in the Chapter House of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, behind this very door. Butler’s enemy, Gerald Fitzgerald, the Earl of Kildare, stood on the other side of the door. Fitzgerald decided, in his desire to end the bloodshed, to make a peace offering. To prove his good intentions and honor, he ordered his soldiers to cut a hole through the door and then bravely, “chanced his arm” by thrusting it through the hole in the offer of a handshake of friendship. In doing so, he risked having his arm sliced off by Butler and his men. However, Butler magnanimously accepted this offer of reconciliation and with a handshake through the hole in the door, the feud was ended, and Fitzgerald was able to return home with both arms intact! Thus, in this case anyway, chancing an arm had paid off.

As a mother, I have in some cases advised my children to chance their arms… as evidence of this, one has a BA in English Literature and the other is about to finish a BFA at a Theatre Conservatory! I urged them to think less about taking the safe, conventional routes and to study what they love, work hard at their chosen subjects and the rest will take care of itself. I truly believe that no matter where their passions and pursuits lead them, they will end up more fulfilled if the starting point is at a place where their true interests and passions lie.

However, when it comes to advising my children to take physical risks… I am very protective and a bit of a coward! One example of this would be the threat they have lived with since they were very young that, should any of them ever purchase a motorcycle I promise I will sneak into their garages in the dead of night and put sugar in the gas tank. This is not an empty threat! As far as their physical safety goes, I have warned them to, “be careful” more times than I would like to admit… more times than I know I should have. A good illustration of my over use of the phrases, “be careful” and “watch out”, happened once when I was in a coffee shop with my youngest son when he was about 4 years old. He was having fun running circles around a small table. Suddenly, he came to a dead stop and with a concerned look on his face asked me, “Uh oh… do you think I’ll get dizzy and fall down?” I looked over at the people sitting at a nearby table who were having quite a laugh over his statement and said, “You know, that says a lot more about me than it does him!”

Hovering, worrying and warning my children when it comes to their physical safety and well being is just who I am… like my mother before me! So, this leads to my most recent conflict. Since Eoin and I will be spending our summer(s) at Rose Cottage, it is my intention to enroll him in some sort of summer camp in Kilkee to provide him with fun and an opportunity to meet some of the local children. Because Kilkee is a resort town during the summer due to its proximity to the ocean and the lovely Kilkee Beach, it makes sense to enroll him in a camp that will introduce him to the many watersports that are so much a part of the area. In my pursuit of this end, I came across watersport instruction, NEVSAIL Watersports, that is located next to the life guard hut on the beach and offers adult instruction and certification along with summer camps for boys and girls ages 6-16. As I browsed their website I read all the choices of watersports that this camp offers… kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, raft building, sailing, orienteering (whatever that is!), boogie boarding, surfing, fishing and power boating. The school guarantees high safety standards and states that, “Kilkee is regarded as one of the safest and most popular bathing places on the west coast.” However, my gut level urge was to run the other way! Do I really want to introduce him to, and perhaps begin a passion for, any of these watersports? Shall I risk having a son who spends his leisure time in pursuit of the ultimate wave?! Even raft building, which at first sounded a bit more tame, upon more thought, gave me visions of Eoin floating away into the Atlantic on a raft without an oar! And don’t even get me started on power boating!

So here I am, torn between a desire to provide my son with the opportunity to explore this new horizon that Kilkee has to offer him, and my gut level urge to find him a nice pottery camp! Do I chance my arm? Do I allow him to chance his?


Outbuilding, a dó

My two sons are accompanying me on a one week trip to the cottage at the end of March. Originally, the plan was for me and my youngest son to go alone, because although my husband cannot get away from work until the summer we felt that somebody really needed to get back there sooner to check on our “little housheen” to make sure things are in order and to attend to a couple of matters we were unable to address during our last, short visit. This would include arranging to have a new, painted red, wooden ‘half door’ built for the cottage as well as the purchase and installation of a few electronic mouse repellent devices, because after all, when the cat’s away – ! However, much to my delight, my oldest son agreed to come along for the trip. Having him along not only provides great company for us and lightens up my burden with the addition of another adult, but it also provides me with a pair of much needed, strong work hands. So, in addition to taking care of a few odds and ends while I’m there, I can also address the ‘brush’ issue.

Knowing back in December that my eldest son, Anton, will be accompanying Eoin and me on this March trip, I had the foresight to prepare a little “Clare Survival Kit” as a Christmas gift to him. The ‘kit’ consisted of only two items, but these are two items he cannot be without on this excursion, and with his size 14 feet, two items we would probably have a lot of trouble locating for him in the little town of Kilkee. So for Christmas my son received two large shoe boxes, one containing a pair of sturdy, warm, Australian sheepskin slippers and the other, a Cabela’s box containing something I’m sure my son would have never in a million years thought he would own… a pair of Wellies! The slippers are a must have for the cold floors of an old cottage. The brown, Wellington boots are a must have for a city slicker prepared to muck about in the bog and do a bit of ‘brush clearing’!

You see, our property contains two… count them, two… stone outbuildings in varying degrees of repair, or disrepair, depending upon how we choose to look at it. I emphasize the number ‘two’ here for future reference, when I one day tell the story of how it would have been only one outbuilding and less property, if not for the diligent work of a couple of Dublin solicitors, nudged along by our persistence. These outbuildings  probably once functioned as a shed and perhaps a small barn, maybe for a donkey or a few chickens. The larger of the two stone buildings is toward the rear of the cottage and borders the back of the property. That building is in great need of a roof and it is our hope to one day not only provide it with a roof, but to do the work needed to turn it into a guest room for the comfort of the many people Declan and I hope will come to visit from both the Chicago area and Dublin. The other building is at the front of the property and, though smaller, appears to be in better condition. However, we have been unable to peek inside, or even see a door for that matter, due to the brush, weeds, furze and whatever else has spent years growing around the structure. This is where Anton comes in.

The plan is that my son, all wellied up, will do his best GW Bush imitation and get rid of the brush, so that we can discover what is or is not, within the smaller outbuilding. Now, my son is a hard worker who has continually been employed since he began his first job, at a local coffee shop – Chocolate Moon Espresso Co., the weekend before his 16th birthday. And I have no doubts about his ability to work hard and to get any job done. However, this is a gentleman who has done very little in the way of manual labor during his 27 years and I doubt he has ever had the experience of calluses or even a blister on either of his hands. Now that I think of it, perhaps I should have included a pair of XL heavy duty, work gloves in the Survival Kit…



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