The bright sky glistened on our downturned faces as we turned left and past miles of sandy Mulranny beach when mum didn’t stop the car. We were nearly in tears and barely noticed the overpowering gloriousness of the gigantic rhododendron magenta entwined with thorny golden gorse. The car was slowing down, trapped behind a sheep with pink on its fleece. Slower and slower until we stopped. Out we traipsed, my toddler brothers and I, still looking glum. Mum touched my chin and pointed. The view was glorious. Azure blue sea gently waved in the distance, Clare Island stood tall whilst six seals danced proudly at the base of Croagh Patrick, its church sparkling like the moon at the top. Creeping down the rocky, sandy tor, sheep gently grazed amidst the gorse and bog weeds, pebbles creeking up our sandals, uncomfortable under our toes. And there hidden, like our very own secluded island, a beach, with golden sandy sand untouched by human. Well, it felt like it was untouched by humans, we were the only ones here. We settled the boys on a blanket with their spades, and true to form they found they had better spades, using their nimble fingers to shovel sand into their mouths as though they had never been fed. Mother fixed her head scarf and began reading her Maeve Binchy; mind you, with two toddlers I doubted she would get much reading done.
I went off on my own adventure with my fishing net and bucket. I curled my toes to grip onto the seaweed clad rocks, two steps forward, sliding one step back. Mystified at the enormousness of the rockpool before my eyes. Limpets, mussels and cockles adorned the rock walls, mingling with grass like seaweed. Apparently seaweed was a very healthy addition to our diet. It didn’t appeal to me at all but I imagined that it had the potential to taste like spinach.
Looking closer into the pool I could see shrimps and prawns with crusty shells, periwinkles and a crab. I edged away from the crab recalling the tale of the crab pinching my mum on her 16th birthday.
I stood up tall, inhaling the salty air. The seals were still dancing to a game of hide and seek, three up, three down, my eyes wandering around to Clare Island. I closed my eyes and imagined diving into the warm, rockpool water, crowded with little sea creatures. I let my mind wander. When I rose from the water I’d be a Grace O’Malley mermaid, tall, strong and with no fear. I opened my eyes, the tide would soon be in. I tipped my bucket of sea goodies into the pool and slid my way back down the seaweeded rocks to my brothers.
Grabbing each boy by the hand we hopped and skipped to the waters edge. Bubbly, sauna salt ripples crept around our toes. We splashed and giggled and sang seaside rhymes. A jellyfish quickly retreated on hearing our cackle. I looked down at my brothers with a happy smile on my face. Three very happy children, one very sunny day, our skin gently rouging from the rays gleaming from the sky.
This quiet beach was so much nicer than the overcrowded Mulranny beach that had upset us earlier in the day. Our very own desert island that was just a cove which seemed to be hidden from the human eye by the scent of gigantic, magenta rhododendron.
(Based on a summer day out to Corraun, on the scenic road from Mulranny to Achill Island, Co Mayo in the 1980s. )