I go for a walk of about an hour and a half or so every day or so in the company of my lab Balbo at this time of year, in the Summer of course we get plenty of exercise fishing. After several bad experiences of main road walking, in one case my jacket was tagged by a fast driven Volvo, I said to myself if I do not want to turn into mince meat, stick to quiet back roads which is what I do, with the odd foray up the river bank to check it out. That is where we went the other day despite the bad weather. Every time you look at the river, pools have changed, sand bars have appeared or disappeared depending on the power of the floods. Whole trees have fallen into runs and changed water flows, debris of all kinds which had built up have gone down river with new stuff replacing it. Even large boulders have moved. The power of water is frightening especially this Winter. Mulling over this as I walked along with Balbo free from his lead and enjoying himself hunting for non existent woodcock, I remembered back to when, as a child, after school one of my jobs was to collect wood for the fire and I was not alone, all the other boys I was friends with had to do the same. Matty Keane had a long pole with a metal hook for reaching high withered branches, he was also a dab hand at throwing a shaped stone with a string line attached which did the same job. Danny Moriarty, RIP, had a sort of homemade buggy with old pram wheels and strong wood handles for transporting the collected wood home, and the wood was difficult to find and scarce. The Lodge Wood (now gone) the Golf Links wood, and down Reenagross wood we had to search them, all for a few loads of withered branches. They were hard to find because money and fuel was scarce and everyone else was searching for them as well. Some would cut growing wood, as this carry on was frowned upon they went to great pains to disguise what they had done, rubbing dirt and leaf mould on the fresh tree stump to darken it, or covering it with moss. Not a cipian would be left behind. I remember my grandmother in the Summer time burning dried cow dung as if it was sods of turf (I mentioned this to a farmer my own age recently and I am still laughing at his response which was ‘There was great cow dung there long ago, but it is all shit now, because of what they are giving them to eat, it doesn’t harden up anymore.’)
If you had your own turf bank or could afford to rent one you were on the pig’s back. My mother, who usually brought her turf from Jack O’Sullivan RIP who lived near the Two Mile Bridge, decided one year to rent a bank and cut her own. What a year. Between getting it cut, and drying it, stooking it and drawing it home, the muck, midges, backaches and hunger it was an exercise that she never repeated and we were glad I can tell you!
She was happy to go back to Jack the following year for her fireing. Another thing in them days was the fire was open, no gas, electric cookers, or microwaves. A big cast iron kettle or an oven called a bastable hung off a crane over the fire. I can still remember the smell of fresh baked bread or of rabbit wrapped in bacon out of the bastable.
As well as the fire under the oven, hot coals would also be placed on its lid and it could be used for cooking nearly everything. What started me off? Ah yes, the trot up the river with my dog. All the pools and runs, big logs, small logs, and branches all too troublesome to be bothered with. Do the younger generations realise we are living in a time of plenty in comparison to sixty years or more ago ? I am afraid not, the sense of entitlement and expectation for the future is possibly no bad thing but it frightens me. Where will it all end, that is the question. I will have to stop thinking while walking up the river, it could damage my health!
No news of salmon caught in Waterville or Killarney which is no surprise with weather conditions the way they are. However two fresh fish were caught in the Drowse River, one a eight pounder was returned by its captor to fight another day, fair play to him.
Some nice sea trout and bass have been caught in Derrynane. This seems to be an ongoing thing down there. Me, I am waiting for the Summer. I must be getting old?