Time and Tides

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The most delicious part if the day is waking to the chimes of the town church spire clock. I refuse to check the time on my switched off phone. I listen and I count and I guess. One chime per hour of the day. This morning I listen and it stops on the ninth chime. I smile to myself. I could’ve sworn it was later. There’s a whole other hour of slumber ahead. The kids don’t begin to stir until at least ten. Delicious.

These late mornings are courtesy of the late nights. The good weather dictating the pace. Back from the beach at 9.30. Supper. Net flix. All the children knocking around as I read in a corner. Not checking the time. A delicious sleep on in the morning to look forward to. The church clock chimes twelve times. Then they are hooshed off to bed.

They do not know the day nor the hour. We are only aware of the time when we are on the tidal Omey island. To be unaware of the time and the tides is pure folly. We drive across the beach between Claddaghduff and Omey island at lowi-ish tide. Sometimes we give the boys a turn steering the car on the beach which is a great hit.

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Then we drive to the furthest point on the island to swim, barbecue and explore. There’s nowhere else like it. The wildness of it. America. You can just taste it. Peculiar islands dot the horizon. Crow island – with tall craggy columns on it’s right hand extremity looking like some pre-historic creature.

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Ancient bits of cars from a time when people dumped them as far out of sight as possible. Beautiful marbled stone with flecks of burnt orange and black. A surreal moon-scape feel to the place when frolicking about on the rocks.

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We nearly miss the the incoming tide. We get back to the beach at Claddaghduff as the tide chases itself in. We’d no idea it comes in so fast. Two of the kids jump out to get caught up in it, screaming with laughter as it wraps around them. It races in from two sides across the vast strand – meeting in the middle and rendering Omey a true island again, inaccessible except by boat. There’s an eeriness to this scene. Both sides clawing jaggedly across the flatness until reunited in a monstrous act of subsumption. Swallowing up and stilling all the life and the sounds. One minute children, parents and grandparents dot the strand and cars with learner drivers and fun seekers zoom freely turning circles. The next all is quiet, stilled, disappeared. A clean slate is cast. A fresh start for those in need of one.

Once a year this strand plays host to ‘the other Galway races’ drawing crowds of thousands. We went along one year – a magical experience – the proximity of the horses to the spectators was exhilarating, the thud of the racing hooves on the strand splashing through remnants of water, a reminder of the temporariness of this spectacle. This year we witness the making of the race tracks the day before the races. Hundreds of fat wooden spiked poles are laid out and then hammered into the strand in sweeping circles. The tide will come in and subsume the race track over night. An image I can’t get out of my head. I find myself foolishly fretting about the poles and whether they can withstand the force of the full tide. I wish I could be there as it recedes to reveal the track. A surreal magical sight I’m sure.

As we make good our escape from the strand that day, the sea keeps pace with the car. It comes at us from the sides and behind. The kids are on look-out, high with the excitement of it as we ham up the notion that we will be caught. The best game of tag they’ve played.

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For us the tragedy of the 21 Chinese cockle pickers caught by the incoming tide in Morecambe Bay, England, ten years ago springs to mind. The leader of the group had made a mistake about the time of the tides. Witnessing the speed of the tide at play here it is easy to understand how people get caught out and cut off. We leave the island with a greater respect for this fundamental natural force.

For the holiday time that remains to us we’ll continue to be guided by the chimes of the church spire clock. Come the rude schedules of September we’ll reminisce with disbelief that it can be that simple.

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