You would never do on a boat!


You would never do on a boat!

Christmas a season of great joy and no better time to launch our new website and blog!
We are delighted to share our notes from a small island with you and we hope you will enjoy reading them as much as we like to write them.

The house is decorated with lights and tinsel galore! No fancy themed Christmas tree and certainly no subdued decorations, is there any other time when the magpie that dwells within can be so happily indulged? All the decorations are old and some are a bit newer, every year one or two new ones are bought or received and each one of them, a talisman when freed from its wrappings and dusted off, memories of other Christmases come flooding back. The angels made in primary school, the drawings done by young hands eagerly anticipating the arrival of Santi (he was never Santa in our house!) and treasures given by friends and family; all the more precious because they have departed. Securing the tree, untangling the lights followed by comments like, ‘you would never do on a boat!’ (the lights were not stowed away in ship shape and Bristol fashion!) Some of us will surely remember plugging them in and finding they were not working and then the slow process of twisting each one until they worked. That moment when the lights go on is magic still, the dull and dreary march of lightless dark and stormy winter days is forgotten in favour of the joys yet to come.

Older people remember the parcel from America or England arriving in the post with long letters and surprising gifts, the beautiful doll with the china face, the denim jeans and other treasures not for children! Christmas Eve meant a special meal on Cape Clear, it had more in common with our Spanish and French cousins than the American feast we eat now. Ling caught in summer and salted and dried. I remember seeing the ling drying on Paddy Burkes’ wall on hot sunny summer days.  Before cooking would be soaked for 24 hours to soften it and remove the salt, the water changed regularly. When it was time to cook it was simmered in milk and onions, with pepper and served with floury laughing potatoes and lashings of butter. The fish would be soft and salty and the sauce of milk and onions sweet and delicate and the butter made it rich, a taste of summer a reminder that the year would turn again to sunshine and calm seas.

Christmas shopping always featured the Christmas box (the Christmas box was a gift from the shopkeeper) and growing up on Cape Clear, Paddy and Dinny Burke who owned a pub and grocery combined always sent lovely Christmas boxes, a tin of biscuits and sweet cake were often a feature. Of course cake is always sweet but it was a quirk of language, soda bread was always called a cake of brown bread and so a regular cake was known as sweet cake, sweet cake was madeira with caraway seeds; an Irish Christmas classic. Some things have changed, but not much, the lighting of the candles in every window to welcome Mary, the special care taken with the arrangement of the crib, the joy of receiving cards from friends and family, the excitement of a child’s first Christmas, the Dreoilín, the pleasure of being with friends and family.

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