The Dingle Diaries. 1: Arrival, Feeling Raw


I’m in Dingle. I nDaingean Uí Chúis. It’s no hardship to say those particular words. Whether it’s February or August, wet or dry, cold or warm. I’m trying to write. And walk, between bouts of rain.

After the few days I’ve had, with the funeral and everything, heading off on Sunday morning had a surreality about it. Any journey has a leaving behind, but this one – well, death is final, it’s the last ending so it’s hard to look forward at all, but we must. Mostly, we can.

I don’t know. I’ve lost friends before but this time, there was an immanence about it. A finality that spoke to me and said ‘you’re next, bud,’ and I’ve never felt that so acutely before, I think – how close to the end of my own life I am, and what that means. What’s left behind and what isn’t, what has been done and what has not been done but should have been done. What wasn’t said, what wasn’t understood. Would never be said or understood now.

Maybe it’s because Ciara is away and couldn’t be there for Ita and the lads and how hard that was for her, when she loves them as much as she does.

In reality, none of that matters, it’s not in the least about me: what matters is a family in grief, lost. Three children without a father; a wife without her husband, her best friend. Forever. That matters. Their whole lives leading up to that unconscionable moment on Wednesday and the rest of their lives now leading away from it.

It was sunny, Sunday morning, as I picked Padraig up, and we headed west. A journey begins at the beginning, but there many beginnings and pulling out onto the South Link and seeing signs for Killarney and Tralee is one. Inch Strand is the entrance to Dingle, though, and always has been. The waves pummelling in on a south westerly, grey and white, mostly white.

I’ve a new relationship with waves having just read Barbarian Days by William Finnegan. What a masterpiece of writing, I’ll never look at the coming together of ocean and land in the same way again.

After Inch, it’s like a freewheel down the end of the hill, all you have to do is sit and keep your balance and gravity will do the rest. Just like rust, gravity never sleeps – it’ll work away all day and never get tired. Gravity is a pulling rather than a pushing and here we are being pulled in past the Skellig Hotel and up Main Street and Goat Street and here’s the house, overlooking Dingle Bay and here we are.

Seeing Cathy and Una walking into Benner’s was emotional – I was still raw from the few days. Seeing people you love walk into the room where you are brings the pain of restoration front and centre – there’s no escape, you have to do it. These are the two poles, aren’t they? Love and loss. Everything else is in between.

There is other news at the table and a more vivid reality. The possibility of the impossible. Thoughts of the unthinkable. But you do your best and we do our best and our love is our love and we give it however we can. We take it as well as we’re able, too.

Then that drive out further west, the view when we turn off the road and head down to Ballyferriter: Ceann Sibéal spread out before us in welcome. The Three Sisters rising up in the distance, and the bay, Cuan Árd na Caithne, spread out below. Choppy in the gale of wind, swells pitching in from the ocean. We park in Dún an Óir to begin our walk. Where men from a nearby island killed 600 Irish men, women and children in the 16th century. Around the loop, past the golf course – some hardy divils battling with the wind  there – you wouldn’t be cutting the corner on the par 5 14th today, even if you were Dustin Johnson. Through Na Gorta Dubha, and An Trá Bán and back to the car.

A close-up look at Clogher strand, the waves there huge and relentless and elemental in their potency. And a drive over to Ventry to look at where we’ve rented for a week in August. And back to the house, glad to be down here in Dingle, and to read our newspapers after tea, and gather ourselves on a Sunday evening. Gathering the evening and the night in around us like a child gathers her comfort blanket around her, to ready herself for sleep.

In Dingle.

I nDaingean Uí Chúis.