Paradise Disturbed


watercolor, 10″ x 14″

Returning to the idyllic moors the following morning, there was a large white van parked by our painting spot, with a dune buggy thingy beside it, all big tyres and engine, and a young shirtless man smoking reefer. He was very friendly, and as we set up our paints and settled in, he revved his engine and careened up the track once or twice, but the noise wasn’t an issue as he seemed to prefer to lie on the grass and take in this blissful place.

After an hour or so I heard more young male voices, all thickly accented and cussing away good-oh, an endearing Irish-ism. I looked up from deep within the heather beds and saw another three of them, not far from my mother, but she was deep in painting focus, and a bit hard of hearing, which in this case served her well. It transpired that one of them had driven his car into the ditch as he was coming up the track, a track littered with large stones and bordered by ditches – more like massive moats really –  dug by farmers to keep the likes of these joy-riders out. Being high, into the ditch he went, hence the profusion of profanity, and the subsequent smoking of more reefer to come up with a solution.


Waiting for the mechanic

Before too long they called a mechanic, and then asked us if we were planning to leave, as they had blocked the little track with the car half in the ditch and half out, but we weren’t going anywhere… It was they who had to leave, going up the track in the opposite direction in the big white van when the munchies struck, so took off to go to the shop, asking us if we wanted anything before they left. Remote as this place is, the shop must be very far away…but munchies are munchies, and within the hour they had returned with bags of crisps and sodas, and they lounged around on the grass contentedly.


I sat on the other side of the heather bank


Not long after we heard the sound of a racing car, looked up to see a dust cloud and a little car bouncing over the horizon, and speeding in our direction. It was the mechanic, shifting gears and squealing tyres and narrowly missing the ditch himself. He came, hauled the car out, and left. The boys relaxed in the sunshine again, no longer interested in the dune buggy, or the wrecked car now parked beside the van, and attempted to kick a ball between themselves… but so high were they that none of them could manage, and before too long they left it sitting in the grass by my painting mother’s feet.


The place we shared



East of Loch Corrib #2


“Spells cast here…” Oil on canvas, 12″ x 16″

Not long after arriving in the bog a man and his (very handsome!) nephew arrived. They were there to gather the dried turf, making use of the sunny day that it was. It was their family land, had been their grandparents’ bog, and they welcomed us, warning us not to drive off the track or we would get stuck in the soft earth, and they got to work, lifting heavy bags of turf into their pick-up. They made light work of it, retuning a few times to gather more loads, and then upon their departure told us where the key for the gate at the end of the track was, inviting us to stay for as long as we liked.

Not long after another man arrived, and we got into a lovely conversation with him. Turns out that the first two men were his brother-in-law and nephew, and he was there to gather turf for his mother-in-law. We had a long chat in the sunshine, with plenty of good laughs, talking about the harbors of Connemara, and how the American ships took shelter in some of them during WW2, though noone is supposed to know, seeing how we were a neutral country, and had anyone told we well might have been heavily bombed. He spoke too of how the Celtic Tiger almost destroyed the soul of the Irish, as they became greedy and selfish and blinded by ambition, and though plenty have suffered since the Crash, it has restored us to our usual way of being, gentler and kinder and slower. More real. We shared stories of the effects of Hurricane Charlie, the one and only hurricane that came our way, hitting Ireland when I was about 18, and how so many bridges were destroyed by the rushing swells of water. The bridge at the bottom of our hill was swept away in a moment, and it was a heavy cut-stone bridge of at least 200 years, seemingly indestructible…We spoke of the beauty of the land, how there’s nothing to beat it on a sunny day, and how close to Paradise we all three were, standing there together in friendship. He was a truly lovely man, so warm and genuine and kind.

The Commons, Kilcolgan area, Galway


“The Commons, Kilcolgan, Galway”, Oil on canvas, 12″ x 16″

I saw a spit of land across the bay, windswept and green and empty of houses, and I wondered if I could get to it. Finding a track, I followed my nose and drove the car carefully down a very narrow lane and came to a gate beside a brook. A very good painting spot in itself, but I continued on and as the track petered out I found myself in a solitary heaven.

After painting I took a little nap, equipped as my mobile studio is with portable camping bed and blankets, to the lullaby of the breeze and the birds, and when I awoke went for a short walk around the area, meeting a pair of friendly horses and drinking in the beauty.

SAM_0470             SAM_0464