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COURTOWN WOODS AND BEACH The Lone Fisherman and Cancer Story

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

I was up and about early today as I wanted to go for a mid-morning walk to avoid any afternoon rain showers that were forecast.

I drove to the main car park in Courtown ,adjacent to woods and beach, which was fairly full when I arrived. I parked up, put on my windbreaker, pressed my internal start button , checked my step counter and I trotted off on a sandy walking trail.

The weather was cool enough with a damp chilly north-easterly breeze blowing in off the Irish Sea. I was sufficiently wrapped up from the elements and ready for walking.

I first met a couple whom I had not seen for a while. They were both very happy to be out and about and free again. We chatted about books , the weather and as the man said anything but Covid . He was delighted that Gaelic Football and hurling were back on TV. This would brighten up his weekends enormously. He told me that he was bored a lot of the time during Covid lockdown. Sport would help him pass some of his weekend time. I think this will be a new reality and great relief for quite a lot of older people in particular.

My next encounter was with a couple who had a big intimidating German Shepherd dog. As I approached him ,I was trying to imagine the cost of feeding this monster and the job of keeping a lawn poop free with him around. They never had him on a lead which I found strange and intimidating. I noted his wife’s walking apparel, and the shoes were more in tune with Grafton Street rather than a rocky beach. They were delighted with the fine sunny day. They also felt safe enough and had changed to walking mask less today.

As I stroll along, I note one lone fisherman. He was sitting down contentedly on a very low stool with hopeful eyes glued to the top of his fishing rods. Like all fishermen he was looking for some movement at the top of the rod and hoping that some stray fish might be silly enough to grab the mackerel bait and be caught in the hook. He had no such luck while I was chatting with him. I noted he had a flask down by his side . I further noted that he was a man after my own heart who likes good grub .He had sufficient snacks in his bag to sustain him for a full day’s fishing. He had that portly well fed look about him and he certainly was not going to be hungry during his angling day. I wished him well with his fishing.

As I head for the rocks at the end of my outward walk, I am greeted by a retired teacher colleague and her husband contentedly sitting on the rocks soaking up the morning sun. They were likewise around the half-way mark on their walk. Hubby had a small satchel on his back which he put down and opened . This contained a flask and some nibbles for a healthy morning energy boost. Their major concern was the Courtown Woods, which had been sold recently to a private consortium .They hoped that these same woods in private hands, would still be accessible walking areas to the public in the future. They finished up their snacks , packed up and went on their merry walking way.

I dallied for a while ,taking in the view, soaking up a bit of sun, absorbing a. bit of vitamin D and resting a while . I snacked on my one ripe banana to reboot my energy levels before I undertook the journey back to the carpark.

There were quite a lot of people out walking at this end of the beach, some with dogs on leads, some of these dogs were just gambolling around and jumping up on whomsoever they met. This annoys and angers me. People who bring their canine companions for a jog should keep them on leads and under control at all times. Likewise, there is still a sizeable majority of people who allow their favourite canines to deposit dog poop at will with no regard for fellow walkers. I know that I should confront these people but then I remember what the great Aristotle himself said :”Anybody can become angry-that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way- that is not within everybody’s power and not easy”. To hell with them, I will keep my mouth zipped and let their dogs deposit their poop away to their hearts content and I will concentrate on my walking. Now that I have had my rant and vented my anger it is time to renew my acquaintance with the stony underfoot conditions and head into the sun and wind towards the car park and home base.

It is not long before I am greeted by an official from Wexford County Council. His job was to go around and check that all the lifebuoys were in position along the coast. When he located them each one had to be photographed and logged. In that way they knew that their beach safety measures were in place. It is sad to see some of these lifebuoys are damaged or pulled off their holders every year in acts of wanton vandalism. It was interesting to watch the water safety check in operation. When he was finished at this location ,he hopped into his van to drive onto the next beach up along the shoreline at Dodd’s Rocks.

Now I am back on terra firma and on the road home when I am greeted by two familiar husband and wife voices. I had not seen them for a few months, so we stopped for an extended chat . Having exchanged initial pleasantries I was informed that hubby was not great, health wise .He had stage four cancer which was as bad as you can get, he informed me .His wife told me about the immunotherapy and the radium treatment he was getting. Last week he started his chemotherapy treatment. I had heard on the grapevine that he was unwell. That was in the distance. When he told me personally the news was so real and close and intimate. I had regularly met him over the years on long walks which he loved .He loved the solitude of the walks, while listening to his podcasts .In the past year I have met his wife and himself on their daily walk and we had regular jovial chats. Today the mood was more sombre. We chatted about the woods and other peripheral issues but there was no mistaking his cancer was the main topic of concern. There will be better days .

We then spoke about my sister-in-law and her cancer treatment . The mood music was low key, so we wished each other well until we will meet again.

It’s absolutely amazing who you meet and what you hear on a morning’s walking in the woods. Maybe on my next walk I will hear happier news and then again maybe not. Each day when I wake up and can stand up straight, I thank the good Lord for my good fortune in staying healthy. Life is but a lottery .We need a little luck allied to some personal care, avoiding stress, eat good food and have regular exercise to get us through. This will, hopefully, help us to a healthier lifestyle and extend our life span.

As my man from Wexford County Council said to me “ Keep up the walking man, it’s great for the auld ticker and you’ll live forever ,only walking on them stones would burst you” Now there’s good sound homespun simple philosophical advice .

We have to face up to our ups and downs in life and hope things will change for the better.

James Baldwin the American novelist ,born in Harlem, New York in 1924 said:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

I know he was one of the 20th century’s greatest writers dealing a lot with the exploration of racial and social issues. His quote can be applied to so many issues in our own lives today.

Ar aghaidh linn.

Mick O Callaghan May 12th 2021

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