Life

Anne Hailes: Donegal's my haven but what affects will Brexit and climate change have?

Inishowen, Co Donegal – the west of Ireland casts a magical spell for those who can tune into it

WELL, I suppose you could say summer is over, roll on autumn. In fact autumn begins officially today but the memories of the past two or three months linger.

Taking time in Donegal in May and August was a delight as usual. No matter what season of year there are huge plus factors for me and this year is no exception – different this time because of the underlying thought, 'What will it be like next year? What effect will Brexit have, let alone climate change?'

For over 40 years this has been a place to recharge, to bring colour to your cheeks and back into your life. Depending on the time of year it is the yellow of the gorse, the purple of the rhododendron or the orange mix of montbretia with buttercups and heather.

Listening to RTÉ radio enlightened me as to the seriousness of the situation from our point of view living on this God-given island. Reports that 45,000 dairy cattle might have to be culled, border checks and hold-ups, passports for family pets, shortages of foodstuffs and even medicines...

And then some stuffed shirt from Westminster saying this is all alarmist talk and not to get your knickers in a twist when you know full well he and his like have no interest in Ireland north or south.

Boris came to show his face in Belfast one morning before jetting off and taking his leering smile with him but no more knowledge about our fears and trepidation. Time is running out, Mr Johnson: summer is over the chill winds are setting in.

Looking back

Mid-August, writing my thoughts before I pack up to come home to Belfast. More bonfire unrest last night, yet as I look out over the sea stretching into the Atlantic there is peace and tranquility.

The west of Ireland casts a magical spell for those who can tune into it. Just now I stood in the sunshine on top of a hill overlooking a bay where the dolphins were playing ‘tag’, jumping high, swirling round, chasing each other. For half an hour or more, they put on a display to remember.

This morning, although the sea is the colour of seaweed, herring gulls climb up to catch the sunshine on their wings and, like white kites in the wind, they hover for a moment and then dive head first straight into the water for their breakfast. They enter with hardly a splash – diver Tom Daly would be proud of such an entry.

A fairy castle on a beach in Donegal

Plenty of skylarks filling the air with their song and a frustrated buzzard hovering, but there isn’t a rabbit to be seen where in previous years you’d be tripping over them on an evening’s walk. Apparently that’s the way it goes; like the harvest, there are abundant years and there are lean years.

However, it was a delight to get up early one morning and see a huge Irish hare slowly lope across the brow of the hill silhouetted against the skyline. Mystical.

The village shop where you meet friends, the country market where you buy fresh vegetables and delicious homemade cheesecake and browse the tables of local craft and sweetmeats and sit leisurely chatting over tea and scones.

This year the air was warm, the rain fell at night and the clouds were truly magnificent – thankfully, plenty of hot sunshine managed to reach me as I sat and read while the last of the swallows twittered as they geared up for their own homeward flight.

You can see Paul Henry clouds over the hills and on the horizon but also the strangest shapes like rows of tall pure white towers across the sky and sunsets to take your breath away.

A walk on the beach can be magical, not only for the colours of the sea, the mermaids admiring themselves in their mirrors with the sun reflecting and throwing out sparkles of light, the sound of the seagulls – and you just might come across a fairy castle, built on a rock when your back was turned, a mystery to all but the little people!

I’m fortunate that I can take a cottage a couple of times a year and chill out, paint and read, sleep and walk. The door is never closed and my daughter’s arrival is heralded by her two lovely dogs racing in and hurling themselves at me in delight. Having her a short distance away is an extra joy.

Every year at this time of packing up I shed a tear to be leaving. When the children were little I stopped in Ardara to buy some sweets for the homeward journey and once, when I went into Mr Kennedy’s shop, I was still crying. He was most concerned and I told him why. He took my hands across the counter and said: “Always remember you have to go away to come back.” Comforting words.

That was then, now is now

So, all of a sudden it’s September, Brexit blunders on. We have even more concerns, although I was comforted when talking to a pharmacist at the weekend who said, "Don’t worry about medicines: drug companies will make sure we get the supplies – and they get the profits."

Regurgitating the horror days of The Troubles in the media brings back terrible memories and happenings. Is this instilling unrest in young people?

Life goes on despite losing friends; celebrating the impact of broadcaster Gerry Anderson tomorrow evening in the Opera House, a book on the achievements of Mary Ann McCracken, the social reformer and activist almost 250 years ago, and the prospect of a bridge between here and Scotland.

Over Beaufort's Dyke? With recent revelations about the dumping of nuclear waste material in the North Channel, I think not.

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