I drove to Lahinch Sunday before last, because I needed to walk and think some stuff through. The ocean has a marvellously calming influence. However, I was reminded again that Lahinch is no longer the place it used to be ... well at least for me! I would love to know how the owners of O'Looney's Bar were given planning permission to wreck a pivotal viewing/meeting point of one of the jewels of the Clare coastline by extending their premises in the manner in which they did. I took the above photograph of my daughters on St. Patrick's day some years ago now. I love this picture not only because the girls look so happy, but because it encapsulates the essence of Lahinch.
People from all over the world congregated in this 'space' to mingle, sometimes in their isolation, to learn about and taste for themselves the vicarious nature of both the ocean and Ireland. Lahinch was and still is a particular hotspot for surfers, who have always baffled me with their diehard determination to conquer the waves and their huge reservoirs of stamina to stick at it hour upon hour. It is true to say that 'Surfer Dudes' have a look all of their own, that intrigued both my daughters (and indeed mum, if the truth be told!) in years past.. However, their tanned, freckled faces never looked out of place next to the ice-cream-faced baby in the pushchair or the elderly gentleman, who tucked the tartan blanket tighter around his wife's knees, to hold back the breeze, as she sat eating her 'toasted ham and cheese special' in her space within that 'space' ... her wheelchair; or female holiday home neighbours, who brisk-walked together, stopped to pull up their socks, re-arranged gussets of pantees, bra-straps that dug into the extra flesh of Winter, putting hands to eyes, to avoid the glaring brightness of a sky above glass, while one of them tried to describe, with wildly gesturing hands, the style of the peach and cream two-piece outfit she was going to wear for her favourite niece's summer black-tie wedding in Killarney; or the gangling teenage boy, who reached nervously and awkwardly for his first real girlfriend's hand.
At that time you could walk into O'Looney's clad in wet-suit and sand-veneered feet, order a pint or go to the loo and nobody gave it a second thought. Whilst never a great fan of any seaside resort in the peak times of July and August, the memories of wintry, stormy days and nights in Lahinch are forever and incomparably engraved with feverish joy. Sometimes there was the added excitement that crashing waves and winds would bring stones and rocks hurtling against the windows of O'Looneys. I remember with huge affection New Years Eve 2001, a dry, blustery, stormy night, (but then it would be, wouldn't it... extracting the old to pour in the new!) The waves were gargantuan and were regularly leaving their enforced boundaries to remind we landlubbers of their menacing might. However, we thought we had them sussed following a few minutes of indepth observation. We calculated that following nine huffs and puffs of the ocean which caused its heaving outbursts to explode over the wall, we could safely run towards the wall that stood between O'Looney's and the lunacy of the ocean on the 10th and not be soaked to the skin. How totally and utterly mistaken were we! Dripping wet, laughing so hard, unable to talk, we stumbled our way back to the guesthouse in the early hours of the first day of a new year. Wow, what a start!
Sadly, all that is a memory now. That 'space' has been invaded and I'm sorry to say conquered by an intruder and sometimes despot ...so-called 'progress', that knows not or cares not for the essence of Lahinch. The extension that has replaced 'our space' houses a new bar, which bears no resemblance to the old one. Walls are freshly plastered, painted in a flat boring cream or some other such pastel shade of uninteresting and wait for it ... one ... now has to wait to be seated. Excuse me! Open fire has been replaced with a 'coal effect' effort and the only place that may represent the exterior world, if you stretched your imagination to its absolute limits, would be the bathroom. It's black ceiling which houses modern spotlights might be representative of a dark, starry night; central curved tap rising from washhand basin, might, with a severe scrunching of the eyes, be transformed into the monster 'Nessie' or an inquisitive eel, perhaps. That's about where it stops I'm afraid! The old bar has become a coffee/smoothic/snack bar ... all chic, cool and minimalist ... beige and boring!
The other parts of life in Lahinch (behind the scenes. After all the main spectacle is the front) go on pretty much the same as before: the golf course (pictured above), the tourist shops etc. (I am told the golf course is one of the most enjoyable and challenging courses in Ireland. I tried golf twice, but just kept losing my balls. Soon got tired of that!) Kenny's bar do great pub grub, and are in the process of extending their kitchen, which will remain closed until June, but staying open for drinks. I am still encouraged by the fact that the one and only garage, located on the main street, is still operating, with the same mechanic, working long, late hours, for the last thirty years. He looked after my car for me twenty years ago, which misbehaved as I drove down to see a production of 'Orpheus and the Underworld'. After driving 78 miles to see this show for the first time, I missed the first act! Thanks to him, however, (and I'm sorry I can't remember his name now) at least I was able to drive home that night. ('Orpheus' didn't really do it for me anyway!)
Of course, the ocean cannot be effaced or tampered with, no more than the Cliffs of Moher, but the lunacy of local planning laws that allowed such a disaster to happen, beggars belief. I thought we had moved on from the horrific architectural monstrosities of the 70's and brown envelope decades of the 80's and 90's.
A View from Lahinch
The Cliffs of Moher
can be viewed
three miles from here,
of rising rock.
The Atlantic sent them
shock on shock
till from the crags
Hags Head was hewed.
I move my hand
to wind the clock,
which, like my life,
must be renewed.
While I embrace change and progress, this misappropriation of planning control has annihilated a very important part of what Lahinch meant to many, many people and to me personally. I would like to hear from like-minded people.
Perhaps the ocean will one day say 'enough is enough', rise up in anger to tear down and swallow up this piece of lunacy, and spew it out beyond the embers of the deep! (Of course, everyone will have to be moved out first!)
Ciao for now!