Wetsuits to outdoor dining... 5 reasons I adored this summer

Kathriona Devereux reflects on Summer 2021 as the kids head back to school
Wetsuits to outdoor dining... 5 reasons I adored this summer

PLACE OF BEAUTY: Kathriona Devereux enjoyed a lovely staycation on Bere Island this summer.

SOME argue that the summer isn’t over until we put the clocks back in October, but once the end of August trots around and the sight of schoolchildren in sparkling uniforms hefting big bags appears (some kids are back to school on Thursday!) I start saying my goodbyes to summer.

“Would you stop!” says my husband in hope of a surprise Indian summer, but I think it’s a lovely time of the year to reflect on the summer months while preparing for crisper days ahead.

Here are five things that made Summer, 2021 memorable for me.

Wetsuits

For people more used to swimming in the Mediterranean than in Myrtleville, wetsuits are essential kit for staycationers who want to spend any length of time in the water.

The hardened sea swimmer might scoff at the use of a 2mm long sleeve full wetsuit in July but, for me, it is the difference between a swim of considerable duration with identifiable swimming strokes with a feeling of wellbeing, versus a swimsuited ‘dip’ which looks more like a John the Baptist style immersion crossed with a cold-shock screaming panic attack.

Generally, I only go swimming in Ireland when Evelyn Cusack in Met Eireann has officially declared a heatwave and the prospect of cooling off in the sea to escape 25 degree heat is welcome.

My top swim this summer was on Blind Strand, just outside Courtmacsherry, on a baking hot day. It was at high tide and the heat of the sand had warmed the sea beautifully. It could have been the Mediterranean except for the green fields and the view of the Old Head.

It was so warm, I didn’t even need a wetsuit, but for the remainder of the Irish summer, when forecasters put 18 degrees in an orange circle symbol on the weather map just to make us feel better, the wetsuit means I can go swimming regardless of what Evelyn Cusack says.

Cork fans wearing their colours proud.
Cork fans wearing their colours proud.

Cork colours

Seeing Cork colours everywhere in support of our hurling teams was a highlight of the summer.

Largely absent from our streets for too long, I spotted flags from Bere Island to Ballincollig, Shandon Street to Shanagarry. Housing estates around the city and county emblazoned with red and white, a sight for sore eyes.

An All-Ireland final is an occasion to be savoured and Corkonians went all out with their decorations in celebration of our Minor, Under-20s and Senior hurling teams reaching the finals.

Even though watching Cork lose to Limerick on Sunday was painful, I took much solace, and enjoyment, in the performances of the Minors and Under-20s. We won’t be packing away the bunting for too long when it goes back in the attic this year.

Bere Island

“What’s there to do?”, asked people on my return from Bere Island. Not much, but that’s what makes it so special.

The glorious hedgerows provide plenty of entertainment, spotting butterflies and bees as well as providing delicious early blackberries.

The riot of colour of the hedgerows is continued up the hills, with purple heathers mixing with spiky vibrant yellow gorse . Every corner and view from the top of a hill (there are many) is backdropped by stunning vistas of Hungry Hill, Bantry Bay and Sheep’s Head.

The wetsuits got plenty of use, and really, is there any limit to the amount of time kids get out of throwing stones into water?

Cycling around the island was a joy, barely meeting a car, and the banoffee pie from Murphy’s shop/post office/café in Rerrin was top-notch.

Yes, the nightlife was subdued and it’s no shopping destination, but we saw dolphins from the ferry on our way back to the mainland! What more could you want from a holiday?

The kids cried when we were leaving and I started looking up houses for sale on Beara — surely the hallmarks of a good holiday.

Diners enjoying their meals alfresco on Princes Street in Cork city. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan /OSM PHOTO
Diners enjoying their meals alfresco on Princes Street in Cork city. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan /OSM PHOTO

Outdoor dining

It works! You just have to wear more clothes than when you are sitting inside a restaurant. Simples.

You also need to wear insect repellent at night. My ankles got ravaged by marauding mosquitoes at the start of the summer so I only ventured out at night in socks and shoes with generous spritzes of Jungle Formula. A few balmy nights, you could almost pretend you were on holiday in Thailand with the scent of DEET and citronella in the air.

My best outdoor dining experience of the summer was at the Bulman in Kinsale during the heatwave. Gorgeous setting, food and staff. The waitress apologised for mismatched glasses and I said I was just so happy to be out that I would happily drink from my aforementioned shoe.

Gigs

One thing that has been sadly absent this summer is live music. I have yet to stand in a field with hundreds of strangers and be moved physically and emotionally by a wall of sound emitted by strangers on a stage. I miss it.

I did sit in a pre-marked circle on the grass in front of the stage in Fitzgerald’s Park during the Cork Puppetry Festival, happily lapping up the musical offerings of a gypsy jazz swing band, but it was no Electric Picnic. Looking at the crowds of people congregating around Croke Park on Sunday must be hard for music promoters and fans to watch. If those scenes don’t result in a spike of Covid cases, the justification of limiting capacity at music and theatre venues will be seriously questioned.

Hopefully, these aren’t the halcyon days of 2021 and we can look forward to months ahead of uninterrupted schooling, safe indoor dining and more live music events. 

Or maybe the Delta variant’s ability to transmit with fleeting contact will bring a winter of discontent.

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