I left Galway in the fore-noon after the VIBE meeting in NUIG, but not before walking down to the shore of Lough Corrib with my host and his two young sons. They live on the edge of the townland Gort na calaí which is really aptly named because the lake is edged with "callows" flat water meadows that flood in winter. Standing on a little quay at the edge a vast body of water watching the wind shiver the reeds was elementally evocative for me because when I was a chap we used to visit a cousin of my father's who lived on the shore of Lough Derg. Just like the lads on Saturday, we used to peg rocks into the water to see who could make the biggest perLOOSH. Unlike the lads, whose parents have a modern (but by no means over-developed) sense of health and safety, 50 years ago we used to get up really early in the morning and row out onto the lake. The hills of Clare were without colour and silent in the distance and it was far too early for traffic so, without then being able to articulate such a thought, the sense of peace was a protective wall around us. I never read Swallows and Amazons because I lived it every Spring. That series of small-small adventures for unsupervised children begins when they discover a boat while on holiday and ask their mother if it's okay for them to sail out on the lake. Their mother sends a telegram to her husband, who is abroad with the Navy. He telegrams back with the timeless wisdom "Better drowned than duffers, if not duffers won't drown". That's more or less what my parents thought about the issues, insofar as they thought about it at all. The sense of empowerment was easily worth whatever small risk attended such antics. We never felt we could walk on water, it wasn't that sort of empowerment. But we were put in a position (we put ourselves in a position) where we had to make decisions informed by the reality around us rather than 'learning' the correct response by being told what the answer was.
If you talk about that sort of thing with people today they will go on about how there weren't as many cars back then and certainly no pedophiles. But I can assure you that there were no cars out on the lake i 1963 and all the local pedophiles (of which there was the usual number) were at least 1000m away and still asleep.
"Walking down to the lake-shore" with the two young chaps implies that they also were walking, but they weren't. They hitched a ride in their father's canoe which has a little trolley for getting it the few hundred meters from home to the water. How cool is that? As a buggy it's not very convenient in a shopping mall but down country lane, it's The Thing. Why would you need a little trolley for the canoe? Because that's how you get to work whenever the wind on the lake permits such traffic. Now really, how cool is that? Cool as Diva, that's how cool.