Saturday, October 22, 2011

“All over the world, remote rural areas attract weirdos, transient or permanent.”

On the day before I left West Cork I drove to Cool Mountain to see what, if anything, was left of the community that had been established there by English refugees in the nineteen-eighties; folk bent on escaping the ovine ambition of the British electorate to live in a state of inescapable uniformity.
As with the majority of idealistically inspired communities that mushroomed with post-war prosperity that began to blossom through the late sixties and early seventies, that at Cool Mountain failed to endure.  At one time as many as eighty people were living on the mountain. By 2007 this had dropped to around twenty-five.
The present population of Cool Mountain live in an eclectic collection of dwellings more or less hidden within the luxuriously thick woodland that clothes the lower slopes of the mountain.
The place wore a mantle of sadness, of somewhere that had been but now was not; or perhaps, somewhere that never really became the Nivana those who came here hoped it might become.  All around glimpses of abandoned vehicles, derelict  sheds, shacks and caravans bear witness to the abandonment of an ideal.
At Cool Mountain it would not have been possible to take photographs without imposing on residents’ privacy.  As one who does I, probably more than most, understand how precious is the privacy of folk who choose to live in remote rural places.  Even if I were sufficiently thick-skinned, or just plain thick enough, to value my want of snapshots above peoples’ rights to privacy, the luxuriance of plant life that presently surrounds the dwellings of Cool Mountain residents would have precluded my taking any meaningful photographs.
The Cool Mountain dream of the eighties has, along with many beautiful but ultimately fictive ideas - swinging-sixties, Prague springs, flower-power - passed into a mythology which every Tom, Thomassina, Dick, Richardine, Harry or Harriet, can interpret as they may.  That there are presently in West Cork so many independent, established and successful crafts-people may, I like to believe, be something of a legacy of the Cool Mountain dream.
I  stole the title of this post  from a book ; “Eating Scenery”, by Alannah Hopkin, published by The Collins Press (2008)   “Eating Scenery” is a book which, in common with most writing, says much about its author.  M/s Hopkin has, it seems, little or no understanding of why folk she somewhat generally refers to as “impecunious good-lifers”, rather giving their lives to wage slavery, might prefer to live free, simple, independent lives in elysian surroundings.  Furthermore she gives the impression that she believes only those in want of shoes would ever walk bare-foot; poor sad Alannnah! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Probably not in the guide books

Many years ago, at a time when I seemed to be continually frustrated by the anomalies of english planning laws or, rather, local authorities' planning departments interpretation of them,  I became a fan of roundhouse builder Tony Wrench.
Using largely recycled materials Wrench famously built an attractive, comfortable shelter hidden in woodland within the boundaries of Pembrokeshire National Park.  When bought to book and asked why he had failed to apply for planning permission he explained that as an application would have been refused point-blank, to have applied would have been futile.  Even if he had been disposed to seek permission, he added to his defense, on the grounds that an application would have required drawings, he could not have applied; no drawing had ever existed; when he began to build he had no idea of how the finished shelter might look.

When I came upon the amazing buildings that serve as offices for 'Future Forests' plant nursery I was at once reminded me of Tony Wrench, his Roundhouse and his tireless and gallant fight to preserve his right to live in the home he had built.
As with Wrench's building in Pembrokeshire, that of 'Future Forests' is hidden deep in countryside where it is unlikely to offend the eyes of a majority who would tear down buildings of such ingenuity and natural beauty in favour of eye-sores, with which beautiful Ireland is liberally littered that, despite their ghastly ugliness, tick all the boxes on the forms issued by planning departments.


This magnificent Danish square-rigged ship sailed into the bay this week and moored overnight at Bantry.  Two hundred and fifteen years ago irish patriot Wolfe Tone led a convoy of forty-three similarly rigged ships from Brest towards Bantry where Tone hoped to land sixteen-thousand french troops to support the ambition of his United Irishmen to rid their island forever of its self-appointed English masters.  Unfortunately,  for  the United Irishmen, and all those from subsequent generations on all sides who have given their lives for the futile cause disallowing folk the freedom that is their birthright, the foray turned into disaster.  A storm blew many of the ships off course leaving only sixteen to sail into Bantry Bay.  Nonetheless an attack was prosecuted but gales, sleet and snow prevented its having any chance of success. The French, defeated more by weather than by Bantry’s english defenders, eventually returned home.  Wolfe Tone went on to lead further more or less disastrous expeditions until, in 1800, he was captured, tried and sentenced to death. In prison he cheated the english gallows by cutting his own throat.