This was where I called it a day. Full length, fully-fashioned knee socks, no less, with Celtic motifs on the sides and a most cunning sideways slip on the foot. They were designed by Jenny Lee, and I don't mind admitting that they nearly sent me over the edge. Gorgeous stockings, and I'm thrilled to have them to show off on state occasions, but millions of stitches, thousands of rows... it was a marathon and no mistake.
So what does one do when finally it all comes to an end for this year? Why immediately cast on another pair of socks, of course. OK, so it's an addiction. Maybe I like addiction.
These are the Rigel design from Anna Zilboorg's Socks for Sandals and Clogs. I love the way you have a plain and demure sock from the front, and then turn round and ZA-ZOOM! I added the fuchsia toe myself, thinking it gave just that extra touch of je-ne-sais-quoi. Didn't have the right yarn in the stash (do I ever?) so plied some angora-blend twice and some Shetland three times to get the two colours.
Even found time to dye up some new sock yarns but still haven't found a window of opportunity in which to list them on eBay. Tonight, tonight, I must do it. No point having all that yarn hanging around when there are eager knitters out there clamouring for it. Merino/tencel and merino/bamboo, nestling on the buttercups and daisies of an Irish June. We've waited long enough for the weather to get better here, but finally it has. Which is why we decided to try again for that elusive island.
It was a beautiful morning when we drove down yet again to the remote stretch of coastline beyond Glandore and Union Hall, hoping to find someone who would rent us a currach or kayak. Nobody around though. And no kayaks lying invitingly on the shoreline either which one might borrow casually for an hour or two.
It was so frustrating to sit on the cliffs and look across at that little silver beach and those ivy-clad ruins, so near and yet so far. It was almost close enough to swim, but that really wouldn't be advisable with the undercurrents you get on this stretch of coast. Was it going to be yet another day of disappointment?
Somewhat downhearted, we got back in the car and made the long detour inland and out again to get to Squince Harbour (it's only about half a mile if you traipse over the rocks and cliffs) and here our luck changed. DH leaned over the sea wall and saw a fisherman loading gear into his boat. Casual pleasantries were exchanged, and then DH very casually let drop how much we wanted to visit the little island. 'Sure, come along with me and I'll drop ye off on my way out to check the pots,' said the fisherman genially. 'I can pick ye up on the way back, in a couple of hours, if that would suit.'
Would it suit? Would it? We were down on the shore and in that boat before you could blink.
And so at last we came to Roan Inish. Yes, yes, yes, it's called Rabbit Island on the large scale ordnance survey map, but you can't tell me that isn't Roan Inish.
Look, even the guardian seals and the all-knowing gulls were there, watching us, ensuring we were kindred spirits and not likely to break the peace of this place.
The feeling of actually landing at last on that silver strand, of waving goodbye to the friendly fisherman, and then climbing a steep track to the grassy top of the island, knowing we were the only people there, was indescribable. A lost world, with the sea breezes blowing over it, bluebells and buttercups growing rampantly in the unmown grass. Of course we headed first for the old ruined cottages - wouldn't you? Oh, I forgot, I'm taking you along on this trip, so that's what you wanted to do too. Look, you're there, right now. Climb into the pictures, relax, breathe deeply. Now, don't you hear the gulls crying, and get the scent of the salt air?
You couldn't really see it from the shore, but from this vantage it's much clearer that there were once at least two and possibly more cottages here, facing each other across a green lane and built sideways on to the sea (as all sensible seaside cottages were until the trendy days of double glazing and superstrength picture windows). Totally quiet and peaceful now, can't your imagination just see and hear what was once there? Children shouting at play, women's voices calling, the cluck of hens and the mooing of a cow waiting to be milked. The grating sound of a currach being pulled up on the beach. The whirring of a spinning wheel at a cottage door. There was a whole community living here for centuries. Now they're gone, but the landscape is still imbued with their presence.
From the cliffs on the seaward side it's easier to see that this is actually quite a big small island, if that doesn't sound too contradictory. You could spend a good afternoon following its indented coastline. See that tiny beach up there at the top of the picture? The one that looks totally deserted?
Not deserted now. Just one castaway Celtic Memory. Wonder how many islanders came down here after a storm to search for timber, firewood, anything useful washed from a ship's deck? All islanders are natural foragers and it's not unusual to find furniture, doors, windows, even carts, fashioned from wood picked up on the shoreline.
In places the thick grass, prickly furze, and wiry heather made walking quite difficult, especially if your four little legs were rather short. Someone got rather tired and appreciated a bit of a lift now and again.
Fortunately we found a stream trickling down a gully in the cliffs and Sophy was able to clamber down the rocks and have a large and lengthy drink. Trouble was, she then decided that it was rather nice in there in the shadowy cool, and just lay down and refused to move. Now you will appreciate that when a small dog stirs up a small pool, a great deal of mud is the result. And furthermore, when said small dog is disinclined to bestir herself for the homeward journey, anyone seeking to assist in such bestirring is likely to acquire quite a bit of said mud. As was indeed the case in this instance.
The Roan Inish imagery was everywhere. You could just see Fiona picking bunches of these bluebells. I expected to see baby Jamie pushing off his coracle from a dozen tiny hidden coves we chanced upon.
And what better place to fall asleep and dream on a sunny day? The feeling everywhere was - how can I describe it - like a long-ago afternoon is the best I can do. You know that feeling?
It was very hard to leave. Those cottages cried out to be lived in once more, to be whitewashed and tidy, with sturdy thatched roofs and geraniums in the windows. The little overgrown fields wanted to be tended and dug, and planted with potatoes. The island wanted voices again, laughter and busy movement and a way of life that had endured for centuries. But our fisherman was hailing us cheerfully from the beach, and we had to go.
We'll be back, though. We'll return to you, Roan Inish, one day very soon. Promise.