There were twelve of us on the boat, headed to an island off the west coast of Ireland for a day’s outing. The sea was smooth and the sky, though cloudy, held nothing dark and threatening. Many on the boat, all Irish but myself and my companion, were grateful for the smooth sea as they knew first-hand what the swell of the Atlantic could feel like in such a small boat. In fact, two ladies opted for life jackets even though there was not even a whisper of a breeze. The hour’s journey to the island was eventless, with us chatting among ourselves and the one man with binoculars picking out landmarks for any one who asked as we made our way to our destination.
The skipper dropped anchor and proceeded to ferry passengers in groups of four or five to the island in a small dinghy. I was on the last load to land, with the skipper returning to his ship for what I thought would be a quiet lunch with his one-man crew. I made my way up to the first ruin, where my fellow travelers were seated out of the wind having picnic lunches. As I sat and opened my ham and cheese sandwich, I noticed one of the ladies who had requested a life jacket very much preoccupied with her iPhone and something on the sand just below where our group was seated. There was much whispered discussion between her and one man, and then much more messing with their iPhones. Finally I understood they were uncertain but almost certain there was an item of interest on the small bit of sandy beach. Nothing much else was said, and we all went our own way to explore the island for the four or five hours we had before we were to meet there to be ferried back to the boat.
When we had gathered again on that spot, the skipper appeared and asked who had found something. I am not sure how he had found about it, but some one must have said something to him. Once he was shown what had been seen, he took out his phone and called the guards, which is the word for the police in Ireland. The guards, we were told, said they would be there within fifteen minutes. There had been a recent discovery of a parcel of cocaine which had washed up on another beach north of us, and as a result, anything found on a beach on the west coast of Ireland was of interest to the guards.
But even the guards operate on Irish time, for it was over an hour before their boat appeared on the horizon. As we were waiting, the skipper was keeping an eye on the horizon, as rain was due in from the south. With still no sign of the guards, the skipper decided to begin boarding us by dinghy back onto the boat, so we would be ready to leave once the guards were done. Since the guards wanted to speak directly to the woman who had first spotted the item of interest, she had to wait on land, with the skipper, and would be the last ferried out to the boat.
The guards’ arrival was marked with some snarly remarks from the Irish crowd around me on the deck of the boat. None seemed to take them seriously. Being an American, and perhaps because our police are armed and thus demand respect, I was bewildered by this lackadaisical attitude towards the guards. Some of my fellow travelers took pictures of the guards in their boat, as they said this would be needed for friends to believe their story when they got home. We then watched three of the guards make their way to the island in their dinghy, leaving two in the guards’ boat.
The Irish were all very interested In how this would go down. The man with binoculars started giving a running account of the progress of the guards making their way over the rocks on shore to the place where the woman and the skipper and the item of interest were. However, then the guards’ boat’s engine was fired up and the two guards in the boat went round us and towards the other end of the island. Binocular man followed that boat, as did all of us with our bare eyes. When asked by one of the ladies on board “what are the doing?”, he replied that one was in the position of taking a leak and that seemed to be the purpose of their going over there.
Well, I would have to say that this set the mood for the rest of the day on our little boat. The craic* was on, and simultaneously chocolate bars and packages of cookies appeared out of the back packs scattered on the deck and shared among us all. It would have appeared to any one watching that we were having a party by our laughter, which I am sure was being carried over the water. But then the guard’s boat, on its return from the loo, pulled alongside our boat. We were told in no uncertain terms that we were not to be taking pictures of anything going on up there on the island. We all quietly nodded our heads in total agreement saying none of us were even thinking of taking a picture of anything at all at all. The guard boat pulled away.
Binocular man set his eyes back on the island, to see the skipper and the lady making their way to the dinghy to come back to us. However, the guards stayed put, and the binocular man kept his eyes on them. Then he informed us that the guards were now taking pictures of themselves with the item of interest. With our bare eyes we could make out each in turn standing straight, arms crossed on their chest, while the other one took a picture with his phone. This went on for a spell, while we were falling over ourselves in laughter. ….and taking pictures of them taking pictures of themselves, even though this was against all orders.
The lady and skipper back on board, we started the journey home. There was a warm feeling among us on the deck, as we chatted with each other and continued to share any food left in our packs. But as we pulled alongside the pier, the sky opened and buckets of rain came down on us. We quickly scattered to our cars for shelter and drove away, each in search of a hot cup of tea.
The relationship between the guards and the Irish people has always been a bit of a mystery to me. However, this day helped me understand it a bit more. The guards must impose the law on the people, which is a very unIrish thing to do. But the guards are Irish themselves, and that nature is not to be denied. For when I zoom in on my own picture of the guards taking pictures of themselves on the island with the item of interest, I see three fine Irish men having a bit of craic themselves. Any why wouldn’t they?
It must be a very difficult road to travel in Ireland with one leg embedded in the enforcement of the law and the other leg loving any bit of the craic they can get, like any other Irishman.
Craic: A form of Irish humor, craic most often is witnessed when among Irish people and something happens or something is said that transforms a number of the Irish people around you into accomplished stand-up comedians exchanging between themselves sharp, insightful, hilarious lines with such a fine sense of timing that if this happens in a bar, which is most often, any one present must hold onto their bar stools so as not to fall off, as you find yourself doubled-over in laughter.