The 80-year old Woman of Ballybunnion

We can all now feel the start of autumn with the chill in the air in the mornings but I wrote this blog at the end of my summer holidays when I promised you more on the 80 year old woman that I met, so here goes.

We were approaching the end of our summer holidays and of course there was the obligatory trip to Ballybunnion for a seaweed bath and scones on the beach. This is such a lovely experience. The seaweed has this oily substance that makes your skin all lovely and soft. When you use it in your hair it is like you have put some luxury conditioner in your hair.

After you come of the bath, you top off the experience by having scones and tea a on the terrace on the beach while you watch the world go by. This has been my experience most times I have been to Ballybunnion. There are two beaches, the men’s and ladies’ beaches. There is a long story there but, I can’t be bothered to go into why they are so named, suffice to say they are both mixed beaches now. Anyway we always go the ladies’ beach.
So, we all decided we were going to go to Ballybunnion and by we, I mean:

• Me
• My husband
• My two boys
• My husband’s adopted aunty
• Said aunty’s sister
• Two nephews

You get the gist, if you read the previous blog before this you will understand the eclectic mix of people. The advance party was the two aunties and one nephew. We tried ringing them on our way to make sure we had a meeting point but adopted aunty’s sister informed me she was standing on the edge of a cliff but she wasn’t going to jump. I decided that maybe that was not the right time to agree a meeting point! We decided to wing it and find them by sense of smell when we got there.

We got there and headed for the ladies’ beach and who did we find ensconced behind a scone? Aunties one and two. Nephew one was already in the sea having a swim. My youngest son and nephew 2 who are of similar ages decided to dig a hole in the sand on the beach and bury my son in it, save for his head. The plan was to cover his head with a towel and give people a scare as they walk past when they saw the towel move. This is the sort of thing that 13-year olds find funny and therefore invest their time in. We left them to it.

My husband and my eldest son went to join nephew 1 for a swim. I joined the aunties with a scone and chamomile tea on the terrace to watch the boys. Eldest son decided he didn’t fancy a swim after all and wanted to join the ladies for tea and scone.
After said tea and scone, Auntie one decided to break into a song on the beach as you do with my son joining in. The one of the songs was ‘Molly Malone’. Needless to say, everyone on the terrace started staring at us.

Enter Anne, the 80-year-old woman that is blog is about. She had been sitting with her grandniece on the terrace after their seaweed bath and a swim when they heard the singing. I am not sure if this is an Irish thing but they all seemed to know the song, so they joined in and before we knew it everyone on the beach within earshot was staring at us.

Anyway after the singing, introductions were made and we discovered that Anne moved to the United States in 1962 and now lives in Florida. She was originally from a town in South of Ireland called Effin. (I swear I am not making this up!) She comes from Florida in the summer to Ballybunnion every year for about 3 months for holidays.

For an 80-year-old woman, she was as sprightly as they got. She was full of life and zest and was obviously looking for the ‘craic’ wherever she could find it. I hope to God I live to 80 and be fit and healthy enough to be leaping into the sea and still fully be engaging in life. I am nowhere near 80 I swear sometimes in the mornings I feel like 150 with the aches and pains. Anne positively glowed with health with a sparkle in her eyes that just made you want to drink in life and she had the life experience to back her sparkle. We chatted for a good while and we told her all about our mad family with everyone from everywhere and how we were all related to one another. By this time my husband and nephew had joined us from their swim. The boys also got tired of their burying and scaring game as after 30 minutes of being buried they hadn’t been able to give anyone a scare, so they gave up and joined us on the terrace.

So now we had a full house. We of course had to sing again and this time the people on the beach were ready for us with Anne and her grandniece adding the other verses to the song that my lot couldn’t be bothered to remember the first round. We all somehow knew how special that moment was. Strangers meeting on a beach from different parts of the world, completely unplanned and breaking into song and finding a connection. We got the stranger sitting behind us to take a picture of our group. He then joined in the conversation and we found out that he was from New York and of course he and Anne went off into one as Anne had lived in the Bronx when she first moved to America. What a small world we live in.
We made a date with Anne, we are all going to come to the beach next year on the same date and have a seaweed bath, a swim, scones and tea and of course sing again. Ann also invited us to do the cliff walk which apparently is a very lovely walk and at the end of it surprise, surprise is Anne’s Caravan. Next year, we will be doing the walk and knocking on Anne’s door for a cup of tea.

Anne, this is to you, your joie de vivre is infectious and it as privilege to spend time in your company and we hope to see you next year.
In my book Octopus on a Treadmill I talk about the importance of relationships and feeling connected and how it contributes to our mental health. I spent my summer nurturing my relationships and creating new connections. I am now looking forward to the autumn.