Part 6: Windy? Acht this is 'na Windy
The hostel was located at the landward end of the causeway onto Baleshare and, from the outside, looked even better than the one at Howemoore. It had the same thatched roof held down with chicken wire and bricks but the outside was unpainted natural stone unlike the 'holiday cottage' exterior of Howemoore.
The inside was different too; it was dirtier for a start. There was no wood, paper or peat for the stove and there were empty plastic bags scattered over the floor. The toilet was outside in one of the hen houses and water was from a standpipe outside the front door.
The cooking area was in the entrance passage so passing to the bedrooms or going outside was a squeeze if someone was cooking. Having said that, it was still a much better option than spending the night in a tent. There was just enough wood to boil a kettle so we had our brew and then made our way over the causeway and onto Baleshare Island.
The walk to the beach was much longer than it had looked on the OS map. The road turned off to the right from the causeway end and wound round the island's contours for quite a way before we found the track running down to the beach.
On our way we passed a lone girl who, leaning forty-five degrees into the wind and waiving her arms helplessly shouted, "It just gets worse boys". By her accent we guessed she was American and she was right, it did get worse. We also passed a very dead sheep and a group of workmen collecting sand.
Although still windy this was turning out to be one of the best days. The sky had cleared, the sun was actually shinning and, in a sheltered spot, sunbathing could have been possible. Geoff and Dave threw some fishing gear into the sea in a variety of places but had no luck, so we amused ourselves by throwing rocks until we got bored.
Shortly after our return to the hostel, Mike arrived. He seemed disappointed we hadn't managed to light the stove so, when the warden's husband came over to collect our night's rent, I went back with him to pick up fuel. Telling me to help myself from a huge pile of peat by the side of the house, he went inside for wood and paper.
On his return he divulged the closely guarded family secret for carrying peat. You break off a piece of peat of a size to fit in the palm of your hand, this you put inside the plastic bag at the top, you then twist the plastic over and around the peat to give a fist sized carrying grip. Overly proud of his family secret he may have been, but it did in fact make carrying a lot easier.
With plenty of combustibles in stock we soon got both stoves going and dispelled the damp and the chill. Dave cooked us a curry which inspired Mike to produce a 'Spicy Lentil Soup' for us to sample - different we agreed. Different enough to generate a thirst which only beer could quench.
On our way here we'd passed a pub at Carinish which none of us had failed to notice. There was also a rough notice pinned to a wall in the hostel 'Nearest Shop' Nearest Pub' etc. This useful bit of paper disappointingly informed us that the pub was in fact two and a half miles away. Deliberating a five-mile round trip for a pint took about three seconds - we were off.
Geoff, imagination fired by visions of draft mild, set a cracking pace and although uneventful the walk passed quickly enough and we were soon walking in through the pub's front door.
Inside there was a large room with six people leaning on the bar and another couple playing pool. Mike, who'd set off ahead of us, was over in the corner writing up his journal. The pub lacked atmosphere and was rather subdued; perhaps Wednesdays were quiet nights in Carinish.
We had a couple of drinks and played darts for a while. Mike said he didn't play because, in the 'states' darts had gone electronic and become an expensive past time. Dave, after convincing him that he wouldn't have to spend money, taught Mike how to play "Round the Board' and Mike, although he began by throwing the darts like javelins, eventually won.
Mike also bought us each a half of bitters which, considering our suspicions about the state of his finances, was a generous gesture. As it neared closing time we thought the locals were getting edgy. Perhaps they thought we were going to hang about and ruin their after hours drinking. We did them a favour by drinking up quickly and heading for the door.
There's a well-known rule about walking back from a pup no matter what the distance involved is. This is - that returning always takes less time than going. This has always proved true and I haven't got a clue why. I can understand why it might 'seem' to take less time, this could be because alcohol has screwed up your sense of time. But the facts are that it actually does take less time, we've checked with stopwatches.
This walk back was no exception, it was quicker and it was certainly pleasanter. We'd started with torches switched on but soon found we didn't need them, all we had to do was to follow the starlight reflected from Geoff's boots.
Earlier, at the hostel, Geoff had been rummaging about in the draws and had found a tube of black polish. He set about his boots with it and soon they were practically glowing. The fact that the polish turned out to be black leading for the stove didn't deter him one bit.
He thought that "Grate Polish' on the tube label meant that it was great polish. It did give one hell of a shine and caused no problems other than if you touched the boots (up to two months later) you got instant black hands.
Great polish it truly was. The starlight reflected back from the magic boots meant we could switch off our torches and follow Geoff all the way back. The starlight was magic too. Even on the clearest of nights back home you would never see anything like this. It was as if a bucket of sugar had been thrown over soot. With so many points of light the constellations were difficult to make out. Standing still with your head thrown back looking straight up was simply overpowering, the sheer incomprehensible vastness of that canopy of sugar sprinkled soot was overwhelming.
The wind dropped, the stars and Geoff's boots were shining - all was well with the world. Walking back was even pleasurable, even if the twenty stops we made to have a pee were made difficult by passing cars and their headlights.
Mike may have been embarrassed by our pee stops or just bored with our snails pace, whatever the reason he just put his foot down and disappeared. The stoves were still going as we walked through the door and, due to Mike's earlier arrival, the kettle was boiling. Bread dipped in pea and ham soup made our supper which, incidentally, should never be made in a plastic cup, I could still taste the peas three days later.
The beer, the walk and the soup should have guaranteed a good night sleep but at five in the morning one of the cockerels from the hen house decided to crow, and crow, and crow. This prompted our later entry in the Baleshare Hostel Log Book - "Shoot the cockerel, before you go to bed".