Having spent many childhood summers in West Cork, author Denise Deegan has drawn on some of those memories for her latest novel which is set here
I WOULD give anything to be in West Cork, right now, but rules are rules and they are there for good reason.
Growing up in Cork, as a family we holidayed in Schull or Durrus or Goleen every summer. Now that I live in Dublin, I like to keep the tradition going.
But it’s not just tradition. It’s not just holidaying. For me, there is something soothing, healing and restorative about West Cork.
This time two years ago, when my Dad died and the pressure felt immense, I bolted to Skibb where a very good friend took me in for a few days. Just watching the waves on a deserted Barleycove beach for hour upon hour brought an amazing peace.
On Dad’s anniversary, this year, with the country on lockdown, I couldn’t be in West Cork. Neither could I be with my mum. None of us could. She had no one to hug. No one to touch. No one to even see.
She had been cocooning for five weeks. When I phoned her, she couldn’t speak, such was the loneliness. I started to put together a package for her, novels to read, notelets and stamps so she could write to her friends, goodies, bizarrely a mango. Then, just before I left to deliver it, something magical happened.
I had written a novel based in an imaginary village in West Cork. Mum had been waiting desperately for it to be published, asking for ‘developments’ every time we spoke. Season of Second Chances was officially published this month but delivery of paperback copies by Amazon was delayed due to the pandemic. Then, like magic, books arrived right when I needed them, 10 days before the expected delivery date. On the day when she was at her lowest ever, I was able to bring her West Cork.
Of course, I couldn’t hand the package to her in person. I left the it at reception, rang her and told her to go to the window. She lives on the first floor. Her voice has been weakened by Parkinson’s disease. It was windy. I couldn’t hear her when she tried to call down. But. She could hear me when I called up to her. And it was so lovely to see her face.
So now I know that, though cocooning, in her mind she can go to West Cork any time she likes. She can stand on the beach in Barleycove with the main character, Grace, and watch the waves roll in. She can feel the wind on her face, the saltwater on her skin. And she can go on a journey of recovery, of finding a community, inner strength and new beginnings.
One of the best things about writing this novel was researching the finer details of life in West Cork.
Regular was the call to The Southern Star where news editor Siobhan Cronin and her brilliant team of reporters would answer questions from the sublime to the ridiculous: What do teenage girls in West Cork call a good-looking guy? What would a small-holding, West Cork farmer wear – in detail? What would he drive? What are the most popular dogs in West Cork? The wit, the humour and the genuine willingness to help reminded me why this is one of my favourite places in the world.
None of us knows when life will return to normal. All I do know is that as soon as it does, I will be West Cork bound. Right now, what I’m really craving is a girly weekend with friends like the one I had three years ago, when we rented a cottage and just hung out, chatting, laughing, catching up. We went on long walks. Ate out. Kept the pubs in business.
Though I can’t return to West Cork physically, right now, I do have an alternative. I can start a sequel to Season of Second Chances. I can become my main character, Grace. I can live her life. And return to West Cork that way. Problem solved.
• Denise Deegan’s new novel, Season of Second Chances, is written under her pen name Aimee Alexander, and is available on Amazon as both a paperback and ebook. See viewbook.at/