Moonshine and Greenshine help spread a little sunshine on a miserable November






Happy out, I headed for Vanhalla - Camper Heaven and sweet November dreams of rivers swollen to the brim, tumbling down the hill like myself, heading for the White Horse sessions and the open sea.


There is no more miserable month in the calendar than November. If there is I have yet to meet one.

Damp and dreary days dull themselves into grey submission until the dark finally takes hold earlier and earlier each evening, strangling the living daylights and every last second out of the exhausted day. The dark mornings bring little respite. Depressing alright.
But no, Vanhalla is having none of that, too easy to succumb, mothball the van and pack it in until the spring. Best face in to it, take a skelp out of the great outdoors to soften November's cough.
For sure November makes hard work of it, offering none of the mellow fruitfulness of autumn, the cheer of the Christmas season and the promise of the possibilities of a new year around the corner.
All is not lost though, not by a long shot.
Have you seen that crazy moon of recent weeks, putting the sun to shame and up all hours of the day and night? It might not be a great ball of fire but it's certainly a sight for sore eyes. And that’s not to speak of the consolation of the constellations as they go about sprinkling their stardust to give the magical moon a dig out that’s worth staying up for and hanging about.
And if that moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon stormy seas (with apologies to Alfred Noyes and The Highwayman) then the lure of the ocean on such an evening has a gravitational pull all of its own.
This past week I decided to see what hand the winter blues had to play and raised them some.
With Magic Seaweed forecasting surfing conditions that it was pure impossible to ignore I decided to break for the border and head for Lahinch. As luck would have it, I hit the jackpot.
It’s hard enough when you’re from a landlocked county to make the surf at the best of times but for the stars to align to manage work and take the day off to coincide with some classic conditions is a work of art in itself.
Better again as I rocked up in Lahinch that plucky south-easterly was going offshore plenty and giving it to those 4 to 6 foot sets; clean and green those waves already had notions and now the gutsy outbound breeze ensured they had a stiff upper lip for good measure.



With Magic Seaweed forecasting surfing conditions that it was pure impossible to ignore I decided to break for the border and head for Lahinch.










A clean honest swell, with an offshore wind to keep it righteous was rounded off by a day that refused to believe it was November and held its head at 10 degrees with the water still a positively balmy 12 Celsius. I was only boiling in my new Ripcurl E-Bomb wetsuit which was itself a revelation after I gave my old Billabong an honourable discharge and it certainly owed me nothing after ten years.
What more could you ask for you say? Well I’ll settle for a few pints and a gig in Kenny’s and guess what, I landed on my feet. A hat-trick you might say - the day off, savage surf conditions and a gig that night down in Kenny’s.
If that wasn’t enough, it made the decision to stay over in the campervan bays on the Lahinch prom an easy call and set me up smashing for an early morning surf. With the low tide at 7am, the swell had dropped off slightly but only to make for even cleaner-greener rollers. Welcome to longboard heaven.






(Parking on the prom is €2 for 3 hours of €4 all day. There is no restriction on overnight parking but neither are there any facilities. A brand new toilet block has been built since the Irish Open Golf event earlier this year, but there are no showers and rinsing of wet-suits is prohibited. There are a number of surf schools based here but Ben’s Surf Clinic is most reliable all-year-round and has by far the best facilities, gives a good range of rental and lessons options and you can grab a hot shower there for €2).





The aptly named White Horse Sessions in Kenny’s are famed and they double down as one of the main attractions during the Doolin Folk Festival every year in mid-June.
On Thursday night I waltzed in to Kenny’s only to be greeted by a warm fire on the stove, Kenny Kenny, the proprietor in his customary friendly form (his parents also obviously had a good sense of humour).



I treated myself to a shot of Greenspot to get the proceedings underway and to banish the last of the damp evening that was clinging on. At €7.60 it was the right call and no small thanks to the generously heavy pour of the landlord. 
As luck would have it and I was on a roll, the gig that night was a double-header for a cover charge of €15 featuring The Diviners and Greenshine. 





The Diviners were an enforced duo as their third man had got levelled by a flu. That didn’t stop these Cork boys in their tracks as they opened with gusto and absolutely disregarding of the woefully and unusually small turnout. On guitar, bouzouki, flute and uileann pipes these lads knew their way around the house and it clearly wasn’t their first rodeo. Watch out for the Diviners in your travels and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing them at full strength.
Then came Greenshine. A family trio whose songs, playing and sweet harmonies would warm the cockles of your heart and that of any dirty November evening.





Then came Greenshine. A family trio whose songs, playing and sweet harmonies would warm the cockles of your heart and that of any dirty November evening.



This family trio also professionally shrugged off the poor attendance to deliver a set a match for any  folk gig I have heard and I go all the way back to The Bothy Band and Planxty, Steeleye Span and Lindisfarne, Nanci Griffith and John Prine, Paul Brady and Scullion and when folk was the order of the day on The Boys of Ballisodare festival menu.



Greenshine sprinkled their own harmonious magic like sunshine defying the odds on a memorable November evening at the White Horse Sessions.
There were wistful songs of parting, the departed, partisans and those vowing never to be parted. I certainly thought bad of saying goodbye to Kenny’s as we faithfully squeezed an encore out of the only too obliging Greenshine stardust machine; a jukebox of folk that delighted with well woven originals as well as covers from The Everly Brothers, The Carter Family, Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt without dropping a stitch.
Happy out, I headed for Vanhalla - Camper Heaven and sweet November dreams of rivers - The Nore, Gully, Fergus and Inagh - swollen to the brim, tumbling down the hill like myself, heading for more white horse sessions and the open sea.
First up, best dressed the next morning, a quick coffee brew and in to the brine; accompanied by the hard-core; a woman out for an early morning swim; a father putting his 8-year-old daughter through her paces and her putting me to shame; walkers on the prom; dog walking on the prom as Lahinch threw off its slumber.



Looking forward to a scrumptious veggie breakfast afterwards in Joe’s Café, €11.95 all in for tea and sourdough toast. Yum, yum.
November, why did I ever speak ill of ye?



* The White Horse Sessions for Winter 2019 continue at Kenny's of  Lahinch on December 5 with Serious Mischief, €10; December 12, Mick Flannery, €22.50 and December 19, The Fiddle Case, €12.

*For some additional reading you might enjoy this piece on the joys of open water swimming: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/the-addictive-magic-of-swimming-in-the-sea-in-winter-it-s-life-affirming-1.4074180