The Dinner Plate and The Foxford Blanket

We were crabbing at Murrisk. Two adults, three children and one Foxford blanket. The sun
was shining, the sky was cloudless, and The Reek was standing over us like an ancient
grandfather in a pointed hat.
This was part of our annual pilgrimage with my best friend Kay, her boy Edward and
my two nephews. Every summer we all visited my Uncle Marty on his farm in Charlestown,
we helped bale the hay and bring home the turf, then we headed over to the Atlantic. We
were well armed with four lines attached to hooks, a black bucket and a piece of bacon—
stolen from the fridge.
The boys were giggling and screeching desperate to catch the first crab, who would it
be: Edward or Ryan or Ross? Ryan—the responsible one at eight—had filled the bucket with
seawater sitting, waiting for the day’s catch. The boys were all lying on the ground leaning
over with their lines dangling in the water. They could see plenty of crabs, but not one of
them was biting the bacon. Nearly a quarter hour had passed. Then Ross screamed. “I got
one. I got a huge one. It’s as big as a plate.” He may have only been a small boy, but he
already had a reputation for gross exaggeration. No one stirred. Then he yelled: “I got him
out the water. Jeez he’s bigger than a dinner plate. Help, help me someone.”
Ryan looked over “Oh My God—he’s right.” He jumped up and ran over with the net
and lowered it down towards the struggling crab. Edward—the wise one at twelve—gave
directions “Slowly Ross, slowly does it.” Himself and Ross eased up the line, their
excitement bubbling like champagne on the harbour wall.
The crab was wobbling. A claw loosened from the tiny net of bacon we had attached
as bait to the hook on the end of the line. Ryan moved like lightening with his net, caught the
falling creature and in it plopped. Captured. They had the first crab. They brought it over and
tipped it into the black bucket. “Wow Ross you were right, it IS as BIG as a dinner plate.”
Kay turned around. “Where is Uncle Marty’s blanket?” she screeched. We all stared. It had
disappeared, that ancient family heirloom, that only minutes earlier Ross had been lying on.
We all ran to the edge of the harbour. It was now floating like a red carpet on the sea.
“What shall we do? He is going to kill us.” Ross looked up at me, his six-year-old eyes
beseeching me for an answer.
Then the vessel appeared around the harbour wall. The two fishermen were laughing:
“So boys are ye planning a picnic on the sea?”
“Oh, please can you help us, it sort of flew off when we weren’t looking.” Ross’s smile could
take ducks off water.
“Did it now, maybe it’s a magic carpet.”
They sailed towards us in their primrose boat took out a long pole and a big hook and
after plenty of craic they managed to fish it out.
I shook it. There wasn’t a drop of water soaked into it. I laid it out on the harbour
cobbles. We all sat savouring our picnic of Pat the Baker ham sandwiches, blue Tayto crisps,
Kimberley mallow biscuits all washed down with red lemonade. “Kate are all Foxford
blankets able to swim?”
“No Ross, only the old ones that were made by the nuns.”