After our walk along the beach at Falcarragh, which required leaning into the wind and screwing our eyes against the invasion of sand, we took refuge in an old rectory converted into a pottery, gallery space and cafe on the ground floor. The coffee was good and the roaring open fire just what we needed.
By the fire there was an assortment of books, including an anthology of modern Irish poetry. Agnes was flipping through its pages when she came across James Simmons’ poem Art and Reality. She read the poem beautifully and then asked “Are men always looking for firmer flesh?”. Colin and I looked at each other knowing that this topic was a minefield. It was not that Agnes was lacking in tautness, but her question was more of an accusation levelled at all men that their urges were primarily bestial.
Being the reckless type, I jumped right in “I think the poem is more about perception and memory rather than preference.”
Agnes gave me a wry smile “But are middle-aged men put off by women their own age?”
“I think it depends on the man. Some blokes get sports cars and younger girlfriends when they hit middle age. Others take up pipe smoking and pad about in comfy slippers trying to remember where they put their glasses. Our biology might be the same but our behaviour is varied.”
“So do you fit the sports car or slippers profile?”
Colin leapt to my defence “Agnes, this man is an individual who defies profiling. Even his singing voice is unconventional. He might know the tune but he won’t be compelled to use the same notes.”
The back-handed compliment took the heat off me for a moment, and I sipped my coffee trying to damp down my bestial urges.
We settled into reading mode and wandered off towards Falcarragh when the coffee was stone cold. The sun came out briefly making the fuscia’s scarlet and purple colours stand out against the grey skies. I love the variety of fauna in the hedges of Donegal. The smell of honeysuckle comes as a pleasant surprise. Agnes set the pace with a casual sauntering style that matched my own slowness that is heightened whenever I’m in these parts.
Back at Colin and Audrey’s we started discussing food. They had plenty of fruit and veg from the Friday market in Falcarragh. The idea of salad with white wine and cheese took shape. Colin waved a chorizo sausage about, but there were no takers. The local supermarkets stock some excellent Irish cheeses such as Gubeen, Milleens and Fivemiletown Creamery. Agnes and I volunteered to prepare the salad while Audrey nipped out to stock up on wine and fresh bread. Colin had an article to finish for the Honest Ulsterman and locked himself away in the study.
The kitchen sink overlooked a rambling garden of flowers, lawn and a pile of turf. I brought the salad chiller over to the drawing board and selected some Romaine lettuces. I presented these to Agnes as if they were a posy for a lover. She played along with coy looks and a seductive fluttering of her eyelashes. “Are these really for little old me?” she asked.
“Those and my heart to do with as you please” I replied.
As she took the lettuces our hands touched, whether by accident or design I didn’t care. Our embrace was a bit clumsy and I crushed the lettuce as I brought my hands up to caress her neck and cheeks. She leaned into me and her mouth sought mine with a sweetness and slowness that prolonged the ecstasy.
Over late lunch Agnes and I tried to make normal conversation, but every time we looked at each other we grinned like teenagers. Colin was oblivious, Audrey may well have guessed that something had happened between us. Bach on the stereo, comfy sofas, plenty of good wine and a woman who cared for me – what had I done to deserve this?
Agnes snuggled up to me and I cradled her head. The secret was out. Colin reacted as if he had known all along and Audrey just smiled.
“So you two…” was Colin’s attempt at putting into words what we wanted to guard from banality. Coffee and chocolates were served with classic Charlie Parker jazz. Yeah baby!