A Little Bit of Heaven

The earth is threatened with extinction and children and young people from all nations have been marching in their thousands to demand that those in power wake up and listen.  What they are doing is fantastic, worthy of attention, comment and action, but sometimes I need to bypass the anxiety-inducing issues and focus on what makes me happy, which this week has been cows on a beach.  I’m back in Northern Ireland for a short while, where, on the north Antrim coast, there is a little bit of heaven called Whitepark Bay. Here, when the weather is clement, you will find a herd of cattle perambulate the mile and a half length of white sands from the Portbradden end to the Ballintoy Harbour end.  Whilst this is a rare but glorious sight, it can be seen, apparently, from Corsica to South Africa, Goa to North Queensland, where cows are known to enjoy a paddle, given half the chance.

Some friends from Canada were with me, all of us delighting in the mid-September sun.  Down the stone steps, past the old National Trust whitewashed stone building, and ignoring the blackberry bushes scraping our legs, we added an inch on our step when we hit the strand, determined to catch up with them.  Today there were more cows than people on the beach, and all those who had fallen upon that little bit of heaven stopped to chat.  ‘Are they yours?’ the man from Belfast asked with a serious raise of the eyebrow under which danced less serious eyes.  A young woman from the local village of Lisnagunogue was sitting on nearby rocks.  ‘I love them,’ she told us, ‘I know to come down on a good day, for that’s when they venture onto the sand.  It’s calming to sit here and watch them.’  The tide was going out, and the cows had stopped at a bank of exposed rocks to have a lick, enjoying the saltiness.  ‘This must be like a day spa for cows,’ J. decided, watching one particular pair go from licking to scratching, rubbing their necks upon the rock’s rough surface. But they didn’t linger at the spa, after just a few minutes they were wandering back through the strip of dune and up onto the slightly raised rough grazing area.  We watched them go, forty or so muscled rumps waddling off into the undergrowth.  Then it came to me, the old fashioned song, one I’ve oft dismissed as sentimental nonsense, which of course it is, except for those peaceful, stardust sprinkled days of walking on a beach with cows, for if that’s not going to make you sentimental, I don’t know what is.

A Little Bit of Heaven, Ernest R. BallLyric by J. Keirn Brennan

(listen to John McCormack singing it, for another little bit of heaven!)

 

Have you ever heard the story of

How Ireland got its name

Well, I’ll tell you so you’ll understand

From whence old Ireland came

No wonder that I love

That dear old land across the sea

For here’s the way my dear old mother

Told the tale to me

 

Sure, a little bit of heaven fell

From out the sky one day

And it nestled on the ocean

In a spot so far away

And when the angels found it

Sure, it looked so sweet and fair

They said, “Suppose we leave it

For it looks so peaceful there”

 

So they sprinkled it with stardust

Just to make the shamrocks grow

‘Tis the only place you’ll find them

No matter where you go

Then they dotted it with silver

To make its lakes so grand

And when they had it finished

Sure, they called it Ireland!

 

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