Bairbre Power: Going back to Kinsale last weekend rekindled so many memories, happy and sad, it was like boarding a time machine
I've been revisiting old territories of late. It's a curious coincidence but I keep finding my life overlapping with places that were important to me in the past yet which I haven't returned to for quite some time.
Last weekend I was invited to a 50th birthday in Kinsale. The birthday plans were originally laid in place over a glass of celebratory wine at Marco Pierre White's restaurant last Christmas.
Since there were four of us, we drank 'Four Sisters' and toasted a year of friendship ahead of us. Maybe it was the yummy Shiraz or the fact that my iPhone had run out of battery yet again, but I was the only one that didn't put the date in her phone planner, so when the reminder rolled around, I was a bit blindsided.
Sharon Crosbie's 50th party? Oh yes please, I didn't need to be asked twice so I packed my case with gusto.
I knew there would be lots of jazz, selected by the birthday girl herself. Listening to jazz has become a favourite midlife pastime. Instead of turning on a TV programme, I now go for Jazz FM when I fall in the door from work.
The last 12 holidays have all been flight-based so I welcomed the idea of a road trip with a group of friends I hadn't seen for six months. Plus there was the prospect of a gourmet lunch and a party before the 'fit into the race day dress' diet started on Monday. Nothing like the prospect of all that po-faced eating and drinking next week to enhance the weekend indulgence.
All good road trips need a plan and ours did not involve a stop for lunch. Instead, we were saving our appetites for fish on arrival in the gourmet town and maybe a glass or two of chilled rosé.
Sprawled out in the back of the car, I got thinking on the journey down about why I was so attached to Kinsale. I've good memories of the West Cork town from each decade of my life.
As a child, we would drive there with my granny from Cork on sunny Sunday afternoons. She always insisted on wearing her navy plaited straw hats come rain, hail or shine. Back then the childhood drill was a walk by the harbour, followed by a 99 and then a go on 'the merries', which is what people in Cork call funfair rides.
As a student, I spent a memorable August Bank Holiday there with my college bestie, Elizabeth, and after fun and games attempting to set up our two-man tent at Charles Fort, we walked and talked, planning beyond journalism school and where we hoped we might both end up.
Thankfully, ours is a friendship that has survived the distance of the Atlantic ocean between us. There was nothing for it last weekend only to send her a postcard from the town.
Gosh I hadn't bought and written a post card in years and that in itself brought back other memories of sharing holiday adventures with friends back home. Postcards were part of the holiday drill. Nowadays we have the selfie dispatched across the world in seconds, but I knew she would prefer the inky words. Then I realised I didn't have her home address.
Isn't it such a shame that with a drop-off in writing Christmas cards, and birthday cards too, we don't have that instant recall of postal addresses like we used to have? I emailed her for it but, of course, that kind of took the surprise out of what I had planned.
The one thing about nostalgia is that when you dip into it, there's nothing to stop you delving in for more and more - a bit like opening the packet of digestive biscuits really.
At the party, I met loads of friends I wasn't expecting to see and there was lots of nostalgia swirling around, not least the music, which reminded us of our younger days as we proceeded to make full use of the dance floor.
The following morning, I was out walking before breakfast. Not a hangover cure, I can assure you, but a curiosity to see more of the town. We had a wonderful holiday there back in 1996 when an Australian family I'd met in Bondi offered us their house in Kinsale.
It was a blissful holiday full of 'are we there yet?' car journeys. The house beside the sea in Summercove was divine. Those were the days when simple treats were the best. No fancy indulgent spa treatments but the gift of an hour's walk on your own on the Scilly Walk with its bird's eye views of the harbour and town. There were no skinny decaf lattes either waiting for me in town - back then you went home to put the kettle on and make mugs of Barry's tea.
I remember sitting wrapped up in towels eating ham sandwiches peppered with sand and watching the kids play on the water's edge with a group of visiting children.
Before leaving Kinsale, I got a real pang in my tummy. It had nothing to do with too much merriment the night before - it was the sight of the perfectly located boathouse that we always photographed and talked about buying one day between a group of us as a bolthole away from it all. That hasn't happened.
And what about the sailing I had hoped to do? I'd even taken a sailing course in Dun Laoghaire to action my dreams, but instead I'd become a real landlubber. To my shame, the nearest I'd got to sailing was wearing a striped navy T-shirt.
As I stood there and drank in the sea air, I did a profit-and-loss balance sheet in my head. Life is good and has brought lots of unexpected delights over the years. But if you see me on the Dart carrying yellow wellies, you'll know I'm 'actioning' my sailing agenda.
Ocean's away. Thank you, Kinsale, for bringing me to my senses.