Outlandish inventor or poetic artist?
Watching from a moored yacht, I first saw Paddy in Church Bay, paddling at speed in a canoe fashioned from election billboards. I itched to meet a man who recycled waste to scull in the Sea of Moyle.
At the next Maritime Festival, he and several others were peddling a mobile bandstand. In the bright sunshine, a colourful party-bike – looking somewhere between carousel and converted trampoline, meandered along the front on Rathlin. Fiddle, bodhran, guitar and flute played from the upper deck while cyclists pushed below. Tale is, it was the prototype; a custom design preceding birthday and hen-party use in Belfast. His was the first in Northern Ireland.
Paddy climbed aboard to share a good red in our cabin, and I met this enigma who would later run my bath! Describing his appearance cannot give enough credit to his vibrant presence. Every cell of his being pops with ideas. Mop of black hair, unbarbered beard, dark sparkling eyes and chuckling conversation.
Real seaweed in your bath is lush and exotic and Paddy invented a floating one. The bath was rafted on four blue barrels strapped with scaffolding pipes. It was fed with hot seawater from an immersion tank and heated on-the-go from a rocket wood burner, made from an empty gas cylinder. As dusk fell, gelatinous seaweed covered my modesty and a paddle propelled me gently round the Bay gifting me the most profound and peaceful experience of my life.
The sound of laughter, a plastic bottle crackling or tin crumping accompanied the latest contraption. A metallic monster lobster, hydraulically powered by peddling a bike, munched through presented waste and fetched it with a dominant claw into the dustbin belly.
In the window box on the side of his van, right in front of the Manor House, the violas were thriving! Like some other vehicles on Rathlin, it should never make another journey but sometimes it just wasn’t there!
First published in “An Unfinished Thought: Short stories and poems” by Ballycastle Creative Writers Group 2019