Cockles and Fizz

Yesterday the sea was calling. Island living is at its very best when we have seemingly endless days of sunshine and hot weather. I suggested to the Happy Farmer and his cousin that we head to the beach and try our hand at ‘cockling’. Ever since I was treated to steamed cockles on hot buttered toast last weekend I have been craving shell fish.

On Friday we even popped to the Locindaal Hotel for one of Iain’s amazing seafood platters. Lobster, crab, langoustine and clams are all served with a bucket of chips. It was incredibly tasty.

On Sunday it was time to head to the beach and have a go at harvesting some of our own shellfish. As we drove towards Killinallan, where the sea flows into Loch Gruinart, I could see there were going to be issues. The tide was in, leaving little sand for the Happy Farmer to start raking for cockles. Not having any experience of cockling I thought our mission was doomed.

We headed down to the shores for a ponder anyway, flicked a few clumps of seaweed back to reveal nothing but the odd sand shrimp and tiny crabs, scuttling sideways for cover. There were plenty of empty cockle shells teasing us, but the shellfish themselves were proving to be highly elusive. Paddling into the water was bliss, the sea was invitingly warm. Undeterred I continued my search for cockles, wading into the soothing waters. I spied one on its side beneath the rippling waves, success, as I lifted it, a small spurt of water squished at me, as the shell clamped firmly shut. It took a good few minutes more, paddling deeper, eyes glued to the sandy depths beneath, until I spied another cockle, and so the search went on, until my pockets were filled, and I could hold no more cockles between my fingers. I found it incredibly addictive and discovered a highly competitive driving force within as without my supreme efforts I think we would have gone home hungry. The Happy Farmer found about five cockles, his cousin quite a few more, but I was the clear winner when it came time to fill the bucket. It was so much fun. With perseverance we managed to find an area where cockles were heading to the surface of the sandy depths to feed. After a few hours the bucket boasted a small harvest. I think I could quite possibly still be paddling in those waves yet had the Happy Farmer not called ‘time’ on the whole proceedings.

Arriving back at the farmhouse, legs still tingling refreshingly from an afternoon of paddling in the warm salty sea we celebrated with a snack of steamed cockles on hot buttered toast washed down with a glass of chilled fizz. Does island life get any better? It would seem so as tonight, the remainder of the cockles will be mixed with garlic, wine, chilli and tomatoes for a feast of ‘spaghetti alle vongole’. Happy summer! Happy island life!

Until next time…

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