Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sea views and a late lunch in Bray

The Beach House restaurant in Bray offers stunning sea views

Patrick Comerford

I visited my GP this morning for my regular B12 injection, to hear the results of recent hospital tests, and for my latest discussion about my Sarcoidosis. It looks like I need more tests for my cholesterol levels and my liver. And by the time we had got through all that the full morning was over ... indeed, it was early afternoon by the time I got out.

Thank goodness it was not a normal working day. I hardly realised it was going to take that long. Otherwise I might have taken my laptop and camera and tried to do some work in the waiting room.

Now that it was coming up to 3 p.m., what could I do?

I picked up The Irish Times and the Guardian and two of us headed across to Bray, thinking I might have a late lunch in Palazzo on Strand Road and a walk on the beach.

Palazzo, one of my favourite Italian restaurants in Ireland, is run by the Divito and Borza families. These two Italian families originate in the province of Frosinone, in the Valle di Comino, near Monte Cassino, and they have been in the restaurant business in Ireland since the 1940s.

However, Palazzo was closed when I got to Bray. Disappointed, I headed across the street to the Beach House restaurant, behind Sea Life and facing directly out onto the seafront in Bray. My disappointment was quickly dissipated.

When this was the Barracuda it was a steak and seafood restaurant that never appealed to me as a vegetarian. So this was my first time in the Beach House, and I was taken aback by the location. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer stunning views of Bray Head and the Irish Sea. The dining areas are divided into three levels to take maximum advantage of the sea views.

Looking out on the sea, dusk was falling quickly, but there were pink streaks in the eastern sky, reflecting the sunset, and there was a twinkle in the waters bating gently against the pebble shore. So many families were out a strolling, it was as though we are all rejoicing that the Arctic weather has passed and the snows have melted.

The whole restaurant exudes modern Mediterranean elegance in its design – and there are private dining areas designed to look like private summer beach huts.

Despite the elegance, the menu offers simple, locally sourced, bistro style food at reasonable prices. I was only there for a light lunch and a double espresso, but I’m tempted to return.

Opening hours for the next few days are: today (29 December), 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; tomorrow (Thursday, 30 December), 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; New Year’s Eve (Friday), New Year’s Day (Saturday), and Sunday 2 January: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Beach House is easily accessible with ample car parking and is only three minutes’ walk from the Bray Dart station.

After lunch, I headed for a walk along the Promenade, as far as Bray Head and back again. It was too dark to go down onto the beach, but this was the next best thing to a beach walk that I have had for the past few days, and like all beach walks it lifted my spirits, and made me feel good no matter how much my Sarcoidosis may make me feel uncomfortable.

Some homeless people, taking advantage of the dry evening air, had hung their blankets and sleeping bags out to dry.

I can complain about the water supplies being cut off throughout Ireland due to poor management on the part of local and national government. But I can barely imagine how rough the past few weeks have been for these homeless people. I suppose I really have very little to complain about, and a lot to be thankful for.

Five golden rings on the Fifth Day of Christmas

On the Fifth Day of Christmas: five golden rings

Patrick Comerford

The Fifth Day of Christmas, 29 December, is the Feast of Saint Thomas Becket in many parts of the Anglican Communion. In 1170, on the Fifth Day of Christmas, four knights from the court of King Henry II burst into Canterbury Cathedral as the archbishop was on his way to Vespers. Inside the cloister door, they murdered Thomas Becket, whose defence of the rights of the Church had angered his one-time friend, the king. Within three years, Thomas was canonised, and the shrine of Saint Thomas of Canterbury would become one of the most popular destinations for pilgrims.

In his play, Murder in the Cathedral, T.S. Eliot reconstructs from historical sources the archbishop’s final sermon, preached in Canterbury Cathedral on Christmas Day. It is a remarkable meditation on the meaning of Christmas, martyrdom, and the true meaning of “peace on earth.”

In the Orthodox tradition, this day is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which was observed yesterday in the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions.

The fifth verse of the traditional song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, is:

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
five golden rings,
four colly birds,
three French hens,
two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.


The Christian interpretation of this song often sees the five golden rings as figurative representations of the Torah or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The Church of Ireland Lectionary readings for the Eucharist today are: I John 2: 7-11; Psalm 96: 1-9; Luke 2: 23-35.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.