25 March 2011

Kissed by God on a sun-filled day in Laytown and Bettystown

The tide was out at Laytown and the sun was shining warmly this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

The clocks move forward an hour tomorrow night, and already there’s a promise in the air not only that Summer Time is arriving but that summer itself is on the way.

These last few days have been balmy in Dublin, with the temperatures in the mid to high teens. After celebrating the Eucharist to mark the Feast of the Annunciation this morning, two of us seized the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine and headed north to the beaches of Laytown and Bettystown in Co Meath.

The sun was warm, the tide was out and the sand was soft and golden under our feet as we walked along the beach from the shops at Laytown to the Bettystown.

The sand was soft and golden under our feet as we walked along the beach to the Bettystown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The full walk along the East Coast Slí na Slainte from Laytown, through Bettystown, to Mornington, is 5 km – or 10 km return. But we were pacing ourselves gently and we stopped at Bettystown for lunch at the Relish Café, a restaurant with the most delightful setting at Bayview, at the end of a terrace of houses atop a sandy bank looking straight over the beach and out to the sea.

I had a roasted Mediterranean vegetable basket on a bed Of Moroccan cous cous with melted goat’s cheese, sweet chilli and pesto dressing, my friend had a fish dish, we shared a bowl of stuffed olives, and there was fresh brown bread, garlic bread, and water.

Relish has been refurbished in recent weeks but has lost none of its charm and sense of intimacy. The colour schemes are Mediterranean, with bright blues and whites, the walls are decorated with beach scenes, including paintings of the Laytown races, a new bar has been created, and the views out the windows must the envy of any restaurateur.

We were glad we arrived early; the place was soon filling up. But on a day like this, it would have been impossible, anyway, to resist the temptation to take our coffee out onto the terrace and linger in the early afternoon sun for a little longer as we enjoyed the peace, the calm, and the gentle mixture of soft music in the background and the gentle waves below us.

Lingering in the early afternoon sun on the terrace at Relish in Bettystown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

I was reminded of a warm Sunday afternoon in Santorini, sitting in a terrace bar overlooking the sea, listening to Mozart and sipping wine … or was it just coffee. We promised ourselves once again to return to Relish for dinner some weekend evening – soon.

Walking back south along the beach to Laytown, the tide was slowly rolling back in. Brent geese gathered in small groups along the shore or top of sandbanks left like tiny islands by the incoming water. And in the sunshine on the walk back I felt I had been kissed by God this afternoon.

A pretty terrace of houses facing the beach at Laytown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

We could have retraced our steps quite pleasantly, but we had promised to get to Portrane before the end of the afternoon, and so headed south to Skerries. We had been in Skerries on Wednesday night for a Lenten talk in Holmpatrick Parish, and had taken a late night drive around the harbour. The lights around the harbour and the clear sky gave us a very different view of Skerries that evening. It seemed too late for a walk on the beach, but that sight on Wednesday night had brought me cheer and comfort after two days sick at home.

Acres and acres of daffodils in Gormanston ... on Daffodil Day (Photograph; Patrick Comerford, 2011)

From Laytown, we headed back through Julianstown, and stopped in wonder at Gormanston to gaze on a field of daffodils … acres and acres of daffodils – how appropriate on Daffodil Day, the main fundraising day for the Irish Cancer Society.

We headed on through Balbriggan and along the coast towards Skerries, stopping to admire the view from the northern approaches to Skerries across to Skerries Harbour. It was so tempting to stay and to linger.

Skerries Harbour, seen from the Balbriggan Road (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

We drove on through Rush, around Rogerstown Estuary, and through Donabate village to Portrane to visit my cousin Mary Lynders. And for an hour we sat in the sunshine at The Quay, just talking, enjoying the gentle sunshine, and looking out at the sea and the coast stretching from the Burrow back to Rush.

I had a bad reaction to my medication earlier this week; it was no fun being out of touch with friends, colleagues and students for two days. Today, however, I really enjoyed God’s creation for those precious hours today. My medication is working once again, and today I felt I had as much energy as I had long before sarcoidosis was diagnosed.

The Feast of the Annunciation is the promise of God coming among us and sharing our humanity. And that promise was alive today.

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