Friday, 6 December 2013

Bray escapes Shakespeare’s ‘winter wind’
freeze and bitter sky … for an afternoon

Looking towards Bray Head from the beach at Bray, Co Wicklow, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship if feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remembered not.

Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.


– William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

Shakespeare was much kinder in his attitude to winter than I am. His cheery words about winter in As You Like It have inspired the composer John Rutter. But I am happy that winter has not yet arrived with all its fierce winds and bitter freezes, and that the east coast of Ireland has thankfully escaped much of the storm that has been sweeping across the rest of Europe with great force. Indeed, at some times during this week, it has been warmer and brighter than it is in Athens.

It has been a busy week ever since last Sunday, when I preached in the morning at the Cathedral Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and took part in the candlelit Advent Procession that afternoon.

The previous day I had been at the consecration of the Most Revd Pat Storey as Bishop of Meath and Kildare, and it was such a busy weekend that I was unable to be in Wexford for the launch of the latest edition of the Journal of the Wexford Historical Society, which includes my paper on Josiah Hort, a curious 18th century Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin.

With staff on students on the steps of the chapel in Trinity College Dublin at Thursday’s commencements (Photograph: Ronnie Diffin, 2013)

On Thursday, I was in Trinity College Dublin for commencements at which MTh degrees were conferred on students from the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. Later that evening, I was at the launch of a new book on the history of the Church of Ireland.

Now I am facing a busy working weekend, with part-time MTh students who are in residence for the weekend.

The tide was in at Bray this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

I was expecting to go without a walk on a beach this weekend, and so it was a real delight to be offered the opportunity to snatch a few hours in Bray, Co Wicklow, this afternoon.

The tide was in and to the east the clear blue sky and sea were particularly bright, reflecting the light from the low, slowly setting sun. The few clouds above were gentle but majesty in their slow sweeps, and seemed autumn had stretched itself almost to its limits.

We strolled through Victorian and Edwardian terraces of Bray for a while, and had coffee and sandwiches in Gusto Italiano in Goldsmith Terrace. This is an authentic Italian café, owned and run by Italians.

Doubtless, winter is eventually going to close in and the “green holly”.will be announcing that Christmas is near. But today it was refreshing to have a reminder of the Mediterranean, by the beach and in Gusto Italiano, before getting back to work in the late afternoon.

Autumn-like clouds and sun above the bandstand beside the beach in Bray this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As a friend remembered not.


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