27 December 2014

Seizing the day and enjoying
a walk along the shore in Bray

Pink lights in the white clouds beyond Bray this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

After Christmas Day and Saint Stephen’s Day, it seems everyone needs to get out of the house, go for a walk and clear their heads.

It was a busy Christmas this year, helping to administer the Chalice at the Midnight Mass in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, celebrating the Christmas Eucharist in Saint Werburgh’s Church on Christmas Morning, and then crossing the street for the Christmas Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, celebrated by Archbishop Michael Jackson, and once again assisted at the administration of the Holy Communion.

After dinner on Christmas Day, I was quite tired, and sat up to watch the most talked-of movie of the season, The Interview. Saint Stephen’s Day was more relaxed, with opportunities to catch up on the Christmas editions of East Enders and Downton Abbey. I even began watching the box set of House of Cards.

But today was a day for clearing the head and getting a little fresh air, and two of us drove out to Bray. Thirty years ago, Bray, in north Co Wicklow, was quite a distance away. But now the M50 ring road around Dublin means Bray is only 20 minutes away from where I live on a day like today.

For a few years, I edited the front page of the Bray People when I worked with the People Group of local newspapers based in Wexford. A generation before that, my parents moved to Bray and lived there for a short time immediately after they married.

But today I like Bray for some of my own reasons.

Although the beach at Bray is pebbly without much remaining sand, Bray is a good location for beach walks, with views to the south of Bray Head and the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, and to the north of the Dalkey Islands and Dublin Bay.

Bray can be run-down in many places, but it has its own unique character that means it can never be mistaken for another suburb of Dublin.

Even though the old Town Hall has been inexplicably handed over to McDonalds, there is some elegant Victorian and Edwardian architecture in the town that rivals any to be found in English and Welsh seaside resorts, thanks to the patronage of the Brabazon family of Kilruddery House, Earls of Meath.

Bray has good maritime and seafaring facilities, so that at the south end of the beach there is a rowing club, and at the north end of the beach there is a small marina with a sailing club.

And Bray seems to have its own colony of Italian families, to the second or even third generation, which means it has a generous number of genuine Italian cafés and restaurants.

Two men and a dog in a boat rowing parallel with the shoreline in Bray this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

This afternoon, two of us went for a walk on the pebbly shoreline on the beach in Bray, and in the late winter afternoon delighted in the white, snow-filled clouds on the horizons. Thankfully, the clouds have not broken in this part of Ireland, and we have not been hit by the snow that has blanketed parts of England during the past few days.

Once again, parallel to the shoreline, the two men and a dog I had seen in a boat at the beginning of November were enjoying the journey between Bray Head and the marina. They came had come from Bray Head and were rowing parallel with the full length of the beach, with the men working hard as the rowed persistently and consistently, while the dog was enjoying himself, wagging as his tail as he watched the waves roll and break against the shoreline.

And once again, all three, those two men and the dog, seemed oblivious to the number of people enjoying their post-Christmas walk on the beach and along the Promenade.

Throwing down the gauntlet ... signs along the Promenade are inviting swimmers to join the Bray Charities Sea Swim on New Year’s Day Swim (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

All along the Promenade, signs are inviting participants to join the Bray Charities Sea Swim at noon on New Year’s Day. Now, that’s a challenge.

Carpe Diem … a taste of Sardinia and Florence at the end of December (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

After walking the full-length of the Promenade, we returned for coffee in Carpe Diem on Albert Avenue, close to the corner with Strand Road and across the street from the Promenade and Sealife.

We each had a Piadina, a traditional, thin Italian flatbread, filled with goat’s cheese, spinach and roasted peppers, and two great double espressos. The café also offers great Italian wines by the glass, and I had a glass of Vermentino, a dry white wine unique to Sardinia.

Outside, a man was parking a carefully nourished and cherished care dating back to 1958. But a more wondrous sight was the way those snow-filled white clouds over the Dalkey Islands were catching the pink lights from the setting sun to the west. There was a bright crescent moon in the blue sky to the south.

Carpe Diem … we had seized the day.

A surprise sight in Albert Avenue outside Carpe Diem (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

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