Sunday, 8 March 2015

Visions of blue Aegean skies and
seas in Bettystown this afternoon

A vision of the Aegean on the beach in Bettystown, Co Meath, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

Bettystown was like an Aegean island this afternoon, with Mediterranean blue skies and seas, just little patches light fluffy white clouds, and once the tide had gone out there the beach was an inviting array golden and silver sands, divided by rivulets and small pools of water that reflect the blue skies.

I have been working all through the week and right through the weekend, apart from a short break of an hour or two yesterday afternoon when I went for a walk through Harold’s Cross and Rathgar.

When I finished early this afternoon, there was a warm Spring feeling in the air, and two of us decided to head north to Bettystown, Co Meath, for a late lunch in Relish Café, where there is always a warm welcome.

The field of golden daffodils in Gormanston this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Before we got there, we stopped in Gormanston to admire that the large field of daffodils that always comes to full bloom at this time of the year.

As the green buds start opening into yellow flowers it is important to pick them immediately or they miss the markets. In the warmth of the sunshine this afternoon, at least three people were busy at work in the field, hunched over as they hand-picked the fresh flowers.

At Julianstown, it was a delight to see that the pub that has been closed for about four years has reopened.The newly-named Lime Kiln Gastropub is an exciting development for village has been without a post office, hotel, pub, restaurant or place to eat for too many years. The car park outside was full, and this looks like a good start to a new business.

We continued on through Laytown, and along the coast to Julianstown. The tide was beginning to recede and we had a short walk on the beach for taking our table by a window in Relish.

Aegean reflections seen from the terrace at Relish in Bettystown this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Later, I stood on the terrace behind Relish, on the top of a sandbank, looking out on the islets of sand left in the rivulets and pools by the ebb tide.

We walked for a mile or so along the beach, with the towers at Mornington before us and the Cooley Peninsula and the Mountains of Mourne beyond in the distance.

The sun was setting in the west as we drove back round the M50 on the outskirts of Dublin. We stopped briefly at the Grand Canal in Inchicore, where a dozen or more swans were lazily enjoying the late evening, with a distant purple and orange glow left behind by the setting sun.

Swans on the Grand Canal in Inchicore this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

I had walked along the banks of the Grand Canal yesterday as well, watching the swans in the afternoon sunshine at Harold’s Cross, and two or three people in kayaks paddling up and down between the bridges at Rialto and Portobello. It certainly was not Venice, but the bridges and the canal waters, with fresh life, were exhilarating.

The grassy banks in Harold’s Cross were covered in clumps of daffodils too, and a park that I knew well for part of my teens has been spruced up, with a new café and the Victorian “dripping pool” has been cleaned-up.

On my way from Kenilworth to Rathgar, an unfamiliar figure waved at me and came up to say hello. Maurice Curtis is an author and editor and publisher of a number of local histories.

As he introduced himself, I remembered Maurice, and his brothers Stan and Joe, from childhood. How could he recognise me, I wondered. I am still wondering: as a young teenager I did not have a beard, a bald head or a broad black hat to protect me against cold weather.

Spring willows at the River Dodder in Rathgar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Oh well, I walked on along Orwell Road to the banks of the River Dodder, where the surface water and the weirs were sparkling in the afternoon sunshine and the willows dipping into the water were beginning to show signs of green growth.

Perhaps it’s a Wind in the Willows thing, but I have always liked being by willows that drip into waters, pools and lakes.

Perhaps it goes back to those teenage days in Lichfield, when I associate my spiritual awakening in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital in Lichfield, with long walks in the days that followed around the edges of Minster Pool, enjoying the water and the willows.

At least four willows have been planted one after the other to maintain a line of succession with a willow first planted here by Dr Samuel Johnson.

Earlier in this busy week, I had visited Dr Johnson’s House in Gough Square off Fleet Street in London.

I stood by the banks of the Dodder for just a short time yesterday afternoon, watching the fresh willows dip into waters of the river as it made its away along to the cascading waterfall, and thought of Kenneth Grahame’s description in The Wind I the Willows of how “the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.”

‘The river still chattered on … a babbling procession’ … the River Dodder in the sunshine yesterday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

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