20 December 2019

There is a beauty to winter
that I did not appreciate
in my younger years

A winter’s afternoon at the harbour in Skerries in north Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

I was in Dublin for a day yesterday, to collect some books needed for work reasons and to see my GP for a Vitamin B12 injection and for advice for a major travel trip planned in the New Year.

The busy preparations and demands of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany and the extra rounds of school visits and church meetings mean I have spent little time in Dublin in recent weeks.

After yesterday’s working morning in Dublin, two of us decided to take a break and spend the afternoon in Skerries.

The storms and high waves the previous night meant the harbour was quiet and most small boats had been lifted over the previous day or two.

In the rain and with high waters, the harbour looked forbidding, even foreboding, but still very beautiful. There is a beauty to winter weather that I never appreciated when I was much younger.

Darkness was closing in, and we decided against a walk on the beach on such a wet, cold afternoon, and instead went for lunch in the Olive on Strand Street and then crossed to Gerry’s, where the wine shelves are still the most fascinating in any supermarket I know, and to buy some candy canes for a sermon illustration on the Sunday after Christmas.

As we made our way back along the north coast, Loughshinny and Rush were blanketed in a winter darkness that I have learned to appreciate at Christmas-time.

Google Maps warned us to avoid the traffic on the M50. We should have ignored the warning. We ended up on narrow, remote, dark and flooded roads in parts of north and west Dublin that I am sure I have never seen in daylight or sunlight. If Chris Rea is using Google Maps, then I understand why he is still ‘driving home for Christmas.’

Back in Knocklyon, I read a report in The Guardian that while a diet like mine is generally healthy, low in cholesterol and protective of heart disease, people like me must take vitamin B12 supplements or risk a condition that causes permanent numbness in their hands and feet.

The report cited experts who say most people get their vitamin B12 from milk, but the plant-based substitutes do not have high enough levels to protect adults and children from peripheral neuropathy, which is irreversible.

I had been warned about all this over 10 years ago when a battery of tests confirmed both my sarcoidosis and my severe Vitamin B12 deficiency, and I had heard the warnings then of the danger of a serious neuropathy. Other risks include bone fractures as a result of lower bone density.

I was glad I had visited my GP earlier in the day. But the walk around the harbour at Skerries also lifted my spirits before returning to Askeaton today. I may have sarcoidosis and a Vitamin B12 deficiency – but they will never have me.

In Olive on Strand Street, Skerries, for a late afternoon lunch (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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