17 January 2010

Savouring every moment of a sun-kissed afternoon

It was like an early Spring day on the beach in Skerries this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

It was only three walks since I had a walk on a beach … but it seemed like ages.

There was no opportunity for a beach walk while I was on holiday in Orlando. Even when I got to the east coast of Florida, I found there was no access the beaches I could see from the Kennedy Space Center.

Those beach walks are so important for my feeling of well-being, and helping me to get some fresh air through my lungs to ease some of the symptoms of sarcoidosis.

And so, having worked through the weekend, I was delighted that this was a bright sunny Sunday.

After preaching at the Sung Eucharist in the Chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and light snack with students and other faculty members, it was an opportune time to head out to Skerries.

As I approached Skerries from Rush, the sun was shining on the water, the sky was clear and blue, the sea was calm, and the islands off the coast appeared to be basking in what looked like an early Spring afternoon.

After such a terrible winter, it seems everyone in Skerries appreciated the arrival of bright sunshine and the dramatic rise in temperature. The footpath beside the beach and the low dunes along South Strand main beach was packed with families strolling in the crisp, bright air.

The tide was out, and along the shoreline even the birds appeared to have been lulled into the false impression the Spring was just around the corner.

Up on Red Island and around the Martello Tower, couples and families were thronging the footpaths, and the playground was full of children.

Skerries has always been a paradise for bikers, and back on Harbour Road, the harbour-side street outside Joe May’s was clogged with bikes this afternoon.

Afternoon sunshine sparkles on the waters in Skerries Harbour (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

From the Harbour, I turned back in behind the sailing club and the sea scouts to have one more walk along the South Strand and to savour every moment of this sun-kissed afternoon.

Skerries South Beach ... savouring every moment of a sun-kissed afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

I stopped off in Gerry’s to buy the Sunday papers. I’ve said this before, and this is still is one of the best wine shops in Dublin. I picked up three bottles for the coming week, and then headed across Strand Street to the Olive.

Saint Patrick’s goat

Skerries Book Shop ... worth exploring (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

A few doors down the street from the Olive are the charming Carnegie Library, which is one of the architectural features of Skerries; Saint Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church; and the Skerries Book Shop, which I hope to explore soon.

Part of the Skerries legend is the story of how Saint Patrick was expelled from Wicklow and settled on one of the small islands of the Skerries coast. The saint brought a goat with him. But one day, while he was on a missionary journey, the people of Skerries rowed out to Saint Patrick’s Island, stole the saint’s goat, killed it, cooked it and feasted on it.

When he returned and found his goat missing, Saint Patrick confronted the people of Skerries on Red Island. When they denied stealing his goat, they found they could only bleat, and their voices returned only when they told the truth and confessed their sin.

Saint Patrick and his goat ... reunited on the wall of Saint Patrick’s Roman Catholic Parish Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

In 1989, the 50th anniversary of the building of the present Saint Patrick’s Church, a bronze goat’s head was commissioned and mounted on the church wall. The inscription on the plaque reads: Quid nostrum fuit reddituum est propter deum et necessarios amicos MCMLXXXIX – “That which was ours is restored on account of God and for necessary friendship 1989.”

And so Saint Patrick got his goat back.

Dining al fresco

Back at the Olive, my favourite cafĂ© in Fingal County, I sat down to a pleasant antipasto plate and coffee. They’ve been without water in Skerries for most of the past week. But they still know how to make a good double espresso at the Olive.

Not only had I managed to have my first walk on a beach this year, but this afternoon I also sat out and had an open-air meal for this first time this year.

The sun was setting, and it was dusky as the street lights came on Strand Street. There was a slim crescent moon to the south as I headed back out through Holmpatrick and Loughshinny to Rush, watched the lights come on in Portrane and Donabate, and then onto the M50 and home.

It’s good to feel that normal life is returning to this part of Ireland. And that’s good for my wellbeing too. I may have sarcoidosis, but walks on the beach in Skerries ensure sarcoidosis will never have me. And sure ... isn’t there a grand stretch in evenings already?

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