Just a Walk on a Beach

On Friday afternoon, I bailed from the office a little bit early to drive my son down to Westport. There was a concert that evening and he had to be at the Town Hall Theatre for five for a sound check. Cool, eh? And what a super concert it was. Teenagers performing for their peers with all the talent and positivity one could possibly wish for.

So I dropped him off, bang on the five mark. I am nothing if not punctual. From there, I had no plan. The concert was  due to kick off at seven and I wanted to be there for that but what to do for the two hours in between? I had a rather romantic image of me sitting in a coffee shop reading my book. Lovely but that never really works for me. After the coffee is dispatched, I quickly start to feel like an economic blight on the coffee shop establishment, taking up a whole table, outstaying my imagined welcome. I know, I know, it’s just how I tend to go on. It’s a bit late for rehabilitation now. 

I also toyed with driving home, kicking back for a while, and then coming back for the concert. All well and good but with a 24 minute drive home and a 24 minute drive back, the kicking-back-time seemed fairly meagre.

This is where I might make you a wee bit jealous. Maybe not. 

“I know,” I said to myself, “I’ll go for a walk on the beach.”

Because I could, you see. It’s one of the many fringe benefits of living where I do, in the County of Mayo’. I don’t live on the sea, the crashing waves don’t wake me in the morning, the sea breezes don’t gently stir my net curtains. Hell, I don’t even have net curtains. The sea may not be right outside my front door but it’s not all that far away either. Far enough for a trip there to be a tiny excursion, close enough to make that entirely possible. 

So I went for a walk on the beach. Just that. Nothing’s going to happen in the rest of this post. I’m just going to write about my walk on the beach. I thought you should know, in case you might be expecting pirates or dog fights or gratuitous nudity or something. 

Just the walk, that’s all. 

The beach is about a  ten minutes drive from Westport. It’s a nice drive. Green, tree lined roads, nice houses, glimpses of the bay, a run past the base of Croagh Patrick and Murrisk Village and then the twisty lane down to the beach.

Even though the bay and the water had been seen, along the drive down, the first view of the beach is still a big surprise. Suddenly, around a bend, there’s a shock of brilliant sandy-pea-green water, a colour so unknown in my normal everyday routine. The sky is patches of blue with substantial grey/white clouds galloping across. The breeze through the open car window is tart and briny. 

It’s five thirty on a Friday. I should just be finishing up work. I park up. There are just three other cars. I walk down to the beach and none of the owners of the three cars are anywhere to be seen. This huge wild amazingly coloured beach is entirely mine. I set off walking. Twenty minutes out, twenty minutes back, and the drive back to Westport will see me right for the concert. Having made the quick calculation and checked the time, I can let it all go. I can just walk for a while. 

It’s a complete multi-sensory experience, when you’re on your own and you can open yourself up to it. How unusual to have your shoes sink gently into the ground beneath you. How furtive the little creatures who scuttle out of your way as you go. I walk along the line of the water, adjusting my route along the constantly invading advance of the waves. There is bladder wrack strewn around and perfectly rounded stones and shells glittering with some encrusted sandy mother-of-pearl. There is a boat mast out toward the horizon and some solitary crying bird on the wing. There is the mountain behind, dominant in the clear air. There is the solitude, the amazing exclusivity of it all. 

Half way along the beach and the rounded stones gather and run tight down to the water line. These are more difficult to walk quickly over. They press on the soles of the shoes and make you wave your arms about unsteadily as you go. 

Magically, as I approach this part, the receding tide seems to draw back a couple of foot more and a slender sandy causeway opens up between the stones and waves . I negotiate it, feeling unusually lucky. The final sweep of the waves keep trying to gain the pathway back and I have to step into the stones on every seventh or eight attempt but, apart from that, the new sandy path sees me right. I compare myself amusedly to Moses and how the Red Sea parted to let him and his posse through. I took a photo of the sandy path. That's it up top.

This little event solidifies an amorphous feeling of my being at exactly the right place at exactly the right time. A confirmation that I had done well today to eschew the temptations of the coffee shop and of home for this mini-adventure, this sensory dream. 

Getting back to the car park was a little bit like waking up. 

And, like I said, the concert was great. 

3 comments:

John O'Sullivan said...

I doesn't feel I'm really home we I go to my parents until we do a walk on Bertra, doesn't matter what time of year. Its a magical place, nice story as usual Ken, making me home sick!!

Marc Paterson said...

You should post that photo on Instagram. Oh you don't have Instagram. Get an Instagram account.

Once again our lives seem to parallel ome another. I live about ten minute's drive (30 minutes bike ride) from the sea and have occasional opportunities to walk, or just simply stare at the majesty of it all.

Jim Murdoch said...

I may have been born in the heart of Glasgow—Duke Street Hospital, a short walk from George Square—but I grew up beside the sea. Water—and not only seas but rivers, streams and ponds—was very much a part of my childhood. When I first took my daughter home to meet her grandparents I drove down to the coast to show her the sea. Such a romantic gesture. I’m not sure where that came from but her mother indulged me despite the fact it was dark and blustery and the last place I should’ve been taking a babe in arms. I’ve not set foot on a beach in over twenty-five years and I do miss it. As a boy (most notably as a teenager) I was never away from the place but always late in the day when I could be alone or as alone as any of us can expect to be in a public place. I’m surprised I haven’t written more about it. You express it well, “the solitude, the amazing exclusivity of it all.”