News David Robbins

Wednesday 24 September 2014

David Robbins: A landmark day as we make a splash in Killiney

Published 27/08/2011 | 05:00

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It was the kind of day I always dreamed of when I gave up full-time working to become a stay-at-home dad. The sun was shining. The day lay before us like a present waiting to be opened. We had no appointments, no meetings, no calls on our time.

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There were things to be done in the house, and the garden needed attention too. But I reminded myself of JG Ballard, who brought up his family alone and vowed never to let himself become mired in domestic chores.

No, it was the open road for us, the joy of movement, the thrill of discovery and to hell with the dishes.

We decided on a trip to Killiney beach (pictured). Or rather, I decided. My six-year-old daughter needed a little cajoling. (She often needed some persuasion to fit into my idea of her perfect day.)

The dog was up for it, though, and her enthusiasm was infectious. The sun -- which often disappears as soon as you decide to venture out to enjoy it -- was accommodating too.

There was a slight sea mist along the shore when we arrived, but visibility was just good enough for me to see the dog race towards and then dance around two young women at the water's edge. She then voided her bowels just beside them. Nice.

As I scooped up her deposit, I fell into talk with the women, who wanted to know all about Pipsi. Dogs are second only to the weather as a near universal topic of conversation.

The dog did a couple of her trademark vertical leaps in a bid to lick their faces, and they decided she was half Jack Russell terrier, half kangaroo.

The mist burned off quickly. We set up camp a little way down the beach, towards the Bray end. Pipsi ran about happily and reminded me how cheering it is to have a dog. If they have a good walk and a swim and a play with another dog, say, you somehow feel a little better, a little more virtuous yourself.

I changed and went for a swim. The water was cold, but not as cold as it had been in the west a few days previously. I lay back on the beach and sighed. This is the life, I thought.

I looked at my daughter. She was sitting on a towel, her knees drawn into her chest, a picture of dejection.

"It's too stony," she said.

Just then, another dog bounded up, followed by her owners, a troupe of young girls. They were being minded by their cousin, an older girl of about 20 or so.

We chatted nervously to cover up the embarrassment caused by the sight of our respective dogs sniffing each other's genitals.

"I don't think he's going to get in on his own," said the cousin as her dog hesitated at the water's edge.

"You'll have to bring him in yourself," I joked. With that, she took off her jacket and waded into the sea fully clothed. A few minutes later, all the other girls did the same.

There they were, in their clothes, splashing around with their dog. No mention of stones, or of how cold the water was. No complaints about seaweed or the consistency of the sand.

I wished that my little girl was more like that, more devil-may-care, more intrepid, more sporty, more physical.

She was hovering now at the edge of the group of dripping girls. She had definitely taken it all in.

She waved to them as they picked their way over the stones to their car.

I looked about, at Killiney Hill with its obelisk on one side, and Bray Head with its cross on the other. The area about us -- Killiney, Dalkey, Shankill, Bray -- were full of landmarks from my own childhood.

Was I trying too hard to make them landmarks of hers?

Was I trying to make her fit into my notion of what a Dublin childhood ought to be, of what a nice day out ought to be, of what a girl ought to be, even?

"Right," I said. "What would you like to do?"

A little warm hand sneaked into mine. "Dad?"

"Yes."

"Could we go for a swim?"

drobbins@independent.ie

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