Thursday 21 November 2019

This Man's Life: An evening spent by the Sandycove sea proves Alan Bennett wrong

Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Alan Bennett is not often wrong. But the great curmudgeon was wrong on so many levels when he said: "I've never seen the point of the sea, except where it meets the land. The shore has a point. The sea has none."

The sea very definitely had a point last Wednesday night in Dublin, or I'd imagine, further afield, across the coastline of our great little country. For my great little children, in particular. My three-year-old daughter, my five-month-old son and my ageless wife and I enjoyed an evening by the sea in Dun Laoghaire and Sandycove (we are going out on a boat this morning off the coast of Howth followed by lunch on land at our favourite restaurant in the posh peninsula that is Howth, King Sitric. We might even go for a swim afterwards once our lunch has gone down.)

But back to Alan Bennett being wrong. Last Wednesday evening, we sat by the sea and gazed out across Dun Laoghaire Harbour and Dublin Bay. Our tummies were nicely full because we'd enjoyed a nice bite to eat at the National Yacht Club (I'm not a member; I bunked in through an open door!)

We then went down to the pier and just enjoyed the weather in all its glory. Little kids were going out in groups in boats. My daughter took off her shoes and socks and paddled with some kids she had just met. They were soon acting like they had known each other all their lives.

Kids are a lesson to us all in so many ways. They teach us how to make friends and the value of friendship, don't they? It's wonderful to observe three- and four-year-olds behaving beautifully like they have known each other for decades; decades blessed only by happiness, joy, laughter... and ice creams.

For my daughter going past Teddy's opposite Dun Laoghaire pier and not stopping to get an ice cream - "a pink one with sprinkles, daddy!" - would be like walking past a playground and not going in for "a tiny go" on the swings.

So we all had ice creams at Teddy's after we left the National Yacht Club and then went in for a tiny go (which inevitably became a big go) on the swings and the slides in the playground in the People's Park nearby.

Afterwards we drove the short distance to Sandycove where my wife went for a swim. My daughter ran in after her for a proper paddle. She then made sandcastles and threw pebbles into the sea with a new friend for life she had met three seconds earlier on the shore line as mummy splashed about in the water.

(The sea has a point. It keeps the missus happy. On one of our first dates we went for lunch in Dalkey and then went to the beach in Killiney, where she went for a swim in her togs which she had in her bag, while I stood on the shore and refused to go in because it was too cold but really because I am the opposite of Poldark when it comes to taking my shirt off. )

Last Wednesday night the sun shone on Dublin Bay.

In the distance, Howth floating on the ocean, seemed like only a swim away in this hazy heat. Our young son was in my arms on the beach, literally lapping it up. He had his tiny tootsies in the sand; the water was lapping over his toes. This was his first experience of a beach.

And the little fella had a look on his face that said that he loved the sensation of sand between his tiny toes, the water trickling between said tiny toes and indeed the feeling of warm sun glistening on his Factor 50-ed baby skin was definitely an experience he would like more of. (He will be pining for the sea this morning in Howth, so.)

With the sun going down in Dublin Bay at 9.30pm, my wife Aoife was still swimming, daughter Emilia was still making sandcastles with her life-long bessy mate and Daniel was still fascinated by this thing called a grain of sand.

I was going to quote him those lines by Blake from Auguries of Innocence ("To see a world in a grain of sand. And a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand. And eternity in an hour") but the five-month- old would probably have hit me with his nappy. And rightly so, too.

It was such a beautiful evening by - and in - the sea that no one wanted to leave the beach in the sunshine.

As Van Morrison sings in the concluding line of Coney Island, 'Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time?'

Even Mr Bennett might have raised a begrudging smile had he been on the Sandycove beach next to Daniel and Emilia last Wednesday evening.

Sunday Independent

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