This piece was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about the amount of times we had worn a bikini on an Irish beach in recent years. It was barely a handful—madness. And such a tragedy considering we are surrounded by such beautiful beaches. But no, if we want a bit of a dip it seems our destiny is to be held to ransom by the likes of Ryanair. Thank God O’ Leary has chilled out and lets us bring on the extra cabin bag.
On the bright side there isn’t much call for tidying your pubes, unless you count aqua aerobics of a Monday.
An Irish beach is a funny thing. On a sunny day the sand is strewn with bodies, suncream, garish towels and packets of Chickatees.
Kaftans from Penneys, Tupperware and coolboxes filled with ham sandwiches.
Children run around with sand on their arses shouting proudly: “Mammy, look at my thandcathle!” They ask for ice-cream, pick their togs out of their bums and earnestly dig holes, tongues stuck out in concentration (a serious business, digging holes).
Of course there’s always a group who aren’t messing around: deckchairs, roast chickens and blaring music. The works.
Everyone thinks: Ah for feck sake will they turn that shite off. The cheek of them blasting their music like that. Except they don’t say anything because the mum looks like she would kick the head off you as soon as look at you.
But if you look at the sea you will find that only a few hardy souls have braved the water. It’s like the end of your bowl of Cheerios.
“Oh Jesus it’s too cold! I won’t be going in there girl, but sure listen it’s nice to sit out in the sun so it is.”
And then the knowing nods: “Oh yeah sure it’s too early in the summer for the sea to have warmed up. You’ll be looking at mid-August I’d say before you can head in for a dip without getting the pneumonia.”
“Oh lads, I got myself a wetsuit there in Aldi, thirty euro – that’s what you want to get yourselves. Keep an eye out now, there’s new stock coming in the whole time.”
And then Tomas, who fancies himself a bit of a philosopher, says sagely: “Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” And his pained wife looks at him and thinks for the umpteenth time: Jesus, if I had my time again…
Then some fella gets up, brushes custard cream crumbs from his chest and says: “Ah would you go away! You’re a pack of wusses! Nothing like a good refreshing dunk in the sea.”
Off he goes at a hundred miles an hour to the shore, feeling like Mitch Buchanan. Then suddenly he stops, gingerly dips his toe in and walks back slowly to his towel.
“Em, yeah, I… em sure I might go in later. I eh, I thought I saw a jellyfish. Here Nelly pass me a bockle of orange will ya. What are ye laughin’ at?”
And then they go home and book a holiday to Benalmádena.
First published June 2014