After my spurt of home pride yesterday morning, I left the flat and made my way to Connolly Station. To meet with a visitor from the Netherlands, on her maiden voyage to Ireland.
On that glorious summer day – the hottest of the year so far, without a rain-cloud in the sky – we were going to the beach. Dublin – being on the coast – has many beaches. As the native resident, I decided that Howth was the place to go – having been there once for fish and chips. I am clearly the expert. If the truth be told I thought Dun Laoghaire might have been nicer, but being closer, I reckoned Howth would be more than sufficient.
Arriving at the station, already melting in a puddle of sweat, I sprinted towards platform 7 – where the DART was due to depart in one minute. I made it, heart beating fast, after my exertions to get to the train. Alighting at a stop, en route, where I met my friend, we hopped back on the train and made our way to our destination.
Howth is a very picturesque village with a beautiful sea view, a lighthouse, and the island of Ireland’s Eye looking particularly lovely in the blazing summer heat. We needed the beach. But the beach was hiding from us. Having wandered along the seafront with all the fish restaurants an ice-cream stands for about an hour, we eventually found Claremount Strand.
The walkway to the beach was a bit intimidating – the stench of stale urine, and litter strewn everywhere was not welcoming. We braved it however and found ourselves on the strangest beach I have ever seen.
The tide was out. And out far. There was none of that powdery, white sand to lay our towels, as seemingly the beach is only accessible when the tide is out. As a result it was all soggy sand, seaweed and seashells, with tributaries of water leading to the sea’s edge about a kilometre out. We walked towards the shore, paddling as we walked, until I spotted a dry island of sand in the distance where people were sunbathing. We headed towards it. On arrival we discovered that whom we had seen from a distance were not people – rather it was a gang of delinquent seagulls, resting a while before continuing their lives of crime and ice-cream theft. We took our chances, flopped down on the sand, and soaked in the panorama. It was lovely.
After a while, and just as I started to feel my skin crackle – like streaky rashers on a frying pan – we gathered our belongings and headed back to the shore.
After a fish supper of haddock and chips on the grass, we got back on the train to Dublin.
The journey was quite the adventure. The train was jammed, and our carriage was home to a bundle of teenagers with a sound system, who kindly decided to treat all the other passengers with their choice of thumping dance music. Words must have been spoken to them by some unsung hero, as the music was switched off.
Suddenly there were ructions. From the gangway connector between the carriages emerged six teenage boys – aged from about fifteen to eighteen I would guess. They were in high spirits, jostling and roaring at each other, approaching random passengers asking them questions, and making half threatening, half joking remarks to the replies they received. They then decided that this was the perfect time to light up a fag. On a crowded train, in thirty degree heat. One of them flopped down in front of us and started blowing smoke in our faces. My companion looked at him and said ‘Do you mind not blowing smoke in my face?’ He shot a look of venom at her, claimed that he was doing no such thing. But he stubbed out his cigarette at least, and started yelping at his mates.
A brave woman. Teenage boys in groups terrify me. They have that herd instinct, with that moronic honour code, and they don’t like to be called out on their behaviour. It’s viewed as an insult that must be avenged. As individuals teenagers are usually perfectly lovely people. But in groups they intimidate me.
This group of teenagers were Travellers – an ethnic Irish group who face discrimination and distrust from many in Ireland. They are accused of criminality and violence. I’m not making any judgement on Travellers as a group. But with regards to this band of layabouts, I think their parents should have a word. They alighted from the train after a few stops, and you could hear the collective sigh of relief.
We headed to Temple Bar where we had a pint – just the one – in the most touristy bar ever created.
Home by ten, I opened the balcony door. Across the canal was another gang of teenagers blaring their music by the waterside, in front of an apartment building, diving into said, fetid canal, and screeching abuse at each other, about how proud they were of being from Dublin.
That’s all well and good. Except I don’t think Dublin reciprocates that pride.
A strange, scary but enjoyable day. I suspect it might have created a more impressive first impression of Ireland, had we gone to Dun Laoghaire.