The hottest since ’47 in fact.
I’m sitting on a patch of beachgrass and shading my eyes as I look across a dune at the little house with the cool-tiled, sand-strewn floor. That’s where I need to get. It is Aisling’s house, or Samantha’s or whatever her name was.
Dad is still alive.
The arc of sky above me is polarised by memory; an impossibly deep, dark blue – the expanses of sand below it a blinding white. Seurat style dots of other colour in the distance; tiny swimsuits wavering in the heat where sand sinks beneath water. Buckets, spades, armbands and inflatables; orange, pink, yellow – shark shapes and crumbling castles.
An ice cream afternoon.
I sit on the grass and look at the house. I’m stranded; the sand is too hot for the soles of my feet and I can’t get back. Still, when one is five one is rarely left to wander too far and somebody will be along soon, my sandals dangling from their hands.
In the house there might be some tea for me, or lemonade and some bread & butter, or an egg mayonnaise sandwich and some shade for my skin and cold tiles to press against. I like other people’s houses. You can imagine yourself different in them.
The little anxiousness that being stuck gives rise to is offset by precious moments of utter solitude. Only my unshod feet and my twenty yard stare at the house suggest human connection – I am alone for now.
I play with my fingers in the sand at the grassroots, zoning in as five year old’s do on the minutiae; grains become boulders in a forest of beanstalks as I close my eyes…
Up at Punta Paloma sand is blowing over my face. I lift it and open my eyes to learn that nude bathing is permitted here; a couple down by the water have chosen this blowy day of all days to bare all and go for a walk on the beach.
They are headed beyond the outcrop towards town – knowingly or unknowingly – into the full-on flurry of exfoliating sand. The next few minutes of their life is going to sting. I like to think of myself as broad minded but I will confess to feeling palpable relief as the man and his penis disappear from view.
I threaten to remove my own shorts but K objects in the strongest possible terms. We are beneath a weathered rock wall, a little haven we have found, out of the relentless levante; a place for us to put our towels. It isn’t quite ideal; the sand here is steeply sloped and K is literally bugged by the well engineered sand beetles that scurry around. Perfect life forms; this is their habitat.
When I flick sand and bury one it emerges almost instantaneously – again and again. Grains of sand that are boulder sized to it are shrugged off. I bet it could handle any adversity you might throw at it, just as long as the adversity was made of sand.
In the coves up here you can move from point to point in relative shelter – the coastline a series of curves and juts that protect against the strong winds. Of course one is also protected against perspective – longer views of straighter stretches. To get them one must clamber out and away from the cubby holes; out over the worn rocks and their footy dips and crevices.
Out on the edge, exposed on the coastal shelf, I can squint into the distances blasted by sand and air. The long line of Los Lances all the way to Tarifa. The roar of the wind now, the deafening space. It is exhilarating and precarious and temporary; we scuttle back to the beach.
Back to our towels, our little refuge, the bugs. Blind to distance here we feel both safe and a little anxious. We will have to get back out there at some point – out in the blast; we have to get back to town. For the moment though we are happily stranded here.
A place is also a time.
People come from all over the world for the beaches around the corner – long, white and infested with kites and windsails. But I know what a beach is. It will always be hot sand and lemonade. Strong tea and egg sandwiches. Getting stuck. Getting unstuck.
Blue summers in Ireland’s sunny south east. County Wexford, Poulshone.
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