In Plenary, Production on June 8, 2011 at 9:02 am


Poulshone, County Wexford; Ireland‘s sunny south east. Usually that’s a comparative term and somewhat misleading but not this year – the hottest summer anyone can remember.

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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  1. Beautiful piece – loved this!

  2. Very nice — It’s so interesting how those childhood slices of life are brought to mind vividly sometimes. “A place is also a time.” Well said. I’m in a reflective mood now.

    • Good! Because I´ve been feeling reflective lately and I wanted to share it. As always thanks so much for reading and feeding back.

  3. How heartfelt and imaginative. A beach is a state of mind, a river is our life blood and the hot sand a comfort blanket. Now go and sit by the Tigris and let’s hear what that inspires in your poetic soul.

    • I can think of nothing I would prefer than to be sitting on the banks of the Tigris right now. Absolutely fascinated with that part of the world – hopefully one day!

      And thanks for your kind words ::)

  4. I wonder how it would be like to have tea and egg sandwiches naked on the beach!? I think it would be refreshing and liberating at the same time. I really love the way you write Robin. When is the book coming out? =)

    • You know what – tea and egg sandwiches naked on the beach sounds absolutely wonderful to me. I’m not sure I have the nerve though…

  5. Really like your blog style. I’m amazed that you could recall so much detail from when you were 5!

  6. Seriously – another great read. Love your writing Robin! However, I went all in at a nude beach in Portugal. It wasn’t that bad at all except I was so white and needed an entire bottle of sunscreen for places that had never seen the sun! 🙂

  7. What a memory you have! I can hardly remember what it was like to be five…I do remember the beach near my grandparents house where they used to take me in the late afternoon after the Florida sun was gone (paranoid about sunburn). Have never gone nude on a beach…not sure how people deal with sand in their nether regions…
    Beautiful post, as usual

  8. Fantastic story. But….. being nude on a beach isn’t always fun. Bathing suit bottoms are a great buffer against sand getting into ports that are happiest being sand-free. 😉

    • You should feel the wind here when it’s up. The two we saw that day will have gone home pink and I’m not talking about sunburn..

  9. Lovely story. I am so jealous you were allowed to have lemonade as a five-year-old though. My mum was a very strict no-sugar no-processed-food lady.
    Holidays at the beach … such wonderful memories. The days stretched forever, sand, sun, swimming and the potential for Dad to buy us icecreams when Mum wasn’t watching.

    • Aw, you have to give children some sugar. They’re basically crack addicts but with sugar instead of cocaine, so it would be cruel to withhold it…
      In small quantities we were allowed a lot. No booze or cigarettes though – we had to wait till our early teens for those…

  10. I really liked the part about “I like visiting other people’s houses. You can imagine yourself different in them” I used to do the same thing as a kid.

  11. Beautiful writing. I wish I had memories this vibrant from my childhood. I swear I don’t remember anything before the age of 10!

  12. […] taking off in the car to explore some fantastically foreign new place: some city to dazzle us or a corner of wilderness to wonder at. It is no exaggeration to say that the country was casting a charm over […]

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