THE TURNING TIDES OF TRAMORE
The turn of the year in Tramore always makes me think of the turning tides on the beach; those moments when you watch the sea withdrawing to reveal clear golden sands beneath or when you realise that the sound of the sea and the waves are pressing forward to embrace the naked shore. We can either look back and remember, or look forward and hope.
Two of the New Year rituals that spell ‘Tramore’ in my mind certainly bring this notion of past and future together in very different ways. At about ten o’clock on New Year’s Eve, my son and I make our way out to Newtown Cove to cast what we call our wishing stones. Usually we’re lucky and the moon is bright, allowing us to choose the stones which we feel are just right for us – it’s all about size, colour, texture and finding a stone that feels as if it symbolises those elements of life that are fundamentally important to us. Then in turn, we each cast our stone as far as we can out towards Brownstown and make a secret wish for the year ahead. We’ve always had the Cove to ourselves for this important ceremony in which Newtown is like a perfect amphitheatre, with its sloping cliffs, rugged rock formations, and natural acoustics. Far away, we can see the circling shadow of the light beaming from historic Hook Lighthouse.
Back home, we wait for the stroke of midnight, and then it happens. Like an ancient tribe, marking the turn of the year, three or four generations of a family across the road burst forth from their house, banging saucepans with metal spoons. Within seconds, the rest of the neighbours are out and the procession circles once, drawing the community together, and then all is silent waiting for the New Dawn.
Reading a 1940s book called The English at the Seaside that I bought at an auction in Keighery’s of Waterford, I was stunned to find the name Dr Richard Russell popping up in relation to founding the fame and fortunes of Brighton through his advocacy of the health benefits of sea-bathing. Dr Russell has always been mentioned as a key person, along with Bartholomew Rivers, in influencing the development of Tramore as a popular seaside spa and resort from around 1750 onwards.
This little bit of history, coupled with a nostalgic look through pictures of bathing huts, bands on Promenades and the evolution of bathing costumes, including the ladies two-piece, which seems to have been around since antiquity, but only as a bikini since 1946, plunged me into thoughts of the coming season.
The lengthening days, the first tentative show of early snowdrops and crocuses and the opening of the racing calendar for 2012 at Tramore Racecourse, with the blaze of jockeys colours, give us a glimpse of what is ahead. What immediately springs to my mind are the daffodils that will line the road between Tramore and Annestown, the bluebells in Newtown Wood, people eating al fresco at the Vee Bistro, Gallwey’s Café and Chris’s Pancake Shop; the return of the lifeguards and the flags to advise the multitude of bathers; the colourful buckets and spades of happy children playing on the beach; the reappearance of the newly painted boats at the Pier; the array of kites and kite surfers who will join the hardy all-year surfers in the wavey sea; the whirring colours and lights of the Merries; circuses from all round the world; blankets of sea pinks on the Back Strand; the ripe sweet-smelling fruit on the familiar table of the Strawberry Man on Priest’s Road, whose big green umbrella and warm smile will tell us that Summer has truly come.