There’s few places that feel more like home to me than The Slip down at Tramore Beach. It’s a place that’s all abuzz in Summer when there’s a bit of sun. You see relaxation personified and lots and lots of colour ~ deckchairs, windbreakers, lifeguards, ice-creams, tanning bodies; and there are the scents of coconut sun cream, fish and chips, seaweed; sounds of kiddies’ excitement and freedom, waves splashing, chatter of old-timers …..
At this time of year, The Slip tends to be quiet apart from a few tourists, regular walkers, joggers and sea-lovers.
I love the solitude you find there in Autumn as the sun is rising. There is the company of the seagulls and the familiarity of it all as this is the place where I spent hours and hours as a babe in arms, with a babe in arms, readying myself for a swim, or just whiling away the hours watching the ebb and flow of the sea.
All this was on my mind as I stood their very early last Saturday morning, having been woken at all hours by the dogs barking at I know not what.
The thing about The Slip is that you can generalise about it all you like but it is never, ever the same as it was even a moment before or after. This is how it was while I was there on Saturday for that stolen hour or so half in my pyjamas, half in in winter woollies:
Circumstances dictated that I had to get up early this morning and take the dogs out for their constitutional.
It was very dark and cloudy looking as I scrambled around, drinking a big mug of coffee, gathering up the car keys and a befuddled looking Puppy Stan.
I had visions of needing my torch in the wood as it seemed that the daylight was never going to come . My mind slipped back to a snippet of conversation I overheard yesterday as I walked passed two women chatting in Waterford. One said in a very serious tone: I wish I could wake up dead.’ At the time, I thought to myself, ‘You’d only hear that sort of thing in Ireland.’
I think she probably meant that she would like to die in her sleep and not have to endure any lingering illness. That thinking had brought me back to a hot sunny Summer morning years ago when my mother found herself at a coffee morning where the subject of conversation was: Would you prefer to die suddenly or be sick for a while beforehand? She came home that day in a fury and said that she needed to go to the beach immediately to make up for a wasted few hours discussing ‘ridiculous nonsense ~ as if you have any great choice how you die!’
The sight of a tiny break in the dark sky changed my car and mental gears rather swiftly. All in a few moments, I was treated to drama of dramas as morning painted herself on the black canvass over Tramore Bay:
Standing out by Newtown Cove, I couldn’t but think of Seamus Heaney’s poem, Song, which opens with the line:
A rowan like a lipsticked girl.
Nor could I stop myself from wondering how I could ever have doubted that the sun would once again wake up and cast her beams across my world.
There’s been a moodiness about Tramore Bay over the last few days that has been hard to keep up with.
I often think that the sea is like me in the way she vacillates from calm to not so calm; from flippant to darkly serious; from thunderous to quiet; from hard to soft-hearted; ponderous to sharply focussed; attention-seeking to intensely private …
Yes, so changeable and that ebb and flow like breathing – sometimes shallow, other times deep.
Here’s how my precious Tramore Bay has been looking when I’ve been around. I can hear her whispering ever so gently as I write and I know that there’s a sliver of moon playing with her.
I sped out of the house around eight o’clock as the sun had just set and found myself down at the Prom looking out over Tramore Bay.
It was one of those balmy September nights when locals and visitors were trying to eke out the very last of the Summer. The ‘Merries’ have closed down, on weekday nights anyway, but there was a big queue at Dooly’s Fish and Chip Shop which is a landmark place by the Ladies’ Slip here in Tramore. Even when you’ve had supper, it’s hard to resist at least a ‘small chip’ wrapped in steaming paper with that distinctive salt and vinegar smell that blends so well with the salty sea air and the splashing of the waves.
Tonight, the Prom seemed to be all about lines. The horizon was sharp, in stark contrast to the dense fog that hung over it early this morning; the waves were like dark pencil lines as they crested; the three pillars out at the Metal Man rose up to lend their shape to the scene; and most of all the Prom railings marked out Tramore as the place that has held me since I was a babe-in-arms.
Just to run my fingers along those railings anchors me like nowhere else. I’ve leaned against them in all-weathers for over half a century now and they always make me think of the millions of hands that have held them as Tramore has won the hearts of people who could be just about anywhere as I write.
July 2 belongs to Rescue 111, the Irish Air Corps Helicopter which crashed in the sand dunes here in Tramore on this day in 1999. All four members of the crew were tragically killed on that foggy night 17 years ago:
Sgt Patrick Mooney, Stamullen, Co. Meath ~ aged 34 years
Capt. David O’Flaherty, Tullamore, Co. Offaly ~ aged 30 years
Capt. Michael Baker, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford ~ aged 28 years
Cpl. Niall Byrne Killiney, Co. Dublin ~ aged 25 years
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of these brave young men who died in the service of people, like you and me, who may need them in some emergency situation and each time I look at their names and ages carved on the monument on the Promenade in Tramore they seem to get younger and younger.
Last evening, I witnessed loving echoes of Rescue 111. I was walking in Newtown Wood when Rescue 117 flew overhead. I couldn’t see it through the thick canopy of leaves but when I was driving home along the Cliff Road, it was hovering over Tramore Bay and just as it was making its way to Waterford Airport, a rainbow lit up the sky as if serving as a beacon. I didn’t have my camera with me but made sure to bring it when I was heading out again just before nightfall.
What was beaming in the dark skies but one of the brightest rainbows I’ve ever seen and I blew it a kiss in loving memory of those precious men who will always live on in our hearts and memories.
Tramore was deserted this morning as the high tide greeted the day.
I was more determined than ever to see it this morning having met a very dear friend yesterday who is now feeling old age creep up upon her. She was once very like me ~ an early riser, a sea baby, a sports fanatic, dog lover and a great walker.
She was looking well but confided in me that the thing she misses most about ageing is not having the energy, balance and mobility that she once had to savour the delights of Tramore which is her natural habitat.
The longing and memories in her eyes were etched in my mind as I walked along the beach bewitched by every single wave that hesitated ever so momentarily before breaking into a white foamy smile.