“The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets” _ Christopher Morley.
If you cycle along the coast road at Dunlaoire, passed the pier stretching her long arm out and coiling it protectively around the boats, you may hear the strains of the lone banjo player playing ‘Ellis Island’ or some other emigrant song.
‘Isle of hope, Isle of tears, Isle of freedom, Isle of fears
But it’s not the isle you’ve left behind.
That isle of hunger, Isle of pain, Isle you’ll never see again.
But the Isle of home is always on my mind.’
As he plays, he stands looking towards England and if the wind is coming off the Irish sea, the melancholy sounds will follow you back up the pier.
Further along you will see the royal Marine on your right and hurrah! The new Library is well in progress.
(Peter Golkin once said ‘My two favourite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library’)
But the old public baths is sadly becoming more and more dilapidated.
On up the steep incline towards the forty foot.
Alas! You will see no sign of Stephen Dedalus, Buck Mulligan and Haines going for their morning dip
But the Martello tower, The home of those three characters from James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ (now the James Joyce museum) still stands and as you can see from the photo below , is getting a facelift.
Finally you will arrive down to my favourite spot where you may catch a glimpse of me, sitting in the sun on my favourite rock, with a coffee and a book (not always Ulysses).
Today when I arrive, there is an old camper parked beside the pavement and a man is standing outside its door sipping from a mug.
Small in stature, his bare feet are trussed into worn leather sandals, The pair of faded jeans and an equally faded blue jumper keep off the still chilly wind coming off the sea . A wide brimmed hat covers white curly hair and the lower part of his face hidden by an unruly beard.
If he had a set of paint brushes in his hand I would have blinked and thought he was Claude Monet (yes I am still in 1904 and Monet would have been alive then )
He lifts his cup in greeting.
‘Nice Bike’ he takes another sip. ‘A bit noisy though. I heard you rattling from a long way off. Woke me from a wonderful sleep.’
He smiles to show he was teasing.
‘Nice van’ I answer coolly. ‘ But it’s usually fairly vehicle free down here’
I am stung by his criticism of my beautiful yellow bike and a bit miffed by the intrusion into what I deem my private spot.
‘Ah I’m sure it is’ he replies reassuringly. ‘ But we’re very quiet folk and sure we won’t be staying too long’.
At that a woman puts her head out of the van door. Grey haired with the most wonderful hand knitted jumper, she smiles warmly.
‘Would you like a cup of tea ‘ she enquires. ‘The kettle is on’
And so instead of sitting on my favourite rock, I find myself sitting in a cosy van admiring shelves made from driftwood and wonderful exotic coloured fabrics covering the bed. And best of all a small spinning wheel and a hand loom.
‘We come over to buy fleece from Donegal and sometimes stop here for a day or two when we get off the ferry. It’s so peaceful’.
‘Does’nt anyone object ‘ I ask in surprise because this is a very posh area of Dublin and I can’t imagine the locals being too happy waking up to see an old van pulled up.
‘Himself has them all charmed’. The woman laughs. ‘He knows everyone now. Sure he was in there having a cup of coffee yesterday morning’.
She nods to a large Mansion with direct access to the rocky shoreline .
Just then, through the van window, I see a group of elderly elegantly dressed ladies passing by.
They wave over at ‘Monet’ who is now perched on the wall.
‘Good morning ladies’ He calls out in greeting and jumping down, gives a deep bow, still clutching his mug to his chest.
‘Beautiful Morning.’ He remarks . They wiggle their fingers at him and giggling like schoolgirls, scurry off around the corner.
‘Off to mass ‘ He informs us through the window, nodding at the parting ladies.
‘How do you know ?’ the woman raises her eyebrows at me.
‘Oh’ Monet says airily ‘They told me yesterday when I met them at the forty foot, seems they go to mass every morning in glasthule.
‘They were swimming at the forty foot? ‘ His wife asks in amazement.
‘Nope’. He replies. ‘I was’.
‘But you don’t own a swimming togs’. She looks at him suspiciously .
‘That’s true.’ He raises one eyebrow and draining his cup, throws the dregs over the wall.
We have lots in common, his wife and I , and we sit chatting about life and poetry, painting and weaving and spinning.
The hours float by unheeded.
She makes some coffee this time.
‘I really must go’ I say.
‘Don’t go’ comes a voice from outside. ‘She’s enjoying the chat with you. God love her having only the company of me on our trips’
He is tinkering at something. I can hear the clatter of metal tools.
When I peek out, I see my bike turned upside down and he is finishing oiling the chain and checking the tightness of the screw’s.
‘Throw us out one of those kitchen sponges’ he calls to his wife and catching the flying object, deftly inserts it between the back carrier and the mudguard.
‘That’ll stop the rattle’. He announces happily. ‘Though sadly we won’t hear you coming next time’
He lifts the bike upright, leans it against the seawall and gives it a reassuring pat on the saddle.
Then he looks at me imploringly.
‘Ah go on ‘ I smile ‘take her for a spin’.