Dún Laoghaire bay glistened pale blue and brilliant white. On my way there, on board the 46A bus, a schoolgirl sat next to me eating salt and vinegar crisps for breakfast. She was small enough, with wavy brown hair and a chequered uniform. When the bus pulled into Dún Laoghaire, I avoided gripping the point on the pole where she had smeared her greasy fingers. I was early for my appointment in the yacht club so I found a café and bought myself a hot chocolate. I felt as if I were back in London being an early-riser cosmopolitan-type enjoying the sunshine with strict purpose. I took out some books and a notepad with the intention of planning the class I was to teach later on.
Next to me two ladies sat down opposite each other. Fortyish – the two of them – I would say. The one I had a good view of was blackish-grey-haired and had that bowl-cut hairstyle known from childhood. She had an intense look on her face and told her friend and confidante that she needed to use the bathroom. Off she went. I read some more about the Third Conditional and took some notes. The lady came back and the coffees they had ordered arrived. They began to stir their drinks and what they talked about was crying. The blackish-grey-haired lady has spent her life not allowing anybody see her cry and this had to stop. She resolved to cry in front of friends and family. Her friend, or therapist nodded and added “You need to change, Margaret”.
Time up and I had to tear myself away from the scene. All kinds of backgrounds to it had danced around my head- was this an exposure session for a patient suffering from OCD who had a fear of drinking from dirty vessels shared by the general public? Or perhaps the dialogue represented no more than an unbalanced friendship. Or perhaps a marital crisis.
I came out of the yacht cub two hours later the honorary editor of a new website called http://www.writing.ie and smiled when I realised that there may be a genetic component to holding such a title: my father has been honorary editor of the historical journal, The Irish Sword, for years.
I was too timid to ask to use the facilities in the yacht club and so I went in search of a bathroom in the village. I was striding down the main street in the hope of finding a MacDonalds when an elderly man startled me. He came from nowhere and barred my path. I swerved apprehensively.
“Excuse me, love”, he said. “Do you know where I can get a box of sweets around here?”
An extraordinary request, I thought and all that popped into my head was: “I don’t know. I’m sorry, but I am new to the area”.
My mind was still bouncing with ideas from my meeting in the yacht club but my bladder was speaking with a singular urgency. I conquered a cubicle in the Bloomfield shopping centre and emerged, relieved.
On my way out, I passed a gaudy ‘Cash for Gold’ store. Inside, the salesperson was sniffing and mauling a golden chain. Before him was parked a large wheelchair where a young man lay on his side, paralysed. His father hovered above, observing with shifting resignation the sniffing Shylock.