Dozing on a Dublin beach but failing to tune out

Hilary Fannin: You can sleep on beaches abroad without tuning into the surrounding chatter

Dollymount beach, Dublin: The sunbathers and chattering masses. Photograph: Tom Honan

Dollymount beach, Dublin: The sunbathers and chattering masses. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

“The weather helps, of course.”

“Oh yes indeed, it does. The weather helps enormously.”

If – as my phlegmatic granny used to say, fanning herself with her embroidered hanky – I had sixpence for every time I’ve heard these phrases in the past few weeks, I’d be a rich woman. I’d be flush enough to afford a darling little silk kimono from a high-end retailer to wear over my flaccid old black swimsuit and spare my fellow beach-goers the sight of my milky white thighs.

Forgive the solipsistic self-flagellation, but I’ve been spending time on the local strand recently, hiding behind my prescription sunglasses and a yellowing paperback, trying to pretend I don’t own the pasty body on the purple towel I’m attached to, a body which looks, in certain lights, as if it’s been rolled in Ready Brek. I surely can’t have been the only woman (or indeed man) who, in the sweltering days of early June, wondered what class of an outfit they could put together for a trip to the seaside.

Yep, it’s beach-body time again, and not long ago I found myself Googling swimwear websites in the vainglorious hope that I could purchase something to wear on the rocky seashore that might ameliorate the ravages of time and gin. 

And oh, my giddy aunt, there is a lot of swimwear out there, much of it retailing for more hard cash than you might stuff into a D cup. At 500 smackers, the demure silk kimono I spotted online is going to have to stay online, along with some asymmetrical “shaping” knickerbockers covered in jungle print that retail at around the cost of a second-hand car. 

Having given up trying to buy a new pair of togs, I pulled my old, slightly punctured, Lycra ones over my pelt, filled a flask with tea, packed a hefty sandwich and climbed down the cliffside to soak up the unaccustomed rays. 

It has indeed been a gift to swim in the weedy brine, to embrace the breathtaking cold, to stumble out over the rocks and dry off under an unflinching sun. And then there’s the sanctimonious pleasure of watching other people gingerly putting their home-pedicured tootsies in the drink and shrieking playfully when attacked by the algae.

Oh, this is fun, I thought, lying back and closing my eyes. This feels like a holiday.

The thing about holidays abroad though, as opposed to lugging your bucket and spade a mere handful of kilometres up the bumper-to-bumper road, is that on foreign shores you can fall asleep on the beach without much risk of unwillingly tuning into other people’s conversations. 

As long as the language is foreign, my friend, then all is wonderful – you are free to sleep like a lizard under a hazy sky, blissfully released from understanding

If, say, some terribly nice woman and her terribly nice husband were barking on to another terribly nice couple about little Johnny and little Jemima’s predicted grades, and their conversation segued into the unfortunate problems they’d been having with their thoroughbred pooch’s inflamed anal sacs, and if the foursome finished off their chat by talking at length about how thrilling it was to cook up a storm on their brand new broiling-grilling-singing-dancing-skewer-juggling barbecue, there is, at the very least, a tincture of hope that they will be rabbiting on (and on and on) in a language you don’t understand, a language of which you have not one word, where not one single syllable makes any sense to you. (Apologies, readers, for the 123-word sentence, but we’re talking unconstrained verbiage here.) 

As long as the language is foreign, my friend, then all is wonderful – you are free to sleep like a lizard under a hazy sky, blissfully released from understanding. Sprawled under a Mediterranean sun, you’re just another uncomprehending suet sculpture on the sand, waking only to the catch-call of the vendors selling fake designer watches and mirror-shine shades. 

On my local Dublin beach, meanwhile, by now fully acquainted with Johnny and Jemima’s dilemmas, it was time to go. I packed up my flask, refolded my sandwich wrapper, shook the sand out of my unread book and prepared to head home to hoover the cat. But wait: how long would this weather last? How many more days of sunshine would there be for bathing in cold Irish seas and the swirling torrents of the national conversation? 

I unrolled the purple towel again.

“How is Alannah?”

“Oh my God, did you hear?”

“Sophie said you had to bring her to A&E.”

“I know! Like, can you believe it?”

“What happened?”

“What happened? She dropped one of my kettlebells on her foot!”

“Seriously? How’s the kettlebell doing? No permanent damage, I hope!”

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