Sunshine On Our Shoulders

I remember summers.

I’m saying this at 7 a.m. on a cold bus with windows that have rain streaked almost horizontally across them (it‘s the bus that has the windows, not me). They are steamed up from the breath and the dampness of the clothing of the passengers, so that staring out of them tells me nothing. We might be as far as Bray, we might have reached the Motorway, we may have got lost and be in Venice.
The streets are certainly wet enough, though I think Venice would be warmer.

But I remember summers when the sun shone all day, every day. Summers when we would swim in Sandycove Harbour or at the Forty-Foot just beside it. The Forty-Foot, by the way, was a gentleman’s bathing place, meaning that women were barred so that men could swim naked if they wished. I’m not sure why they felt the need to do that, unless they felt the need to show off the small blue walnut now sprouting from their groin.

This was because the water was cold. You were not allowed to say that, of course. You had to inch your way in, gasping to catch your breath, shuddering when the first wave hit your swimming trunks and, when it hit your chest, feeling for a second as if your heart had stopped. You then plunged forward swam for about four strokes, then lifted your head, picked a slimy strip of seaweed from across your face and announced “It’s lovely”.

But if the water was cold, the sun was hot. When we had finished swimming we would run around, shirtless and wearing Factor er, Nothing, stubbing our toes against stones and occasional pieces of broken glass. Our backs would turn the colour, and texture, of a ham, and would sting at the slightest touch. You knew that because your friends, upon spotting any redness, would slap you cheerily on the back. That’s what friends are for, at that age.

As the sun sank we would slip t-shirts onto skin covered in sea-salt, rawness and the beginnings of peeling, and head home to sleep, on our sides, so that we could rise early to do the same thing again the following day.

You may say that I am looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses, though there were no such thing as sunglasses in those days (if the sun was too bright you squinted, what else is the ability to squint for?). You may also say (and please do) that I am too young to be indulging in nostalgia.

All I know is that I haven’t been sunburnt for years. And I know that it wouldn’t be pleasant if I were.

But it would be nice to at least have the option.


9 thoughts on “Sunshine On Our Shoulders

  1. rose

    Tin, I would say come here and I’ll show you sunburn, it’s my perpetual state. But it’s rained here, nonstop for the past so many days. I thought about you this morning while having coffee on my patio. Normally at 7 a.m. it would already be too hot out there for drinking a hot beverage. Right now it’s unseasonably cool and very wet. Walking my soggy garden path this morning, I’m delighted to find green moss growing. I have tried to cultivate moss of all sorts and failed. But with all the rain it’s volunteered. It made me think of your Emerald Isle. Paradise truly is subjective isn’t it?

  2. vivinfrance

    I have never seen such flourishing hydrangeas as the ones that catch your eye at every turn. Anything with hydra in its name is totally at home in the kind of weather we have had here for the past 3 summers: wet, wet, wet.

  3. speccy

    We’re in England where they are despairing of the kind of weather I’ve grown to think is good. I haven’t worn socks in 2 weeks- surely that’s as good as summer gets?

  4. laughykate

    A few years ago we had a blisteringly great summer – it was one right out of the bag. Everyone was talking El Nina etc etc and an old friend said, ‘When I was a kid, we just used to call it summer’.

  5. grannymar

    The last proper summer in Ireland that I remember was 34 years ago. How am I so sure? Elly was born in May and I put her in the garden as soon as we came home from the hospital, and she stayed there until October…. well except for night time, I did relent and put her in her cot in the house!

  6. Janie Jones

    While I can sympathize with your desire for some sun, we have a major hissy fit when the temperature rises above 80 for more than a few days. My bathing suit has been worn maybe 6 times in the last 10 years and I can’t say I’m sorry for that. We just happened to check the weather, and the heat wave affecting the States appears to finally making it’s way north. Today’s forcast, 89 degrees, and down in the Big City today we have a high of 94 to look forward to when we go for my treatment. *Sigh* the grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it?


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