In this place there is no bedtime and no set time to rise, both are done in keeping with one’s mood, whim, energies. In this place there is always energy. This place has loose joints, vitality, a spring in its step. Here, skin is smooth, wrinkles are fine tracings of smile lines, worries are pushed aside in favour of flying kites. This place has dirt under its fingernails, its hair is never brushed, the whites of its eye sparkle. This place is summer at home, this place is the seaside.
This place lets loose, it dances in the rain, turns the music to loud, loves for today, and never ever anticipates tomorrow’s heartbreak. In this place bankers don’t fret about lack of savings, they know the future is filled with bounty, fine harvests, the right horse backed. Ideas abound here – although they are not always followed through, why should they be when the good times come calling? This is the place of sport, laughter, parties.
And love – ah, love! Love shimmers here from pink dawn to orange sunset and hardly disappears at night. On every corner – in run-down cafés, on park benches, on green grass and sandy steps, over a portion of chips for one (shared by two) –you will find love. This is a place where the sky keeps its promises, where kisses fall from rainclouds, where thunder brings hugs, where lightning fires passion.
This place believes in hope and change, in principles and ideals, this place cleaves to new philosophies. It loves a march, a demonstration, a cause to shout about. It is exuberant and full of optimism. This places yells and rails and sings and links arms and high kicks and joins in the chorus. It thinks for itself and follows the crowd. It goes it alone and joins in.
This place is fueled by the simplest of food. For weeks on end, it is nourished by cheese on toast, spuds and butter, boiled eggs and bagels. But no matter what it consumes, its skin radiates an impossible lustre. This place does not know of its beauty, except in parts – the light-strung promenade, the pale candy painted terraces – but the vennels and link roads and hidden side alleys, they have no idea of their charm and loveliness, nor will they until it has flown.
Don’t be fooled, though, not everything is perfect in this place. There is an ivy-covered house at the end of a cul-de-sac and in it, an upstairs room. Some call it the attic or the garret, but a better name is insecurity, doubt, not-good-enough. This is the room that compares itself to others, that courses with contradictions, that feels misunderstood. This room is filled with dark thoughts, notions it cannot articulate, unshared sadness.
Largely, though, this place is life-giving. People who visit here feel like they have had a transfusion, that they’ve drunk from the magic elixir of Tír na nÓg. These days, I return to this place every summer and see the outline of someone I used to know, she’s cycling barefoot, jumping off rocks into deep water, cartwheeling on the sand.
Some who come here feel sorrowful for their loss, regretting what has ebbed over the years: the high hill they can no longer climb, the swallow dive they can no longer manage, the disappeared person they used to kiss. But rest assured, we all have a place that returns us to youth, for me I linger there in summer, trying to ride the air like the visiting gannets, or to twist and turn in the air with the migrant swifts, trying not to burn too short and bright, praying for it all not to be gone too soon.