Sitting at a computer in a post-party daze, typing with polished nails, I feel a million miles from the wild events of this afternoon - July Seventh, Two Thousand And Seven. Quite a date; my mother's birthday, and the first sunny day in living memory, it seems.
Watching the women's Wimbledon final, I felt disgusted at myself, vegetating, eating bacon sandwiches and endless hobnobs. I think ma understood this on some level; it was she, at any rate, who suggested that we went out to Tidemills beach, near Newhaven. The four of us scoured the house, eventually finding four swimming costumes and four pairs of those little rubber shoes that stop the pebbles hurting your feet. Off we went.
The sun shone, yes, but the wind was high - likewise the waves. In the end, I was the only one actually to brave the water, although the coastline, decorated with wild cabbages and the ruins of a mill-turned hospital, has enough diversions without the hypnotic crashing of the waves.
The shoes were certainly helpful when crossing the beach, which is very steep, and gives way underfoot, but they became something of a distraction when waterlogged (I assure you yu're imagining the pun...) and I repeatedly felt they were going to slip off. For as long as I forgot my family watching on the bank, fighting against and playing in the waves was an absolute joy - it took my strongest crawl to get nowhere in particular, but that felt safe enough. Better, anyway, than the dreadful tug of a strong out-going tide. Playing, this time, was Verb Of The Day. I let the waves rise behind me and jumped against them, so the water slapped my back, and then rode in on them, as though body-boarding, and then fought to swim as far as I could parallel to the beach, then fought harder to swim black, then ran out and wandered along ankle-deep, then ran in again.
Oddly, when I was aware of my parent's eyes on me, I felt more vulnerable; it occurred to me that they couldn't feel, from their positions on the beach, how in control I was, and the waves looked quite high.
For that reason, and because this family has had enough troubles to last it some time, thank you very much, I am making them a promise. Not only am I coming back from Ireland alive and in one unharmed piece, I promise that I'm not going to swim in any water that I haven't asked those in the know about; I won't swim off a beach if it simply doesn't LOOK like it has a rip-tide. I will not swim in the mercury-infused lakes that have oddly started to haunt Gloria. I will challenge myself; sometimes try to swim further than I have before, swim in places that I never dreamed existed, but I will not, I reiterate, WILL NOT, put myself in any real danger. This trip is supposed, afterall, to be a celebration of a great LIFE.
On your next birthday, ma, you'll be in that water too. I bet you.