The sun came out properly today, adjusted for being in Ireland. I had stuff to do in the morning but just before lunch I was done and we were freed to get the bikes out for a potter down to the shops for lunch and onward for an adventure. As I was waiting for the other half outside the local Laldi or Aldl – I can never remember which one it is – a family of five showed up on bikes: Mum, Dad with trailerbike and sleeping toddler, two boys on mountain bikes. The mother & I got chatting about the need for more bike lanes (I honestly don’t steer these conversations at all, she started it) as we waited for our prospective partners and watched the cars steadily gridlock themselves in their hunt for the elusive Last Parking Space in Newcastle. They then cheerfully gave us directions to a place where we could watch seals, backed up by annotations from the wee boys (‘turn left at the derelict house’ ‘the stinky house that’s all broken down’ ‘go down to your left and there’s a really nice track’ ‘it’s not nice at all it’s really bumpy’) and off we set with the wind for once on our backs.
We found the spot and picnicked high in the sand dunes watching the seals lie on the beach across the inlet like so many sleeping-bagged revellers after a hard night partying. Occasionally one would lollop in and out of the sea and then collapse on the sand further up, or lie on its back with its flippers in the air with every appearance of satisfaction. The mountains were half veiled with cloud and the beach was misted with vapour rising off the wet sand and there was barely a soul about, probably because the red flag* was flying and the beach was technically a free-fire zone. We headed back into the wind having decided that the extremely wide and deserted pavement beside the 60mph road was really a cycle path, they just hadn’t got around to signing it as such. And then we got onto the actual cycle track which is pretty good – wide, with plenty of space for both bikes and pedestrians. Although you are supposed to give way at every side street, in practice the cars give way to you (they also carefully make sure when they park on the pavement they take up the whole of the pedestrian side and keep the bike part clear, which is a little odd) – with one driver who was waiting for a gap in the traffic even reversing so I could get past him easily. It was hard not to take a certain pleasure in whizzing past the queue of traffic waiting to get into town, and in nipping in and out of the gridlocked cars still looking for that elusive parking spot – indeed some of them might actually have been stuck circling the place since the morning.
And then, as it was a sunny day in a seaside town, there was nothing for it but we needed to have an ice cream. And this is where the ‘almost’ part comes in – I was awkwardly manhandling my Brompton down a couple of steps to get to a bench on the promenade when *plop* *aargh* … my double cone (nutella-flavour on one side, chocolate on the other) had broken and was now nothing more than an empty stump and the ice cream was on the floor.
It’s a sign that I’m 44, not 4, that I managed not to have a meltdown then and there. But it was hard won. And as KarlOnSea put it on twitter:
It’s almost as though he was there…
*Army range, not communists