We four went to a local park earlier today for a three-generational distance-separated walk. It was a balmy July day, neither warm nor cold but it was dry. It’s a place I know well as the start of the long distance trail called the Wicklow Way. The Wicklow Way is a self-guided walk from Rathfarnham in Dublin to Clonegal in Carlow some 27 kilometres long. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve walked south from this spot and indeed, I can’t recall the number of times I’ve ended my treks here. Perhaps the sum of starts and finishes is 24.
It’s a place Mom and the two kids know well because of the fields, the playground and the great recreational opportunities the huge open spaces provide. Trees, lakes and rivers are a bonus for these young explorers who were moving rocks to dam a stream within minutes of arrival.
It’s a place known to Kraftwerk, Kodaline and Stormzy who have played there at the Longitude Festival to crowds of 40,000 humans in recent years. Otters, Daubenton’s, Leisler’s and pipistrelle bats were probably not noticed and we hope, not too disturbed by the noise and especially the rap lyrics. Perhaps the foxes, swans, waterfowl and corvids are delighted by the influx and scraps.
It was once home to the La Touche family of bankers who bought it the year America declared for independence, a declaration coupled with the novel idea that ‘all men are created equal’ with ‘certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’. I suspect the founders would be spinning in their graves at the inequality that followed, that has doggedly persisted and may be growing more unequal by the day. The La Touches, as I mentioned, were central bankers so equality wasn’t likely to have been uppermost in their minds and yet, some would say, this country that more recently became independent appears to have more equal opportunity.
The boy of three picked up some seeds to bring home so he could ‘magic’ a fruit tree but perhaps that last couple were discarded cherry pits.
The boy and his sister of six explored a lean-to made by earlier adventurers from branches still in leaf. Then again, this is a public space so perhaps it was the overnight shelter of a homeless person who needed protection from the heavy rains yesterday.
We watched the swans and the ducks in the lake. Moorhens provided the sonic background. Then, to my surprise, I saw the unmistakable skip-dive of a dabchick. I had no idea that Little Grebes lived here. The dabchick skip-dive has an elegance born of millennia of practice and puts the human skip-dive to shame.
In general, there was little to alarm us with respect to pandemic. People kept their distances and though the car park was full, it didn’t feel crowded. If anything, the people out and about seemed relieved to be there. Perhaps that’s just my projection but I’ll hold onto it, thank you.
Splashing in the streams was fun because Wellington boots were worn for this very purpose. The lack of gripping soles made the sloping stream banks awkward and some tears of frustration were added to the passing water. Waterfalls were approached after a wall of bamboo indicated the way (and a maintenance nightmare in the future).
The fairy trees were not revisited. Have they been damaged, moved, removed or what?
Buttercup reflections were used to yellow under-the-chins in that age-old test for the love of butter. Grasshoppers were heard but not sighted in the dense grasses. Fast flying butterflies were chased through the wilded cricket field of the Sandyford Cricket Club. The lurid green all-weather crease was used to test running speed though not in the same way that golfers stimp their greens.
A big tree with drooping branches was discovered next to a path. It housed an imaginary kitchen and bedrooms and there was even space for expansion to rooms above the ground floor. Escapes could be secretly made around the back and … surprise, someone has reappeared at the front door, almost being in two places at once.
A grandfather tried to convince the three year old that the lid of a crisp package was in fact a flying saucer. Astronomy, outer-space and aliens had been much on his mind when we discussed the sun, moon and stars. It turned out that he has decided to be an astronaut when he grows up. I said I felt the same, I’d like to be an astronaut too, if I ever grew up. He thought we could go places together though she’s not sure that her brother should take a grandfather far from the family. I explained that I knew what was required because I worked with a guy who spent years training with NASA to fly out to space on their Shuttle. Their Mom reminded us that last time that all humans were together on Earth was 2nd of November 2000 and we wondered if it would ever happen again.
I advised the future astronaut to tread carefully (and not on their dreams) because the spaceship had brought a billion microscopic settlers who were staggering around the transparent vehicle after a bumpy landing. The transparency of the flying saucer was a sure sign they came in peace seeking a better life with equal rights and religious freedoms. There was a fleeting conflict with an alternative narrative unfolding nearby because, from their perspective, the spaceship was in the living room in another dimension.
Then it turned out that the flying saucer was just the lid of a crisp package.
Even more disappointingly, the ice-cream van was off limits this close to dinner.
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