I was up around 3 am, my sleep disturbed by the winds of Storm Francis. In a quiescent period, I saw some of the Pegasus constellation behind the scudding clouds. The myths of the winged horse came to mind when I saw a virtual box described by four stars in the southwest sky. For no reason I can think of, I recalled that Pegasus carried Bellerophon into battle against the fire-breathing Chimera.
Britannica says that ‘Pegasus’s soaring flight was interpreted as an allegory of the soul’s immortality; in modern times it has been regarded as a symbol of poetic inspiration.’ I remembered none of this when I fact checked Bellerophon’s fate, as if myths are verifiable. I knew he was hurt trying to get to heaven while still alive but what happened next is still unclear.
There’s a reminder of such hubris just around the corner from us, over at Victoria Gate. Thus Daedalus Flew is a statue that was sculpted by Niall O’Neill in 1988 and it appears to be watching the sky above everyone who enters the park. Daedalus was father to Icarus and together they failed to escape from Crete when flying too close to the Sun using wings made of feathers and wax. We spent our honeymoon on Crete and it was so hot that I’m certain waxed wings would have melted at ground level if an escape attempt was made in the summer.
I decided to head to Howth Harbour to capture some shots at the locations of some vintage photographs we have. I mentioned this to friends who live nearby, one of whom was very involved with horses for many years. That we might share a distance separated walk seemed apposite given my thoughts on Pegasus.
As is my habit, knowing I had a 60 minute drive ahead of me, I looked for a podcast to while away the journey. The Evolution of Horses appeared in my feed from In Our Time and I listened to Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the origins and domestication of horses. As an aside, I remain unclear as to why horses only have one toe on each foot nor whether speed or stamina has been more important in their evolution. Having dined on horse meat in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, France and Spain, I knew horse was food long before it became the must have technology that revolutionised mankind. But it was nonetheless a good listen.
Less than half way to Howth, I drove across the train tracks at Merrion Gates and rounded the corner to carry on north along Strand Road. As the sea appeared on my right, I saw a bunch of horse-boxes parked on the pavement. I might have thought little more of it except that I was parked 100 m from this point two days ago having lunch in the car between medical appointments. I’d seen signs prohibiting horse riding on the strand. Which probably explained the presence of a police patrol car parked on the pavement too. Blocking the pavement illegally while riding on the beach illegally, I wondered if two strikes might be hard for the Gardaí to ignore.
The tide was at its lowest. So I stopped, parked and got the camera out. That I would not be going to Howth was made easier by a message to say there would be no companion.
I had forgotten the Canon camera batteries. I’d left the two of them, prime and spare, in the charger in my study. I did have my Fuji and by coincidence, the adaptor that enables me use the Canon lenses on the Fuji body. There’s no electronic connection in the adaptor so it results in manual use at the widest aperture. There would be two challenges, depth of field and focus. Actually there’s a third because I decided to use the 150-600 mm lens which is huge and very hard to hold still. So you have to use a very fast shutter speed to avoid blur. And worse, the 600 is cropped to 960 mm on the Fuji.
And there was a fourth, a shimmer in the air due to the wind, humidity and active evaporation from the sand. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The people out riding were mostly children. What a blast that must have been! And I got some foreshortened shots of horses in front of ships in front of the hill of Howth.
All photos were taken today and © Simon Robinson 2020