Last Monday morning, Mancub in crèche, Little Chief at school, off to the beach I went with a great urge for water therapy. It was less than two hours from low tide but the trusty 40 Foot always provides some depth. It was sunny and quiet and the sea was gone at Sandycove, but around the corner at 40 Foot it was a bustling party of buzzing swimmers drying and changing and lounging against the wall, basking in the sun trap.
I found a place to change and got started disrobing. Everyone was looking out to sea. I looked seaward hoping to see the dolphins that are rumoured to be around from time to time. But no, all the excitement was about jelly fish. Since the water had heated up to a toasty 12 degrees Celsius the place has been awash in dreaded jelly fish. Everyone was looking at one woman, just out of the water, who was busy rubbing her thigh.
Did ya get bit?
I don’t know, it stings a little. Could be the salt she said, a little worried but mostly cheerful seeming.
People weren’t going to let those little feckers stop them from enjoying their daily water worship.
I climbed down the steps and got in the water and an older guy with thick white hair and ruddy cheeks told me he’d counted fifteen jelly fish yesterday. Just the small, white and purple kind. Today so far, there was only one spotted over by the railing. I know that kind fairly well and I don’t like them, but they don’t usually bug me. What scares the crap out of me is those portuguese men-of-war with their legendary tentacles.
I swam after an older woman who was swimming around the Point. I had only done this once, on my wetsuit outing. It was definitely easier without the suit. We didn’t go the whole way but it felt good to be drafting a senior who was being a little adventurous. Coming back I was swimming against a current which always makes me feel a bit nervous, like the power of the ocean is going to overwhelm me. Fear and respect for the sea is always in my mind. I have had my moments of being taken by the sea and tumbled along in a crazed washing-machine-like whirl enough times to know a girl’s gotta be careful.
Lots of bubbles my companion said.
What does it mean? I asked.
Well, we think it usually means the water is dirty. Keep your mouth closed she said knowingly.
It was beautiful and sunny. Blue sky and bubbly water. I’m really pro bubbles and it’s my favourite word in Spanish: burbujas. Champagne is my favourite drink. I wasn’t going to engage in the dirty water idea. Besides, she wasn’t letting her bubble theory stop her from swimming.
I asked Seadog later what she meant. Was she talking about, god forbid, sewage?
He answered vaguely that all organic matter decomposes into methane. I interpreted that to mean it could be anything. I decided I’d like to think it was water sprites burping or angel fish farting deep under water.
Then I swam next to the jelly-fish counting guy who jerked his arm suddenly. That was one, he said, meaning jellyfish.
Could have been seaweed? I suggested.
Not so high up. I tell you the thing for it. YouRhine he yelled. That’s right. The pharmacists don’t like it because they can’t sell you their stuff. But that’s what works. YouRhine, he declared emphatically one more time making sure I heard him. I nodded dutifully, spitting out some water that had snuck in my mouth. I distinctly remember seeing on the lifeguard’s information board around at Sandycove that urine is in fact not the answer. But you gotta let people have their homemade cures if they want them. I swear by camomile for my nerves, pretzels for nausea, raw garlic for colds, and chocolate for every malaise no matter how slight.
I swam for a lovely long time. It was a proper summer swim. Afterwards drying off, YouRhine-Guy said to me, that was great! You just can’t beat it. You just can’t beat it with a stick, or 2 sticks even!! He chuckled at his own poetry. I knew what he was talking about. I felt great.
Y’know he said, there’s one kind of jelly fish that stings you and that’s the end. Goes right into your blood and that’s it. You’re Dead. He cymbaled his hands together to demonstrate. But you can’t let that stop ya, he concluded.
No indeed, we choose our risks where pleasure is concerned.
I sat on the wall and drank my Earl Grey tea in the sun and was filled with a great happiness. The whole experience never fails to tap into my sweet spot. This has got to be the most optimistic place ever; hanging out with these fit-as-fiddle seniors jumping in the sea, you can’t help but be cheerful about the present and the future.
By popular request this week’s song is The Waterboys’ old classic: This Is The Sea