Listen to Karen tell the story…
How are all those New Year resolutions going? Are you skinny yet? Have you got the price of a week’s cigarettes in your pocket or did you just not bother making any, so as not to break them?
While I haven’t made a resolution as such, I did start a new hobby, on New Year’s Eve of all times…paddling. Not the type of water sports where you use an aul paddle, like canoeing or kayaking. Jaysus, the state of me climbing into one of them, it’s hard enough keeping myself balanced at the best of times, especially after filling that aul hollow leg, which doesn’t seem to be as deep in my 50s as it was in my 20s. Neither am I speaking of the stand up paddle boarding or indeed the racquet sport, padel. Jaysus, that’d be too much like proper exercise. My new hobby involves taking off my shoes and socks and walking into the sea, no matter what the temperature.
Now I hear you ask, what possessed an arthritic aul one to start up such a hobby in the middle of winter? Well, I don’t want to be a moany aul one, but on New Year’s Eve, the arthritis in my foot stopped me in my tracks, quite literally, couldn’t move that foot for love nor money. Ah but it got back to normal after about half an hour and with it came an incredible urge to place both my feet in sea water.
Living about 200 yards from the beach, that urge just had to be fulfilled, even though it was 8 degrees outside. So, packing a towel in a bag, off I plodded, towards the shore, at about 7pm on New Year’s Eve, knowing as I did so, that I was a mad aul one, never mind a moany one. Heading in a certain direction, I stopped short when I saw a dodgy looking young fella hanging around. Likely he was thinking ‘there’s a dodgy aul one, she must be up to something coz she’s suddenly changed course’. Keeping close to civilisation so to speak, I walked close to buildings, until I found an area which was bright enough to go into the sea in full view of people, like couples or not so dodgy looking young fellas or aul fellas alike.
Stepping carefully across the stones, so as not to lose my footing, I reached the shore. The sky was black, ink black, but absolutely beautiful. Mobile phone in the pocket of my padded jacket, scarf wrapped around my neck, I must have looked like an odd sight walking towards the shore fully dressed, including shoes and socks. In fact, I looked around surreptitiously, only to find an aul fella with a dog looking at me. I was about to put up my hand and shout ‘Sure it’s grand, I’m only going for a paddle, no need to worry’….or ‘don’t be worrying, I’m just a mad arthritic aul one with a weird fetish’. One way or another, once I took off my shoes, and socks..not an easy feat on a cold stony beach balancing on my prosthetic knee, then looked in the direction of the man with the dog, both had vanished, likely done a legger in the face of such obvious madness.
Where there’s a will there’s a way and while I may not have removed my footwear with grace, I was soon barefoot, trouser legs rolled up and walking through the gentle waves. Bracing myself for the freezing temperatures, I hesitated and….Jesus Mary and Joseph….it was actually ok! I couldn’t believe it Like a child, I waded in and out, up and down, absolutely thrilled with the experience. Who would have known it…I had lived in Spain for 14 years and I don’t remember paddling in the winter there, or maybe the years have just enhanced the craziness. I deducted that in the summer months, when we paddle and it seems freezing, we are not usually warmly dressed. Whereas in the winter, we’re wearing layers of clothes, which keep the rest of our bodies warm while paddling in the cold water.
After about 10 mins of paddling, awestruck by the beauty of the sky and the ocean, no clear line visible between the two, I decided not to push my luck where the dodgy character brigade might be concerned. Reluctantly, I moved back through the shallow waves towards the stony shore, once there awkwardly towel drying my feet, then putting socks and shoes back on. Couples walked past, hand in hand, along the promenade, gazing in the direction of the crunching sounds as I moved stealthily across the pebbled beach, without interest, as I now just looked like an aul one having an evening walk.
As New Year’s Day dawned, so the need to go back to the stony shore returned. Such was the absolute endorphin releasing sensation of the previous evening’s tootsie treat, that a return visit to the winter waters was a must. Early afternoon was the chosen time for my mystical mission but though there was a more safe element to it, there was also the New Year’s day crowds to consider. Families walking their dogs along the beach, couples strolling hand in hand on the promenade, maybe pushing gurgling babies or troublesome toddlers in prams and buggies. Cyclists pushed pedals effortlessly as their wheels turned, moving with speed along the cycle lanes. Not a single person in the water…yet!
Without the previous night’s towel, sure maybe the scarf would do, to brush off the water or worst case scenario, I’d just go home in wet socks. I found a less populated part of the beach and with the tide out, there was a sandy area, far from the madding crowd on the prom. Happy days!! Walking down the beach towards the shore, I prepared to remove the aul footwear once more. Balancing precariously on the 56 year old arthritic left leg, I removed the shoe then the sock from it’s unidentical twin right limb. Swopping over, I repeated the action, ironically less precariously because of the metal magic of the prosthetic body part. Placing socks in shoes, off I waded into the water, to indulge myself in the wonder of the sea. Again, there was no shock, though this time amazement likely, from passers by, at the sight of an aul one wrapped in a suede fur lined jacket, complete with scarf and even gloves. walking back and forth in the sea with rolled up trousers. Sure it was grand, walking in that direction, as there was a vaster area visible in natural daylight and no dodgy brigade to speak of.
After an undetermined amount of time, with dogs being my only companions in the sea, as they ran in and out of the water, gazing curiously at this strange human, I eventually made my way back to my shoes and socks. Realising in hindsight, that it hadn’t been a good idea to come without a towel, no matter how cumbersome it was, I mused how much more difficult it would be, trying to put socks on wet feet. I shoved my tantalised tootsies into my shoes, sockless, while making my return journey across the stones and up the steps to the promenade. Once back on firm ground, I sat myself on a bench and replaced my foot attire. Damp socks didn’t decrease the wonderful sensation in my feet and I resolved there and then to do this as often as possible, with a few minor tweaks to the routine.
Day Three, not such a rookie, I brought, not a towel, but a facecloth. I also brought beach shoes, open ones, easy to slip on once the shoes and socks are removed. So the routine went like this. Select a suitable paddling area, preferably a sandy spot if the tide is out a little. Seat myself on a bench to easily remove footwear in a comfortable position. Wear stretchy jeans so I can roll up the legs as far as my knees, thus having a deeper paddle. Put on beach shoes. Walk down beach towards shore.
Never having been an organised aul one, or even young one, in the olden days, I was very proud of my paddling plan. At first, everything went according to that plan, except that it was four degrees at five o’clock in the evening, still enough light to see but awareness of the dodgy brigade necessary. I found a good spot, same sort of area as the previous day and was walking down the beach towards the shore, when ‘WHOAH, what was that’? Jaysus there was some aul lad running along the beach….well he could have been a young fella, but he was too far away to check out. Jaysus, there must have been something wrong with me that day, I can usually check out any fella, young, old or even middle aged from any distance. Maybe he was some crazy guy. Pot calling kettle black here…just a guy going for a run…but best to be cautious in the dusk.
So, in my beach shoes I walked parallel to the promenade, bag in hand, trousers already rolled up, the ultimate bag lady. The light was fast fading, it being dusk ‘n’ all and upon reaching the shore, I was ridiculously pleased with myself for my revised paddle plan. Gentling slipping off my beach shoes, minus the awkward limb balancing act, Jaysus, I was chuffed that I had managed to avoid that, I also removed my scarf and put it in the bag along with my trainers and socks, placed it on the stones and waded in. ‘Jesus Mary and Joseph, Holy Mother of God, Mother of Divine Jesus’…it was feckin freezing. Yet, it was also amazing, just as amazing as the previous two days. I waded in to just below the knee and again walked back and forth parallel to the shore. Like the summer time, the longer you were in it, the less cold it seemed. However, this time, my feet and calves were numb, actually numb, by the time I waded out. Putting my scarf back on actually warmed me up, and the walk back up the beach restored circulation enough for the endorphin release to start working.
Like any self respecting bag lady, I found a bench. I took off the beach shoes and dried my feet, much to the awe of passers by. Carefully placing the footwear on the ground in front of me. I began replacing them with my socks and trainers. Big mistake..a beautiful dog, whom I had petted and fussed over a mere half hour earlier, obviously thinking it was time to play, took one of my beach shoes in his mouth and ran…!! With one shoe on and one shoe off, I yelled out, but his owner was too far ahead to hear. Now, amazing as my two year old prosthetic may be, combined with its arthritic significant other, an athletic pair, they do not make. Neither a runner, nor a jogger do I be! In fact if I was a horse, I might stretch to a trot, at a push, but missing a shoe, not even that was going to happen. So the best description I can give, of me giving chase, is a skip, a hop and a ramble, not in any particular order, as I chased after that playful pup, calling out as I ran.
What seemed like an eternity later, when the puppy had caught up with his owner, the gentleman in question bent down to retrieve what was in his pet’s mouth, looked up and saw the crazy bag lady chasing after his dog and got the picture, so to speak. If this was a romantic story, he’d have been absolutely gorgeous, apologised profusely and asked me out to dinner to make up for it. Nah, he was a grumpy looking aul fella who looked at me with disdain and when I tried to explain that his dog had my shoe, he merely stared at the trainer on my foot and the beach shoe in his hand and asked ‘Really?’
Realising that in my haste to chase after Fido or whatever Grumpy Drawers had called him, I had left both my left trainer and my right beach shoe behind, I explained my predicament but the impatient looking aul lad merely handed me the shoe and mumbled something incoherent, well it might have been coherent to someone who was actually wearing their prescribed hearing aids but maybe it was best that I couldn’t hear.
Sure I had no choice but to retrace my steps back to that bench and hope that Fido hadn’t any beach buddies who liked odd shoes. To make the journey more balanced I opted to put the odd beach shoe on my other foot, bag still in hand. I must have looked a right sight, limping back along the path with odd footwear, the bag lady image becoming more real by the second. I was never so glad to see shoes, even odd ones, as when I reached that bench.
The circulation well and truly restored to my feet and calves, the endorphin release complete, I headed home, resolving that playful puppies were now part of the dodgy beach brigade, to be avoided at all costs!!
“… neither Jesus, Mary, or even Joseph would have been of any use to her, because they were outnumbered.”
“…However, these fights were the exception rather than the rule”
“…As long as that guy was working in the vegetable shop, there was never a lack of potatoes in our house”
“…Ah sure, for us, there’s always a hot toddy (Irish slang for a hot whiskey, not to be confused with a really attractive man called Todd with the nickname ‘Toddy’)”