Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


Saturday Morning In Tralee With Runaround Sue


We are on our morning walk. Setting off from home, we cut across Castle Demesne and through the pike gate, passing by what I guess is the ruins of a castle. Once up the few well-worn steps we are in the park proper and Daisy is in her element. This is her park and any dog we meet usually gets an earful, regardless of size.

Going along the path we walk straight into the Park Run. This Saturday morning 5K run starts at 9am each week and it is the same in town parks throughout the world. A simple online, once-off registration and fee of €5.00, allows you to turn-up each week, run the marked route and a scan of your tag gives you a weekly reading of your times. A simple idea that is very popular. So much so that when Daisy and I get to the top of the steps a herd of people are coming around the corner ahead. This is not what Daisy is used to and she takes refuge behind me, before we move onto the grass to make way for the runners.

All the way around the park we are walking against the flow. People of all ages, sizes, shapes, height, colour and creed are out this morning. To me the run is a perfect example of the mix of people now living in Ireland. The usual off-pink skin is not the only one on display and at least one of the runners is not of the traditional catholic creed. I have seen the man, now coming at a good pace towards me, many times around town looking very elegant in his white Salwar Kameez, probably on his way to or from prayers. He smiles a hello as we pass. There are long haired lovers from who knows where and other fans in their red Chevrolet shirts, who think their time has come again. I say hello to a fellow footballer from my Monday night five-asides who is encouraging his son and an eminent radio journalist greets me as she powers past. A few mothers are pushing buggies, with smiling babies sitting up front, wondering what the fuss is all about.

In the distance, over by the Rose Garden, encouraging music is blasting from a sound system. Before long I am singing ‘Runaround Sue’ by Racey and it worries me that I not only know the words but I also know the name of the band. A man plods past, breathing as if it may be his last moments on earth but he seems unconcerned and Daisy sniffs at him as he runs along. The long line of runners keeps coming, some walking, some jogging and some powering past. Just before we walk into the Garden of The Senses we pass some of the same people again, beginning their second lap.

Once through the Rose Garden we head away from the finish line and out onto Denny Street. The traffic is quiet and we cross the road into Pearse Park. Is there a town in Ireland that hasn’t got at least one public area not called after a 1916 rebel? Probably not. As we walk past the bust of Pearse I realize that Daisy hasn’t had a bark at another dog since we left home. Highly unusual but at the end of the path I see a man putting a pug on a leash. Maybe there is time left yet. The man in a red hoodie is bending down with his back to us. As we walk up Daisy leaves out a bark, just as the pug does the same. The man jumps, swears and turns around. The two dogs keep barking and I drag Daisy away before the incident escalates.

“Sorry about that,” the man says before I do. Nothing like getting your apologies in first.

“My fault,” I say, dragging Daisy out the gate.

Maybe this is the Ireland the 1916 rebels imagined. People of all races running around the park and barking dogs the only threat to the peace. Possibly, but ‘Runaround Sue’ is the only tune I’m walking to this morning and trying to get into the mind of the man on the plinth behind will have to wait.


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The boy points and runs towards Daisy. He is full of smiles and says something to his Dad. We are between the mesh fence of the hurdy-gurdys and the low stone wall that runs along the grass by the Siamsa Tire building, a space of no more than four or five feet. The two obviously like the look of Daisy and she likes nothing better than a bit of attention.

“Does your dog bite?” I’m asked by the little man, who I see could be no more than five years old.

“No,” I say though I pull back on Daisy’s lead in case the boy is scared of dogs.

The smile on his little face would light up a thousand lives and he captures my heart immediately. The father is a big man, well over six foot and is powerfully built, in the way of someone who happily works hard for a living. His fair hair is combed over to the side and cut short around the ears and neck. The striped, long sleeved shirt is tight around the chest, open at the neck and tucked into a clean pair of chinos. On his feet are a pair of well-polished brown shoes that look like they may be only for Sundays or other days out. The boy is a carbon copy of the Dad; the shirt tucked into his trousers and the shoes scuff free, though not as polished as the older man’s.

“She’s just like the ones we have at home, isn’t she?” the father says.

I think they are chatting to me but I quickly realize the man is talking to the boy only. The boy smiles up at his Dad then turns to me. He who holds up two fingers before saying:

“We have two.”

“Lucky you,” I say.

He keeps smiling. Obviously a very happy young man. His Dad no doubt the same. The boy rubs his arms and points at my bare ones, while also shivering a bit. It is then that I notice the hearing aid in his right ear.

“I know,” I say clearly and loudly, “it is cold and I forgot my jumper.” I rub my arms too and pull at my thin t-shirt to show how little warmth it is giving me.

The boys hugs himself and I guess it is to show he is warm.

“Lucky you,” I say.

He smiles and bends down to rub Daisy. She licks his fingers which makes him laugh even more. The father, who may be a bit shy, just nods at me.

“We must go now Sean,” he says after a few seconds

“You’re a great man,” I say to the son, “and full of muscles too”. I gently squeeze the biceps on his right arms and he falls into even more laughter.

The father looks at me with a beaming smile.

“Thank you,” he says.

“Good luck,” I say and head off for home.

Two hours later and I’m still smiling.

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