Tralee Life Life In An Irish Town


Powerful Day

Daisy andPowerful Day[1707] I are heading for a walk down the canal. Between one thing or another we haven’t been on the canal for a few days. The weather was against us on Friday, when we got as far as the towpath, only to be caught in one of those biblical-like deluges that use to scare me when reading about them during Religion class, back in St Joseph’s during the mid-70's.  Time constraints, along with me picking up a bug which sapped my energy, kept us on the shorter, round the park route, earlier in the week.

It’s beautiful day. The sun is shining, even bordering on warm, I’m feeling strong again, plants are budding in the early spring weather and everyone I pass seems to have a smile on their face. All that is missing is one of those warm, Disney choruses singing how wonderful the world can be. True Daisy barks at any dog who dares cross her path and more than one couple walks by without saying hello or answering my greetings. I can understand a single person, lost in their own thoughts but surely one of a couple could at least say something; married life can slide into silence but it doesn’t have to, not if you make an effort.

As I cross over the bridge at Blennerville, a couple, coming off the path leading to the canal gates, smile and both say ‘lovely day’. This cheers me but what I see coming behind them, at the top of the towpath, really gladdens my heart. Three men are walking in a perfect line across the path, men in their sixties I guess, though guessing age is not my strong point. If you were casting three Irishmen for a Hollywood movie you’d pick these ones. The man on the left, closest to the canal is the taller of the three. A strongly built man, possibly younger than the other two but not by much, a weather-beaten, handsome face and a near balding head, with decent lines of thick, sandy hair above either ear. He’s wearing a long raincoat, down to his knees almost, covering the top part of an old pair of suit trousers, which just reach the lip of his black walking shoes. His walking stick is of a length of aluminium, with a few layers of tape as a grip. The beauty of the other two is that they are both pushing bikes, older bikes, and they’re holding them by the centre of the handlebars, the point of perfect equilibrium. If this was that Hollywood movie the picture would begin to blur at this moment, the music would get sentimental and as the focus returns you’d have three young fellows in exactly the same poses walking into the frame.

When I was going to school, it was a sight you saw all over the streets of Cobh, as no doubt you saw anywhere else, but you don’t see as much anymore: two young fellows pushing their bikes and a third lad walking beside them. The two want to spend time with the walker, so instead of cycling by they stop and walk, using that time-honoured, centre-of-the-handlebars grip to steer. Here I am seeing it again except this time it’s at a much later time in life. The two bikers are dressed in short jackets, one has a grey pair of trousers meeting his green jacket, while the other is in the reverse, a short grey jacket just reaching the top of his green trousers. They are both white haired and each has a good crop on their head still. The three are deep in conversation, free flowing chat that only happens among good friends. There is a good chance they’ve known each other all their lives and the walk with the bikes is as natural to them today, as it was fifty years ago, when they were all at school together. A simple scene in so many ways but such a beautiful one too. Old friends still together, still smiling, still sharing jokes, still with similar interests in life and remarkably still pushing bikes like they did when teenagers.

The man in the middle is wearing glasses, the only one of the three, and I recognise his face. A local man, who lives just over the bridge by the school and we used to talk when I collected Freddie during his time there. He recognises me, I’m guessing from the smile, says hello and asks how I’m doing. The other two smile too.  I return the greeting as I walk by and at a decent distance I turn to see them at the bridge, talking some more, until the man I know and the walker, head over the bridge, while the other man crosses the road, to take up the towpath back to town.

About twenty minutes later I meet him on my way home. He’s just taking up a spot on a bench about three-quarters of the way up the canal. The bike is leaning against the edge of the seat and he’s stretching out his legs, while pulling down the zip of the jacket a bit, to take in the air. A contented sigh is all that is missing and then I hear it as I approach.

“Hello,” he says as I walk by.

“Lovely day,” I say.

“Powerful, powerful,” he says, closing his eyes against the warm sun, while leaning his head back against the top bar of the bench.

I smile and head for home.

The simple things in life really are free.


Posted by John Verling

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