‘What about the lion’s manes?’ marque 4 enquires as I throw the togs into a bag on a scorcher of a Sunday. We’ve been sweltering away in the garden until we can no longer take it.
‘Don’t worry. I’ve googled it. They’re gone’ I say assuredly. ‘Now get in the car’. There’s been no swimming since we came home from the West despite the tantalisingly good weather. Today is the day. Google throws up a newspaper article stating that our poisonous friends have scarpered – no sightings for on the beaches or in the sea for 5 days. The notices banning swimming have been removed.
Given the scorcher that it is we debate the relative merits of the beaches and plumb for Five Mile Point in Wicklow to escape the certainty of crowds along the Dublin Coast. And then I remember the car situation. On Friday our drive home from school was accompanied by an almighty knocking.
‘What the hell is that?’ I asked the children, figuring theirs would be as good a guess as mine.
‘Maybe there’s a cat stuck under the bonnet’ marque 4 offered. And they all laughed. Marque 2 started to calmly investigate.
‘It’s not there when you accelerate’.
‘Isn’t it?’ I said, accelerating. He was right.
‘What else do you notice?’ I asked wondering if between us we could somehow solve it. Make it go away.
‘People are staring at us’ marque 3 chimed in and true enough it was a stop and stare noise. Some people even turned around to look. Cheek of them. I expected at any moment to hear a thud and to see the engine on the road behind us in the rear view mirror. We clanged and rattled our way into a local mechanic who investigated and diagnosed a completely rotten exhaust section, all the way up to the axel. He recommended we go swiftly to any of the exhaust fitter places. And he didn’t charge a cent for his time. Decency. The exhaust fitter let us know that as our car is a Japanese import with a long wheel base we’d have to order it specifically. It might take some time. Then he said that the whole thing was about to fall off, and asked permission to remove it so it’s not dragging along the road behind us. Sure you can we said. We’ve caused enough of a stir already.
He told us we can drive around without it. But we figure a long drive would be foolish. So on this scorcher we cross our fingers and head to Killiney beach.
‘We’ll never get parking on a day like today’ I say as we sail past the car park at the train station and notice a load of empty spaces. We go around to our favourite small car park – down a tunnel which isn’t much fun if you meet a car on the way out – and he says he’ll leave us off if it’s full and go back to the other one. But there are a handful of spaces which is very unusual – even when the weather isn’t good.
We get down to the beach and it takes a minute for it to register. There are so few people here. Where are all the crowds? The place should be mobbed. What is everyone doing on such a glorious day? It’s late afternoon. Maybe they all got here earlier and couldn’t take the heat. We’re delighted. Free rein fun. They clamber quickly into their togs, the two youngest being first, and they run down to the sea. I follow them down. Marque 4 is running straight in – like he has done all summer in the West – when I see it. Directly in front of him, a few feet from the shore, is an enormous burnt orange mass. He’s making a bee-line for it. I holler for him to stop. He comes back to me and I point it out to him. He agrees that it is indeed one of them. But the size – surely they don’t get that big?
A man is swimming close to where we are standing. By my calculation he is heading horizontally for it and it for him. With the 10 metre long stinging tentacles in mind, I sprint over to him and motion him out of the water.
‘I think I’ve just see a lion’s mane’ I tell him, not wanting to sound too alarmist. I don’t think, I know, and it’s ginormous. Turns out he’s a regular swimmer and has a few tips. He tells me how they stay far out, they don’t come close in to the shore so if the kids stay within their depth they’ll be grand. As he speaks it’s dawning on me that he hasn’t taken my spotting seriously at all. I’m looking like an over protective mother who has seen a clump of seaweed and won’t let her poor children have any fun in the water. I leave him re-iterating what I saw, and how it seemed to be heading in his direction.
We go back up to the others.
‘Google let mummy down’ marque 4 says laughing, thankfully. Not annoyed as he could we have been. He was dying for a swim.
‘Google lied to mummy’, he continues. ‘There’s an enormous lion’s mane right there.’ Marque 2 and 3 along with their Dad go down to spot it too. He ends up chatting to the man with the tips. Suddenly they both have their hands cupped above their eyes looking out, pointing. They can see it too. Apparently the man’s face paled when he saw it, the size of it, so close to where he’d been swimming. He was very keen to thank us. Repeatedly.
‘That could’ve been a very different evening for me if you hadn’t pointed it out, thanks again’. Then comes the choice. Do we head up the beach warning others too. Or do people just want to be left alone to take their own risks? Is there an onus on us to warn? We believe that there is. If it was us we’d want to be told. So he heads off and I watch as he points, and people scan. It’s like a scene from Jaws, all the cupped hands over eyes, the pointing and the swimmers retreating hurriedly from the water in that moment of recognition – that there is indeed a monster amongst us. But then again most of the county seemed to know that already – the sparseness of the crowd a huge clue as to what lay beneath. Maybe it was only the vigilant few googling whether it was safe who turned up today. Fools. I’ll follow the crowd next time. The man with the tips and his companion pack up to leave, waving to us as they pass, and she mouths ‘thanks’. Ah, the sweet rewards of a good day’s work – I wonder if Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council might employ me as chief jelly fish spotter for the rest of the month.
Given the otherwise damp squib of the excursion so far somebody deemed it appropriate to nod her assent to a trip to the all the rage new ice-cream parlour – Scrumdiddly’s.
Part of the hype of the place, it seems, is the street queueing. The longer you queue, the more delicious it gets. Capitalism at its very best. Having been in the former Soviet Union and Cuba – back in my youth – and witnessed real queueing for bare necessities this is a little disquieting. But I don’t let on. Marque 3 throws his hand up in assembly on Monday morning to tell the tale of the near miss with the lion’s mane and the 45 minute queue for ice-cream. Every minute of the wait, he swears, was worth it.