Peeing on Seaweeds – an open apology to persons unknown.
Not far from where we are now sitting in the Brick Room, I invite you to imagine the Lifeboat House and the views to the Mournes from our walks around the coastal paths of Red Island. Looking nearer, we can see the rocky shore north and east of the Lifeboat House here, is an exposed, slippery, slithery shore with a brown kelp forest exposed at low tide with bladder wrack in rocks above. Walking here among seaweeds and rocks is for the sure footed, for those who can cope with an occasional fall.
Seaweeds detached from the rocky coastline of Red Island in the littoral, the sub-littoral to sub-tidal zones can drift in the sea water, past hardy frosty swimmers, and wash up in cast lines along the South Beach, when the high tide turns. Twice daily, this line of seaweed is fresh gift from the sea for scrutiny by dogs, walkers and storytellers.
Oberon, a three and a half legged, black and white border collie, loves going for his walk on the South Strand, once or twice a week, on the weekday evenings after work, or on a Saturday before or after lunch in Skerries, we all have the opportunity to walk a section of the one or two lines of cast up seaweed.
Seaweeds on the strand line of the beach are green, brown or red – green like the sea lettuce Ulva or the green tassles of Enteromorpha; or brown, like channelled wrack or Pelvetia from the rocks, knotted wrack or Ascophyllum, serrated wrack and bladder wrack or Fucus, fluted oar weed or Saccharina, northern kelp or Laminaria, or sea spaghetti Himanthoria. The red ones are special like the dilisc flaps of Pepper Dulse, or the tiny red epiphytic ones that colonise the stems of old brown feaminagh, like the red Polysiphonia on the batons of kelp or old stems of wrack.
Released from his responsibilities of driving a white van along the windy shore road under the bridge from down the hill from Ardgillan, Oberon arrives in Skerries harnessed and restrained on a 7m retractable lead, ready for his Saturday Walk.
Sure footed, leaps three and a half legged from the cabin to the pavement and up onto the grass. We cross the path, through a gap in the oak baton slatted fence, onto the dunes and down onto the sand. When Oberon arrives bladder full, the seaweed line is quickly targeted. A three second pee, and a splash here and there, after sniffing the seaweed’s potential. The browns of Fucus serratus and Ascophyllum nodosum are the prime targets.
The long batons of the Kelp are a suitable beach toy and plaything of this Ballyanne, New Ross dog. Hurled lead length away, Oberon scurries to retrieve. The more ramified clusters of Ascophyllum are brown bubbly floor mops, when hurled wet land slap on the sand. They are soon behind his canines, in a premolar 1 and 2 grip, as he rat-tossles them hydra-like, shaking the seaweed to within an inch of its rat-tailed life. ‘Those imaginary rats must be really terrified of you, Oberon’
Oberon’s walks on South Beach have passed off without incident, a meeting with Harley, a stop, chat and parley about dogs and peeing on seaweeds, or whether you have more than two dog poop bags, when Oberon goes thrice.
In conversation, peeing on seaweeds is an ideal theme for opening caint with dog owners. Imagine yourself saying ‘Does your dog pee on seaweeds too. I have just noticed that he did. How interesting.’
This day a man in grey trousers fell into conversation on the South Beach. We were so engrossed in the caint about peeing on seeweeds that Oberon took an unbidden liberty. He wet him through to the leg. So, what do you do. Offer to have his trousers taken to the cleaners, or be taken to the cleaners over his trousers? I must say caint about ‘peeing on seaweeds’ worked, and we negotiated for an exemption on the grounds that they were grey work trousers.
When the man got home to his wife, we can imagine the conversation.
‘How was your walk?’
‘I saw you talking.’
‘Did you meet anyone interesting.’
As she continued her Saturday morning house chores, she said.
‘Do you have anything for the washing machine?’
What happens in Skerries, stays in the Brick Room.
© Howard Fox, 26 July 2014, 766 Words
Read at an Ardgillan Writers Group function at the Brick Room – Saturday 26 July 2014