The planes are so uch a feature of the landscape that Addie seldom
notices them. The same with the smoke from the chimneys at
Poolbeg, the same with the car ferries lunking their way along the
horizon towards Dun Laoghaire.The clouds and the seabirds and the
sea itself. Addie takes no notice of any of these things. Shes so caught
up in her own head, she doesnt notice anything else.
The beach is where she was born, pretty much.
She was five days old when they brought her home. She was carried
out of the car in her mothers arms, a tiny bundle wrapped up in a
purple angora blanket, a wool hat pulled down over her forehead and
her ears. Her mother climbed the steps up to the front door, pausing
at the top to turn back to face the sea.
Her father had the door open already. He had stepped into the
hall and he was beckoning for her mother to follow. Come on in,
woman, for Gods sake, he said. Youll freeze out there.
But her mother stood on the steps for another moment with
Addie in her arms, gulping in the cold sea air. It was heaven after
the sticky heat of the hospital and she couldnt get her fill of it. It
never occurred to her that her newborn daughter too was drinking
in that salty air, that she was pulling it down into her spongy little
lungs. Some of it must have made its way right down into her
Thats how Addie feels now. She feels as if the beach is a part of
her. Its her special place, its probably whats keeping her sane.
The beach is deserted at this hour of the morning, theres nobody
around but herself and the little dog. The tide is out and the
clouds are hanging low over the sand, you can almost feel the pressure
of them on your head. The forecast is for rain, but theres no
sign of it yet.
Addie walks straight for the waterline. Shes half a mile out and
still the sea seems no closer. It must be a very low tide. There are
some puddles now, more and more of them, so she doesnt go any farther.
She doesnt want to get her feet wet. Its starting to get cold, and
she really should be wearing her boots. But she doesnt, she prefers
to wear her runners. That way she can feel the ridges of the sand
through the soles of her shoes. It makes her feel solid, the sensation
of the hard sand under her feet.
All her life Addie has had the feeling that theres a black cloud
following her around. These days she feels like that cloud has finally
caught up with her. The beach is the only place where she has the
sense that she can outwalk it.
Out on the beach she can talk to herself. She can sing along to
her iPod and no one can hear her. She can scream if she wants to and
sometimes she does. She screams and then she laughs at herself for
screaming. Out on the beach, she can think about all the things that
have happened. She can sift them, backwards and forwards in her
head. She can cry hot tears of self-pity. She feels guilty about crying
in front of the dog, but afterwards she feels much better. She feels almost
The dog is scrabbling in the sand for something that isnt there.
Shes shoveling wet sand with her front paws, tossing it back between
her hind legs. A big pile is building up behind her and her whole underbelly
is filthy, but she doesnt seem to notice. Addie stands there
and watches the dog working away at her pointless task. Sure let her
at it, she thinks, isnt she happy.
Addie throws her head back and looks up at the sky. Shes studying
it, as if shes looking for something up there. It occurs to her that
shed love to travel out into space, shed love to look down at the
world from out there. If she could see the world from the outside,
maybe then shed be able to gain a bit of perspective on her situation.
She turns and faces back towards the shore. Even from here, shes
able to pick out the house. Its the putty-colored one in the middle
of a terrace of smudgy pastels. Three large windows looking out over
the sea, two upstairs, one down.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...