Driving along the coast road, the September sun is filtering through the white sky. Mixed weather is what the forecasters call it. Silence from the back; a Saturday football roundup on the radio. Tired after running all day, three small faces are watching but not watching. The sea stretches out beside us and the red and white chimneys that will always mean Dublin are falling behind as we drive south.
Dog-walkers fly by in both directions, and runners overtake them. Three girls, identical in height and dress, loom up from the strand, carrying three H & M bags. Stopping for a sunny rest or a sneaky smoke after a day in town. I wonder as I watch if they all bought the same thing, and I remember happy Saturdays like this two decades ago. Different shopping bags but similar smiles.
A mother pushes a pram, flanked by an older couple. I wonder if they are her parents and decide that they are. She’s at ease with them as she stops to check on her baby – not worried about her companions; not feeling she has to apologise for her stop-start progress and her caution. She looks happy.
“Let’s put music on instead of football,” says Clara, and I press the button on the radio. Before I Fall to Pieces is playing and I turn it up, singing along. The backseat listeners don’t know the song but they sing anyway, anticipating the words.
The evening sun is winning its battle with cloud cover, and slants of orange hit the car windows. Clara points suddenly at the distant headland.
“Is that our place?” she asks. “Yes, that’s Dun Laoghaire,” I say. And tears come unbidden. I don’t know why. I think it’s happiness.