In my mind Portmarnock had glory days. In my mind Portmarnock was in its pomp back in the nineteen eighties. This is due primarily, I’m sure, to the Carrolls Irish Open as it was then. The Irish Golf Open was held at Portmarnock links course back then, when tobacco companies sponsoring prestigious sporting events didn’t raise an eyebrow.
And prestigious it was. It used to attract the cream of the world’s golfers; Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and of course the great Seve Ballesteros were all regular participants. In my young mind the glamour of European tour golf was inextricably linked to Portmarnock. I was probably in Portmarnock once, circa 1978.
Once, that is until last Saturday when, summoning courage accumulated over the intervening forty years, I dared to return. The occasion was a call from a prospective client to come and survey a garden.
Now the received wisdom tells us that when it comes to Dublin, anything south of the River Liffey is positively all privilege and glamour and anything north nothing more than deprivation and decay.
Which is of course all nonsense. And the nonsense of it became more and more apparent the further north I went. Off the M50, turn at Northern Cross, out the Malahide Road, through Kinsealy and into Malahide itself.
Subsequently I have learned that Malahide consistently finishes top of the regular poll conducted to establish the best neigbourhoods in the country in which to live. Which didn’t surprise me in the least. The sprawling and sumptuous grounds of Malahide Castle, the period architecture, the picture postcard village centre, the verdant streetscapes and the cherry on top; The Sea.
Continue northwards through Malahide along the coast road in the direction of Portmarnock and take in the view to your left; Lambay Island, Ireland’s Eye and onwards to the faint twinkling of Howth Harbour.
I’m sure it was right here that Joyce was standing when he composed that immortal introductory line to Finnegans Wake; “A lone a last a loved a long the riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.”
Or at the very least, in my case, a commodius vicus of recirculation back to the environs of a one hundred square metre east facing back garden with no access, a two metre level change from front to back, chronically overlooked in all directions and in permanent shade. The analysis and recommendations for this one could run to a similar word count as Finnegans Wake, although I am hoping it will be a tad more comprehensible.
Anyway, onwards then with the client for lunch on the veranda of the White Sands Hotel with the gaze fixed firmly eastwards towards the resplendence of sun drenched Ireland’s Eye and the myriad assorted sailing craft in the foreground.
Ah, The White Sands, with all of that quintessential seaside seen better days welcome and shabby charm. Thankfully though they haven’t lost sight of what’s actually important in the hospitality game; the hospitality. Hearty smiles, hearty food, heart-warming views. Who can explain the blend of euphoria and melancholy that envelopes a person when simply sitting and staring out to sea?
Then, as is inevitable in the first week of April, the clouds rolled in and the rain started to fall. Inwards then to the lounge to catch the second half of the Merseyside Derby. A three-one win to the Reds by the way. If Lou Reed was still knocking around I’m sure he would have called it a perfect day.
My return visit to Portmarnock has been forty years coming. I won’t leave the next one quite so long.