Solo: Death in Dun Laoghaire – Essay: Baths

  This is where I first saw a naked woman. We scratched the white wash off the skylight with a coin and peered down below to see what seemed to us to be an ancient antediluvian creature floating in a large bath full of seaweed. We caught glimpses of her saggy pallid dimpled flesh, between the fronds of weed. Present was a 12 year old expert of the female form who pointed out all the relevant areas of interest. “Her diddys”, which looked like flattened wizened leather bags, “and at her Gee,” the source of most of our fascination – a large mollusk peeked out from beneath a thin coat of mottled grey hair, I was disappointed and more than a little disturbed. It was far too real.

This is where I spent nearly all my summers from when I was 8 until I was 13.

Now it molders away here awaiting its fate, as the site for some Celtic tiger monstrosity. It is astonishing to think that this was Dun Laoghaires’s major recreational site in the mid 1970’s; it has more in common with the 1920’s than it does with today. It difficult to imagine in an era of overweight kids and video games, the attraction of this place. It not only had outdoor pools but also a full Victorian bath complex, complete with seaweed and steam baths.

It was here, that I first encountered the mysteries of human courtship. The combination of sunshine, water and female company still contrives to turn me into a tongue-tied adolescent. It was here also where I first fell in love; I must have been no more than 9. I still remember the exact spot where I stood beside her, along with the confusion, the sheer absolute delight, while simultaneously feeling that this is wrong. There was no explanation offered in our culture for such feelings or desires other than guilt and shame.

The only place you gleaned any real information was via pop music. Which is perhaps why the black Soul and Disco music of the mid to late 70’s has such a special place in my heart. It was everything Ireland wasn’t, bold and confident, songs that sang of impossible longing, heartbreak, and above all sex. I vividly recall when it all suddenly made sense to me, a moment of revelation, when I realised music’s true importance. I was aged 11 at a dance at the county hall in Mullingar, where my Aunt Ruth was manning the mineral bar; I can remember what I was wearing, where I stood, what was playing as I watched a much older couple grind into one another on the dance floor oblivious to everything and every one else. Even now I can’t listen to many of those songs without my stomach turning somersaults. At how much and how little has passed between then and now.