24 LUNASA 2009.
Almost a year ago, on the cusp of your man’s last birthday a few friends informed him that they had gathered together their meagre monetary resources. They intended to buy him a fitting present as a sign of their great love and affectation for his aging personage. Your man protested, as one does, that there was nothing he wanted or needed. Although deeply moved by their generosity, he told them that he was also mindful of the poverty in which they existed. They had their families and other burdens to carry. Be that as may, he was told firmly, that his companeros had contributed to marking his lá breithe and it would be better that it be with something that he wanted instead of something that he would have no use for.
Finally they wore him down. Friends can be like that sometimes. Trying. Very trying as your man observed to me. One particularly longstanding amigo of mine once remarked to me that you didn’t have to like your friends….. to be friends with them.
I understand that he didn’t contribute to the birthday collection. Maybe he was trying to prove his point? Which is very much to the point. But anyway as I mention above your man eventually gave in.
‘Wet gear’ he said, ‘ wet gear would be nice, thank you very much, though you know you don’t need to get me anything……’
And so it came to pass. The birthday arrived bountifully. So did the wet gear. Your man had pictured himself whistling cheerfully up Donard or along Sliabh Dubh in the very finest of gortex pants and matching jacket. Would they be revolutionary red? Or a masculine blue? Maybe patriotic green?
I was there as the wrapping was torn eagerly apart and a black rubber balaclava and black rubber boots with individual big toes tumbled out to be followed closely by a one piece suit of the same material. Not exactly the clothing for brambley paths or heather clothed boggy slopes.
‘Wet gear?’ your man muttered as the truth dawned on him. ‘this is a bloody wet suit!!’
And so it was. A really fine and dandy job. But no use for hillwalking And not exactly suitable for the Falls Baths.
Of course I kept all this to myself.
And the wet suit kept itself to itself. Until last week.
Last week your man stood in a gale force wind on a deserted beach. Him and the wet suit. There was not another sinner in sight as he stripped off and proceed to slip into his slick new outfit. Getting into it was torturous and slow. The wet suit resisted every inch of the way. It was a pulling and stretching marathon, a wrestling match with an unsympathetic, wily and rubbery opponent. But eventually leg by leg and arm by arm your man wormed his way into its innards. There was sand everywhere.
Eventually he stood up. In reality he stooped up. He could hardly breathe. A panic attack threatened. His limbs were constricted. The new goggles were steamed up. The balaclava put an halt to his hearing. The wind and the sand whipped around his twisted contorted Quasimoto form. As he lurched towards the broad Atlantic the tide appeared to be going out.
And then to compound his difficulties he realised that he had no towel. He slunk back to the car and drove, wet suited balaclaved and begoggled, like a thief back to the house, scundered in case he met anyone he knew en route.
By the time he got back to the beach he realised that needed a pee. For a second he contemplated doing it in the suit. But he knew he would regret that. His waters would have no point of exit. His midriff regions would be poached.
So he jigged from foot to foot as he tried to strip off what was now a second skin. Peeling a live conger eel would be easier, he confided to me, than taking off a wet suit with manical tactile tendancies while dying for a leak. His jig became a jive, then a slow tango along the strand while all the while his bladder beat its own crazy beat until ….. eventually….. relief!! Ahhhhhhhh!
By the time he got the wet suit on again the tide was even further out. But he was not going to be denied his reward. He trudged seawards until at long last he could plunge into deep water. He lasted all of five seconds. The problem was he couldn’t move. The suit had him in a full nelson. He could barely flex his arms.
He also knew now why it was called a wet suit. He was soaking. He got some slight relief by floating on his back. But his y- fronts were wringing wet. He had kept them on. Under the suit. He was wet,wet,wet. And half strangled.
Later back among the dunes he thought he would die. The rematch was a prolonged duel. Like a grudge match with a drunken but happy octopus. By the end of it he was exhausted. And close to tears.
But at least as he consoled himself later with a drink or two, at least he had conquered the wet suit. It was now only a matter of practice. What a great birthday present. He would be like a dolphin before long.
Ps. The next day as your man and I watched surfers dancing on the waves on a different strand he told all this to me. Suddenly mid sentence he choked and exclaimed,
‘The zips of their suits are down their backs!’
I grinned at him.
‘ My wet suit was on back to front!’
‘Don’t you tell anyone.’ he begged me.
‘Of course not’ I assured him. ‘Of course not.’