The Long Walk

I guess it’s about time I related the tale of what happened on Saturday. The summary for those of you too busy to read past the second sentence is that four of us decided, at 2AM on Saturday morning, to walk home from Blackrock to Greystones. Here follows the tale of that event, as recounted by me, in case anyone wants to adapt it into a movie and cast Wil Wheaton as me. We might have trouble getting River Phoenix to play Steve. I’ll let the other two fight it out over who gets Jerry O’Connell and Cory Feldman.

I like to think that I’ve learned something this weekend. Do not create a television series about a group of people who crash-land on an island if you don’t know where you’re going with it. Don’t just make it up as you go along because if you do it’s going to start sucking very quickly. Wait, that’s what I learned from Seth MacFarlane’s Harvard Class Day speech. What I learned from this weekend is that Dalkey is an absolutely beautiful town, but that it’s harder to get out of than the Mafia. It’s like a beautiful flower. You know, like the ones that have slippery insides that sucker unsuspecting insects in and then trap and eat them.

Let me rewind. The night started in Blackrock, in a pub. We were there to say good bye to a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend. I don’t know how many links there actually were in that chain. I don’t know who the person was, nor where she was going. I think there was mention of New Zealand. Or maybe just regular Zealand (in Denmark). Or Zeeland (in the Netherlands). Perhaps she was on her way to a water park named Sea Land. I really don’t know. But I digress. That there was a pub, and therefore alcohol, is the only pertinent piece of information at this stage.

How this circumstance led to the decision to walk the 25 kilometres home is disputed. Some claim it was Stephen’s idea. At one point Brian was being blamed. Actually I suggested it first, but I’m not sure that I’ll endear myself to my compodriates by admitting that here. By the way, "compodriates" is a word. Look it up. And if you say "I did look it up and it’s not a word", that’s because you looked it up in a book. Next time look it up in your gut. Anyway, whoever gets the blame, we all somehow came to the conclusion that walking home was a terrible idea and that we should definitely do it. There were protestations and cries of "it can’t be done" by onlookers. They were ignored. It could be done. It would be done. It was done. But I get ahead of myself.

Two o’clock we set out from Super-Mac’s, adequately fuelled for our journey. I had eaten a Super-Mac’s bacon burger, thereby making a seven-hour walk through the night only the second most reckless thing I did this weekend. South was easy to find. It’s the way that feels like going down hill. We kept our bearings by making sure the moon stayed to our right. Some arguments were made to stay close to the duel carriageway so that we’d know the way. Other arguments were made to go the more interesting route, what might be termed "scenic". These latter arguments may have been made by me. They are what led to us getting… delayed. At three o’clock, still making good time, we arrived in Dalkey. "Nearly there," someone suggested. We found a Shell service station that was still open and there we bought drinks to maintain our fluids. We were going to go about this thing the right way, we thought. Bottled water was the thing. We chatted with some locals, and told them of our plan. They were supportive. They may have wished us luck; I don’t remember.

We still had some distance to go, so we said good bye to our single-serving friends and headed in the vague direction of our next stop, Killiney. I don’t want to spoil the story, but whoever’s working on the movie version should take note: make sure to have a lingering shot of the service station as we leave.

After approximately no deliberation we headed right, which seemed to promise the most southerly route. We passed some really fancy houses. One was a castle, which we referred to as Enya’s house, even though it turns out that that’s in Killiney. If by some chance there’s a spectacularly wealthy Dalkeyian reading this who was woken in the early hours of that morning I would like to take this opportunity to assure them that I didn’t participate in ringing any gate buzzers and running away. Well that’s not strictly true; I did participate in the running away. We passed a building with a flag flying outside. "Look, a Jamaican flag," I said. "Wait, that’s a South African flag." This geographical hiccup apparently didn’t discourage the guys from trusting my sense of direction. Which is a pity.

An hour and a half after leaving Dalkey town we came into another town. It must be Killiney, we thought. Then we saw a sign for Killiney pointing back the way we had come. Great, we thought, we must have somehow passed Killiney. Then we saw another signpost across the street, pointing in the opposite direction. It said Killiney. Then we saw a service station. A very familiar service station. Very familiar indeed. So familiar, in fact, that you might suspect that we had been there before. Some of us found this to be hilarious. Some of us did not.

After approximately no deliberation we headed left, on the grounds that it would take us to the coast. It would be literally impossible to lose our way if we followed the coast. We took this axiom to heart. So when the road stopped at a harbour leaving us no road South we climbed over rocks. And walls. And through gardens (which I think belonged to rented holiday apartments, so it wasn’t really tresspassing). We went through a lane by a school. Thankfully the gate at one end was open. Regretably the gate at the far end was not. Each of us chose for ourselves to climb over the lower barbed-wire fence or the higher spiked fence. It’s difficult to find a "right way" to go in such circumstances. After these fences, some nettles, and another low wall we found ourselves back on a road.

I liked this road. It went South. It had a view of the sea. It sloped downwards in the direction we were travelling. And it had Colby. I think. I mean, he was definitely there, but I’m not sure about his name. I didn’t hear it very well, and I don’t have a good memory for names. Either way, at this stage he was only "naked guy in a towel". He was leaning out his window drinking a beer at 5AM. Brian asked him for directions, where asking for directions involves saying, "How the FUCK do you get out of Dalkey? We’ve been here for FUCKING hours! What the FUCK? I hate this FUCKING town!" This apparently didn’t bother our new friend, who invited us in for a glass of water. Each. He actually offered beer, but who wants that when they’re three hours into a seven hour walk? His oriental lady friend (the guys suggested she was a hooker, but I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt) gave us each a small packet of… I’m not sure. Maybe wasabi. I don’t really know what that is. We thanked her, and quickly pocketed whatever it was. Now it’s what the ancient Egyptians called a "souvenir".

Colby gave us directions. He also gave us a pretty good description of Bono’s house so that we would know which gate to buzz to piss of a celebrity. Hey, if he gets to release How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb I get to wake him in the middle of the night for no reason. An ear for an ear.

We never got as far as Bono’s house though. Minutes after leaving Colby’s house we passed the South African embassy again. Wonderful. We were back on exactly the same route that had taken us in a circle, only this time it had taken us three times as long to get there from the service station. We threw Colby’s directions out the window. Figuratively. We had neither a physical copy of the directions nor a window to throw them out of. We went back to our Axiom of Getting Home: the coast cannot lead you in a circle. At least, not one that doesn’t go through Greystones. We weren’t about to walk the whole way around the country by accident. So the first chance we got we went down on to the beach.

We walked the beach for an hour and a half until we got to Shankill. Walking on sand is much more demanding than walking on pavement or tarmac, but the beach kept us on the coast and the coast kept us heading home. Complaints were being made by this time. Feet were hurting. Legs were rebelling and refusing to operate properly. A train had passed. There was a DART station nearby. Tired minds began to fit these facts together in creative ways. We asked the guy in the station when there would be a DART to Bray or Greystones. Sixty-seven minutes. Nuts to that, we thought. We’d walk to Bray in that time. So we did.

Right about now a screenwriter would have to "embellish" the story a little bit. The truth is the journey was easy once we got back to a route that we knew. Shankill is familiar. Bray even more so. Perhaps you could add some emotional scenes about Owen’s departure to get a bus. That did happen, but it wasn’t exactly emotional. I will note that the road over Bray head is a lot longer and steeper than I would have wanted it to be. On the way up I reassured myself that it would be much easier going down hill. I had forgotten the hard-earned fact that on a steep enough hill going down is almost as difficult as going up. It’s certainly more effort than the gentle slopes of Dalkey. Not that I was feeling wistful for Dalkey or anything; I think I spent quite enough time there.

I tried to photograph the "Welcome to Greystones" sign in Windgates. I felt it was symbolic. The sunlight reflecting off it foiled my plan though, so you’ll have to supply your own symbolism. There are other photos from the trip at Flickr.

I walked in my door at 9AM, seven hours after leaving Blackrock. I could have gone to Paris and back in that length of time. I don’t think it took too long though. I’m pretty sure the 46A takes longer than that to get from Dublin to Dun Laoghaire. Needless to say, my legs hurt for a day or two afterwards. But at least I have the memories. And the little packet of someting that might be wasabi.