Coming Home

Posted on May 13, 2013


Kinsale taken by the author Darren Greenidge

Kinsale taken by the author Darren Greenidge

He was home.
It had been many years since Stephen had set foot in Ireland, let alone Kinsale and he had missed it more than his heart could ever express.
When the plane had landed at Cork Airport a feeling had come over him that could not really be explained. It was a good feeling, although he knew even under the circumstances for which he had finally come back for, that he should not be feeling good at all.
He sat on a bench by the harbours edge on a cold but sunny winters day. The January sun shone bright as gulls squawked overhead, dancing in the sky with one another. A lonely heron stood on the mudflats, staring ahead at nothing in particular, maybe dreaming of warmer weather or faraway places?
He didn’t care that it was cold, only that he was home. Boats bobbed farther out on the water, bells gently ringing in the breeze. He smiled, recalling a memory of long ago, when first going out on one of those boats all wide-eyed and scared but excited too of what the day could bring.
It had been an amazing day, full of fish and a few tussles with his Dad’s friend and he had learned fast to duck a lot. Surprisingly, he hadn’t thrown up overboard, his stomach quite strong which had surprised the small crew of four.
He tried to remember his first fish but it eluded him, only that it was an amazing experience and crazy as hell. his Dad’s friend, dead now these past four years; was one for tall stories, telling him of sea beasts that would fight the fishing boats for the catch and mermaids who would tempt them into the deep sea and Davy Jones’ locker.
He remembered when they had got back to dry land and unloaded their catch, they had cleaned up and headed to the Spaniard, taking a few fish for some friends and cooking a couple over the fire in the bar for all to share. It was the best fish he had ever eaten and could taste it on his lips even now as he sat there, feeling the warmth of the fire too.
He looked up from where he was sitting, seeing the Spaniard up on the hill overlooking the harbour. Just a short walk from there was the Spinnaker, an old family haunt and one that he loved with all his heart.
Many more memories lay there as they did in ever corner, brick, nook and cranny of this wonderful, beautiful harbour town.
Cars passed behind him and a coach headed off to the big smoke and chaos of Cork. A few people walked past taking no notice of him as he sat there just letting everything, the atmosphere of the place, wash over him.
He tried to think of how many years it had been since the last time he had set foot in town; eight, maybe nine possibly? He couldn’t be quite sure but knew it had gone very fast. As he got older, the years just dropped by into the abyss of memory, mostly a blur and forgotten.
He had been sat there now for an hour or so and knew the time was coming for him to deal with what he had gone back for.
He stretched, arms out wide, bones creaking and cracking as he did so and slumped back into position. Time to check in he supposed. A three minute walk took him past the tourist office, chip shop and across a road into another where Jim Edwards Bar and Restaurant sat overlooking a small courtyard, a few shops, another pub The Lord Kingsale and an old style wagon that once-upon-a-time-ago was pulled by horses selling goods, telling fortunes or some-such.
There was one entrance into Jim Edwards, but three doors in that entrance. The one on the left lead to the quality restaurant, the one ahead to the guests rooms and the one on the right to the bar itself which is the one he went through.
The small bar was busy, people bustling about just like it always had done and how he remembered it. He knew the family well but saw no sign of anyone he knew. In fact he saw no-one at all that he knew. Tourists and a few locals sat eating and drinking as he stood at the bar waiting to be seen to. A few minutes later an attractive girl in her early twenties came up to him and he explained that he had booked a room there for a week. She smiled at him and told him she would get the keys, that he was expected. Her accent was East European, Polish he thought by the sound of it but some accents were hard to tell. She was back in seconds and took him up to his room where he was left in peace.
Usually you weren’t allowed to check-in until after two in the afternoon but arrangements had been made for him to get there for earlier.
He showered and just lay back on the comfortable bed letting thoughts and memories wash over him of Kinsale, of family and friends. People were chattering outside his window as they walked past or into the bar itself. He was sure he recognised one of the voices out there but thought it his imagination.
He needed a drink even though he was a little sleepy. Besides, he had things to do later and people to see. He was surprised his phone hadn’t rung yet to ask where he was. They knew he was his own person and sometimes best left alone. He would get there when he was good and ready and most things couldn’t be done today anyway he thought.
First though he needed to take a walk around town and maybe get that drink. He was bound to bump into someone that he knew on his walk and he would cross that bridge when he came to it.
He grabbed his keys and went down to the bar of Jim Edwards.

He sat at the bar, a Beamish and newspaper in front of him. People bustled about and the chatter of customers drifted around him. Every day in Kinsale felt like a weekend and not for the first time he realised how much he had missed it there.
He took a sip of his drink, the thick cream making a moustache of his lip, the rest sliding down his throat to a satisfying pleasure. God, the black stuff was indeed better at home than anywhere else in the world and he put it down to the softer water of Ireland. He realised that he had called Ireland home in his mind even though he had not been there for a very long time. England was his home now in Brighton and he loved it there very much but not for the first time he had this uneasy feeling of not belonging anywhere and was very restless but being in Kinsale he felt content.
He knew that he had left on a dark cloud and it divided him to be back in his beloved Kinsale and when he thought about it he knew he was probably his own worst enemy but it takes two to tango as they say.
He took another gulp of his Beamish noticing that it had almost gone. He looked to his right at a fish tank full to the brim of lobster clambering over each other trying to escape he thought, knowing that they were due for the cooking pot of the kitchen and the belly’s of hungry customers. He felt sorry for them but knew it was the circle of life. Everything lives and dies; nothing lasts forever.
He shook himself out of his reverie seeing another Beamish in front of him. He didn’t ask for it and was about to say something when he noticed someone he knew across the bar. The man raised his glass to him and continued on with his conversation with a young woman. Ten minutes later the man came over to him and said that he would see him over the next few days to catch up and it was good to see him even under the circumstances he was back for.
He nodded and thanked him saying he looked forward to it.
Not long after he drank up and walked up the hill by the harbour and up Breakheart hill, a small walkway that is steep and enclosed by trees; the walk giving unfit people a heart-attack as the climbed it to the top.
He continued on, bypassing the Spaniard and Spinnaker, to walk the twenty minutes to Summercove and the Bulman bar and restaurant with perfect views out to see. He loved it there. Charles Fort was a short few minutes walk from there too but he would leave that for another day.
It was there that he met some old friends, some of whom knew he was back whilst others did not have a clue. All where glad to see him and they cheered his heart to see them again. They took his mind off things he did not want to think about at the moment but deep down he knew there was no avoiding them.
They talked about the past and all things but his reason for being there and when almost two hours had passed, they all shared a couple of taxis back to the Spaniard where they spent over an hour knocking back more pints and telling tall tales. By this time they were all well on their way and full of the joys of life.
The next stop was to be the Tap Tavern and then maybe a club, probably the White Lady after.

They stepped into the Tap with all its pictures of famous people on the wall to the left taken with the landlady Mary standing next to the Duchess of York, NASA astronauts and many others. the small bar was on the right and in the courtyard to the back a band was playing to a crowd of happy revellers.
Brian, Mary’s son, was behind the bar having just got back from his ghost walk for the tourists and was serving a couple of them now.
Brian saw Stephen and nodded in his direction, already pouring a pint of Beamish for him. The glass came his way and he gulped the creamy head, one of his friends patting him on the back, making a crude remark that Stephen could not but help laugh at whilst choking at the same time.
Yes, indeed he was home and suddenly it dawned on him that he would be back for good now. All the loose ends in the UK easily tied up in a matter of months. This place, this Kinsale was his lifeblood and it was where he truly belonged. No-one would ever take that from him. An Irishman always returns home eventually, alive or dead he thought and that’s when it hit him. Every emotion he had kept buried suddenly surfaced and he left the pub, not hearing the calls after him.
A few minutes later he was at the harbour listening and watching as the boats bobbed on the water. He cried then. He had not seen his father in many years and now he was there to scatter his ashes over the sea leaving some to be buried with his mother in her grave.
A hand clasped his shoulder and turning around he saw his father looking down at him, smiling.
‘It’s alright Stephen,’ he said. ‘It’s alright son.’ And with that he faded from sight and Stephen knew then that all would be okay and nothing else mattered in the world. Nothing at all. Bills were just bills, arguments were just silly childish things. Religion and wars meant nothing. It was all a façade. All that mattered was family and friends and happiness.
He got up and turned back around, heading back to the Tap Tavern and his friends.
He was indeed home.

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Posted in: Short Stories