Sitting down on the train to go to Bray (all pics here) I get a bad smell, really bad, and it’s wafting off of my jeans. It’s a smell that reminds me of a teacher I had in school years ago. The man smelled so bad I used to sit right at the back of the class and his stink would still offend my nostrils.After a stop or two a lady comes along and sits beside me. “What’s that smell?” she enquires and I reply with as concerned a tone as I can manage, “Jeez, I know, I was wondering that myself”, which isn’t really a lie since I had been wondering too before I realised it was emanating from me.
I think my jeans stink so offensively on account of being left in the washing machine for a few days before being hung out on the washing line. I must remember not to do this again.
The journey to Bray passes in a blur of looking at my phone tidying up some older blog posts and such, and before long I forget about my jeans problem even though I feel a lingering sense of guilt which I try my best to ignore.
Alighting from the train in the sun-soaked seaside resort of Bray I’ve decided that my plan for the day is to try to photograph 100 people.
I think the internet has us all more connected but also more disconnected and that we’re all more full of fear than ever we were before.
Every time we turn on the television or the internet we see and hear things that make us afraid.
We can’t walk through long grass for fear of being bitten by ticks and having our lives ruined by Lymes disease; we can’t eat vegetables because they’re sprayed with carcinogens; we can’t eat meat because apparently it’s destroying the planet; we can’t go outside because there’s violent gangs prowling the streets; we can’t go out in the sun or we’ll get skin cancer; and we can’t carry on the way we’re going because of a “climate apocalypse” that’s going to be the swift end of us and all our children and so we can’t have any more children because we’d only be bringing them into a god awful world full of terrible things. It would seem our only safe course of action is to stay indoors with our 50 inch smart TVs watching Netflix and playing video games.
But then again, maybe it’s the TV and the Internet we should actually be afraid of. There are many anxiety-inducing things on these platforms and when you weigh these anxieties against the catastrophes that actually happen in your life then it’s not hard to see that there’s a giganormous gulf between the things we worry about, the things external forces make us worry about, and the things that actually happen.
For example, like most people, I’ve walked through long grass my entire life. I’ve been eaten raw by insects and even had occasion to have a tick stuck in my belly. But after watching a program about Lymes the other night I find myself thinking that there’s an invasion of ticks in the grass waiting to pounce on me and ruin my life even though for the past 39 years of walking through countless fields no such catastrophe has befallen me.
Anyway, in much the same way as I tested my body a few weeks ago by trying to run 100 miles, today I am testing my psychological boundaries by approaching 100 absolute strangers and taking their photo to see if people are really as scary as we sometimes think they are.
The first person I see in Bray is the man below and the scene is a must have photograph and one which gets me excited as to what the rest of the day has in store.
His name is Mick O’Dwyer. He managed the senior Kerry Gaelic team from 1974-1989 and was the longest serving manager and also the most successful in terms of titles won. He is 83.
Upon leaving the station I purchase my fourth coffee of the day which makes me a little jittery. I don’t really know anything about Bray other than that there’s a big long promenade along the beach and so I have a vague idea of spending the whole day taking pictures of the people and scenery along it.
Passing a man who has the look of someone who may be local I ask him if he knows of anything interesting to do or take a look at while I’m here.
“There’s a nice walk around the mountain,” he says, “it takes about 2.5 hours.”
I hadn’t planned on walking along the side of a mountain but the day is nice and warm and in the distance I can see plenty of people walking along it and decide it’ll be as good a place as any to take photos and that I’ll get exercise and see a bit of scenery while I am at it.
The walkway as a means to provide access to the railway that was under construction there between 1847-1856. The railway connects Greystones to Bray and is the most costly stretch of railway in the country since it involved serious engineering challenges. It wasn’t the most obvious or best route for the railway but Lord Meath did not want his land to be divided by it and so building it became an unnecessarily challenging and expensive tasks.
Upon reading about the railway situation I can’t help but think about the famine which raged from 1845-9, the scars of which are visibly remembered in almost every town in Ireland. Here, at a time when millions of Irish people were dying of starvation and disease, being evicted and left to die at the side of the road, a wealthy man of “noble” birth couldn’t tolerate the inconvenience of a railway dividing his estate and hence the railway company had to spend significant sums of money needlessly. It would seem that no matter how desperate a nation becomes the whims of the elite minority are of greater importance than the desperate and dying multitudes. But it’s a nice day, and I don’t dwell on these thoughts.
Along the walkway from Bray to Graystones there is a rather splendid and somewhat dizzying view of the railway below. Seagulls screech in the air and cormorants can be seen perched on the rocks by the edge of the water.
People from all over the world are here today, and I stop and talk to and photograph many of them. My original idea of photographing a 100 people now seems a bit nuts and I realise it’s much better to enjoy the day and photograph people as it takes my fancy.
I meet people from Brazil, Spain, India, Nigeria, Nepal, and even a few Irish people.
After about two and a half hours I arrive in Greystones and, somewhat knackered, grab myself a coffee to reassess the situation. Part of me wants to get the train back to Bray but up a hill by the walkway one can see a large crucifix and so I decide to double back to check out the view from up there.
The route is spectacular and at the summit by the top is a panoramic view of Bray where a few people have stopped to have a picnic.
Deflated, dehydrated, and tired after about 6 hours walking, talking, and hiking and looking at a 3.5 hour journey home, I decide to descend the mountain and end here, my One Day In Bray.