On this cold January morning, just like a television ad enticing you to book a winter getaway, I found myself lost in a daydream of a hot and sunny day at the beach. I was thinking about the perfect day I spent at Helen’s Bay two years ago.
It was summertime and all anyone could talk about was the heat. For two weeks straight in July, the temperatures were reaching a steady 30 degrees! The weather reporters were receiving a lot of extra attention as news of a heat wave made headlines – promising record breaking temperatures. Since most people in Northern Ireland don’t have air conditioning in their cars or houses, the sudden intense heat was quite unbearable.
One morning during the heat wave, when it was already around 27 degrees Celsius, I woke up sweating under the sheets. The windows in my bedroom can be propped open with a metal latch and I opened them as widely as possible (unfortunately, it wasn’t very breezy and only succeeded in letting in the noise of the street and passing cars).
I was sitting on the couch, watching Friends, debating whether or not to go to the gym, when my friend called me and presented me with a much better option: a day at the beach.
If there’s one thing my friend knows me for, it’s that I’m a total sun worshipper. It’s not often you hear people talking about visiting Ireland and going to the beach (unless they’re braving freezing waters with wetsuits), so I was really pleased with my luck and exclaimed, “Hell yeah, let’s go!”
There is a small oasis of a beach in Bangor, County Down, just 10 miles outside the busy streets of Belfast city center. Around 11 o’clock in the morning, my friend pulled up in her little green car and we headed to the beach. It only takes about 20 minutes to get from Belfast to Helen’s Bay, so we cranked up Radio 1 and started cruising.
Sometimes, a song can take you right back to a moment in time. I specifically remember the sweet summer tunes of Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding’s “I Need Your Love” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” playing during that car journey.
Shortly afterwards, we reached our destination: Helen’s Bay. It’s a white sandy beach that’s also deceptively tropical looking; I thought I had somehow magically transported to Florida. The sun was shining, and there were loads of people sunbathing and playing in the water. We picked a spot and laid down our towels to enjoy the salty sea breeze and gorgeous day. We stayed on the beach until 7pm that night, sunbathing, eating ice-cream, wading in the water and climbing over the rocks.
Yet, as I was thoroughly enjoying this sun-soaked walk down memory lane, the car door suddenly opened: instantly, the rush of cold air pulled me out of my reverie. The blue water and white sand immediately disappeared. The rain and cold replaced them.
I was back to reality.