If the prom in Salthill could talk, did you ever wonder what it might say? I only realised recently that I have a relationship with the prom. It’s far more than just a tourist attraction, or a place to go for a walk. It’s a healer, a friend and sometimes a foe. I don’t walk the prom every day. But I like knowing it’s there. Only recently have I wondered what others are thinking when they too, are on the prom. Yes there are the runners, who in the midst of harsh winds and rain are engaging in “a competitive sport” according to singer songwriter KT Tunstall. I loved that. Something is driving them to kick that wall at high speed, and it’s amazing to watch.
There are the couples, who walk hand in hand, and the friends, usually women, who are there to stretch their legs and have a chin wag about the latest happenings. It comes alive in the summer, with families and young children jumping, skating and scootering along. We can be proud that tourists can watch the beautiful sunrise and sunset over the water, weather permitting, from the shores of Salthill.
But in winter, it transforms into something else. We have to wrap up to face the elements. We may be walking in solitude, but there are others who are walking in solitude also, and there is an unspoken companionship in that. Even if I am on my own, usually by choice, I am not alone. From my observations, I have decided the happiest people are those who are out walking their dog in the cold. From the canines who are straining with excitement on the lead, the large dogs pulling their owners along, or the small – whose little legs are going ninety to the dozen to keep up – and the lazy, who don’t want to move, it is a joy to watch them and their interactions along the way.
My entire life history since I came to Galway has been marched out on the prom. The good times and the bad, from my days as an NUIG student to my working life in the city, it knows it all. The break-ups, the make-ups, the romantic walks, the fights, the sad tales of my parent’s illnesses and deaths, have been unleashed on that yellow brick road. Sometimes it has been my challenge. How far can I jog, how fast can I walk, how fit am I at the moment. And these are the days when it can be my irritating companion.
At other times, it is a place of comfort, a place to make sense of my thoughts and try to piece together the muddled jumble that life can throw at you, and has done, over the last seven years. That period is significant for me, as it’s when my beloved father passed away after a long and harrowing illness, and without my anchor, my heart went into freefall. At these times, I don’t notice how far I am walking. I am wandering, but in a direction that has already been carved out by the curve of the walkway. It is a source of stability, knowing that if this is all I have achieved in the day, then that in itself is an achievement. I always feel better afterwards, even if it is not a magic pill or cure.
And there are those who, I believed, are simply out for their daily stroll. Now I wonder, are they more like me. Are they too trying to figure something out, come to terms with the loss of a loved one, or simply find comfort with the passing tide. It harbours everyone’s thoughts, and keeps them safe. I often brought my mum up to Salthill, in the hope she would be rejuvenated by the salty air. I hope she found some peace there. With two parents who have crossed over to the other side, I wonder are they walking with me. I wonder are there thousands of people on the prom, some in this realm and others in the next, all talking and yabbering and helping us on our way. Maybe one day we will all find out! But until then, the prom will keep its secrets.
written by Avril Horan