It looked like a supermarket Christmas advert. A beach at sunset. A father (old tracksuit, woolly hat) guiding his young son (fabulous yellow raincoat, bobble-hat) over crinkle-edged rocks. The sunset took place both in the sky and on the beach, slithering over the pools of collected water like stained glass. Their boundlessly happy spaniel (ears moving totally independently from the rest of said spaniel) circles curiously around, leaving little paw marks in the sand. A close friend of mine calls images like these ‘postcard moments’. Infuriatingly irresistible, of course, for photographers like me.
Flying over from London, it genuinely shocked me how green the Irish sea was. It was moody of course, suitably freckled with angry white waves - but my god it was green. Once landing, new Irish passport in hand, I wandered the streets of Dublin, with a list of second and third cousins to visit, my wide eyes no doubt reflecting the garish neon pub lights and memories of that one time I drank Guinness and nearly cried. I couldn't have been more of a plastic paddy if I'd tried, and I’ve just been cooing about the emerald sea. I can practically hear the Riverdance theme tune playing as I write this.
Family is such an interesting, beautiful thing. Famously, blood is thicker than water, but it's a hell of a lot messier - so caution overrode optimism for me on this trip. And yet, I couldn't help feel at home in the hospitality of those whose names were only really known to me through Christmas cards and half-remembered (fully embarrassing) anecdotes. A room of my cousins felt eerily like a hall of mirrors, with my facial features and personality traits whisked and warped and distributed out to people with far too many vowels in their names and funny, if endearing accents.
And yet despite my cynicism, when greeted with dark humour, cheeky winks, unwavering self-deprecation and warm hugs, I couldn't help but feel warm and fuzzy. Which tells you, I suppose, how easily I'm bought off. Every part of me wanted to resist - and every part of me fell for it.
Just like I fell for the photo of the boy and his father and his dog wandering on the beach. Because I'm only human: a human who wants those postcard moments, and a good photo, and a family reunion. And a fabulous yellow raincoat.