Sand and water

Castlerock beach – We’ve been living in the city for the last six months, and it was – unbelievably – the first chance in all that time that the pair of us got to walk on a beach on the north coast, something we used to do two or three times a week when we lived up there.

  I’d forgotten how big the sky can be, when you’re at the edge of the world like that. The enormity of the space as you look out to the ocean and realise that there is nothing out there between you and... Iceland in that direction, and Newfoundland that way.

  The clouds were piled up enormously high, bruised and backed up all the way to Donegal, where you could see bands of rain and sunshine moving across the terrain, the little white houses on the hillsides picked out as the sun came and went, like sheets flapping on distant washing lines.

  It’s been a weekend of huge contrasts - my daughter and I went to see the mighty Wilco in concert on Friday night, in a densely packed marquee in Custom House Square in the centre of Belfast. It was a balmy evening, a feeling of damp, warm late summer, with hundreds of people milling around outside the bars after the shows making all kinds of wow noises, vendors selling T shirts and thai food and handing out leaflets for the other weekend gigs.

  And the next day Andrea and I are driving on the north coast and we drive into rain that you can actually see up ahead, like a curtain strung across the road, a wall of broken glass falling and hitting the windscreen so hard that you have to slow right down and put on your headlights. You come out the other side like emerging from a tunnel of water, to rainbows and bright sizzling air. Welcome to Ireland.

  And in between there is the beach and the ocean, the width and height and the glitter of it all entering you again, filling a space you hadn’t even realised was empty.