It was…I know for a fact…the last Saturday before our sons went back to school after the summer vacation.
It was maybe 1996 or 1997. The Big News in Norn Iron was that the “Talks” which would eventually lead to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 were in difficulty. As I recall Sinn Fein were temporarily excluded.
My wife, sons and my mother headed off to County Donegal. We went on to the beach at Falcarragh. Kinda cold. Bit breezy but not actually blustery. Irish beaches are strange. We tend to go for bracing walks rather than actually sit around.
So we were walking along the beach.Mrs FJH and THE Mrs FJH and #2 Son were some distance behind #1 Son and myself.
Walking towards us on the deserted beach was a man with a baseball cap, with a hurling stick. Every so often, he threw up a stone from the beach, and hit it with his caman and his little dog ran after it. Wee drew closer.
After a while, the little dog…did what little dogs do on beaches. He pooped. And to his credit, the Man dug a very large hole in the sand and as he was finishing…I was alongside him.
“Id make the wee dog dig that himself” I said cheerily.
“He’s making me work hard” he said. And he briefly looked up from under the baseball cap and I noticed the beard…a very recognisable beard.
And that was it.
Except I waited for the rest of the family to join me.
“Did you recognise that man?” I asked Mrs FJH.
She hadn’t and I told her.
“What did you say to him.?” She asked in an unnecessarily anxious way. And I told her.
” But how did he take it?” She asked in a slight panic
And I said he took it fine.
And Mrs FJH looked around.
“It cant be him…he has no bodyguards….and anyway look at the car he is getting into. Its ancient and falling apart…..and He would not own a wee dog like that. He would have an Irish Wolfhound or…an Irish Setter”
Yes…actually the wee dog was a bit unusual.
But a strange thing. Just a few days later, the Guardian profiled the Man…or more precisely his rarely seen wife. And turns out the Man had a King Charles Spaniel.
That evening I felt rather smug.
“I told you it was him” I said.