By Paul Scraton:
Dusk at Crawfordsburn beach. In Belfast traffic waits at entrances to shopping centres, buses are backed up along the main roads and shoppers dodge each other, a chaotic choreography, as they make the final preparations for Christmas. At Crawfordsburn the beach is empty, except for the oystercatchers wading in the shadows, the cormorants diving for their tea and the crows and starlings occupy the sky above the trees, preparing for the onset of darkness. A Stena Line ferry leaves Belfast Lough and across the water the lights of Carrickfergus come on one by one.
Around a headland and Helen’s Bay beach is as deserted as the one we left behind. No, through the gloom it is possible to make out a cyclist on the path and a couple walking on the sands. It is hard, a few days before Christmas, to imagine the summer crowds, let alone the 12,000 that would throng the beach in the village’s 1930s heyday. The moon is bright in the sky and the stress and chaos of the city centre feels a long way away. It is peaceful here, the wind has dropped with the sun and waves are gentle. It is difficult to imagine a better spot to pause, to stare out across the water and consider the events of the last twelve months. It has been a good year.
Merry Christmas everyone.