The river would only be set free from its course when the northern ice melted, letting the sea flood in over the low range of hills along the shore, making islands of the higher peaks, and filling the old valley with sand, dividing the river into many smaller streams.
In places, the waves would drive all the way through, reopening the old river bed to admit the high tide storm waves which would foam into the harbour on the other side of the dunes, turning the land-locked headlands back into islands again. Then the storms would ease, and the whole slow process would start over again, building the sand dune communities up again.
The coffee is good: it has to be, with so many outlets, and the service is fast, if only to move on the profitless non-customers, thoughtlessly wearing out their seats and tables. They recognise no ‘regulars’ here, for the staff turnover is too high, but I see many of the same people each time I sit and watch.
So is the fat skinhead in the torn shirt who nods his head to some distant drummer living in his iPod, nodding so hard that his ear rings sometimes tinkle, and half a dozen other walking wounded and unemployed. They are the fixed scenery of the winter street.
The soundscape is varied, with loud rock music from a sports and surf clothing store, and buskers — the flautist, a banjo player near the pub, a classical guitarist, and further along, there used to be a puppeteer whose puppets dance to the Irish tunes that come from his cassette player (he seems to have died).
Then I know it is time to go. But I also know that when I return in a fortnight, the old magic will have spread across the surface again, so I can sit in the sun, muse, and drink another flat white in peaceful reverie.