Sunday 25 May 2008

How do I love da Wesht? Let me count the ways…

Over in London, supporting and being supported by my wonderful family, I am more than ever aware that this city of my birth is no longer my home.
I’m not sure if absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it certainly puts things in perspective.
From over here, right now, I see and feel so many reasons why Galway, Connacht, the entire West of Ireland feels like home.
So this week it’s payback time. This week this Englishman is paying his dues to all of ye who put up with him slagging off your country and its ways, week in week out.
Indeed, that slagging is itself one of the reasons I love living in Ireland. Of course there is an abrasion to my dry English wit which can be well satisfied by another English wit opposite, but there is something to the fusion of Jewish and Celtic that makes a lovely verbal mess of things.
I love to swap daring barbs and verbal jousts with the Irish, because I get as good as I give, and everyone knows it’s harmless, even if it sounds deadly.
I love da Wesht because the morning after those lairy ho-ho witty sessions down the pub, deeply dark clouds cover the world with a blanket of lethargy, and just as you become aware quite how dreadful you feel from the night before, the rain starts to fall, and instead of being a heinous challenge, your hangover becomes a thing of pleasure, and you build and light a fire; retire to the sofa; drift into a gentle doze to the sound of the raindrops hitting the panes at 324 miles an hour … sideways.
While we’re on the subject of sideways rain, I love the fact that in da Wesht, a day will be described as ‘mighty’ as long as the rain is falling down.
I love driving around thousands of back roads in north Mayo on a midweek afternoon, and marvel at how long it takes to see a car or another human being.
Lots of houses, but no people.
I love the view from Kilcummin Back Strand at low tide, as you round the crest of the hill from Lacken. If a person who had never been to or seen da Wesht was to dream a picture of it, that splendid panorama would surely be it: the long headland with its bottle green strip fields; the crescent of pale yellow sand drifting to the towering whiter dunes and hairy grass fields atop; the cliffs below, the islands on the horizon and the houses on the crest of the headland, all picked out as if drawn by pencil by the crisp cold North wind that comes straight in over the ocean, whipping turquoise waves with white horses from the dark black blue of the ocean.
I love the Twelve Pins, and the fact that wherever you go in Connemara, they are there, behind you, over your shoulder, then somehow straight in front of you. God’s own fruitbowl, those smooth and curvaceous hills.
Whilst in Connemara I love a pint of Guinness in O’Dowd’s in Roundstone, and I love to stumble over the rocks at Slyne Head.
I love Cleggan bay, and the myriad of perfect beaches around Claddaghduff.
Most of all, I love the Inagh Valley, preferably from North to South, where the Maamturk Mountains and the Pins come together, and Lough Inagh reflects it all.
I love to splurge dosh I don’t have, and take the Snapper to Rosleague Manor in Letterfrack, where we live the dream and chill beyond reason.
Closer to home, I love that I live 50 yards from Salthill Prom, where Galway Bay offers 365 different views each year.
I love to sit outside Neactain's on a Friday lunchtime, or inside the Quays front bar at any other time, and see who comes up Quay Street or along Cross Street. As a Londoner, I truly appreciate the simplicity of meeting in Galway. There are no major tube trips or epic bus journeys, You just sit in Quay Street and see who comes by, because sure as there’s food and drink in a pint of Guinness, somebody will.
I love the fact that the vicious rumours about a drop in standards at PJ McDonagh's proved completely untrue. Yes, the plates are now permanently the size they used to be only in Race Week, but my fish and peas last week were as splendid as they ever were, and hallelujah for that! A night out on the amble and tear would be unthinkable without the wondrous ballast of their fish and peas.
The flipside to that sitting in Quay Street and seeing who you bump into is that it had better work, because people in da Wesht are incapable of planning to socialise.
I love the fact that a big part of the craic is down to spontaneity. If you ask a Gawlegian if they would like to go for a drink next Tuesday, they’ll look at you with pure terror in their eyes as they try to conceptualise that far ahead, like, how’d I know, like, what I might be doing then, like.
It’s a lot simpler and far less cruel to just see whom you bump into.
I love to watch the River Corrib as it crashes through winters and meanders the rare dry summers; to marvel at how salmon do still leap, even in the centre of a polluting city.
I love the fact that we live at the end of the road.
In my mind, I see a monumental conveyor belt that runs from the eastern seaboard of the USA to London and then to us. Everything here will eventually become like over there, but thankfully, it’s taking its time.
And time is the key.
Having lived in England and the USA, I know how the conveyor belt that brings the big paycheques also takes away your time. People work ridiculous hours to create a lifestyle as substantial and beautiful as a silicon boob job, with the same longevity.
I love da Wesht because it has given me time. It has given me jobs and opportunities that I have loved, and always, thankfully, time.
Time to appreciate how good life is.
And just before you start becoming worried that your fave colyoomist has been kidnapped, normal service will resume next week.
But hey, thanks for giving me a home. I love it.

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