Thanks to The Snapper.
On their way to saddening my heart, his words met the memory of an observation made by the legendary Vinny Brown of Charlie Byrne’s bookshop:
“So Double Vision is a bit of a grumpy old man outlet, really, is it?”
Well, if it appears like that to such discerning readers then yes, it must have been of late.
If in recent weeks it has appeared to colyoomistas that I no longer love living in the West of Ireland, then I have failed to share with you the truth, the whole truth, the joyful truth.
Of course there are times when my 54 year-old bones ache a bit more, when my mind turns to its darker side and temporarily dwells in the Land of Grump.
Yet there are infinitely more moments when I declare my gratitude to the universe. On several occasions each day I simply give thanks for living here.
25 minutes from the friendly bustle of Quay Street, I can stand in my back garden and see no evidence of human life. Well, there are stone walls that didn’t build themselves, but also there are rare and wonderful moments when the power tools of the townland are downed, and silence reigns.
Silence comes in many forms, and the one I enjoy around my house comfortably includes the swish of wind though wet willow leaves, the song of birds, the buzz of a thousand flies around the flowering ivy and the occasional belch of my dog or her owner. Beyond that, blissfully, there is no distant roar of traffic, no crash of construction nearby, no human rage to interrupt my peace, nor any antagonism to fuel my angsty fires.
Before we adopted Lady from the fabulous folk at MADRA (madra.ie, or text Marina on 086 814 9026) I was fearful that I’d no longer be able to step outside and stand dead still, as I am prone to do, watching the clouds change shape, the journey of the sun and the starlings washing in the puddle in the bohreen.
Happpily it turned out that Lady has the same space cadet tendencies as myself. So we both stand by the gate and enjoy being immobile members of the scene together.
Well, apart from those starlings washing in the puddle. They’d send her mental.
Lady and I head up the bog road each morning around 8.30, and recently I have had my breath taken away by the autumnal beauty that greets us.
With thick mist lying low on the ground, the diffused sunlight picks out stretching fields of golden grasses, rusty ferns and perky heather, all linked by a diamonte chain mail of ten thousand spiders’ webs, piercing the gloom with shards of glistening eye-dazzling light. Every gate post and gap in stone walls is sealed with one of these graceful creations, lighting up as the low sun bursts through the mist.
High up above us, on the ridge of a grassy bank, the outline of a stallion emerges through the haze.
He’s standing still, as if a statue built by Neolithic natives, but by the time we come back down the road, he is gone, along with the mist.
Now we walk under a blazing sun, plucking swollen bursting blackberries from the bramble bushes, stopping to fill my pockets with the hazelnuts that have been blown down by last night’s wind.
Every morning, when Lady stops at yet another bush to try and eat a frog, I look around, breathe deep and give thanks for my life here.
I love the West of Ireland. I love its space, its emptiness, its staggering and gentle beauty.
I love the compassion of its people, all those who made me feel so welcome when I first arrived and the friends that they have since become. I love the opportunities this place has offered me, to make a living doing the things that I love.
In my native London you have to play the tedious networking game, and put in a massive effort to earn a tiny return, yet in Galway and the rest of the west of Ireland I found that a small investment of ingenuity and energy takes you a long way. Having had innumerable jobs that meant very little to me,
I appreciate every day the privilege of earning my living doing work that I love, be that writing, teaching or editing.
I love the fact that if I turn right on the main road I’ll be past Oughterrard and in the magical world of Connemara in 20 minutes.
Scribbler spoils view...
I love the Twelve Pins: those smooth curvaceous hills that form God’s own fruitbowl.
I love the myriad of perfect lonely pristine beaches around Claddaghduff. I love the Inagh Valley, where the Maamturk Mountains and the Pins meet up, reflected by Lough Inagh.
I love to sit outside Neactain's or the Quays and see who comes up Quay Street, because sure as there’s food and drink in a pint of Guinness, somebody will.
I love PJ McDonagh's fish, chips and peas. A night out on the amble and tear would be
unthinkable without that wondrous ballast.
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 major city.
I love the fact that we live at the end of the road.
Possibly more than anything, I love the way the West of Ireland has allowed me time. Yes, I know last week I was giving out about how exhausted I was, but as the locals here say. “Ye’ll have that!”
Compared to the many faster more demanding and debilitating places I have lived, I love having the time to stop; to stare at clouds and appreciate how good life is.