Thursday, 13 October 2011

When does a Blow-in become a Local?

Not wanting to overdo the legwork after my knee operation, I dive off Shop Street and take a few minutes to sit down and relax outside Buon Appetito Café on Upper Abbeygate Street.

When I arrived in Ireland there was no talk of Immigrants. I was just another Blow-in, and as such felt envious of those locals who could righteously claim they had a history with the place.

I look to my left, towards Lynch’s Castle and Powell’s Four Corners. I look up at the ancient buildings opposite and to my right, towards Newtownsmith and

and all of a sudden my mind is filled with a gushing flood of memories. Down there on the left, that’s where I converted, opened and ran a charity shop. That was a mad period of time, just back from America, working my bollocks off and living in the Claddagh. Tired after a full day in the shop, I had to build two fires after work in that house, and the bathroom was an icy cupboard, but in the summer, ahhh, the garden at the back was a rambly paradise.

Right here, opposite this café in the narrow cobblestone street, up in that window there, above the Barber’s Shop and the Organismical Seaweed Mermaid Massage Baths, there used to be an office occupied by a Galway free sheet newspaper. As well as scribbling this very same colyoom for the Tribune papers, I was back then also writing for the inestimable Seamus R.(vot a schnozz! Oy!). Can’t for the life of me recall the name of the paper (The Bugle? The Word? The Execrable Screech?). But I remember exactly how good life felt then.

I was living in a tiny wee house in Connemara, a few country miles between Slyne Head and Ballyconneely, driving a transit van and delivering to Seamus four different columns under four different names each week.

There was Pink O’Bum - the Petulant Politico; there was Swami ben Carpenter - the Muse with the Views; there was Poor Little Greenie, a Bowie-Inspired Ingenue; and of course, ever popular whenever I’ve dragged his wretched bones back from the dead, there was Freebase Kevin, the drug-crazed cider-fuelled foul-mouthed biker, who went down a storm with Galway’s lads, just as he had in Cambridge and Bradford, 20 and 10 years previously respectively.

I was living my dream -  my dream of that moment. I believe that life is not a one way street, but rather a series of journeys, and in each we must pursue a dream. If we focus strongly, we’ll arrive somewhere very close to that dream: possibly better, maybe simply different to what we’d imagined, but I knew at that time that life was perfect, and realising joy is what matters.

You have to be aware of the happy times, because hard times, by their nature, let you know they are there, whereas happiness can pass by undetected, like a cooling zephyr on a summer's evening. You neither notice it nor give thanks for it.

Oh, and the memories keep flowing over me. In a tiny room high up in the medieval building opposite this café, there’s that jeweller, one of Galway’s old-fashioned expert craftsmen. I only found him because the owner of a High Street jewellery shop told me to go to him, and with his skill he repaired my father’s watch, the one that Mum game me after Dad died.

Around the corner there’s the Tribune offices and an Tobar and countless other chapters from my Galway storybook, but it feels good, right now, sipping my coffee, resting a while. Not swamped by my past, very much in the present, just pausing for a moment in life, drifting off in reverie outside the café, my mind awash with the happy history I have with this place.


Paz said...

The title of this is a question and a half on its own, there could be thesis written on this subject.

Charlie Adley said...

..and there probably is... - my favourite response to the question so far was from Galway writer Dick Byrne, who left a comment on this colyoom's link on facebook, saying 'When they bury you in Forthill."