Sunday, 30 July 2017

It takes a year to slow down and see the world!

Last week I felt a strong urge to visit an old friend of mine, someone I haven’t been in a long time.

No, that wasn’t a spelling mistake. Said friend is me, living alone, focused completely on my writing.

I love my wife and dog, so I’m willing to merely touch that other world writers go to, when left to their own devices. A netherland of ideas and dreams, we slip in and out of it all the time. Everyone I live with has to put up with me shrieking

Yeeaaarrrgghhh!” when they do something as radical as entering the kitchen.

Some in the past have felt offended that I reacted with shock to their presence. Others even stamped their feet and cried:

I fucking live here!” in justifiable frustration.

Thankfully the Snapper understands and doesn’t get upset. To the unaware it looks a hell of a lot like I’m just cooking, or wiping down a sideboard, but really I’m off, lost in paragraphs to come, paddling my creative canoe down rivers of imagination.

Oooh, and hasn’t he gone all fancy shmancy!
Others might say ‘head up the backside.’

You decide.

One story that fell out of me recently came with a strangely powerful voice, and for the last few weeks I’ve been getting more and more excited about applying that voice to other stories I’ve already started.

Hence for the last four days and another three to come, I’m off away, on my own in a little house in the big sky splendour of Ballycroy National Park.

Right now the northerly wind that’s howling under the door has blown the clouds off the mountains. I’m sitting where I have sat for hours each day, writing at the kitchen table, under a roof pounded by rhythmic waves of summer rain.

Nine years have passed since I focused on my own work. Between freelance writing, contemplating my navel and teaching -  (my next Craft of Writing Course starts September 7th, so book early to guarantee your place: - I’ve created little.

Now it is pouring onto the screen and I’m not stopping to read it.
Might be a pile of poo. I’m not looking. Just writing it out of me.

I haven’t spoken to anyone in days, save for the lass at the shop (English), the lass at the National Park Visitor Centre (English) and the lass at the other shop (English). The barmaid in the pub is Irish and she makes friendly conversation while she pours a damn fine country pint of Guinness.

That comes around 4:30, after I’m done for the day. 
You can write a lot between 10 and 4, when nobody is interrupting your world.


This retreat has allowed me to dip my emotional fingers into some special memories of a wonderful state of being. No floatation tanks or magic mushrooms needed: just splendid rural isolation.

Each day as I awake with an open empty day in front of me, I sniff a whiff of an old freedom and feel briefly wistful.

Following dreams of living alone in the middle of relatively nowhere, I moved to a little house in Connemara back in 1994. 

Afforded the luxury of living permanently in my own scribbler’s netherland, I gradually drifted into such a profound sense of relaxedness that I remember the feeling of it to this day.

Freed from alarm clocks and artificial timetables, I went to bed when tired, woke refreshed, walked for miles and wrote so much I could scarcely believe it.

In that house I discovered a rather inconvenient truth: it takes a year to slow down.

Never mind your ten days on a Greek island. Forget that long weekend in a posh spa hotel. Our modern lives leave us on the edge of exhaustion. 

If I plucked you from that checkout queue in Tesco's or beamed you out of the gridlock on the N17, and deposited you, alone, into a house in the country, you’d need to feel the passing of all four seasons before you can truly see, hear and smell the world in front of you.

When I arrived I had no idea what calm really meant. 12 months later I saw my surroundings with a depth and clarity to which I was previously blind.

I was able to tell which way the wind was blowing by the quality of the air. Looking through the window I didn’t need to see branches sway nor tall grasses ripple to be sure the weather was coming from the north. The hills were outlined crisp and stark; edged with charcoal.

While living there I realised that contentment is a mere absence of problems, while happiness is an active force.

There’s nothing like a scone to induce happiness, and my welcome to this house last Sunday made me believe once again in the existence of céad míle fáilte.

Even though the sun was splitting the rocks, there was a turf fire blazing in the hearth: the Irish way of saying “mi casa su casa.”

Awaiting me in the kitchen was a bowl of homemade scones and jam, butter in a dish with silver foil over it and a ziplock bag, because the baker knew I’d never eat six scones in one sitting, and wouldn’t it be a shame for them to go stale. 

There was a jug of cold milk in the fridge and I was shown a shed of turf and told to help myself.

I’ll be thrilled to see the Snapper on Monday, yet it has felt wonderful to revisit a way of life that allows me to write so much. 

It puts my soul at peace.

At dusk I sit outside and look across a mile of farmland and a mile of bog to the ocean and the mountains of Achill. As the light fades, midges move in for attack, while tractors rumble up the boreen, laden with silage, cut and bagged before tomorrow’s rain.

©Charlie Adley

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